Why does this claptrap keep being written? Oh, I know. It makes a handy narrative. It's an easy inflection point to single out as a changing force for a team that was terrible before and not terrible after. Plus, an article digging deep into the real reasons the Nats became a winning franchise is long and involved. Explaining how this window was created by the combination of savvy deals, good drafting, FA signings that worked out better than expected, terrible play leading to #1 draft picks at just the right time, surprising developments, and a bit luck in the timing of all this. Each of these deserves their own written piece, that's work. "Werth did it" is a lot simpler, cleaner and most on the team will go along with. Save, Print, email to editor let's go to lunch.
I've tried to yell into the wind about this over and over again. But yelling obviously has had no effect so I'll try a different approach. I'll go over how the Nats went from being the worst ever in 2008-2009 to the best ever in 2012-2015 and maybe the right people will read it and will stop defaulting to "Werth culture change" as the ultimate cause or anything more than one important piece among many.
So that'll be the posts for next week (because I just decided this and they are involved pieces). For today? It's hard. There is little drama in the Nats camp. I talked about the things worthy of talking about, injuries and position battles, and there aren't a lot of these in the Nats camp. As far as injuries are concerned Werth is topic #1. From all indications, though, if he's not ready by Opening Day, he'll be ready soon after. There isn't any thought that it may be longer that that. So really we aren't judging his recovery as much as keeping an ear to the ground in case he suffers a setback.
With position battles there aren't any starting ones. Yuney will play 2nd pushing Espinosa to the bench. Scherzer's signing pushes Roark to the pen. These are all but officially decided. Right now I can guess at the roster being
and feel 100% right about that. That's 24 players, leaving one spot for Taylor? Cedeno? Treinen? Assuming that it's probably a pitcher and not Taylor (which is what I think it'll be) you're talking about the last guy in the pen. Hardly worth fretting about. Manager is set (just extended), GM is set, ownership is not in flux, park is fairly new. Man, being good can be dull. Other than my traditional "don't look at ST stats" piece, I expect not to write about ST at all. And I hope not to because if I am it's probably because of an injury.
What injury would be likely? Well I don't predict injury but if I was going to I'd note the Nats are still getting by on a crazy bit of pitching health.
83+ starts in past 3 years - 55 pitchers, or real roughly 2 a team - includes all five Nats starters
91+ starts in past 3 years - 31 pitchers or less than one a team - includes all the Nats starters but Fister who missed a month last year and about a month in 2012.
96+ starts in past 3 years - 15 pitchers, 2 or 3 in a division - includes Max Scherzer and Jordan Zimmermann.
Now some guys are healthy but are going to be too young to get on these lists, but you see the point I'm making. That's a lot of healthy pitching. Does it mean these guys are going to get hurt? Hard to say because it's such an indvidual thing. What we can do is look at a non-overlap period say 2009-2011 and see if we see anything.
56 guys starting 83+ starts - so right at the same level of healthiness overall. We're not concerned with anyone over 31 becuase the Nats don't have them. Let's concentrate on 29-31 since that covers everyone but Stras (26). That's 15 guys. How many got hurt the next year? Five. Doesn't seem telling. I think this feeds into the same thing I was looking at with all those charts. Up to about 32/33 you're pretty safe, after that things start to fall apart. Not for everyone but for enough that if you have 4 guys that age, it's a good bet two aren't lasting the season.
The Nats have a bunch of young enough pitching and have for a while. I think this will be the most interesting transition heading forward. Scherzer will soon get into that danger zone. If ZNN stays, or Gio or Roark even, they'll be getting to that level not too far in the future too. 2018 or there abouts. But if they don't stay... you've got Giolito to replace one, but who replaces the rest? Again this is why I try to keep Stras here big time. At 26 next year by age he's out of the danger zone till after 2020. Pitcher health has been a pillar of the Nats success. They need to keep that going. Signing Stras is your strongest in-house bet on doing that.