Nationals Baseball: Takes!

Saturday, April 25, 2015


The Hot Take

It's all about hubris. The Nats had too much pride. "Mike Rizzo's Nationals" "Where's my ring?" maybe even "hitting a baseball is the hardest thing in the universe" They didn't learn from 2013 and they still expect things handed to them. Of course the problem with this take is that the biggest egos are the guys actually getting things done. Rizzo did put together a team that's been one of the best in baseball the past three years. Bryce is doing well.  So it may not make the most sense but it is the one fans may relate to the most. They are angry. Give them a target.

The Optimist

It's all about the injuries. All those offensive ones. Stammen. Zimm looks hurt. The Nats just need time to get Werth and Span and Rendon all back healthy. Then the offense will click and away they go! The question is merely if they can weather the time until that happens. It's certainly the optimistic take and it does have some merit. Werth and Span aren't quite right yet. Rendon was that important last year. But this team shouldn't be this bad should it?

The Pattern

In 2013 the Nats spent 4 months struggling to get over .500.  In 2014 they couldn't get out of their own way until June. They are 72-38 in August & September. What is it about the Nats that they can't start well and how do we fix it? This is a good one if you don't like Matt Williams because it places some blame on the manager unlike the first two. You can easily spin this into a questioning piece on the rookie manager (check out that bullpen usage) however 2013 was under Davey so the pattern extends beyond just Matt. If it's even a pattern.

My Take

The Nats are not built for this year. They are built for no year. Steven Souza looked to be a very good 4th OF option for 2015... but he could be turned into a SS for the future. Tyler Clippard was going to be an indispensible 8th inning guy in 2015... but he could be turned into a bridge SS. Jerry Blevins was a useful LOOGY type for 2015... but he could be turned into some cash. Despite a team full of injury issues and actual injuries the bench was not strengthened. Despite a pen that looked shaky the relief arms were not supplemented. That's money not in 2 or 3 year deals that the Nats are now able to save for better players next season. If the Nats just go 90% in then 2016 and beyond looks that much better. 90% is good enough right?

The Nats aren't being specific. They aren't trying to win in 2015. They are being general. They are trying to win constantly. That's good if you like a good team constantly, but unless you spend a ton it leads to a team that is not great top to bottom. It will have some holes. For the Nats it's a team with a great surface offense but a questionable bench, a great rotation but a bad middle relief. It's a team that if the surface gets scratched too much the flaws really show. Maybe this is the team Mike Rizzo wants, maybe it's the team Lerner makes him build, but it's the team you have.


SM said...

An interesting assessment, Harper. Remarkably restrained, too, assuming you wrote it in the heat of the aftermath of today's game.

I can't say I disagree with anything, except for one thing. You say the Nats have "great surface offense." Really?

They have a 1997 Montreal Expos offense: Near the top in HRs, at the bottom in OBP. (Yeah, I go back that far. Why, when I was a boy . . . oh, never mind.)

In fact, this Nats team looks creepily--it's early; I get it--like that '97 Expos squad. Except that team had Felipe Alou managing.

Froggy said...

I went back to your blog a year ago when the Nats were I think 11-10 or 11-11, something like that and we had injuries to Zimmerman, Ramos, and Fister. What is interesting was how erratic MW's line-up and bullpen selections were. "...he's my 8th inning guy..." etc...eerily similar to this season.

So the optimist in me says we turn it around. The realist in me says there are too many variables, injuries, FA year distractions, and a borderline terrible bullpen, or terrible pitching matchup selections. "He's my 8th inning guy" part deux.

Chaz R said...

Its going to be fine. Look its frustrating, all the expectations for thus team make itt geometrically more frustrating. We knew tge offense was thin going into tge season and a couple of slumps and an injury would hurt priduction. We knew there was no depth. We knew the RPs were a concern. The SP has not been as dominant as envisioned- yet. Once we get everyone back and at 100%, it will come together. I think the issue is when and how far out front will the Mets be? Regardless, I cant imagine a team with this amount of talent missing the post-season.

Anonymous said...

on an unrelated note, what do you think Stras was venting about in the dugout between innings to McCatty? He seemed angry at someone, but I felt like today was just a lot of bad luck for him. Getting mostly soft contact, just to places where there weren't defenders. My bet's on Ramos's pitch selection, it was REALLY bad today.

blovy8 said...

There are of course alternate explanations for every move. If they had left second unsettled we'd have possibly seen even more Uggla. Presumably, Clippard only replaces one reliever and the the rest could still be giving up important runs with an even more anemic offense that doesn't have Escobar. If you give up too much in a trade, it weakens you elsewhere. Not to mention that a team could just prefer another team's offer. We have seen enough injuries to know depth is important, but overpaying for a reserve position hasn't worked either - the prime example being McLough. Souza looks ok now, but what happens if his numbers go south with less playing time and you still need middle infielders and next year? Who will be around to even overpay for? They're not playing well - that happens to good teams too.

John O'Connor said...

And if you're built to win last year and this year, you don't hire a "developmental" manager with no managing experience at any level.

Anonymous said...

I'm no former scout nor did I play baseball in college but I do know business, and this team is in need of some restructuring and a CEO change.

Anonymous said...


JC said...

I want to be optimistic and hope that the trend of the past few seasons will repeat with an explosive summer. However, for so many of our players it is a real possibility that they are hitting the aging curve at the same time. Combine that with the Mets and Marlins turning into competitive teams and it gets much more difficult to play .600 ball from here on out.

Kenny B. said...

Yeah, I kind of came away from the offseason thinking that other than the SP rotation, this team is not quite as good as it was last year. Felt like all the hype was mostly Scherzer-based. Overall, the weaknesses from the last couple of years feel weaker than ever (or at least as weak as they've been in those years).

Adding Rendon will do a lot to reshape the offense in a positive way, but even when he gets back he's not going to fall right back into potential MVP form.

The good news is, because it seems like Rizzo is building for no year in particular, even if this season continues to be the massive disappointment that it is so far, there are still a number of good young pieces to work with. We don't need to go into future Nats "rebuild" analysis mode yet, but I'm not really too sure what else to talk about. Overhyped team underperforms, film at 11.