Nationals Baseball: Monday Quickie - Dark Clouds Silver Linings

Monday, May 01, 2017

Monday Quickie - Dark Clouds Silver Linings

Real quick one today

The Nats failed to put away (in my opinion) the Mets this weekend. Opportunity knocked and the Nats hid in the bed with the covers over their head until it went away. They could have been over 10 games up on the Mets if they swept this series at home. But Max failed to come up big in the first game, as an initially shaky deGrom did what he couldn't.  In the next game,  the Nats pen yielded 2 runs in two innings to keep the game out of reach. That was that. The dream of finishing off the Mets by May 1st was done.

Of course that doesn't mean the Nats are in a bad position. In fact, neither the Phillies or Marlins, the two closest teams, could pick up a game. The Nats find themselves with the biggest division lead in the majors at 5 games. While the Mets have managed to stick around they lost their best bat (Cespedes) going into the series and maybe lost their best arm (Sydergaard) coming out of it. The Nats didn't put away the Mets, but they haven't done anything to lose their place as a early favorite.

The Nats also suffered a major injury, losing Adam Eaton for the year. Center field has been a major issue for the Nationals since 2005 as a parade of players have come and gone trying to fit the very specific, very traditional role that apparently the Nats need. Adam served to be this top of the order hitter the Nats have always wanted.*  Now the Nats are once again searching. The first guy up is again Michael A Taylor who has been very consistent over 800 PA in baseball so far.  He will not hit for average (around .230). He will not show patience (walk rate around 6.5%). He will show moderate power (isoSLG about .140) but he'll strike out a ton (K rate over 30%).  He's young enough that this could change but he's at the end of that range. After this try it won't be natural progression if he gets better, it'll be luck.

But the Nats line-up had shown itself to be 8 deep. The worst hitters currently being the aged Jayson Werth, who has shown an ability to at least keep himself competent this long, and Anthony Rendon, who if isn't hurt has shown himself to be a very good hitter, as evidence by yesterdays breakout. The Nats line-up is now 7 deep. That's still deep and it's not 7 deep with moderate talent. Bryce and Murphy are potentially MVP bats. Turner could be the same. Zimm (tomorrow!) just had a special April and is a solid bat at worst when healthy. Things may have gotten easier for opponent's pitching but they haven't gotten easy.

Was it an ideal weekend? No. Was it an ideal April? No, you had the Eaton injury and the bullpen situation hasn't gotten any better. But despite all that the Nats are staying up there with the best teams in baseball with one month down and a nice sized lead in their favor. I'll take it.

*You know who else was that? Denard Span in 2014-15.  I'm not sure why that has seemingly slipped everyone's mind.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Harp!

Anonymous said...

Pretty discouraging weekend although Sunday was fun. (Did you catch Rendon's on-field interview? "Our pitching staff did great." Hilarious.) I blame all the jinx posts on here last week.

What are our options for center field/lead off? And was Span our best we've ever done in that position?

Chas R said...

For sure, we will take it! BP is likely going to need an enhancement and CF is again a question mark, but if that's the worse, then it ain't so bad. Especially with this fantastic lineup.

mikenimzo said...

I know we lost two games and won only one, but we won the series. Or at least, the Mets sure as heck didn't "win" it. Does anyone really think the Mets are better off than they did Friday morning?

mike k said...

I would have to assume Trea leads off, which would have happened even with Eaton if not for the lefty-righty stuff (and did on occassion anyway). The bigger question is who bats second (seems to be Werth), and who plays center. ***IF*** Drew can handle it when he comes back from the DL, you can put Turner there and Drew at short - that's probably your best offensive lineup. But I don't think that's going to happen, because of defense and Turner's development at short. I think we're gonna see a lot of Taylor, at least until he swings and misses his way out of the spot, while the management crosses their fingers that that won't happen.

Nats will still win the division. This is more a blow for the playoffs.

Fries said...

Agreeing with mike k. The Nats, barring further injuries, should still win the division handily. But losing Eaton is a real dagger when the Nats need to win 11 games in October. The downgrade is just so big. Now I'm going to hope and pray that MAT finally finds it, because the talent is clearly there with him. But I'm not optimistic. Come the cool air of October, this offense is going to need a singly Joe or two like Eaton because the HRs Zimm, BRYCE, and Co. have been hitting will be warning track fly-balls.

But I'm going to continue to bask in the glory that is Rendon's game yesterday for as long as I can, gotta stay positive where you can.

G Cracka X said...

I went to the game on Saturday, and ended up sitting very close to a large group of Mets fans who call themselves 'The 7 Line Army'.

I'm glad the Nats were able to avoid the sweep.

Robot said...

The downgrade from Eaton to MAT is huge, but if yesterday marks Rendon's return to his usual form, the team will get by. Don't forget, they played at the level they did in April while Rendon was struggling to keep his average over .200. If he's starting to straighten things out, this line-up remains fierce.

Also, that Zim guy had a lucky April. I am happy to have been proven wrong so far. But we all know he's a washed-up has-been who couldn't conceivably repeat in May. NO WAY!

Josh Higham said...

Thor out indefinitely with a lat tear. It's sad for him and for baseball generally, because he's a remarkable player, but unless a lot of guys get healthy, stay healthy, and start playing well, the Mets season is gonna get even uglier in a hurry.

PotomacFan said...

Any idea why Rafael Bautista is now the CF back up, rather than Brian Goodwin? Goodwin looked OK last year, and Goodwin's stats are slightly better than Bautista's at AAA.

Bjd1207 said...

Is MAT our only internal option? Stevenson has now power to speak of, but plays a stellar CF and is currently slashing .350/.428/.438 in AA. We know what MAT is. It would be a gutsy move but I'd give him a couple weeks to show if he's gonna have a breakout this year (relatively speaking) and if not then try out Bautista/Stevenson in quick progression to see if anything sticks before the ASB.

If not, go shopping

Fries said...

@PotomacFan

I think it's the upside (as Bjd is getting at). They know what Goodwin can do at the MLB level, but they don't know what Bautista can do just yet. If Bautista continues to hit near the same clip he did in the minors or in Spring Training, then Bautista "proves" to be the better player (in a SSS). Things will surely move around more in the coming months

elchupinazo said...

Can't believe I'm saying this, but I might actually be more upset by the Mets' stunning incompetence than I am excited by yesterday's home run derby. Dude refused an MRI after missing a start due to discomfort all around his throwing arm, i.e. the only reason he's there. That's dumb enough on his part, but then for the front office to throw up their hands and say "well we couldn't strap him to the table" is incredible. No, you couldn't, but you could certainly keep skipping his starts until he does the responsible thing.

And even before that, Syndergaard comes into spring training all beefed up, claiming he wants to throw even harder to "test his limits." We know what the limit is, and its name is Aroldis Chapman. I forget where I read it, but I saw somewhere that the forces endured when throwing a ball as fast as he does are about as much as a human arm can take before things start breaking.

He's been intentionally putting additional stress on his body to pick up, at best, an additional 2-3 mph on his fastball. Unbelievable. The Mets pitchers have actually been buying into their stupid comic book nicknames, and they're suffering for it.

NatsVA said...

Hope the Lerners are actually ready to trade/spend this season to make a run. Rizzo can get deals done, but will Old Man Lerner sign off on the check? Not overly optimistic in the latter.

cass said...

Basically every single recent starter with an average fastball velo in the upper 90s has gone down with a major injury. I've speculated about Syndergaard for awhile. It just seems inevitable. I guess Felix and Verlander survived in tact for the most part but Felix lost a lot of velo and Verlander did his ramp up as the game goes on thing.

Chapman does what he does cause he's a reliever. If he threw that hard as a starter, he'd be out a long time ago. I don't think it's physically possible to average in the upper 90s as a starter. The human body can't do it - one or two freak-of-nature aside. We just see it again and again and again. No one seems to have learned.

1natsfan said...

Was at the game-the only thing missing was having Chris Berman screaming back, back, back...

Did the Nationals violate one of baseball's nutty unwritten rules by teeing off on Plawieki? When a team brings in a position player when they are down a ton of runs, they are conceding the game. Should the Nationals expect someone to be drilled the next time they play the Mets?
If the Nats had attempted to steal after being up 15 runs, someone would have gotten beaned.
Having never witnessed anything like this, does anyone have any thoughts?

Bjd1207 said...

Correction: Stevenson now in AAA as of today*

@1natsfan - No I don't think so. If we were stealing and stuff like that then maybe. But you can't ask a major league hitter to damage his pride, and/or stats, by just conceding an at bat like that. They were only swinging at strikes, they weren't forcing extra bases, I think it was all kosher/

PotomacFan said...

Let's take a moment to give credit where credit is due: the Nationals have been very cautious with their pitching staff (except for what they did to Roark in 2015), and it HAS PAID OFF. Sure, Strasburg will go down at some point this year, but the Nats have done everything possible to protect him.

By contrast, the Mets have abused their pitching staff and/or let their pitchers abuse themselves. And now, despite having an incredibly deep pool of talent, the Mets are paying the price.

Separately, I don't think there is an unwritten rule about not teeing off against a position player who is pitching. Stealing is a no-no. But hitting is fine. After all, it is the Mets who decided to save their pitching staff.

Ole PBN said...

Stevenson is a good point and may get a look if MAT can't get it going. Stevenson reminds me of an Eaton-type; hard-nosed, grinder than doesn't have much flair, just a slappy Joe that is dynamic in the field an on the bases. Wouldn't mind him hitting 8th instead of Taylor at some point this season. Lord knows we have enough pop in this lineup.

JE34 said...

I could get used to the Gas-House Gorillas routine, going full conga-line around the bases like that.

Looking forward to the ryan/Ryan/RYAN post tomorrow!

section 406 said...

so MAT's been on a tear the last few days. Is it possible someone taught him to choke up and go for singles since the team has plenty of power? If he could swing for contact, he'd cut down the Ks and probably single a lot more, which would be perfectly fine.

Froggy said...

First off I felt as a baseball fan in general that Plawecki was a hero for stepping up and taking one for the team yesterday. Team player.

That said, he did get three outs in the 7th after Smoker gave up 5, so why wouldn't guys going up against him in the 8th not swing away? I mean you still got to swing, field, throw and catch the ball to end the game right? So I don't feel there was piling on or violating any unwritten baseball rules in this case.

Lastly, the Nats scored 23 runs in EIGHT innings, not nine. Makes it even more impressive, IMO.

Richard Parker said...

And Bryce scored more runs in April than any other player in history.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. Is the Nats' centerfield actually the Bermuda Triangle? Submitted for your consideration... Yesterday Cecpashelka@bayareanewsgroup.com reported... "Center fielder Denard Span’s sprained right shoulder hasn’t improved the way the Giants have hoped and there remains no timetable for when he might be activated." Ben Revere? Hitting .184 with the Angels. Now Adam Eaton out for the year. Hmmm.

Kubla said...

What did Bowden do to Brad Wilkerson to curse the CF position?

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