Nationals Baseball

Friday, April 16, 2021

Corhasbin

 Last night was bad.  Like really bad. Like one of the worst starts in Nationals history bad. Corbin was terrible in his first start but that was admittedly a weird situation where he'd was rushed in to start. I had set the bar at "not awful" for this one and he came in way under. Two innings pitched, 6 hits, 4 walks, 2 HBP, 3 homers.  He went only 2 innings yet threw 63 pitches. 

When it's THIS bad it's fine to look for a reason two starts in.  Medically wise I can't say anything. I don't know what he did or didn't have and what effect it has on him. I can tell you his pitches are slow. I can tell you he's not locating which means he throws his slider far less and his slider is his most effective pitch. But the problem isn't so much these blowouts. You have to believe the immenseness of this sucking is a fluke. The problem is this is how he pitched last year. Slow. Even if the flukes go away the Nats are left with a 4.00-4.50 ERA pitcher. 

The Nats have a Big Three they are relying on. They need the combination of the three to be great. It can be Great - very good - very good, or great - great - good. Or Cy Young - very good - good. It doesn't matter exactly who does what but it needs to be a team carrying performance. If Corbin isn't at least good, and 4.25 wouldn't be good, then they need someone else to step in.  Maybe that can happen. Lester is a crafy vet. Ross has looked good. But then you have to take into account both Max and Stras have had off games this year and we're only 2 games in a piece. Early returns are very shaky on a Big Three good enough to do what they have to do.  

Have I mentioned that the Diamondbacks line-up is bad? Ketel Marte has been a beast this season but is on the IL leaving he Dbacks with a batting order that has AsCab as it's clean-up hitter and honestly he might be the best bat in there?  To be bad is one thing. To be bad against bad competition is another. 

So the next few days will be telling as both Max (tonight) and Stras (Sunday) get cracks at this line-up and at having more good starts this year than bad.  If both of them look very good or better ok. You can worry about Corbin but maybe the Nats will work it out. If one or both of them do not...


Meanwhile at the plate - I wasn't wrong. They could score on Kelly. Josh Harrison is super hot! I'm assuming they won't need 12 to win tonight.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

WIN

 And that bad feeling? Gone. See. That's the beauty of baseball - always a chance to make you feel better (or worse) just 24 hours later. 

Ross looked great (although Cardinal fans will tell you they had questions about their offense coming into the season - which really makes yesterday a yikes) which given his first start makes you think that maybe the back of the rotation will hold. The pen was good. Zimm hit a homer. Some guys didn't hit, but other guys did which is what you expect in a deep lineup. Just what the Nats wanted

In the end the Nats do manage to go 2-4 and we won't worry about the how. Targets hit. Now comes a test at home. 3-1 vs ARI and 2-1 vs STL would be 5-2. That's the goal.  After this next series we'll take a look at all the hitters and relievers.

Probables

Merrill Kelly vs Patrick Corbin - big game for the Corbin as he looked so bad in his rushed outing. However the bar isn't high. Anything ok will be viewed as him settling down. Like 5 runs in 6 innings? That'd probably be accepted this outing. Kelly you may not know. He's a mediocre starter the Nats should hit. 

Taylor Widener vs Max - Third point for Max. Will it be good like the last one or bad like the first one? Widener was a low end prospect a couple years ago. He's like a Fedde or Ross. Certainly capable of a good start but you wouldn't necessarily bet on it until you see a few.  

Luke Weaver vs Erick Fedde - I'd say Fedde was a minor shock last time given his really good performance. We'll see. I'm not sold or really even browsing at this point.  Weaver had a good 2017 and 2019 and a good start to 2021.  Maybe he's a Saberhagen*. 

Bumgarner vs Strasburg - the Main Event but with the caveat that Strasburg just might have had the worst start of his career, and one-upping that Bumgarner hasn't been good since joining the D-backs. 

Anything can happen here - the only thing I go in expecting is the Nats will score on Merrill Kelly tonight. (which means they'll get shut out or something).  


*Saberhagen's start for his career had ERA+ of 115 143 102 136 106 180 118 135 101. That's an average of 108 in even years and 149 in odd years.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Discomforting

The Nats got blown out last night.  It happens. But everything around that blowout was worse than the loss itself and it'd be really nice to get a win today to erase the bad feelings from last night. 

First off - Strasburg pitched horribly.  If any starter pitches bad that's bad (yes, my logic skills are still amazing) but if Strasburg pitches bad that's REALLY bad because Strasburg is the horse the Nats have hitched their wagon to for the next window+.  He's supposed to be an ace through the next few years and if he's not even good that crashes the plans that the Nats have. Of course, one data point and all but that was such a terrible start you can't help but give it more weight. 

Second - Strasburg may be hurt. I'm going to say he probably isn't - or at least wasn't hurt particularly more going into or coming out of last night*. He says he wasn't. Davey says he wasn't. Nobody stopped him from keeping on pitching even though he was obviously off. He didn't SEEM hurt to me. Instead he seemed... uncomfortable. There wasn't wincing. There wasn't a change in delivery motion. He seemed to be working out a muscle kink in video down into the tunnel we were able to see.  I'll give him and the team the benefit of the doubt for a game. 

Third - The Nats tried to "Was there a problem?" the whole thing away with an attitude that reminds me of those missed playoffs years. The biggest issue to Davey Martinez seemed not to be that Stras was working a muscle (and the Nats didn't know about it? What kind of damn training staff is this? What the hell is going on with inter team communication?) but that WE KNOW he was working a muscle.  Same with Stras - he seemed more bothered by being filmed in the tunnel than throwing meatballs. 

I get the privacy thing but come on. He essentially closed the door to his house to hide, then walked in front of the bay window.  You DO have privacy just walk another 10 damn feet.  

Luis Avilan also looked particularly bad - not that important as one of the last arms in the pen. While Hernan Perez - with his EIGHTH outing ever - did the job. Unless someone else pitched last night that makes Perez the leader in the clubhouse for position player pitching. 

Let's get out on the field quick and get this game over with and get out the door. The further away from this the better for the Nats


*I maintain that Stras' 2019 workload - 245 IP 20-25% more than he ever did in a year - could easily have hurt his arm.  I'm hoping the lack of any work last year gave his arm (and Max and Corbin) time to recover. Since he looked great the first time out it's not something definitely bothering him right now

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Tuesday Quickie - They're all quickies at this point

The Nats won!  They are still the worst team in baseball by record but last night was the first night they had a full team and they played like we expected them too.  This is a good team. There may be questions if they are good enough, but they are clearly not a bad team. 

Last night they again beat the Cardinals easily in St. Louis. The last two games were NLCS beatings - a 1 hit shutout and a 3 hit one-run affair. Last night they had 6 hits and 2 runs so I guess twe should look out for 8 hits and 3 runs tonight. Fedde looked good which is nice for depth purposes but this is likely his last go for a while (one hopes). Bell, Schwarber, Harrison, and Gomes all looked like major league hitters and made the lineup complete rather than a 1-4 affair. The Nats really only had one struggle point with Rainey in the 7th but he got through it.  I'd say that was the only downside to last night - Rainey again looking slow. The Nats though built a real pen this year and can afford one guy not doing well, if that's in fact what you see here. 

To bring in the COVID guys the Nats DFA'd Lucroy and demoted Yadiel and Garcia. Lucroy should go somewhere I think.  He could have stayed here but the Nats moves yesterday were what they should do - not let a few games influence decisions they made to start the year.  They want Mercer and Hernan Perez, they like Avila more than Lucroy? They may be wrong but you don't change your mind in 15 PA. 

There was the one game the Nats HAD to have. Now split the last two and you come away from the trip as expected from the B-Team situation the Nats started with.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Monday Quickie - To Die and Die in LA

The Nats were swept out of LA and while the games were mostly competitive, there was also a general feeling during them that the Nats were more hanging on then challenging. That's probably because they managed to get shutout twice, making in 3 times in 4 games they failed to score a run. Having trouble scoring isn't surprising given they are missing at least two starting bats - getting shut out three times already though... that's rough no matter what your excuse. For those that missed it :

Game 1 

Joe Ross looked so solid you figured he'd pitch until he got himself into a jam or got up there in pitches. Neither happened as he was pulled to avoid the lineup seeing him a third time. This genius move let the lineup see Luis Avilan once and Turner took him deep for the only run of a game. The Nats did hit Buehler but it was scattered and light. They'd have a real shot in the 7th but Victor Robles tried to steal second on his own and got caught and then Trea struck out, turning 1st and 3rd and nobody out to man on 3rd two out real quick. The Dodgers aren't dummies - they'd walk Soto and get out of it.

Game 2 

Here comes Corbin. And there goes Corbin. Wild and hit around he'd give up 5 in the 2nd and both the 3rd and 5th could have gone worse. The Nats would run Urias in the 6th but it wouldn't be enough as the Dodgers would get a bases loaded clearing double in the 8th to put the game really out of reach. In the 9th the Nats would challenge a call at first, win it, and give Soto a chance to bat and he'd hit his second home run of the game so that was meaningless but kind of fun. 

Game 3 

Kershaw vs Max lived kind of up to the hype.  Max looked real strong. Kershaw wasn't better but he did manage to keep the Nats off the scoreboard, most notably after WPing Turner to 2nd, striking out Soto, then getting the next two guys to keep it 1-0. Max did seem a little shaky in the 6th and given his struggles last game and his general tendency to give up getting tired homers, replacing him was a decent move. It didn't pan out though as the Zach McKinstry would homer and extend the lead. After a early couple singles against old pal Treinen he'd win a battle with Turner and the Nats would go quietly. 

What did we learn? 

Max looked like Max. A second point. This one good.

Corbin with all that time off and thrown into starting was terrible but see what I just wrote. You kind of have to ignore it for now. 

Ross looked good too. He'll do that so we'll have to see next time. 

The bullpen is getting some innings in and looking unimpressive. Though Brad Hand looked good. Hand is good. Hand is great! Good job signing Hand. Let's hope it matters

The batters have gotten their second series in and no regular is doing anything so crazy we need to note it after 15-25 PAs.  Maybe after St. Louis. I will say Lucroy is making a case for being on this team instead of Avila, which honestly they are interchangable back-ups. It'll be interesting to see if they try to DFA him because catching is usually thin enough around the league that someone would grab him up I think. 

Look we have to let these games go. 1-5 is just what happened to start and it's a tiny hole the Nats dug themselves. Assuming everyone is back tonight though - no more excuses. The Nats will probably come out of this 2-7.  If they are a 90 win team and play 90 win ball from here on out they'll have 87 wins. That's the cost of this little COVID thing. Don't let it happen again, because this team probably isn't good enough to make up a 4-14 run.

STL

Fedde vs Gant - Fedde again? Yikes.  Gant is a stretched out reliever filling in so at least the Nats have that going for them. Against them is that he's pretty good. but then again as a stretched out reliever even if he dominates he'll be out after 5. 

Strasburg vs Flaherty - should be good. Strasburg was on top of his game last time. Flaherty was off his. You may have missed it but Flaherty was bad in 2020

Ross vs Wainwright - Hey we just said Ross looked good!  Wainwright did not but unlike Jack he was good in 2020. 

Let's go win one. Literally I'd be happy with one.

Friday, April 09, 2021

Well why not let them just catch the balls?

 If you didn't see yesterday the Mets won a game bc Michael Conforto stuck his elbow out over the plate and let it graze his elbow pad. This isn't hyperbole. He was leaning right at the zone, the pitch came in the zone, so much that it was called a strike, and as it came in he moved his elbow straight out.  He was awarded the base and afterwards the umps said they messed up but by that time the damage was done. 

I've never been a big stickler for the rule as written, in part because neither has baseball. The rule says basically you gotta try to get out of the way of a ball thrown out of the strike zone (and not swing at it). But the way it's mostly worked it that the batter owns the area in the batters box and if the ball goes in there all bets are off.  Don't move or maybe even little lean in? That's fine. Pitcher missed his target so do what you feel like. This is why I was never a Jose Tabata hater. If you hate that HBP that broke up Max's perfect game then you should be yelling every day at a HBP in a game bc that's about how often you'd see something like that. (Should a perfect game have a more stricter interpretation of the rules? Possibly)

But the Conforto thing - that even took away the "has to be out of the strike zone".  If you can get hit by pitches over the plate then the whole thing breaks down. 

I don't know what the punishment here would be, can you suspend Conforto? I guess so but that opens up another can of worms.  Mostly I think you yell at the umps, say never do that again and hope it doesn't end up mattering with like the Mets winning the division by a game. 

Baseball tonight.  This weekend the Nats face defending champion and arguably still best team in baseball Los Angeles Dodgers. 

Joe Ross vs Walker Buehler

? vs Jose Urias

? vs ? 

Don't you love these first few weeks match-ups?  The Nats are waiting to see who is cleared when but also these guys will probably need some warm up time so either their first start would be delayed and/or limited to a couple innings. Max is in line to pitch Sunday but if both Corbin and Lester can go they might try to work them in AND give Max another day off.  

This is part of a six game swing through LA and STL and you have to set the bar low not knowing who can play when.  Assuming everyone isn't a go tonight 2-4 should be the goal. Hang on and move on. 

FWIW travel wise there are no really bad parts of the Nats schedule this year - the worst travel swing might be a MIA, CIN, COL run to end the year. In terms of days off the Nats have a run from June 22nd to Jul 11th now thanks to a makeup Mets game and a run from July 23rd - August 8th. In some sense the end of the season will also be brutal. They'll play 36 games in 37 days (one DH so two off days) from August 24th through September 29th. The dog days are coming to bite the Nats.

Thursday, April 08, 2021

A fizzling candle at both ends

The Nats lost both ends of a double header yesterday.  It's not as rare as you think - basically these things work as expected with splits happening about 50% of the time, the other 50% of the times sweep. But still we feel a split is the normal outcome and thus a sweep against our team feels especially bad. 

Game 1 was a roller coaster early. Max Fried looked bad (which is bad news for the Braves) but Erick Fedde was worse (which is kind of neutral news for the Nats - they don't need Fedde) and after a flurry of runs and a 6-5 start the game became normal. The Braves would tack on one more off an unusually wild Suero in the last inning (7th YUK) which was necessary because Will Smith (which is bad news for the Braves) was bad again but managed to hold the damage to one run. So somehow while the Braves got the win I'd feel worse about this game than I were if I was a Nats fan. Your expected #1 starter and closer both stunk again. That's more important than a depth starter and the 4th man out of the pen. 

Game 2 was a bit of good news / bad news. The good news, honestly really good news, is that Strasburg looked like Strasburg. With Max scuffling, the other guys out, and his own injury concerns Strasburg throwing an ace outing was exactly what the Nats needed.  Unfortunately it ended up wasted when Rainey blew it in the 9th with a homer by Pablo Sandoval which somehow makes it hurt less because we all love overweight players for some reason. But it's true! The bad news is the line-up couldn't manage more than a couple hits (no, I'm not counting Strasburg's in here) off an emergency starter. The bottom of the line-up didn't hit, and really hasn't hit overall - it's just been timely here and there. That's ok though because none of Stevenson, Perez, Barrera, or Garcia need to. They are merely space fillers. 

So what do we take away from the first series? It's hard to say. On Twitter I boiled it down to "Don't get COVID dummies" This isn't the full team and thus it isn't representative of what we'll see all year. Starter wise we take a closer look at Max's next start, a softer look at Strasburg's. The bullpen overall wasn't super but again - no Hand or Harris so even if this pen is a bit of an issue it still doesn't mean the back end in crucial times will be. The usual starters - Robles, Soto, Turner, Castro, Zimm - all seemed fine, but three games. Anyone can look like anything in three games so we'll see the next three and then see what to look for going forward.

On to LA and watching a team put up a banner in a more usual fashion.