Nationals Baseball: August 2018

Friday, August 31, 2018

Visiting Friends

How are old Nats doing you might ask bored with nothing else to talk about.  Let me tell you!

Classic Nats
Tyler Moore is out of the league. Roger Bernadina is burning down Korean baseball. Over .300 with 19 homers so far this year. Danny Espinosa has spent this year giving organizational depth to 3 teams (Phillies now). I wouldn't expect another. Same thing goes for LOMBO, now in AAA with the A's. . Ross Detwiler, also org depth but getting one start this year in the majors for Seattle, might be also in his last season, too but you never know with lefty arms. Craig Stammen is putting up impressive relief numbers in San Diego. Clippard is putting up ok ones in Toronto appearing in a bunch of games as usual. Neither got traded because the reliever market was a buyer's one this year. Drew Storen is recovering from Tommy John and coming off a bad year - a double whammy heading into free agency. Jordan Zimmerman finally got healthy and is slowly getting back into form, though right now he's still a 3-4 middle rotation pitcher. Ian Desmond is being streaky Ian - flashing some pop with low average, but with the Rockies he's headed for his 7th straight winning season and maybe his third playoffs since leaving the Nats three years ago. Maybe the Nats needed him not Werth?   Wilson Ramos got traded to Philly and is crushing it there. The guy can hit if he can stay healthy and should find a place somewhere heading into FA.

Traded or moved on Major League Nats
You all know Blake Treinen has become the best closer in baseball. 0.95 ERA! What you probably don't know is Felipe Vazquez neeeeeee Rivero regained his form in the 2nd half and was almost that good throwing to a 1.23 ERA. Although he did miss time to injury so it's only been 14 appearances.  Steven Souza got hurt and is playing 4th OF ball for Arizona. Jerry Blevins has been fine. Jose Lobaton caught on with the Mets, hit oddly well in Vegas and then expectedly terrible for the Mets. Doug Fister was eating innings for Texas before going out for the year.  Sandy Leon is still a bad back-up for the Red Sox showing anyone can fluke - even for half a season. Adam Lind caught on with the Yankees and then the Red Sox but his "what am I doing in AAA" play has kept him in the minors all year.  Nate Karns and Yunel Escobar are out of baseball.

Traded minor league Nats 
Tyler Watson SP (Kintzler) struggling badly in High A. McKenzie Mills SP (Kendrick) progressed to AA but got hammered there. Jesus Luzardo SP and Sheldon Neuse 2B/3B (Doolittle Madson) have both made it to AAA. Luzardo at 20 is way ahead of schedule but hasn't quite graduated yet as AAA has been rough. Probably a IP issue as much as anything. Neuse is on age track to debut but will have to prove he deserves it next season, because this year was very mediocre. Jeffrey Rosa now RP (Enny Romero) can't make it out of rookie ball and should be done. Mario Sanchez RP (Jimmy Cordero) was looking maybe ok in AA but got hurt. Pedro Avila SP (Norris) is going nowhere in High A but a live arm should give him more time.  Reynaldo Lopes, Lucas Giolito, and Dane Dunning (Eaton) have differing fortunes. Dunning is doing pretty well in AA and is probably expected to show up in the majors next year if he doesn't bomb. Giolito struggled mightily earlier but has slowly got his control in order and looks to be a solid middle rotation arm as the year ends. Lopez has been a back of the rotation arm much of the year but also has been a little better toward the end. All together they could be a 3-4-5 for a few years.

Max Schrock 2B (Rzepczynski) got move to St. Louis and has been as mediocre as Neuse in AAA. Taylor Hearn SP (Melancon) is now trying to put it together in AA for Texas. Nick Pivetta (Papelbon) you've seen trying to figure out if he's a middle rotation arm or a back of the rotation one, but a major leaguer regardless. Tony Renda 2B (Dan Carpenter? I guess the Nats traded for Dan Carpenter) ended up with Boston and got an at bat but is org depth. Travis Ott RP (part of Turner Ross deal) is being converted to a reliever despite pretty successful showings as a SP the last couple years because the Rays are idiots trying to ruin baseball. Zach Walters SS (AssCab) one of Boz's "could be an All-Star" is out of baseball. Billy Burns OF (Blevins) is org depth in KC. Ian Krol RP (Fister) is in the Mets org now and probably will pop up again as bullpen filler. Robbie Ray SP (Fister) developed after a trade to Arizona into a solid to good starter but got hurt this year and is trying to get back to what he can do. Ivan Pinyero RP (Scott Hairston) refuses to give up the ghost and filled out the Angels AAA roster this year but still hasn't seen (or really deserve to see) the majors. And finally Alex Meyer SP (Span) escaped the SP Death Camp that was the Twins for 15 years and got to LA, developed into a pretty promising starter and then hurt his shoulder and has been out for the year.

Anyone you don't see here is probably out of baseball. You can look it up yourself lazy bones.

Whenever I do this I am taken back by how little these trades usually mean. A lot more guys becoming nothing than something and those becoming something usually taking time and a couple of deals to do it. The only real "Oops" of the past few years was Pivetta who pretty quickly became a major league quality arm for Philly. Kind of a reverse Roark deal. Luzardo has a chance to be special which would be another "Oops" but if he develops into a mid-back rotation guy (and Neuse becomes nothing) that's probably a fair shake out for 2 years of Madson and 3+ of Doolittle.

But part of that is that there are very few stars in baseball. It's going to take a pretty big mistake or unlucky/lucky break to make a deal really look bad/good.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

What's the future?

After the season the Nats are going to be looking to make moves. They have to as there will be obvious holes to address even if everyone is back. It could be tweaking, they are a better team then they have shown and with health, luck, and some smart moves, could be right back in the division hunt. It could be major, they were pretty old, don't have a lot of youthful answers to problems, and have more key guys coming up for free agency after 2019. Either way the team lands some moves will be made and that got me thinking - what exactly is the future for the Nats at each position?

I'm not even talking about the far off future. Anything beyond 3 years I tend to avoid talking about because that is a long time in sports and a lot can change. I'm just talking about the next two years. Do the Nats have a plan in place for that limited time frame? A little preview of the position specific posts I do at year's end.

First Base -  Not really. Zimm remains a quality bat when healthy, primarily against LHP. Zimm also remains unable to stay healthy. I suppose another Lind/Adams type would be likely but there isn't anything in place. He is up for a buyout after 2019 which the Nats will likely take rather than pay his 18 million dollar salary. So there's a plan here for 2019 but not 2020.

Second Base - No. Difo is not the answer. They haven't begun moving Carter Kieboom, and even if they did he doesn't currently look like he'll be an important piece in the next two seasons. Luis Garcia may be the answer down the road but not in the next two years. No plan

Shortstop - Yes. Turner will play shortstop. He hasn't developed exactly as you'd like (which is probably why they haven't committed to moving Kieboom) but he's improved defensively and has shown you offensive flashes that can be exciting. Plus he's cheap for a good long while.

Third base - No. The plan for 2019 is obvious. Rendon plays. He can hit. He can field. But he becomes a FA after 2019 and will be an injury prone 30 year old in the 2020 season. Are the Nats going to pay for that? Like first base, plan for 2019, none for 2020.

Outfield - Yes! Soto in now in there in pen. Eaton technically has a buy out but his contract is so cheap (9.5 million) that you'd keep him unless he misses 80% of next season too. MAT is still under control. The Nats like Robles. Even without Bryce you can see what the plan would be. Start Soto, Eaton, MAT - work in Robles. See what sticks. So there's a plan in place already.

Catcher - No. Wieters will be gone. Severino showed everyone he can't hit (LIKE I SAID HE WOULD) Kieboom the Older (really - he'll be 28 next year) is not the answer either there's no plan here.

Starting Pitching - No team is going to have a plan in place for all 5 slots for 2 years.* I'd say if you have 3 spots set you are doing very well.  The Nats aren't there and worse, the whole thing could be in chaos in 2020. Let's get the one sure thing out of the way. Max is signed and despite getting up there in years will have to show that he's not worth the ace status. 2019 looks acceptable for the Nats Stras and Roark going 2-3 forming a very good top. The bottom is dicey, with no one banging on the door it's very likely that something like a re-signed Hellickson and Jefry Rodriguez could round out the rotation. But this is kind of par for course in the majors. 2020 is where the trouble starts. Roark is a FA after 2019. Stras has an opt-out. If they both are walking the Nats now need 4 slots filled. In the minors, Seth Romero didn't climb. Wil Crowe has stalled out in AA. Fedde is hurt again and wasn't impressive in his chances. One may have a good enough 2019 to show up in the rotation in 2020 but there's no confidence here for 2020.

Relief pitching - Like Eaton, Doolittle has some buyouts / team options but is cheap enough he should be around. After that it's anyone's guess. Kintzler was pencilled in for 2019 but now is gone. They were hoping guys like Gott and Glover would be dominant by now but both are barely hanging on. There's a couple of ok arms like Miller, Suero, and Grace under control but it's a piecemeal pen right now for the next two years.

So in conclusion

For 2019 the Nats have a plan in place for first, short, third, the outfield, the top 3 rotation spots, and the closer.   That's not too bad and includes a good deal of solid players or better. You can see how they could compete with a little tweaking. You bring in a lot of bullpen help, a solid pitcher, a star at catcher or MI and you are close to reset

For 2020 the Nats have a plan in place for short, the outfield, the top rotation spot and closer. That's not much to work with and is kind of a team that you decide to rebuild not reload.

This seems like a pretty clear cut case and we'll see how the Nats react in the offseason. They could reload with an honest chance at taking back the division in 2019 and remaining competitive beyond that if a few things break their way. They could sell hard taking assets like Roark and Rendon and Doolittle (assuming health) and maybe even Eaton and Strasburg, and try to reset for the Soto/Robles era in 2021 and beyond. There's even a third path. A hard buy for 2019 alone. A lot of one-year deals, early opt-outs, that reload for the chance at the title in 2019, but gives them freedom to tear it all back down if they come up short rather than be stuck with some dead money as they might be if they try and reload. 

If I'm guessing? I think they don't fall easily into any one of these categories. I think Rizzo is just a long term hoarder and he'll bring in some long-term talent through trade or signings next off-season. Not enough to reload, but enough that the team should be ok and could be great if they get lucky.  It'll probably be something that doesn't get them a division in 2019, but maybe a WC and keeps them in that 85ish win range looking to pounce on a fast start. No fire sale. No big reload. No 2019 grasp. Just continued solid but not spectacular roster management.

*Well ok - the 2012 Nats kind of did. It's possible. But it's a rare thing and it's usually actually 4 guys set and one "we'll try our young guys" or "we'll sign a cheap vet" 5th position spot. Which is a plan, but not one where you have any idea what you are getting.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Playing spoiler to the Phillies and an idea

The Nats are going to do it, aren't they? They are going to go 7-2 against the Phillies in those last nine games and yet somehow they are still going to finish nowhere near the title. Damn this team.

OK, I want to take a minute here to talk about something I've mentioned on Twitter but I'm not sure I've really gone into here, which is the lionization of Jayson Werth the clubhouse presence.

Now, I don't want to go into what he meant to the team. I don't know. You don't know. The beats... well the beats probably know somewhat. Seems like the clubhouse liked him and he helped guys out and was a leader of sorts. That's what we're told and I have no reason to not believe that. That's fine. But after that there is an illogical next step taken, that having Werth or a Werth like guy on this team would have cured at least some, if not most, of their ills this year. That Werth's attitude - that type of play and lifestyle - helps a team win, rubs off on others, and gives the team a backbone to overcome adversity. That's basically the crux of what Boz said in his chat yesterday. 

But here's the thing. In all the years Jayson Werth was here. In all the different configurations of this team they have never overcome adversity.  In 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2017 they walked to the division title, then when faced with the pressure of the playoffs - they lost. In 2013 and 2015, they faced in-season difficulties, and collapsed failing to make the playoffs.

So now you're telling me that was the missing piece for 2018? Something that never showed itself to be important over six previous years of baseball?

I'm not dismissing the notion that a Werth type could help in the clubhouse. It would certainly help the baseball reporters who love a good quote, anonymous and on the record. But it's nowhere near a necessary thing to help a team get through bad times and tough situations. The Nationals themselves basically proved it over the length of the window.

Now you might say - "but they never tried being all scrappy fun max effort veteran leadership guys!". I suppose that's true but like I said there were different configurations. The 2012-13 team with had guys like Morse, LaRoche, Lombo, Tracy that were along those scrappy fun max effort veteran leadership lines and a manager in that vein too. In 2014 they hired a manager that fit that max-effort quality and would bring in guys like Max, Papelbon, Escobar with a little more edge. 2016 featured Joe Cool manager and lots of bench vets and bullpen vets. I mean I guess no, they didn't do everything at once, but they never had a boring milquetoast team top to bottom either. I could just as well say maybe that's the key.

What I want, at the end of this season, is a fair assessment of this squad. I want to identify the definite issues, the probable issues, and then brainstorm solutions. I want to take what we know generally and what have we learned specifically from 7 years of Nationals contention and figure out how can they keep that going. This Werth thing is a distraction. Generally it's claptrap. Specifically it's shown to be unimportant. This needs to go away. 

Monday, August 27, 2018

Monday Quickie : Dead in the water

5 Week Status
Record: 65-66
Ground gained/lost in division last wk : +1 games to PHI, -1.5 games to ATL
Ground gained/lost in WC race last wk : -2 to STL, -0.5 SFG, -1 MIL, 0 LAD, +2 PIT, 0 COL


You may not believe it but the fates have been kind to the Nationals. The NL East and the Wild Card have remained within reach (in theory) of the Nats. Currently the East would be won with 90-91 games and the wild card with 89-90.  If you told me that at the All-Star Break I would have taken it and run away and hide. The Nats still have a "they go .500, we're the best team in the majors" chance which is one step above "need a miracle" status. But just barely as the Nats run would have to match the best runs of the year.

Of course why would you trust the Nats to pull this off? You wouldn't.  The problem is no longer the situation around the Nats but the Nats themselves. The Nats didn't do what they needed to do (Sweep the Mets) and thus kept losing ground instead of gaining it. This continues the looooooooong pattern of the Nats failing to win when needed. They had their chance. After falling behind by 7 games the Nats had an easy stretch leading into the All-Star Break and could have made a move. Instead we got this : 

Beat the Pirates? No!
Beat the Mets? No!
Beat the Braves? No!
Beat the Brewers? No!
Beat the Marlins? No!
Take both from Mets? Yes!
Beat up the Reds? Yes!
Beat the Braves? No!
Beat the Cubs? No!
Beat the Cardinals? No!
Sweep the Marlins? No!
Beat the Phillies? Yes!
Sweep the Mets? No!

3 for 13 in series goals is how you end up .500 and not in first place. 

What now? I don't know. I guess we fritter around trying to find something to talk about until we dig into the post-mortem. They'll be a Max/Soto award update at some point. And update on some traded guys.

At some point when we dig into how the season failed it's going to be about paritioning blame between injuries, luck, roster construction, competition, and whatever else. There's certainly a sense that this was a decent team undone by injuries and some bad breaks but there's also a sense that isn't all.  We got all September to talk about it though.

Friday, August 24, 2018

The season of nothing?

Along with the dream of the playoffs, the Nationals season once held other dreams as well. Max was cruising toward a third Cy Young and dare we say an MVP? Juan Soto looked like a shoe-in for the ROY despite giving the rest of the field a couple months headstart. But now, with the Nats season just awaiting the official killing blow, even those little pieces of consolation are in jeopardy.

The main pitching story of this season has arguably been "How can Jacob deGrom pitch so well but never win any games?" The Mets never seemed to score for him. From April 21st-June 18th deGrom threw to an 0.90 ERA (that's right 0.90) yet he only went 3-2 in those games and the team went 3-8. It was comical. It was also killing any chance of deGrom winning a Cy Young as people couldn't imagine giving the award to someone who may be below .500 in wins and have fewer than 10 of them, regardless of the reason.

Eventually the Mets stopped Metsing and more recently they have scored some for deGrom, not alot but enough to take him from 5-7 to 8-8. This run has started to put deGrom back in the conversation. Is it real battle?  Yes

Wins : I'll start with this because I still care about wins for these things because I believe the awards should be a reflection of the year you had in context, not in a vacuum. Some people find that unfair. You can only do the best you can do. But for me that's true for the raw evaluation of statistics, not handing out silly subjective baubles. So the literally best player loses out in a MVP race to a guy who was say 5th best but felt like he had the most impact? Who cares? We aren't computers being asked to crank out an objective winner. We're people being asked our opinions. Anyway Max with a big lead here 16-6 to 8-8

ERA : deGrom 1.71, Max  2.13.  ERA can be funny sometimes but in this case the fancy stats back up the difference the FIP is 2.07 / 2.63, the xFIP 2.72 / 3.04.   In terms of preventing runs from scoring deGrom has been a better pitcher this year.

K/9 :  Max with the lead here but probably not as much as you think. Max 12.1, deGrom 11.1

BB/9 : deGrom with a slight lead 2.1 to 2.2

H/9 :  In terms of being more unhittable Max wins 5.7 to 6.7 which is a pretty big gap. This also is why Max gets the lead in WHIP 0.886 to 0.971. But then why is deGrom's run preventing stats better?...

HR/9 : Max 0.9, deGrom 0.4. Max hasn't given up a ton of homers but deGrom has been impossible to homer off of this year - only 8 so far. And yes that's a little fluky but it's also true the difference between the two pitchers in this skill is real. It's a lot harder to homer of deGrom

IP : But Max is a beast right? So he's going to win by pure IP advantage much like he just overcame Kershaw* in 2016.  Nope Max has a lead but it isn't big. 181.2 to 174 and Max has one more start so they are both pitching about as deep.

WARs? :  deGrom leads in fWAR, Max in bWAR so no clarity there.

So is Max in a real battle? Yes. Definitely. Forget the MVP, he could lose the Cy Young depending on how he (and deGrom) pitches down the stretch. However, there's no clear favorite here and if they end the year with the stats as close as they look above, Max should win his 3rd in a row. I can't tell you he will - voters like to change things up and deGrom would be worthy, but I think he should. Still one bad start is likely to decide this as much as anything.

For a time there was no battle. Despite the hype over the Braves rookies and the fact they came out of the box strong, Juan Soto was a revelation.  A month and half in he was sporting an OPS over 1.000. A month later a 3-5 game against the Marlins with a homer and a triple put him over that mark again. He wasn't just the best rookie, he was arguably the best hitter in the National League.  How Acuna, who missed a month and had slumped going into his DL stint, was doing was immaterial and only a huge slump by Soto AND a huge surge by Acuna would make it a race.

Soto since then : .221 / .374 / .349
Acuna since then : .327 / .409 / .752!

Soto has suffered pretty badly in August his average falling way down and only hitting two homers. His K rate also jumped showing that either the league was adjusting or he was getting tired or both. Meanwhile Acuna has put on a display of power we haven't seen from a rookie in a long while. 12 homers in the last 25 games.

Where they stand now presents a clear question to voters on what matters to them - power or patience.

Soto :  .287 / .408 / .512 (2 SB)
Acuna :  .286 / .355 / .571 (10 SB)

Acuna has more power and more speed (at least shown).  Soto though has a decisive edge in his ability to get on base. If you look to defense Acuna has the edge there. He's been nothing special mind you, despite the expectations, probably nothing more than average this year in left. But Soto has been kind of bad, the one minor leaguer who might have actually been held back for defensive reasons.

If you want the fancy stats both bWAR and fWAR favor Acuna. And honestly so do I right now. Soto's edge has dwindled from "everything but defense" to "walks more". I mean it's A LOT more, true but given everything else and the fact the Braves are in first and the Nats can't find a way into the playoffs? Right now this is Acuna's ROY to lose.

*how is Kershaw doing this year? Still awesome. Just a step behind these two and with his usual month of missed games he's not in the conversation unless both deGrom and Max go out for the rest of the year.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Give up and Win

The Nats effectively called it a season yesterday, dealing away their starting 2nd baseman and an effective bench hitter. Both not only were traded but were traded to teams in the NL making teams the Nats would in theory be competing with stronger. You don't do that if you are seriously competing.

We'll have a Murphy retrospective at some point but for two years Daniel was the surprise gift that helped make the Nats one of the best teams in the NL. But then he got injured and wasn't much help to the Nats for a good portion of this season.  His injury, age, and inability to field made Murphy a risky re-sign at the end of the year so a trade makes sense.  In return the Nats got Andrew Monasterio an interesting middle infielder hitting ok in High A, primarily prized for his speed and batting eye .  Is he a prospect? Not really - he's just a few days younger than Victor Robles to give you an idea of how far he is from top prospect status. But he's not a useless return. He could develop into a Difo type or if you are lucky something more. That's something.

Matt Adams, who was the guy the Nats got because they figured correctly that they could cheap out and not bring Lind back and it would be ok, hit perhaps better than he ever has to start this year, but cooled down considerably as the year went on. He was just offloaded. Waived by Nats - picked up by Cardinals. Salary dump. Could they have fought and gotten something for him? Perhaps a no-prospect low A player but that would have been just to do it.

Of course they Nats deal this guys, and you expect them to be demoralized and get rolled over by the Phillies but baseball doesn't work that way and the Nats went out and won last night's game. So if you want to keep enjoying the season even though the team itself seems ready to pack it in you can.  At least for a few more days.

Should the Nats have dealt at the trade deadline? I guess so but really they should have done something different than what they did.  Try for some small improvement - that would have made sense. Try to sell off everyone - that would have made sense. But instead they sold a little - hoping to spark the team at the expense of making them worse and it didn't work.  A bad plan with a bad outcome.

What does this mean for 2019? Nothing different. The Nats need to retool to compete immediately bringing in (or keeping) a couple decent bats and more importantly getting the pitching in order. I've already said I want 3 FA/trade relievers because the Nats haven't proved to have any ability to develop guys here that can do the job.  One year, two years, three years, you write off. Six years you gotta act accordingly.

Sweep the Phillies! Keep Hope Alive!

Monday, August 20, 2018

Monday Quickie


Hey - I'm on the road again. You may say "Harper that's crazy!  That means you'd have been to like 6 different places in the Eastern US in the past 6 weeks beyond where you live! No one wants to live like that even if there are vacations in there.  And I would say to you "HAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHA"

7 Week Status
Record: 60-58
Ground gained/lost in division last wk : +0.5 games to PHI, -1 games to ATL
Ground gained/lost in WC race last wk : -2.5 to STL, +0.5 SFG, +0.5 MIL, +0.5 LAD, -0.5 PIT, -1.0 COL
Well that wasn't that bad, you can kind of see the Nats turni... oh that was two weeks ago?

6 Week Status
Record: 62-63
Ground gained/lost in division last wk : -1 games to PHI, -1.5 games to ATL
Ground gained/lost in WC race last wk : -3 to STL, -0.5 SFG, -1 MIL, -1.5 LAD, -0.5 PIT, -3.5 COL

Oh there's your problem.  The Nats stink!

The Nats were not able to sweep the Marlins. In fact they lost two of the three which is pretty terrible. The hope they are clinging to now is basically "Well if we want to catch the Phillies we have to pretty much dominate them and if we dominate them we would be in the Wild Card hunt again!"  Which is really just a way of saying "anything can happen!"

Now my brother from another mother and father pointed out that really the division is more catchable than the Wild Card. Despite the leader being slightly further ahead, there are so many teams between the Nats and WC2 that the Wild Card is a harder get.  Ok, so be it. Someone in the comments pointed out this isn't about being realistic, it's about having fun with what's left of the season. The Nats are nearly certain to not make the playoffs in any form.  They are pretty certain to be eliminated, if not technically mathematically then enough so that you have no reason to pay attention to that chance. (Like say Angels fans right now), in fairly short order and then we can really commence talking about the wrongs of this year and how to right them (if possible). 

Why not be a little silly for a couple weeks?  What's it cost you? or the team?

One thing I will bring up right now is how to approach something when we talk about the reasons the Nats failed this year.  Injuries are often brought up as the number one reason and that is more than reasonable. These guys missed a lot of games! However, if they are expected to miss a bunch of games then the failure isn't one of bad luck, the failure is one of roster construction.  If you have several players going into the year who could very well miss a third of the season then it is your responsibility to cover that.  That doesn't mean covering that third it means covering more. This is the discussion that we should have over the injuries - were they properly accounted for.

My initial thoughts right now is no, but you probably knew that because I said as much early in the year when I said the OF could be an issue and everyone killed me for that. My take was "Sure there are 4 guys but 3 injury prone guys and a guy with a half-year of production. And sure the back-up is good but he will be covering other stuff for an unknow amount of time."  That's not exactly how things worked out but there was a little gap there and that gap was busted wide open when Kendrick went down.  When he went down in in mid/late May he should have replaced ASAP.  But like I said that's jus tthe thoughts now.

Sweep the Phillies.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Relentless Optimism

As long as the Nats are in it - why not just choose to go with it? There's plenty of time - weeks really before the end of the season to start talking about the next year, and that's not even going into the usual entire off-season. So while there's a chance, revel in that chance. At least that's how I see it.


Granted this is a day after calling the NL East but the goal is the playoffs. (well the goal for me is the playoffs. The goal for you is probably a World Series appearance). I'm not having it both ways. This is a run to the Wild Card.

Next up for the Nats is the Marlins and I think we are all in agreement a sweep is pretty much the only allowable outcome.

Zimm and Bryce and Murphyo are hot hot hot.  Soto is... well he's still walking! MAT, Trea, Adams, Adam, Reynolds, Keiboom are all cold. It's half a lienup but the half that is hitting is hitting it really well.

For me the Bryce and Soto things are the most interesting for this season. Bryce is hitting since the All-Star Break (make your own guess on why) and is slowly gaining on the huge lead that Soto set up in terms of offensive worth. He's moving back away from the mid-season "Oh he may not get much of a deal at all" thinking. On his end Soto has had a real tough August and is slipping from a near sure thing for ROY to a dogfight with Ronald Acuna.  It's my contention that Soto is tired. He's up over 115 games for the year when his previous high was 50-something. At 19 that's got to wear on you. I think he should get a day off soon and the Marlins games are a perfect time to have that happen. If both these guys can hit like they had at their peak it's almost irrelevant how the rest of the lineup is doing. They should score.

The starting pitching is about how you might have guessed
Max is Max. Roark is back on track. Hellickson is doing well in his limited outings. Gio is blowing it. Milone is not more than a spot starter.

The relief pitching is working in reverse. Madson, Solis have been hurting. Collins, Gace have been good since coming u. Holland hasn't blown up anything so I guess that's good. 

What can you do? The Nats have 3 1/2 starters as long as Gio can't go.  Honestly Fedde or someone should be absorbing those 5th starter losses, not Tommy Milone. Let Milone be the long relief man that the team hasn't bothered having all year.  Relief wise you just keep going with what you have been and hope it works out. I'd probably give Madson some more time off, two days off if he pitches twice in three days, but otherwise you gotta just keep throwing them out there and hope for the best. No help is coming until Doolittle is healthy and we have no idea when that is.

OK Onto the weekend where it all turns around! 

Thursday, August 16, 2018

NL East called.

Finally there has been movement. After months of what felt like the entire NL taking two steps forward and two steps back, finally a couple teams started making real moves. Unfortunately for Nats fans it's the wrong teams moving in the wrong directions. The Nats have lost the last 4. The Braves have won the last 5. The NL East deficit is now at 9 games.  The Nats are not making up 9 games. The NL East is not going to be won by the Nats.

This doesn't mean the Braves will win it. The Phillies are only 2 games behind and could still pass the Braves. But if the Phillies pass the Braves that just means two teams will finish ahead of the Nats rather than one.

Is the playoff dream dead? Not quite. 7 games is on the very outskirts of possibility for me fitting the Nats into "Nats are the best. Everyone else does exactly what's needed to fall out" sort of thing. But I have them right at the edge. One more game fallen behind? One more week without making up ground? Over.  So tomorrow could be another calling. This is the soulless take. The raw computer take that still has the Nats with 15% playoff odds or whatever. I'm sure many of you called it earlier because there isn't much reason to believe this team will do something special.

One of the things I've heard is if the Nats were better in one-run games things would be different and sure they'd be "in it" but they'd also still be out of it. Out of the WC spots. Out of first (or second) in the NL East. I suppose it would help Martinez seem like less of a problem. Maybe make you feel a little better. But a change of one-run luck wasn't going to save this season. 

How do you positively spin this year? I suppose the Nats have been in trouble for a while and didn't collapse for 6 weeks? They didn't make a run and it was against pretty weak competition but it could have been worse. You can also say that nothing underlying has changed with the talent expected this year and if you swap out Soto for Bryce you can still see the base here that would allow them to compete going forward.

Eh. That's an end of the year discussion. Right now focus on the now for the brief time we still can. I guess beat the Cardinals today. Sweep the Marlins. See where you are.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

It's not over until we say it's over

And the Nats have written the concession speech of two words "It's over." and are currently practicing intonation in the green room while their chief of staff is trying to get through to the other teams to congratulate them first before going on stage.

This is repetitive but true. The Nats are not out of it thanks to the general blahness of the NL. In the past 30 games (since game 90) the Nats have gone 15-15. But the Phillies only went 15-13, the Braves went 16-12 (streaking in the past couple of games, .500 before that), but had stumbled right before this. MIL went 14-18, SFG 15-16, LA and ARI both 16-15. PIT has played well but were far behind to begin with. So the only teams that have set themselves apart that the Nats are competing with are the Cardinals and the Rockies, both moving from the fringes of the WC race to a couple games behind.

So for playing mediocre baseball the Nats "punishment" has been a game or so lost in the NL East lead and a couple teams a couple more games ahead in the WC.  Not that big a difference.

But it's also been 30 games with no movement and the tick tock of the season has grown increasingly louder. "They'll get them later" is gone and we've moved to the point where any slip up will do it. The Nats lose the next two and the Braves, Phillies, and Brewers all win the next two? 9 games out of the East and 8 out of WC2? Even the craziest dreamer has to give it up.

Who's to blame for the season failures? We'll have plenty of time to go over that.

Who's to blame for the recent failures? It's a team effort.

You can blame Davey. He overworked the pen early in the season which may have contributed to injury. He seems to have a lack of communication with his bullpen. His inability to get the clubhouse where Rizzo liked it, caused him to jettison a couple of supposed bad apples in an attempt to set things right.

You can blame Rizzo. We talked about the pen being one arm short - better than it has been to start the season but also not set up to be as well as it could have been. We talked more urgently about the plan to have a 5th starter that would only go 2 times through a line-up set up the bullpen for a lot of work if something happened with the other starters.  We talked about the injuries forcing the need for moves and ended up getting a move. We then saw his macho razing of the pen of a couple of malcontents that at best showed mild disillusionment desperately searching for a way to fix the team for the manager as opposed to optimize the team itself.

You can blame the pen. Get some damn outs. It's your jobs.

Very little in sports can be laid at the feet of one individual. I lean toward Rizzo though because it's obvious the team needed more bullpen help and he chose to weaken it and then Doolittle going down smashed it to pieces and he still does nothing but bring in has beens like Holland.  If it's because the Lerners hamstring him with salary so be it but he has been in the job long enough to know that's what will happen. It's on him as much as it's on them.

Ok well. Sweep the 3 versus the Cardinals and then we can move off of season ending talk. Anything else and we're just arguing on what the time of death is or will be.  

Monday, August 13, 2018

Monday Quickie : Ugh

A lot of people will want to make that more than it was in the record book.  There’s no need. The Nats desperately need wins and last night in one swing a win turned into a loss. At this point any L is close to devastating, whether it was lost on the first swing of the night or the last.

What now?  Well by my goal setting the Nats need to beat. The Cardinals ya home. 3-1 or 4-0.  Anything less makes it likely they lost ground to someone and there is no room to take a couple steps back.



Soto is under .300!

Friday, August 10, 2018

Surviving, but not advancing

At the very end of June the Nats played an important series with the Phillies. The Nats went into the series 4 games out and after a pretty wretched month of baseball still had an opportunity to get right back in the pennant race. Instead the Nats would lose 3 of 4 and find themselves 6 games out on Jul 1.

Over the next 6 weeks the Nats have fallen as far back as 7 games out and have closed to as close as 5 games out, neither falling enough out to call the year, nor getting close enough to get excited. The team has remained in contention throughout the summer without providing any real interest.

This follows with the Nats seasons as a whole. A strange lack of drama for a team with 4 pennant winners and 2 above .500 teams in the past 6 years. I've probably done this before but it fascinates me so much.

In 2012 the Nats had a great start to August and eventually racked up a 7 game lead. The lead would fall to 5 before a series with 2nd place Atlanta where they could make it a race. But the Nats won the series and there was only one H2H series left that year. We kept waiting for the push, but the Braves couldn't claw any closer than 4 games until the very very end of the year when a comeback was close to impossible leaving the last important game the Nats played to be probably the 2nd win vs ATL in that aforementioned series on August 21st.

In 2013 the Nats would quickly fall out of contention, and a 0-fer run after the ASB put the Nats 9 games out of first (and 9.5 out of the WC). Any more slip-ups and the Nats would have to reasonably give up. The Nats played ok, but a surging Braves took advantage of the Nats getting swept in a mini-series vs Detroit to drive the lead to 11. The East was done. Still they chipped a game and a half from the WC race, keeping that viable, until ATL came in and swept the Nats in DC knocking them back down to 9 out on Aug 7th. The WC race was over. The season was over.

In 2014, the Nats had a slow start and were in 2nd as late as Jul 18th but the Braves faltered after that and the Nats got the lead up to 4.5 games going into a series in Atlanta. The Braves did their job this time, winning the series and moving forward 3.5 games out.  Then The Nats won 10 in a row and 12 of 13 to leave the Braves 8 games out in late August. The Braves managed to get it back down to 7 entering a H2H in early September. If they swept it, they'd have a puncher's chance the rest of the year. The Nats won game one. Season done Sept 8th.

In 2015, it looked like the Nats would finally get that exciting finish. They had underperformed a little to start, while the Mets got out fast. The two teams were going back and forth for most of the year with the Mets taking back first with the infamous trade deadline sweep in NY at the end of July. The Nats would hold close for a week or so but then they'd go on a losing streak, then the Mets had a winning streak and it was 6.5 games out at the end of the month. Worst the WC was out of reach with this being the year 3 NL Central teams would win 97 or more games. Still with 6 H2H left you could see the Nats inching ahead in the division when it counted, and when they pulled within 4 going into the first H2H series only a Mets sweep would be sure to end the year right here. The Mets swept. Season over Sept 9th.

In 2016, the Mets got injured and while they tried to keep their head above water the Nats pretty comfortably controlled the division. Given the Mets win last season you remained worried maybe even as late as having a 7 game lead on Aug 24th. I'd probably argue for an earlier date but when the lead went back up to 8 the next day and never got closer I'd say that definitively was the last important game the Nats played that year - August 25th.

In 2017, the Nats ruled. The Nats went up big, stayed up big and after a 6-0 run after the All-Star break brought the lead to 11.5 games the division seemed set. It was. The last important game was probably during this stretch around July 20th, and arguably they might have not played a game under pressure all year.*

So that's 6 seasons of contention and zero games after September 9th being important and I'm probably being generous. The Sept 9th date is solid. That Mets series was that important. Of course the lasting impression from that is watching the season went from "HERE WE GO!!!" to "and it's done" in 3 days. The other years you could probably go even further back but as fans we do tend to hold on longer than necessary.

Anyway this is just a lead up to the next set of games. Seven on the road against Chicago and St. Louis who are both good teams with things to play for. The Cubs have risen back up to the Top of the NL but are in a fight for the Central with Milwaukee.  The Cardinals are a little better than the Nats and are trying to keep the WC race from getting away from them. Unfortunately the Nats can't afford to lose ground so we can't write off a 3-4 stretch as ok.  It may turn out that way - but we can't assume it will be. So we have to set 4-3 as the goal. The Nats need to come out of this stretch with more wins than losses to make it likely that they picked up ground on someone and didn't lose more than a game to anyone else.

If they do that then maybe we can get that mid-September pennant race game we've somehow missed over the past 6 seasons.

*These are all in hindsight. What really matters is what did I think at the time, so I went back and looked 

2012- I wanted to call it after the Braves series but kept it open to a collapse. Hey, first year! I didn't know!  I would call it on Sept 5th when the Nats got it back to 7.5 games. Part of this though is not "OMG we're in a race!" but "OK we could still be in a race if X and Y happen" there's a difference between those. 

2013 -  I called it over for the division after August 5th (a few games after DET series) and gave up on the WC after August 7th

2014 - Called it after Sept 3rd

2015 - Called it after that Mets series. I mean that was obvious

2016 - Called it after August 14th 

2017 -Never officially called it. Seems like I stopped worrying about NL East on like July 10th. 

So see? Mostly generous (from a soulless automaton POV)

Thursday, August 09, 2018

It's on Gio now

It's only 1-2 so far. The Phillies haven't gone anywhere. The Wild Card opponents are roughly the same distances away. The longest winning streak currently in the NL is 2 games. Nats are still finding treading water isn't killing them. But the Braves are further away and a loss tonight would put them 6 and 6.5 back of their two division rivals and 6.5 out of the Wild Card. From there it's hard to see a slip up in the Cubs/Cardinals away trip being anything other than a season ender.

The win tonight is about preserving the likely last of the leeway. Making that 2-5 game stretch not ruin an otherwise great finish.  Yeah - I know. Great finish? But if you aren't hoping for a surprise comeback, what are you doing watching the game?

Here's my question - can we finally, finally, get a pennant race that is exciting after Labor Day?

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Lost opportunity

In the comments for a while now some have been saying that the Nats have to make a move now. I've tried to be very reasonable about it. They didn't HAVE to then. They are still in the hunt now, despite not making a move before the ASB, or sweeping through the Marlins in their last series, which were both set up as "have to" moments. They don't HAVE to now. They could lose the next two games and still be in the hunt. With 47 games after that they could go say... 33-16 and make up 6 games on teams going 25-22. This type of run happens every year.  "Have to" is "have to" it means that if you don't do it you are out. That's not what's happening to the Nats when they tread water.

What's happening is the Nats are losing the time necessary, and our confidence that they have the ability to do it.

The time matters because we all understand the ebb and flow of a season. You go up and down. Precious few teams win at a very high rate for long stretches of time. The Nats going on a run now means not needing that huge run later, maybe even allowing them a slip up or two down the stretch, which will almost certainly happen.

The ability matters because well duh. But seriously the schedule is tougher. They have 15 games against cupcakes Mets and Marlins. If they dominate those games (say 12-3) it still means that going .500 here on out against the good teams (including these two Braves games) only puts them at 29-20. That's a good stretch but only makes up 6 games on a team going 23-26. Everyone in front of them isn't going to suddenly play bad baseball. So in order to get a few more wins they are going to have to go over .500 against the good teams. 19-15 instead of 17-17 and if they can't do it now, and haven't done it since mid May, why would you believe they are going to do it in the upcoming weeks?

We spelled it out before talking about the NL East but with the Wild Card 4.5 games away and a number of teams in the way it applies there too.  Coming back takes at this point for the Nats will take two things
1) Nats play very well - among the best few teams for the rest of the season
2) Nats opponents do not play very well - .500ish or worse

Both those things are reasonable in a way (talent wise you can see both the Nats and the other teams doing this) and unreasonable in a way (season so far has told us the opposite is more likely).  Part of the reason the Nats have held on is because first the Braves and Phillies played pretty mediocre baseball, then the Nats played like the best few teams in baseball with an 8-3 run. But they didn't have both things happen at once and as the season goes on and these things continue not to happen at the same time what needs to happen becomes more extreme.

The Nats need to be the best team for the rest of the year and the guys they need to catch have to play below .500 baseball.

The Nats need to have one of the best finishes of all-time and they guys the need to catch have to tank.

The Nats need to go 8-0 and they guys they need to catch need to go 0-8.

You go from a being able to overcome a couple series not going your way, to being able to overcome a couple games not going your way, to not being able to overcome anything going wrong. And these extreme shifts happen faster if the opposite of what the Nats need happen - if the Nats play poorly for a stretch and the teams they need to catch play like the best teams in baseball.

Basically what I'm saying is that while I'm not agreeing with you - the Nats don't need to take this series with the Braves, I completely recognize the bind it puts them in. The Nats are in a precarious position on the ledge of falling out of the playoffs and each successive game they don't make up ground the ledge gets a little smaller. At some point they have to make a move or they are going to fall off.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Series Preview

In just a few short hours the first series that could legitimately end the Nats season will start. A Braves sweep would put the Nationals 8.5 games behind Atlanta with a little over 7 weeks to play and only 3 games left against them head to head. . It would also likely put the Nationals ~8 games behind the Phillies and ~7 games behind the 2nd WC team. Out of the division and likely 4+ teams ahead of them for the Wild Card it would be time to close up shop.

Of course a sweep is unlikely and anyother scenario keeps the Nats hopes alive.
1-3 : Season shifts to "Every series is important now"
2-2 : Nats use up more of their dwindling time. Got maybe a week left before critical games everyday.
3-1 : Nats continue slow crawl back into it. Next up proving it against the best of the NL Central 
4-0 : Look out! Here comes the Nats!

The series doesn't line up great for the Nats (I put little stock in predictive sites for these things. Just in general but also bc they've overrated this Nats team all year long at this point). 

G1 is Max Fried against Jefry Rodriguez. Fried is a pretty talented lefty but has only been used to spot start for the Braves this year and can get wild. That would normally favor the other team but Jefry has pitched to a 9.00 ERA after an impressive relief outing (against the Braves!) and no one expects much from him. Add in the Nats usual lefty troubles and you have to like the Braves here.

G2 is Newcomb who has looked great after the break. He's not a swing and miss guy rather he's effective at getting poor contact. And he's a lefty. You wouldn't like the Nats chances except - it's a Max night. Worst case with Max is nearly always that he's off and gives up like 4 runs over 7+ innings. The Nats gotta be favorites here.

G3 is Folty vs Tommy Milone. Folty has been a little bit too home prone recently and hasn't pitched like the pitcher he was for most of the first half. Still there are two bright sides if you are a Braves fan. His last start was ok and he's up against Tommy Milone. Milone has pitched well so far, but against the Mets and Marlins it's hard to believe in it. Also he's a guy with good control who has walked NONE and a guy who gives up a homer or two a game that has given up one so far. There's a reckoning coming. I like the Braves here.

G4 Anibal Sanchez vs Gio Gonzalez. Despite this being a match up of two of the most successful pitchers of the past half-decade it seems pretty unappealing. Sanchez hasn't shown any sign of giving up his resurgance while Gio once again threw up a stinker after looking like he may have righted the ship. Still I'm going to put this as a toss up because Gio's problem is control and the Braves are a free-swinging team. It's the prefect match-up for him assuming he keeps the ball in the park.

That's the starters

As for hitting - The Nats are hot. Over the past two weeks Bryce has been Bryce. Murphy has been Murphy. Soto has not slowed down. Outside of the catcher spot being the catcher spot and a slight slump from Eaton the Nats have been full speed ahead. with even MAT and Difo having mini-surges.  The Braves can't really compete with that Markakis has been hot but other than him and maybe Acuna the team is doing nothing special. Albies, Swanson, and Suzuki/Flowers are all in big slumps leaving a hole in the Braves line-up currently.

Relief pitching wise the Nats have had mixed results - Grace and Miller and Madson pitching well. Herrera and Solis not so much.  The Braves on the other had have 6 relievers who have yet to give up a run in the past two weeks.

To sum up everything above - the Nats have the edge at the plate. The Braves have the edge on the mound. I'd say a split is the most likely scenario with the games going ATL, WSN, ATL, WSN but I'm going to give the Nationals the edge just because they need it more. If they are going to turn a corner it almost has to be here so let's say they do it. I'll say the Nats take 3 games.

Less than 4 hours now!

Monday, August 06, 2018

Monday Quickie - Back to Normal (for a moment anyway)

Hey I'm back!

Here is where you might be tempted to say "and so are the Nats!" but really they aren't back so much as they haven't fallen away yet. They did finally manage to hit a goal, albeit a limited one. In 6 games against the Mets and Reds they were able to go 5-1. But what exactly did that gain the Nats? Not much division wise as the Phillies went 5-0 during the same time frame and the Braves 4-1. Let's look at things specifically in our week long view.

8 Week Status
Record: 57-54
Ground gained/lost in division last wk : 0 games to PHI, 0 games to ATL
Ground gained/lost in WC race last wk : +0.5 to STL, +1 SFG, +1.5 MIL, +2 ARI, +2.5 PIT, +3.5 COL

So yeah, division wise the Nats actually haven't moved at all. The Phillies gained some ground on the Nats early in July and since then they've been moving in concert. The Braves lost ground in the first couple weeks of July but have mostly held steady since then. The season is running out the clock on the Nats division chances but it hasn't gotten there yet.

What the Nats did do is gain a bunch of ground in the WC race. SF and PIT are now looking up at the Nats and they are within 4.5 games of the 2nd WC spot with 3 teams between them and the playoffs. That isn't great but considering they were like 7 games out with 5 teams in the way it is a marked improvement.

One of the things about the past few weeks is trying to figure out what is a crucial game. Are they all crucial? It doesn't feel like that. At the same time it doesn't feel like we can write off any game either. This is all right though. The Nats are in a place now where they can't afford to lose ground, but maintaining ground is not season ending. They are also too far out for a gain of a couple games to matter too much. The end result is going into each night where the game could be crucial, but only if the Nats lose and their opponents win. So every night is a potentially, but not necessarily, a big one.

When do they get crucial? Well for H2H games it's big right now as every loss is an opponent win, so that means the big games start tomorrow. Every Braves game and Phillies game from here on out is likely to be a crucial one. As for the games against the other guys - a good rule of thumb is that you can hope to make up a game a week. There are 8 weeks left in the season. When the Nats' games behind numbers (6 and 4.5 for the division and 2nd WC respectively) start matching up with that weeks left number then all games become crucial.   Basically they are one significant losing streak away from every game from here on out being a big one. (and that's no way to play more than a couple weeks of baseball)

With the break, the H2H reality, and the following road trip, we're going to consider this Braves series by itself. The goal is obvious. Win the Series.  Is a split ok? Yeah, reluctantly I'll say probably. What that would do is keep the Nats 4.5 back of the Braves with 7+ weeks left and another H2H series remaining. They could catch the Braves without needing things to go perfect. It also probably keeps them in roughly the same spot for the division and the WC.  That would start pushing the division into the danger zone but with NINE left against Philly, there is a lot of opportunity to make that up, so much so you give a couple games on the "weeks left" rule. So a split is workable, though just barely.

Series preview tomorrow. 

Friday, August 03, 2018

Weekend Placeholder No. 3932

Hey, are they still playing baseball? They are? But they can't be still in it? They are? OK then!

On one hand the Nats are "streaking" in the most modest sense. They've won 3 straight and they've won them convincingly.  The offense has been mostly on point since the break though three games of 0, 1 & 1 runs helped kee the Nats from gaining ground, rather than maintaining it.  The Nats have a good chance to keep it going with three more against Cincinnati.  They should take 2 of 3 and hit, (FINALLY HIT) a goal - going 5-1 over this short stretch of easy teams.  The end result should be staying in striking distance going into a four game series with Atlanta that could bring (FINALLY BRING) the Nats back into the race.

As we know the Nats have lucked out recently. While running in place (10-9 since their last full series win) both the Phillies (8-8 since the series before the ASB) and the Braves (10-13 starting with their July 4th series hosting the Yankees) have done nothing of note. If you are an optimist: the Nats should have lost ground playing like they did. They didn't. If you are a pessimist: the Nats should have gained ground with their rivals playing like they did. They didn't. Either way though we're in the same place. In striking distance of getting back into the race with a huge series coming up.  But we can talk about that on Monday since the Cincy series lasts all weekend.

The team is hitting. The team is pitching. This is the team the Nats expected to have. They have it now. Well... honestly they had it like 2 months ago but it's finally playing like they thought it would.  Of course - as you may have noticed that's still not enough to guarantee a huge run (the Nats have only picked up a couple of games over the past few weeks) But they have just enough time to get back in the race without hoping for a miracle.

Beat the Reds.


I know everything is all Juan Soto all the time with a lot of you now but you know who's hit better than Soto over the past month? Daniel Murphy and Bryce Harper (and Mark Reynolds!).  And Juan Soto is still hitting very well!  Who isn't hitting? The catchers and everyone on the bench that's not Reynolds.

Meanwhile who has pitched better recently? Gio and Roark.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

WOW: Win, One Win

That was pretty impressive. But the end result is a fun night... and no games gained as both the Braves and Phillies won last night.

What really happened yesterday was the trade deadline passed and the Nats didn't add anyone to help out the lack of rotation depth, or cover the likely catcher issue, or cover for the currently injured closer. In fact they traded away Brandon Kintzler.  Why? Well, on a baseball level I'm not sure. If there was one thing the Nats had a surplus in, it was maybe second tier relievers, but Kintzler was better than than so that's not exactly right. There were better guys to get rid of if you wanted to make space for say Glover.I suppose if you are SURE the rotation is back on track and SURE that Doolittle will...

Hey Kelley was just DFA'd!

Kelley isn't great but the reason the Nats had been keeping him around was because he was actually doing well (1.69 ERA over June and July). One bad game shouldn't have been enough to send him away for nothing. But apparently the manager didn't like his outburst and they are cleaning house of anyone that isn't 100% on board for this team.

I feel like the Nats are determined to make us think that this is an attitude problem as opposed to an injury issue rolling into a "that's just baseball" thing rolling into "uh oh - no more time!"  Whatever. I mean if it takes blaming guy after guy until you maybe find a winning streak by luck I guess that's what we're going to do. But really we should be blaming the GM and the manager and the players not coming through. Don't forget that.

Ok I'm on vacation and Kelley derailed my thought train so we're stopping here. Nats just need to keep winning. 5-1 goal. 1-0 down