Nationals Baseball: August 2020

Monday, August 31, 2020

Monday Quickie - SELL SELL SELL

The Nats lost 2 of 3 this weekend to the moribund Red Sox.  Yesterday was a particularly bad day as once again the Nats 5th (4th?) starter Austin Voth looked like he didn't belong starting at all but the Nats don't have much choice but to keep rolling him out. The offense was a little better but it was still heavily dependent on Turner, possibly the hottest hitter in baseball, and Soto. Most of the rest of the guys aren't hitting and while they should eventually start to here and there, there isn't like 2-3 great hitters that definitely should start raking.  Kendrick? He's old and gets hurt.  Suzuki? He's old and a catcher. It's kind of an old team. 

Who should be traded? 

Suzuki - catchers are always needed and Suzuki has had enough good years to make someone dealing for him think he could have a hot last month.  Gomes is ready to fill-in and not be terrible like last year (I think). Frankly that's the plan anyway so what's a month to you.

Harrison - He's hitting ok and you have Garcia (not to mention Castro). Why waste that set of circumstances? Plus Brock Holt becomes the next Harrison

Eaton - I know this may be tough for some. He's was a key last year and is a "spark plug" but his contract is sort of up next year - certainly in a way the Nats aren't going to pick up. And with his history you might get something not terrible for him

Maybe - 

Howie and Doolittle - both of these guys should be a lot better if healthy so you are selling really low. But their contracts are up after this year.  Sell for pennies on the dollar or keep and take a chance at getting nothing because you also might get a one-year budget deal for 2021? 

Thames - Trade if you can but I mean, who wants a guy who can't hit and field?

Not - 

Asdrubal - A deal that would fetch back something I'm sure, but the Nats kind of need him? He can play three... hell five if we count 1B and DH, positions, still hits above average, if slightly.  If the Nats are going to rotate between bad options at 1B 2B and 3B they are going to need someone ok so it doesn't feel like they are completely giving up.  There is a psychological component to the game and not 100% giving up on 2021 can carry into next year IMO.  Plus have you seen the "hauls" back teams are getting? Might as well keep AsCab if you are getting back an A-ball never was a prospect type. 

Sanchez - With Max in a questionable spot and Stras out the Nats need guys to eat innings to keep their pen arms from being ground to dust.  Sanchez might get you back something for a team looking for a third arm but I think he's more valuable eating up innings here. 

Friday, August 28, 2020

The world stops baseball again

So the Nats / Phillies series ends prematurely and it ends up being a 2-0 Phillies sweep of sorts. Technically the Nats are only 2 games out of the last playoff spot. More realistically they have a big hill to climb with a lot of teams in front of them between here and there. 

Luckily for the Nats they go interleague now to take on one of the few teams who can legitimitely say their season is probably over*. The Red Sox sit at 10-21 and would need a 15-4 finish just to get to the Harper magical .500. They will likely sell. They will likely give young players a little more room to breathe. So the Nats, if they have any hope of climbing back into this thing, need to basically win them all this weekend. It's Max, Anibal and ?.  

But let's be honest again. The playoffs would be an added distraction for a couple more weeks. The Nats have a World Series in hand. So if they don't make it - it's ok.  Really I'm more concerned with Davey letting Max throw 110 pitches over 6+ for no good reason than I am with the Nats winning here. For Nats fans the bigger negative of the Phillies series is not finishing the Phillies season and instead putting them back into contention, however weak that word is defined this year. The bigger news from the series is since it sets the Nats up as non-contenders do they start trading off useful cheap pieces; Asdrubal, Josh Harrison, or young guys they might have soured on (Kieboom?). A glut of SP in the minors to throw down there and see if anything comes up would be very useful in the next couple years. You probably get a lot of Nick Pivetta types but maybe you get lucky. Even an 4.50 inning eater is worth it for the cheap fill of that #5 spot.

 OK so enjoy whatever baseball will take place this weekend (I'm sure there will be baseball) and we'll meet back on Monday to see if the Nats have stayed in it or should pack it in and if they traded anyone.

*The others being Pittsburgh and the Angels.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Tuesday Quickie - the pitching

Pitching - because of the limited outings, is harder to read than hitting and more held to the 50/60 game mark for evaluation for me. But here's what we see so far just because we have to. 


Tanner Rainey has been very good. It's not terribly sustainable (.053 BABIP!) but he's gone from super wild to acceptably so in a couple seasons so he should be able to stick around in the pen and if he can keep making improvements be an important piece.


Kyle Finnegan hasn't been as lucky so he hasn't been as good as Rainey. But unlike Rainey he lacks the swing and miss stuff. So while Rainey might develop into something nice Finnegan is likely a mediocre guy having a fluky good start. At least someone is. 

Wander Suero and Javy Guerra have been basically who they are with Guerra probably getting a little luck and Suero not. 

Ok, Now the ample bad news

Less Bad

The Nats really need Corbin to step into the A1 role but he's merely been good. Still a top level pitcher but not the type you think at any minute is going to run off a 5-0 month with a 1.50 ERA and stop all losing streaks cold. 

Max hasn't quite been MAX. Maybe the workload of last year, the weird start, or just age but he's not hitting his spots and is more hittable, more homerable, and walking more.  He's still got swing and miss stuff though. I think he'd be effective if Davey could just corral him.  Say it's just for the year. You are going out and giving the best 5 and then out. If he's doing awesome and is at 60 pitches - sure let him go but early hooks this season might be the best bet. 

Will Harris has not pitched well but has caught some breaks. He's sort of like Rainey EXCEPT the Nats are paying him a lot with the expectation he'd be an 8-9 guy for a while and he's 35. Things catch up to Rainey - oh well, maybe you have a back of the pen arm for a couple more years. Things catch up to Harris and you've screwed up.

More bad

Sanchez had a good outing last time but otherwise has looked exceedingly hittable. He's not missing bats but he is missing zones.  But again maybe a slow start. 

Hudson isn't pitching terrible but given the three things you can do - K, not walk, not give up homers - the last is arguably the most important, especially for a reliever and that's been a bugaboo for him this year.  Like Sanchez there's a chance this clears up. 

Ryne Harper looks like another Nats pen arm which means maybe innings eating usable but not dependable.

Most bad

Doo is hurt and Stras is hurt 

Replacing Stras Voth and Fedde both seem like the AAAA starters that they are. Wil Crowe wasn't good either. This is a three man rotation right now - one of those guys isn't doing well, one should be limited with eyes on 2021 so... yikes. 

More like Dakota BADcus, am I right? And he's the guy they chose to put in! This is the best they got in reserve! And you saw Romero. It's true. The pen is thin too

Monday, August 24, 2020

Monday Quickie - A month in of sorts

The Nats have played 25 games now which is generally about the number they'd be at at the end of April and when we'd first really look into stats with the caveat that Memorial Day is the true time to dig in.  Of course the equivalent to Memorial Day is the last week of the season this year so there's little point in doing that so let's dig in now, unfair in some sense, but completely reasonable in a 60 game season that's now over 40% over. We'll do offense today


Soto is a beast a might win the MVP.  Despite missing a week he leads the team in homers,. He also leads them in BA, OBP, SLG and tied for the lead in walks. He's second in RBI (to Asdrubal), 3rd in doubles, 3rd in hits. 

He's unlikely to win a Triple Crown which is something I wondered about. Part of that is the vagaries of short season batting average - he'd be 2nd now in the NL but Blackmon is hitting .405 and any number of guys having a hot September could end up with a crazy high final average.  The other issue is the gap already between him and some leaders. Tatis has 12 homers and 29 RBI. Betts 11 and 24. Can Soto at 7 and 16 pass them? Given the rest of the team that RBI number might be particularly hard. 

In fact if he doesn't pass Tatis or Betts - that's probably going to be where the MVP ends up. Leader of best team in baseball, or leader of upstart playoff team, sounds better than leader of disappointing defending champion.

Turner has had a nice little bit of hitting the past week and is being a nice compliment to Soto and it seems real enough. It'd be great if he could solidfy that step up.

AsCab is doing as 2nd half of career AsCab does and Yan Gomes has provided a nice pick me up here and there which is nice as someone has to be the catcher in future years. 

That's the good news 

Luis Garcia has had a nice early start but has a unsustainable BABIP, a super low BB-rate, and no pop.  The first one will change meaning one of the latter two will have to as well to keep him looking good. 

 Josh Harrison has pretty much been what the Nats would have expected. One of those reliable, if not exciting, vet bats they seem to pick up every year. 

That's the neutral news.  Hmm a lot of players left to talk about. 

Suzuki - well catchers are hard because they really have more limited time at the plate, but he's looked as bad and Gomes has looked good. He's 36 and put a lot of work on those legs last year. He might be done and that's ok. 36 for a catcher is a good age to reach

Thames - hoped for 2018 Matt Adams, got 2019 Matt Adams

Kieboom - still working out the kinks, one hopes. Walks a bunch which is good, but K's a ton too.and no XBH! He didn't have impressive power in the minors but you wouldn't expect him to be a slap hitter. 

Speaking of striking out of ton - Hey Victor. It's almost to the point where if he didn't hit by pitches we'd have nothing to give.  Oh he's fast but the team is way off on stealing this year. Below 50% 

Eaton is done, I think. He flirted with it last year at time but he's generating no force and he can't leg out grounders any more.  

MAT... oh MAT.  We do love you though. 

Where did Howie's power go? Did AsCab steal it? 


Overall it's a team with more going wrong than right. Who has a very strong MVP candidate but an offense around him that isn't good overall. Early indications are mixed for the future. Robles doesn't look to be improving and Kieboom isn't getting it, but Turner may have another level at the plate and should maintain decent play, and Garcia could be another find.  Still that's a lot of slots to fill with hitters and only so many times you get lucky with your vet pick-ups. 

This year looks rough - a lot going forward will depend on Howie getting good and guys like Eaton and Robles getting not bad.  The other spots - Kieboom/Garcia/Harrison,  Gomes/Suzuki, whatever happens at 1B, you just take what you get.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Now the Mets

 Goddammit - everything I wrote got erased.  I'm not doing it again.  Bullet time

  • Mets have Covid
  • Gonna be a weird final standings. Dodgers played 27 games so far, Cardinals 14.
  • Marlins coming back to Earth (2-8 in last 10) 
  • Hitting not young and not good, though there are several bats that should hit better. Still don't worry
  • Brian Anderson - pretty unappreciated for being solid
  • Starting Pitching is where it's been at for them (and this is with good arms out or not yet up)
  • Nats get Castano first - he's not good. Only keeps ball in park
  • Then Hernandez - he's been good but doesn't have great stuff. Still low walks, high Ks, no homers
  • Then Lopez - ditto above with the caveat as an extreme GB pitcher I think he has more chance to keep it up

Nats key is to have Corbin go deep. Win g1 easy. Set-up bullpen for following games if they need it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Unwritten Rule : The Nats pen will be a shambles

 In the standings the Nats went from 2 down to 4 down in the blink of eye as Daniel Hudson imploded in the 9th. That's not a terribly big deal but they also went from 2 under .500 to 4 under .500 which matters more if you want to see Washington playing in October. My feeling is you do, but if they don't make it you'll say you don't care. It won't be true but it will be more true than any other year if that makes sense. 

Even with Soto hitting like an MVP immediately the Nats aren't able to generate a ton of offense. The starters are not carrying the team, and as we noted the bullpen is a mess.  Doolittle and Hudson were ridden hard at the end of last year as the only arms to be trusted and they are showing some of that wear now. Will Harris - also ridden hard but for abother team, has the same issue. It leaves the Nats with a real hole at the back end of games which is familiar in a way you don't want it to be.  

The Nats have played about 3 weeks worth of games so you can't definitively say anything, but there's a lot of early indications the battle will be uphill.  Last year the Nats had Rendon and a trade deadline where they were contenders to help them out. No Rendon. Likely no trades (and I think everyone is ok with that). So this season may be a punt sooner than we think. In fact this Braves series could be a huge setback if there's a sweep against the Nats. 

What happens then?  Well maybe as early as after Labor Day the Nats pack it in.  Sit anyone with minor injuries. Give young guys a lot of ABs to see what they got.  It's a different type of season and at the end you could see them saying bye to a ton of older talent Sanchez, Eaton who have options, Doolittle, Kendrick, Suzuki, AsCab who are FAs. That doesn't actually save them a ton of money either given these are all relatively bargain vets. The Nats don't have middle sized contracts. They peak out with Eaton at 9.5 before getting the the 20+ millions for their starters. So this doesn't mean a big signing could be coming (unless you want to contemplate not re-signing Max after 2021) 

Anyway a lot of rambling to say - don't get swept here. Let's keep the season going.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Monday Quickie - Soto Ascendant

 Juan Soto isn't leading the league in anything right now, but that seems to be only because he hasn't played enough games thanks to what seems to be an aberrant positive test.  Otherwise the kid is hitting like you'd hope he would - a continuation of last years performance where power, patience, and batting eye all come together.*

I'm not going to scale his stats up because that'd be silly. But for a team that looks to be in the need of a new image going forward he is putting up superstar numbers and should be it. Why a new image? Well the team was a starting pitching team first, but perennially injured Stras is as expected injured this perennial, Max is finally, maybe, showing his age getting hit a bit, homered a lot, and more wild. And Corbin is a 1A type reliant on a slider to be dominant or merely good and at 30 is unlikely to change. Within a year or two this will be a Soto team first and foremost. The question is if there is enough of a lineup around him.  Turner and Robles have both hit better recently. Kieboom and newly brought up 2B Garcia have not yet (but plenty of time).  Are these guys keys that keep the Nats from needing to sign a big bat or just pieces that save them money to maybe sign the big bat they need? A bright spot this year at the plate seems to be some decent skills getting on base Kieboom walking, Turner legging things out, and Robles getting plunked. So offensively some guys Soto can knock home at least.

The Nats are currently benefitting from ONCE A GODDAMN GAIN being in potentially the worst division in baseball, the NL East unless you love the Marlins. The Nats are in range to finish first ahead of a good, but not great Braves team; a pitching plagued Phillies team, and a Mets team where the sum is lesser than the parts. Nothing about this will change unless the Braves youngsters come together.  Hell let's do a quick review

ATL - The Braves did build a great pen, Ozuna is doing what they want, and other vets more so but their fate is tied to their youth and right now nearly all are hurt or underperforming. Acuna is hurt. Albies is hurt. Riley is struggling terribly. Dansby appears to be what he is. Soroka is hurt. Toussaint is probably better than this. Wright may not be. So who is healthy and doing well? Max Fried might be the list. That's not going to keep the Braves up in the standings.

PHI - DYK Bryce leads the NL in OBP? Realmuto is one off the NL lead in homers? Gregorious is good. Segura is hitting like Segura should. McCuthen may be showing signs of life.  Seems like freed of Kapler guys are doing what they should. OK Kingery looks DOA as a prospect**, but everyone else is doing well and they are 3rd in R/G.The starters are all ok... Wheeler isn't an ace but he does what he's supposed to. Problem is Girardi hasn't been able to piece a back of the pen together yet and the front end guys keep giving up the big hit. If he can there's a team here to challenge but there's no guarantee the pieces are here.

NYM - deGrom and the other guys continues. Wacha hurt himself. Porcello is ok but with some bad luck. Matz is just bad. Stroman opted out. Add it together and a possibly really good rotation becomes garbage. The hitting is ok, Cano has new life is especially important and the relief pitching has come back a bunch from their 2019 nightmare but without the starting pitching it's not enough. The offense isn't team carrying.

*Defense - not so much. I keep telling you this. You keep ignoring me. I guess that's just how it's going to be for a couple years. 

** Hey hows that SS doing... Crawford.... meh on Seattle. Not great but an average bat is something. But can he keep it up.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Baseball Still Lives!

 The Marlins are a taxi squad. The Cardinals are down and making up their games will be hard.  Players are still not getting it (see Plesac and Cleavinger in Cleveland) but for one more week baseball survives. 

 How are the Nats doing? Meh. With Soto grounded by a false positive the Nats offense floundered. They were 13th in runs scored in the NL and that's including last night.  The Nats pitching is better (6th) but are dealing with some worrisome injuries.  Strasburg just pitched for the first time and struggled not to deep into the game.  Scherzer has had some issues going only one inning last game. Doolittle, key 8th inning set-up guy looks injured as his FB speed is way down.  Will Harris is on the DL, Hudson and Sanchez are off to slow starts...

Ok that all sounds terrible but this is a championship caliber squad so even with all these issues they are at 5-7, two games off of my .500 needed record.  Work it out and the Nats are basically one game off the last spot in the playoffs. 

Pitching is a bit limited for stat perusing but what about hitting? The most concerning thing for the Nats is that Turner and Robles aren't hitting. These are the guys to set-up around Soto (who no one doubts) and neither seems to be the player the Nats expect them to be at the plate. Kieboom, arguably the last band member here, is slumping after an ok start and has 11Ks in only 26 PAs.  Maybe Rizzo can always piece together offenses around Soto. Right now AsCab and Castro are doing well and Howie seems still like Howie to me. But that's a lot to ask on a budget and if the pitching slips a little the hitting needs to be better than average.  Right now the pitching has slipped, the hitting is below average and the Nats aren't even in the expanded playoffs. 

But again - early! End of August will be the first real marker in the road for this short season.The big thing right now is Scherzer's start tonight.  Would love to see a standard Max start. 

The rest of the NL East... The Mets are struggling thanks to some very impt opt outs. The Phillies are hitting and not pitching as kind of expected. The Braves are good but not so good you think they can't fall back. The Marlins are a fluke - though in a short season flukes matter. It's not a bad spot for the Nats. I'd hazard to say every other division would be tougher.  Man the NL East dogfight of good team I expected before last year just really fell flat 

 Beat the Mets - keep them down and get you up and then take it from there. 

Wednesday, August 05, 2020


Stop the season! Right now the Nats are .500 and would they make the playoffs? They would!

 then San Diego .583 then...the Nats!

See! And in the AL the last teams in would be Cleveland and Detroit - each at .500!

It's not a guarantee but it's going to be darn close. and honestly I'd more expect someone UNDER .500 to make it than someone .500 or better to be left out.

Juan Soto is back tonight so that means either 2 HRs and the story for baseball for a night (I mean if they can avoid any corona virus news) or 0-5 with 2K and the reverse lock blowout Mets win. 

Ok that's it for now.

Monday, August 03, 2020

Monday Quickie - Scratchin and Survivin

Thanks to the Merry Marlins and however they admit to having gotten Corona Virus the Nats have a long weekend off. They'll get back to playing tomorrow. So no stats for you. I won't do it before 10 games. 

In the meantime the two other active NL East teams have moved on and the Braves are handling the Mets and opening up a solid lead in the division.  Again really all you should care about* is the Nats getting to .500.  This is a crazy year so just get in seems like a decent strategy.

The NL has Atlanta, Chicago, and the Rockies on top. The Rockies are a bit of a surprise but they were in the WC hunt most of last year and the Dodgers are just a game behind them.  The worst team in baseball record wise is the Pirates at 2-7. But the Mets and the D-backs are also floundering. If those teams are really this bad .500 for the Nats is a cake walk.

In the AL there haven't been surprises at the very top. The Yankees, Twins, Astros/A's all leading their respective divisions. The one surprise at all is the Baltimore Orioles sitting at 5-3, but all that is is two games over .500. No team is worse than 3-7

What do we want this week?  Same thing as every week, keep playing. Baseball was ready to at least pause if one more team had a mass virus event after the Casino-loving Cardinals became number 2, but that hasn't materialized yet. More importantly, the Phillies, who were the Marlins on-field opponent before getting pulled, have not seen an outbreak of their own. That suggests, what we mostly thought, the game itself shouldn't be a spreading event. Now there's still time for positives to show up but that is an important piece of news for ALL sports, because if baseball spreads every sport is going to. That it hasn't means there's a chance for other sports.

So baseball NEEDS the Phillies series to go off without a hitch. It'd be fantastic if there were no more outbreaks though another team screwing up toward the end of the week is probably work around able. Three teams out seems to be the max disruption the league can handle. There's too much interplay to deal with more.

*beyond the season even finishing