Nationals Baseball: June 2021

Monday, June 28, 2021

Will the Nats survive?

 I'm on vacation but guess what?  I WAS RIGHT AGAIN (well more like the Nats hit the target exactly I set talking about moving forward back into relevance but I WAS RIGHT AGAIN sounds better) 

  • Hold ground in next 6 (27-35) 
  • Sweep the Pirates at home (30-35) 
  • Beat the Mets at home (33-36) 
  • Beat the NL East rivals (PHI 2, MIA 4) away  (37-38) 
  • Survive a brutal pre ASG run (home for NYM(1), TB (2), LA (4) @SD (4) @SF (3)) (43-46)
  • Win a homestand vs SD/MIA (47-48)
  • Sweep the Orioles away (50-48)

The goal I have for the next 14 is 6-8 meaning, yes, they will lose ground but this could be a very bad stretch. If you want to scope out the likely "about .500" Nats record in this run you'd get... carry the one... Is Mars is aligned with Venus? Oh that's not good... (throws chicken bones on ground)... 4-10.  4-10 is a completely normal run here for a .500 ish team. It looks bad but this is probably the hardest stretch for this team going forward. They'd go 4-10 be 41-48 then start slowly getting back to .500 probably going from 4 under to 2 over in the course of a couple weeks in September. 

BUT you don't want a .500 ish Nats team. You want something better. If they are better they need to do better and that means 6-8. 

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Wednesday Quickie

Heavy work load day but gotta weigh in on last night. 

Everything that everyone did last night was understandable. The ump, told to make shows of the enforcement of the rules, took admitted tack user and checked him twice during the game. Girardi, looking for signs of Max doing something different possibly hiding tack somewhere and unsure of how good these ump checks actually are, asked for another check in the fourth after seeing Max go for his head. Max explained later that he WAS doing something new, going to his head for sweat to mix with rosin since he didn't have whatever he might usually use. All sort of makes sense in the cool calm light of day. 

It was still a big mess. 

You can't be checking a pitcher several times a game. It disrupts the rhythm and flow he might have going. He is rightfully going to get upset. If this is to continue you are going to have to either have the umps do random checks or let managers ask for them (which is kind of the way it has been) but not both. And presumably MLB wants these ump checks so manager checks have to go. 

As for the game - Max wasn't at his best but kept the Phillies off the board. Wheeler was iffy and only lasted 3. The Nats did enough to win and now are basically* in second place. Do they keep it going?

*Braves lead the Nats/Phillies by percentage points

Tuesday, June 22, 2021


The Phillies have been treading water around .500 which is exactly where this team should be.  I've said several times I really like the Phillies OD roster talent - especially now with Spencer Howard pitching instead of Matt Moore, but it's a paper thin team and any injury basically forces a AAAA player into the mix. And guess what? They have some injuries! Shocking I know. Didi Gregorious (out until ???) and Jean Segura (back in a week or so) are currently sitting out. Other guys are hurt (or "hurt") but they are other AAAA players. 

The Phillies hitting is perfectly acceptable. Realmuto and Bryce and Cutch hit, Odubel and Segura and a healthy Didi and Herrera and Superstar Brad Miller back them up and whoever is not one of these guys usually sucks terribly. Right now Cutch is hot, Superstar and Odubel are not. In the pen they've settled down in a way with a bunch of mediocre arms but no failing ones. It's a deep bench that allows you to try to find who's hot today which isn't ideal but gives you more of a chance then having no good relievers


Wheeler vs Scherzer : Max is coming back from a minor injury and will be a bit of a question mark, but so far the speed bumps have been just that - minor slow downs then back up to speed. I don't expect an issue but a non-dominant start is probably the best expectation. "Ace" Wheeler is the best the Phillies have pitching like an A- Max without the homers. This should be a sweet match-up so expect one or both of these guys to get blown up.

Velasquez vs Fedde : It was the best of times - Fedde came back to dominate the Mets over 7 innings. He didn't quite have the control (4 walks) but only allowed two hits and more importantly didn't allow a homer for his third straight start.  Ideally he'd K a few more - hard to see the BABIP or HR rates staying this low for a season, but he's been good even taking that into account and seems to have the inside track now for the last spot if the team ever has to decide.  It was the worst of times - perennial AAAA pitcher Velasquez had a nice run in May.  Unfortunately April and June count too. He's gettting hit and he's wild and give up a homer or two... really there isn't much positive to say.  He fills up space in the Phillies ill-conceived 3-man + 2 ? rotation to start the year.  Matt Moore... ahahahahaha. 

The second game is in their favor so winning tonight would be big. It would also draw the Nats into a tie with the Phillies and either ahead of the Braves or just percentage points behind. Overall the plan is to win this 6 game set so even a split here would be fine though.  It's a marathon you know.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Monday Quickie - Relevant again!

 Let's update the board! 

  • Hold ground in next 6 (27-35) 
  • Sweep the Pirates at home (30-35) 
  • Beat the Mets at home (33-36) 
  • Beat the NL East rivals (PHI 2, MIA 4) away  (37-38) 
  • Survive a brutal pre ASG run (home for NYM(1), TB (2), LA (4) @SD (4) @SF (3)) (43-46)
  • Win a homestand vs SD/MIA (47-48)
  • Sweep the Orioles away (50-48)

The Nats beat the Mets at home continuing on the path to actual contention as opposed to mere "unable to ignore"ance.  They did it in thanks to an incredibly hot Kyle Schwarber who is hitting .400 with 8 homers in his last 8 games AND thanks to an incredibly dumb schedule that is forcing the Mets to play three doubleheaders in the span of 7 days. That's right DHs on Saturday vs the Nats, today vs the Braves and Friday vs the Phillies.  Get vaccinated kids! The forced march makes the Mets make choices and of course they make the wrong ones, trying to spread out days off and making their chances to win in each game worse rather than group them all together and give a single game completely up. Baseball is a sport with a thin margin of error and maximizing your chance to win any single game is pretty important. In the situation the Mets are in they can't do it for every game but they should do it for as many games as possible.  Right now they did it for... exactly zero of the Nats games. Keep this up and they could be in for a big fall and that'd play right into the Nats hands.

Now comes beating the Phillies and Marlins in a set of six games (2 and 4) which means going 4-2.  Another call for a win but you have to win sometimes! More than sometimes, you have to win often! 

As for the other story of the day - the Parra return. Don't care. That's for you - not me.

But tonight is a day off. Rest. Relax.  Watch deGrom who the Nats missed.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Mets are good now. Can the Nats be, too?

The Nats have done what they have needed to for a whole ten days now!  Three series in a row! Probably the best baseball they've played since the end of April. But now comes some real important serieseses, NL East serieseseses. It'll be four game vs the Mets then a couple versus the Phillies and if the Nats want to make the playoffs they kind of have to start making up ground now.  Some might say there's a lot of time left and a lot of games left after these and that's kind of true (12 vs Mets and 11 vs Phillies) - but it gets late early.  Don't make up ground here, and the next time could become a HAS to situation.

How are the Mets?  They are good now! They've gone 14-6 in their last 20 to open up a nice lead in the NL East - 4.5 games over the Phillies and 7 in front of the currently 4th place Nats. They haven't been particularly lucky either as the pitching has remained top notch and the bats have woken up. In the last 28 days McCann is hitting great, Smith and Lindor are hitting ok, Billy McKinney (replacing an injured Conforto) has hit like a star. Jonathan Villar (replacing an injured Davis) has hit well. Alonso is hitting ok. Pillar is not bad. The only big issue is replacing the injured McNeil (yes a lot of injuries). They were so bad early on that the numbers still don't look great but trust me they've been average hitting for average and walking and better than that for power for a few weeks now

Pitching wise in the pen a couple arms got bad, a couple arms have gotten good. They have four arms that are lights out right now Diaz the closer, Lugo (admittedly just back), Loup, and Reid-Foley. The Nats have gotten lucky in missing deGrom , even if he can only go 3-4 innings before tapping out they will be scoreless innings, and Stroman who is a solid winning pitcher who eats up innings. This might have caused a problem normally for the Mets, but given the 7 IP DHs they'll probably be ok unless a pitcher just gets bombed. As a group there isn't a weakness to go after. They don't give up hits or walks or homers


Joey Lucchesi vs Fedde - Fedde came back to completely shut down the Giants last time out. One more such outing and he's going to make believers out of most but he's still only two starts into this good stretch. Lucchesi is a guy I really liked that had a couple of bad outings early on as I don't think he and the Mets were on the same page on what they wanted him to be. Now, however, he is finding his groove as a 2+ times through guy.

David Peterson/Robert Gsellman vs Ross/Lester - Mets say Peterson first for the double headers, Nats say nothing. Ross had his own great start last time out - and like Fedde he's not far removed from mediocrity.  I think it's clear either could have played as a 5 but now they need to be more. Lester was fine against PIT but his K numbers (7 in last 3 games, not more than 4 in a long while) are troubling. There's a crafty lefty things going on but also a time bomb element here as he's giving up homers and some hits. Peterson is the guy the Mets (and Mets fans) liked more than Lucchesi who is like Lucchesi but gives up a tiny bit more hits and homers... and a ton more walks.  I don't get it. Gsellman is a converted starter who needs to focus on control so he can let his junkballing style get him groundballs and not walks and hits. Can the Nats hit into 6 DPs in one game? We might find out. 

Taijuan Walker vs Corbin - Corbin had a good outing after a good result start and that's going to make people think things. He needs this one to get me thinking positively though.  Walker has been the pitching gamble that has paid off.  The lack of homers can't keep up but everything else is not too crazy.  

Nats need 3-1, can survive 2-2 but that'll force a win into a later part of the stretch I outlined.  1-3?  Then we start talk about packing it in.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Step by Step

  • Hold ground in next 6 (27-35) 
  • Sweep the Pirates at home (30-35) 
  • Beat the Mets at home (33-36) 
  • Beat the NL East rivals (PHI 2, MIA 4) away  (37-38) 
  • Survive a brutal pre ASG run (home for NYM(1), TB (2), LA (4) @SD (4) @SF (3)) (43-46)
  • Win a homestand vs SD/MIA (47-48)
  • Sweep the Orioles away (50-48)

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Sweeping the deck?

The Nats are crushing the Pirates. This is honestly one of the easy points in my plan, even though it is a sweep because the Pirates are just that bad. Even with my positive take a couple days ago they are still a clearly below average team playing away. But that's fine! You gotta do the easy along with the hard.  Splitting with TB/SF wasn't easy.  (I'd say it probably wasn't hard but again I have a low opinion of SF). A hard, but very necessary, part is up next - beating the Mets at home, then coming away at least 4-2 on a six game swing against PHI and MIA. 

The Mets of course won again keeping their lead but the Nats should see this as steps. While they are playing the Mets they aren't going after the Mets just yet. First they need to pass the Braves. Then the Phillies. Then you worry about how far they are from the Mets.  The Braves have an easier stretch coming up from the 24th through July 11th (CIN, NYM, MIA, PIT, MIA). They'll need to make a move then, which makes the Nats catching them soon of interest. Build a cushion that can survive them playing 3 games better. 

Ultimately the Nats goal should be to get to .500 when I stated - just past the ASG. Slightly build on that lead for the 6+ weeks, playing over .500 ball - which doesn't sound like much but would be big as this 42 game stretch has 31 games vs the Mets, Braves, and Phillies. Then CRUSH a 19 game stretch in September against some of the worst teams - PIT again, MIA, COL, and CIN. Go like 13-6, 14-5. Hope there's someone to catch and catch them.  This would leave the Nats with like 87/88/89 wins - maybe you get in, maybe not but it's not crazy. 

This will be hard to do with no Strasburg and now, no Max (on the IL) but that's the hand you've been dealt. Think of it this way you didn't do so hot with them.  

Finish the sweep.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Monday Quickie - didn't disappoint

The Nats could have folded up shop after Max went down but they battled... or at least the pitching did... or maybe San Fran isn't that good like I said and this is just the start of their downfall... I'm losing the point.  Oh yes. The Nats didn't disappoint! They had 4 games against the Giants and needed to hold their ground and did. They won two. Given the TB split before that the Nats have had two non-disappointing series back to back. They haven't done that since splitting with Toronto and then sweeping the Marlins at the very end of April, beginning of May. 

Such a turn of fortune, however small, needs to be taken with caution though. We are creatures of hope and thus everything pointing in the right direction seems like a turn toward brighter days instead of the randomness of a 162 game season showing itself. What we want is an extended series of GOOD play not a week of not bad. And honestly now is the time for the Nats to show it because good play over the next two weeks can (1) help make up some serious ground in the NL East where the Mets haven't pulled away yet and no other team is better than .500. and (2) can help create some breathing room for a brutal NYM make up, TB(2) , LAD (4) , @SD (4), @SFG stretch into the all star break. We marked off the likely long road back into contention going into August. One step down.  Up next - sweep the Pirates!

  • Hold ground in next 6 (27-35) 
  • Sweep the Pirates at home (30-35) 
  • Beat the Mets at home (33-36) 
  • Beat the NL East rivals (PHI 2, MIA 4) away  (37-38) 
  • Survive a brutal pre ASG run (home for NYM(1), TB (2), LA (4) @SD (4) @SF (3)) (43-46)
  • Win a homestand vs SD/MIA (47-48)
  • Sweep the Orioles away (50-48)

The Pirates are bad. Since peaking at 12-11 they've gone 11-30 and they deserve that record having a bad pitching staff and a terrible offense in 2021. Starting with the terrible offense - it's actually not that bad. The Pirates aren't without a few hitters. Bryan Reynolds is an all-around star type who can hit for good average, good power, and can take a walk. Colin Moran is a step back on everything but that still leaves him as an above average bat. and Adam Frazier, who alternates between good and average years is having a great singly and doubly start to 2021. Jacob Stallings, the catcher, has got pop and patience.  Recently the son of Charlie Hayes - Ke'Bryan, is now up and starting and producing. They've been scoring at a much more reasonable pace in June (4.1 R/G) then May (2.9!) But there was a reason that they were so bad a month ago. Everyone after that is awful. Kevin Newman or Erik Gonzalez at short, Ka'ai Tom in LF and Gregory Polanco are horrendous, terrible and terrible respectively. The best bench bat is a below average Ben Gamel. And in particular even though all those guys I mentioned can hit only Reynolds and maybe Ke'Bryan have any power. They are last in the NL in homers, last in SLG. Ke'Bryan makes them average at best.

With an average offense, their big problem becomes the rotation. The Pirates starting staff is a 4 and a 5 and a bunch of AAAA or worse types  They have 4 guys who have started more than 7 games with an ERA over 6.50. Their recent addition to the rotation boasts a 5.56 WHIP.  No one is pitching well including old Nat prospect Wil Crowe. The Nats do miss Wil and Chad Kuhl who are the worst of it. They do have a surprisingly solid bullpen though that's 7-8 deep, with a killer closer in Richard "Don't call me the guy Michigan didn't give a fair shake to because they were obsessed with playing 'Big Ten' football whatever that means so they'd get rid of me for Brady Hoke who is literally a garbage joke coach" Rodriguez. There isn't a set-up guy but everyone else is better than usable.


JT Brubaker vs Lester - Lester wasn't good against the Rays but he was good enough. His propensity to give up hits I guess plays poorly against this singly/doubly team but I mean he should still manage to go like 6 IP and 3 R. Brubaker has decent control and ok stuff but gets hit and can give up a homer. He's the best the Pirates got and I can see him also going 6IP and 3R. So bullpen game?

Tyler Anderson vs Corbin - Corbin beat the Rays by putting magnets in all the hard hit balls and the Nats gloves. MLB is looking into it. Tyler Anderson is a little bit worse than Brubaker.  The kind of guy you'd love to stick at 5 to eat up 5 and probably keep you in the game but maybe spin a gem.  Unfortunately he's their 2.

Chase De Jong vs hopefully Scherzer maybe Jefry Rodriguez - Max is Max. Hope for Max. Jefry is very wild and doesn't strike out many but he throws a heavy ball that stays in the park and leads to easy outs. If he has control he can do very well. If not he can be out in 3 innings at 75 pitches having walked in at least one run. De Jong is an arm that pitches innings. He's a bit worse than Anderson and you can see the progression from decent 4 to decent 5 to decent fill-in.  But again he's a 3 and not filling in. The good thing for him is it's not the hits that are worse for him as much as the homers and walks and as we discuss - the Nats don't homer and walk up to now. 

It's weird to say it but looking at this it's only a slight edge to the Nats in each game. In part this is because Lester is a 4 now and Corbin has been pitching like a 5 and then you have an injury replacement (most likely).  But the edge is there and they need to take advantage of it and sweep. 

Friday, June 11, 2021

Trade Max? Wait didn't we talk about this already?

We did!  

That basically said "Good luck getting anything useful back for him" 

The other day I went through recent Hall of Fame elected pitchers to see how they fared at the back end of their careers. Max is 36 this year.

Pedro Martinez : Broke at 34 and wasn't good that year. Had a great month at 35. A bad 2/3rds of a season at 36, and then a good two months at 37 before calling it a career.

Roy Halladay : Broke at 35. Had a bad three months at 36 then packed it in (and crashed a plane under the influence killing himself which could have hurt other people and we just basically ignore that because when people die we just say "Hey only the good!" which kind of screws with our society's views on repercussions for dangerous acts and bad behavior but whatcha gonna do)

Not the best start but this is part of what you have to understand. At this age you can break and be done in a minute. Either you can't pitch well anymore or you can't pitch at all anymore. Continuing...

Jack Morris : was middling from 33-35 then had a resurgence after a trade at 36. Was very good for Minn, then solid for Toronto at 37. Then bad at 38 and bleh at 39. 

Bert Blyleven : coming off a couple very good years was only ok at 35, a little better at 36, then bad at 37. But then traded and nearly great at 38, before being bad again (39), hurt (40), and less bad (41)

Mike Mussina : was average at 35 and 36, then good at 37, then below average at 38, then close to very good at 39

John Smoltz : ok a tough example because of the stint as a reliever. At 35 he was saving 55 games.  He'd be a top notch reliever through 37. At 38-40 he was a very good starter, before getting hurt at 41 and pitching only a great month. At 42 he'd try to comeback but wasn't good

Tom Glavine : good at 35, very good at 36, average at 37, good 38-40, average at 41. bad and hurt at 42.

Greg Maddux : great at 35 and 36, a little better than average 37-40, a little worse than average 41-42

Randy Johnson : PHENOMENAL at 35-38 (that was the D-back contract - 4 Cy Youngs and a WS - the only pitching contract better than Max's in my opinion) Got hurt at 39 and merely good. Phenomenal again at 40. Then good (41), below average (42), good but hurt (43), good (44) and below average and hurt (45) 

Max was better than Morris or Blyleven - both borderline cases, Morris was never great like Max and Blyleven had a lower peak at an earlier age. So I'd compare Max more to the other guys. From them you get basically - good through 39, very good through 40 (rested arm), good through 40, better than average through 40, phenomenal through 40 - good to 44.  My takeaway from the above is if you have Hall of Fame talent, which Max does, AND you don't get injured you can be effective to 40, maybe usuable past it. 

That would put Max as a very good to above average pitcher from 2022 (37) - 2025 (40), if he can stay healthy. To me any Nats plan for getting better again has to include being WS challenging good in 2025. Why? Because if you are Juan Soto you probably are going to want to re-sign only if the team seems to be on the cusp of something. After the past two years and probably the next two going nowhere - you don't want to waste another 2-3 waiting. It seems like Max could be a positive force on 2024-2025 teams. I say keep him. It's a risk but so is any pitcher contract

But also you can ask Max. If he wants to leave to chase another WS - let him. If he tells you he's gone for whatever reason - trade him. If he says he wants to be traded but also come back - definitely deal him. There's no reason to be stupid about this. But if as most players would say - I want to stay, I want a good fair deal. Then sign him and keep him.  If you are worried about him being hurt or stinking - sorry to tell you but that's always on the table. See Strasburg (hurt) or Fedde (hurt) or Mason Denaburg (hurt) or Corbin (stinks) or Ross (stinks) or Wil Crowe (formerly high Nats prospect traded away - stinks).  These things can happen at any age at any level.  You've got greatness confirmed. Sign it and hope it keeps up. 

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Nats vs the Best Team* in Baseball

 The Nats managed to win last night. Corbin didn't deserve it. He had no control, couldn't strike out anyone, and nearly every hit ball was a hard hit one. But baseball is the sport most about luck, where you try to do everything right and then you hope that the results match the set-up.  Last night it didn't for the Rays as all those hard hits were right at Nats. Also Finnegan failed, and Hudson failed, and Hand failed. But offensively the Nats did deserve to win, scoring a bunch of runs off of a solid pen. Zimm hit two homers, Soto hit one and scored 3 times, Schwarber was on base 3 times and had a sac fly in his time at the plate. Good times at the end even if the process wasn't that enjoyable because of the pitching.

Now the Nats take on the team with the best record in baseball the San Francisco Giants. The asterisk  in the title is because this fact is crazy. The Giants weren't expected to be this good and it wasn't a failing of the heads. This is inexplicable.  Let me try to explain though 

Buster Posey : at 34 having his best year ever which is MVP quality. 2012 is only year that compares

Evan Longoria : at 35 having his best year ever which is MVP quality. 2012 is only year that compares

Brandon Crawford : at 34 having his best year ever. No year compares.

Brandon Belt : best year since 2016

Steve Duggar : inexplicable one month of MVP type hitting from a guy who'd been below average before 

Really only back-up Wilmer Flores is disappointing, with a couple other guys underperforming in the usual ways. 

Pitching wise it's the same 

Kevin Gausman is having his best year ever by FAR. Alex Wood and Johnny Cueto are having good years after a couple years that seemed to be leading toward the end of their careers. Aaron Sanchez looks to be living up to some of the potential that had people excited about him 5 years ago in Toronto. Anthony DeSclafani is having an up year in an up and down career. 

I guess the bullpen isn't having the same amazing, everything go right, year but almost none of them are doing bad. 

What happens when almost everything goes right and almost nothing goes wrong? You get the best record in baseball and in nearly any other division you probably run away with things. But the Giants have the bad luck of being in the NL West with the Dodgers and Padres, two teams that can be almost as good without relying on magic so chances are they won't stay on top. A few guys are injured right now but they've kept on winning. 

The Nats will miss Longoria who is out after a collision, and Yastrzemski for a couple games as he can't come back until Satruday (he seems ready). They'll also miss Caleb Baragar, a decent reliever, for a couple games too (same IL - coming back thing) Otherwise you read what I wrote. Posey is a star again, Crawford is hitting like one, Belt is very good. Dickerson who was ok but hot is out however it seems like whoever they stick in there; Duggar, LaMonte Wade Jr, just picks up the magic. Wilmer Flores and maybe Donovan Solano are the easy outs. The pen, while not great, has been close to lights out recently. 


DeSclafani vs Scherzer.  MAX DAY! The Giants do homer so if Max is off that could be an issue. They don't strike out much either. It's not the best match-up for a guy who matches up well against anyone. As for Del - he is ok at everything but getting strikeouts. He's not a great pitcher but he gets ground balls usually and keeps the ball in the park. He avoids the big inning keeps the Giants in the game and then they win it with their bats. Obviously the Nats best chance 

Gausman vs Fedde (likely) - When last we saw Fedde he had pitched his best game of the year. This came after two mediocre outings which kept the Ross/Fedde "Who's more acceptably mediocre" debate alive. Who knows what we'll get. Gausman's good control has morphed into pinpoint, walking no one and not missing pitches that turn into homers (or hits for that matter) he's added enough Ks to make him into an ace so far in 2021. 

Ross vs Cueto - Ross was ok last time out, going 6 against the Phillies. That's probably the best he's gonna do. Cueto has become even more of a crafty control pitcher in his later years. But he's hittable so maybe the Nats can string together enough to make it a game

Lester vs Wood - The Giants are a walk and homer team but they get hits too so Lester won't match-up quite as well. Shouldn't be his roughest outing but I'd expect some runs. Wood maybe was a sticky stuff creation? He's been bad his last two outings with few Ks and little control. Still if his bugaboo is walks as it seems to be, the Nats are the team you want to face to get right.

The Nats survived the Rays. A split would be surviving the Giants and an acceptable .500 start to the homestand before having to actually start winning to do anything this year. Let's see if they can get 2.  Tonight is huge for that.

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Nats vs the Worst Team* in Baseball

The Nats have a two game set with the Tampa Rays, a team that holds the odd distinction of maybe being the best team in baseball and the worst team in baseball. The first point is easy to understand. They have the most wins and only trail the Giants by percentage points. The latter is a point of contention but one I fully believe in. The Rays are the epitome of everything wrong with the modern game

There's first the way they build their team. Players, even the best ones, not as people or even investments, but as disposable parts meant to be used up and tossed aside when spent. Players who only can be around when signed to team friendly contracts. An ownership who resolves all debate over this with complaints about their (admittedly bad) stadium situation.*

Then it's the team itself. Hitters who don't hit at all. They only try to walk or homer and strikeout otherwise. A parade of pitchers who throw hard, burn out, and get replaced. Starters who don't start. Openers who don't even try to finish the 4th. A team that breaks baseball down to its raw components and tries to win not primarily by playing the game the best but figuring out how to best game the game. 

A contemptuous lot framing a lack of desire to financially back the team as an underdog story.

So yeah - beat this goddamn team into the ground.

In pure preview mode. Offensively what I said holds - they don't hit well - their .229 BA is only good enough for 10th in the AL - but they slug homers (and doubles when the ball doesn't go out) and they walk a TON. All that only swinging hard means a lot of strikeouts. Everyone but Yandy Diaz and Manuel Margot (and back-up C Francicso Mejia) will K. Because they don't hit singles and K so much this all combined should end up with a good but not great offense but the Rays tend to homer with men on base. It's odd. Usually a team hits more solo homers than multi-run homers. That's just a function of the game. Every leadoff hitter in an inning is a empty bases situation. You have a lot more of them. But the Rays have hit like 60+% of their homers with men on. Austin Meadows is the best hitter but Zunino and Wendle are hitting well for the season. The team as a whole though is cold. Meadows and replacement SS Taylor Walls the only ones hitting recently.

The pitching has been very good. They do strikeout a bunch of guys and manage to do it with solid control which is a potent combination. Add in no tendency to give up homers and it's a very good group with no flows. The bullpen, this round of disposable arms, go 5+ deep but lack a true 100% shut down arm.  Instead catching a little LOB%, HR/FB, and BABIP luck that combined keep everything in check. They only have three starters that will go any distance, while the other two serve more in an opener role. They are all usable with Glasnow being the best and potentially an All-Star and now vagabond Michael Wacha  being the worst and still perfectly acceptable

Jon Lester vs Tyler Glasnow - If anyone matches up well against the Rays... well it's Max because he matches up against anyone, but after him it's Lester who has shown good control and isn't particularly homer prone. Instead he gives up hits which we've noted isn't the Rays game. Plus he's been decent his last two times on the mound. Unfortunately he goes up against Glasnow.  He's the only guy who goes deep (8 and 7 IP in his last two games with another 8 IP before that) because he doesn't throw a lot of pitches. He is efficient despite relying on the Ks. He can give up the occasional walk and homer but not much more than a couple of either. He doesn't give up hits which is bad for the singly Nats. 

Patrick Corbin vs Shane McClanahan - Cue the Rue! McClanahan is one of their ok openers.  Expect at max 5 IP from him. He's good at getting K's but doesn't stand out otherwise. Though he's young and if he steps up in anything he could be really good. Corbin has been garbage this season no way around it. Way too hittable and homer prone and not enough Ks. He isn't crazy with the walks but this match-up will probably produce several bombs

*I'd add in the ownership threatening the city with a half-season plan but all ownership is this shady

Monday, June 07, 2021

Monday Quickie - Irrelevant

 We're past 50 games now so the 19-31 comparisons have come and gone but as long as the Nats have a reasonable chance people will feel some hope. To help tamp that down here are some targets the 2019 Nationals hit after the nadir. 28-33. 37-38. 49-42. Yep, they went 30-11 after hitting the bottom moving from almost dead to in the thick of things in under 2 months. The current Nats are 24-32.  Can they equal 4-1 in the next 5 games? At Tampa Bay and the home against San Francisco? I don't feel good about that. So in other words the Nats will likely fall behind the 2019 Nats very soon making a comeback that much more unlikely. 

If you want to try to figure out the best way for the Nats to crawl back into it it would be this 

  • Hold ground in next 6 (27-35) 
  • Sweep the Pirates at home (30-35) 
  • Beat the Mets at home (33-36) 
  • Beat the NL East rivals (PHI 2, MIA 4) away  (37-38) 
  • Survive a brutal pre ASG run (home for NYM(1), TB (2), LA (4) @SD (4) @SF (3)) (43-46)
  • Win a homestand vs SD/MIA (47-48)
  • Sweep the Orioles away (50-48) 

Easy peasy. 26-16. 

Of course there is no reason for this team at 24-32 to suddenly play like that. It would take everyone in the lineup taking a step forward AND two of the starters taking 3 steps. There's the capability there. We aren't talking a squad of garbage players here. Turner go back to hitting like a star. Corbin pitch like you did a couple years ago.  But it's everything going right at a time where the pen, which had been doing fine with a lack of top names, looks tired and beat. Can the Nats have that happen twice in 3 years? 

I think we know the answer to that. 

I think they can play better, may be even find themselves over .500 to end the year. I think it's more likely to get better than worse. But better enough to matter? I don't see it for 2021. Enjoy the summer of irrelevance. Been a while since we could say that

Friday, June 04, 2021

Fighting for relevance

The Nats continue to languish on the fringes of the NL East and thus in the hopes of fans. Corbin had pitche d a decent game but unraveled in the 6th. The Nats were held in check by Tucker Davidson. Offense stunk. Starter not good enough. We've heard this story before. The Nats aren't hitting enough XBH (12 in past week) or getting enough walks (21 though 8 are Soto alone - the Nats OBP in the past week without Soto is .271). Some other guys are actually hitting - Zimm, Schwarber, Gomes again. But Turner isn't and Bell, Harrison, and Robles (and Avila and Yadiel) are terrible. and that on balance swing towards bad. 

 The Nats got a split but a split isn't good enough - not against a team themselves struggling to be over .500. No, you gotta beat the under .500 teams on the road now or else you'll never make up enough ground and thus we come to the Phillies. An under .500 team that we all thought might be under .500 playing pretty consistent under .500 ball. This is who they are especially with Bryce and Didi out and expected back maybe later next week. 

Since last the Nats played the Phillies, Bryce went eventually out from taking a ball to the face and wrist and Maton, as expected, stopped hitting, but everyone else has kept up, Cutch remained hitting and Herrera came back and even if he's hitting a little above his head he replaces some terrible bats. They sit kind of average but have been mostly all or nothing. They've been 3 or under 10 times in 15 games since playing the Nats but 6 or over 5 times. Cutch is hot as is Herrera.  Superstar Brad Miller is cold. 

The Nats miss Eflin, who was good at the time but is starting to scuffle and Nola who is pitching as well as he always does but is getting no luck. In the pen Archie Bradley came back and is decent - but the overworked Coonrod's luck finally caught up to him leaving the pen no deeper than the 3 man (Neris and Alvarado) show it was 2 weeks ago. 


Max Scherzer vs Zach Wheeler - pop a bowl of popcorn and enjoy. Hopefully.  I said before I'm very shocked Wheeler has become an ace but he has, giving the Phillies a surprise bargain and what should have been a bit boost to their chances. Control, Ks, no hits, no homers. Good luck Nats. Max is Max.  Good luck Phillies

Joe Ross vs Spencer Howard - Howard is the Phillies best (only?) pitching prospect and finally got a chance to fill in the 5th spot a couple starts ago. He's been ok.  He struggles with control but guys don't get good hits off him. Still no homers this year. Even if the Nats don't touch him up he's still stretching out so chances are the Nats will get to see the middle of the Phillies pen. That should be enough unless Ross is bad but that's always a possibility.

? vs Velasquez - this would be Stras' spot. Fedde is not quite ready (his rehab start got pushed back) and Davey said he won't start but he could be up and pitch a couple relief innings but who knows now.  Would it matter if he started and pitched two? I don't get it.  Anyway expect some sort of relief game. You'll see Voth and Espino and some others. That's not good but on the other side you have Vince Velsquez. He's got talent - he was on his way to "Pitcher of May" before getting blow'd up on the 31st - but he can't consistently put it together. He's never gotten his control down so if he gets touched up for homers things get rough and that happens to him. But the Nats don't hit homers so this will likely come down to what is more powerful Velasquez' wildness or the Nats' impatience. 

Nats need 2. Don't care that it's away. If they are better than, not equal to, this sub .500 team they need to show it.

Thursday, June 03, 2021


 Nats win! Lester wasn't good early but he wriggled out of danger with luck and luck and skill and luck and then settled down. The Nats were able to finally sort of hit secret anti-Nats weapon Drew Smyly and build a lead. The bullpens traded runs given up and the Nats ended up on top. The BEST thing about last night was Soto homering again. Soto is the engine that makes this offense run. I've said before it's not a team carrying offense (unless Soto is hitting at obvious choice for MVP type levels) but if he hits like he should the whole thing should be average. Starting pitching holds. Relief pitching holds and you got yourself an average team! That doesn't sound like much but the Nats can catch a few breaks and finish the season over .500 and with the NL East a shambling mess maybe that will be enough? 

It's reaching I know but it's early enough you can still reach so why not. 

I forgot tonight's game in the very quick preview.  I still hold the Nats need to win the series, which means winning tonight. A 2-2 split isn't a loss, but it's not a clear win either and the Nats need clear wins. Today Corbin takes on Tucker Davidson. The Braves have a lot of prospects. Davidson is one but a lesser one, along with Jasseel De La Cruz and Kyle Muller. Everyone like Muller best but he was hit hard to start and it just settling down while Davidson has gotten results so he gets the nod.  A couple of these guys will end up in major league rotations so there is talent here but like Bryse Wilson and Kyle Wright there's a question of if it's 2-3 talent or AAAA talent. (Ian Anderson is a notch better. Ynoa was a surprise - as if they needed it).  Anyway, as we see from Wilson and Wright - you often don't just go up to the majors and make it work. You need to learn what you have that works and doesn't and Davidson is still learning so the Nats surely have a chance. 

The Mets have built up a nice lead by just playing decent ball. They did have a 5 game run but that isn't amazing or anything. They just aren't stinking anymore. The guys who should hit better are hitting better and there you go.  The Nats need to keep winning to keep pace even if it's only a 6-4 pace.

Wednesday, June 02, 2021


The Nats offense busted out against Max Fried, et al last night. That was good to see. Especially the Soto homer. Anytime he can put something in the air and far you start to think maybe he's getting back to his normal. 

But the news of the Nats is not the win but the Strasburg injury.  Strasburg pitched only into the second, never seemed comfortable, and couldn't get the speed up on his pitches (Gameday has him topping out at 91.6).  They said he couldn't get loose - a tight trap muscle - was the cause but as we all remember it was just April when they said "Something wrong with Strasburg, what are you talking about? hahahha" and then he was gone for a month. 

It's very simple. If the Nats lose Stras for any long period of time they are not going anywhere. They were a rotation with potentially one extra 5th starter. With Stras out you have Max (ace!), Corbin (VERY shaky 2), Lester (4-5 masquerading as a 3), and Ross/Fedde (Sunsetting prospects who could be 3s or AAAA pitchers on a given night). That's not a rotation that can easily win anything.  It's a rotation that POSSIBLY could not drag you down - but the offense and bullpen would have to carry the team. The offense has shown no sign of being able to do this and the bullpen is getting worked heavily by the "Go 1-0 TODAY" mentality of Davey. 

Just yesterday I said Stras coming back as a star was essential. It is

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Tuesday Quickie - What's the point

The Nats are in a tumble. They had used a couple of decent runs (7-3 and 7-4) to offset more terrible play (5-9 and 1-7) and the mediocrity of the NL East to stay in the race up until recently but two steps back, one step forward wasn't going to work forever. The Nats are now again taking two steps back but an NL East team (the Mets) are finally making a run, putting the Nats far out of contention. 7 games as of this morning. They are further out of the Wild Card, but if you, like me, don't buy the Giants long term then it's about the same between the Nats and this too. Which isn't good but not impossible I guess.

It's been the hitting, which has been terrible, more than the pitching, which has been middling. Teams have been in holes this bad or worse before, including the Nats two years ago. but it's hard to see how these Nats climb out of this. Those Nats lost Trea in game 5, then Rendon after game 19, then Soto after game 28 (also Matt Adams after that which was not on the same level but when you have no depth left - important). They'd trickle back - Rendon on May 7th (G 35), Soto on May 11th (G39), Turner on May 17th (G 44) and you could see a scenario, if all three of these guys spent the rest of the year healthy and hit well and nothing else went wrong - they could get that Wild Card. It was a tall ask but that happened. Rendon would start every game until 157, Trea until 158, and Soto would take one day off between coming back and game 159.  Rendon hit to a .983 OPS after returning, Soto a .976, Turner .839. Robles played 155 games, Eaton 151, Suzuki/Gomes caught nearly every game. Stras and Corbin made every start, Sanchez almost every start. Max did miss a few I guess but you see how they drew the inside straight here.  

For this team what would that be? Everyone hurt has been back for this latest swoon for a while except maybe Strasburg. In terms of health the one thing is that Soto isn't coming back and instead likely needs time off. With him hitting very average everyone else needs to be better than expected but no one is. Schwarber and Bell are now hitting kind of like the Nats wanted but only at like 85-90%. Trea needs to get on base more. Robles needs more power. Harrison needs to be Kendrick and Castro needs to be Harrison. Even if the hitting improves, and I think at least in terms of runs scored should start to even out. The pitching faces the same issues. While we can cast Stras in the Rendon/Soto role of 2019 - a returning star finding his footing and doing great the rest of the year, the Nats still need Corbin to be better and Lester and hope 5th starter manages to keep being ok.  They need the pen to keep OVERperforming while they figure out that last arm in the pen problem while also being over used because of those starter issues. 

"A few key guys come back from injury,  don't get hurt again and play well - nothing else goes wrong" is one thing "EVERYONE play better - nothing else go wrong" is another.

I won't do a preview of thte Braves series because it's started but suffice to say the Nats need to win the series even though it's away. They've lost a game already. The Braves had beat up on Pittsburgh but couldn't do the same to Boston and are basically relying on Acuna plus whoever is hitting (right now Contreras) to carry the team. Fried (tonight) has looked right since returning which is bad news for the Nats. Then they get Smyly who only pitches well against the Nats. Or probably the Nats are just bad. 

If it starts here then first Strasburg needs to take that role assigned to him. He needs to come back and be awesome. Tonight would be a good time to start