Nationals Baseball: July 2021

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Trades review

The deadline is past.  It is! It was 4PM yesterday. Really I think it should be midnight of the 31st but it's not my league. Anyway let's look at what the Nats got knowing that they needed almost everything in the minors. What they had was a couple of middle infielders (Garcia and Kieboom) and a few RHP arms (Cavalli, Rutledge, Henry) and nothing else.

Brad Hand for Riley Adams

C - 25 (June) - Becomes 10-15 type in Nats org 

A big guy catcher who is athletic for his size so he could stick in the position. Seen as a power bat but has only intermittently shown it in the minors (including this year in Buffalo). Strikes out a ton.  If he can be patient and powerful he can be useful but he's at an age and defensive skill set that he might not get a lot of chances to try. Nats probably got him with the idea - throw him out there see what happens, but with Ruiz here too he's more likely to be in AAA coming up occasionally to the majors to strike out too much.

Max Scherzer and Trea Turner for Keibert Ruiz, Josiah Gray, Gerardo Carrillo, and Donovan Casey

Ruiz -  C - 23 (July) - 1 in Nats org

There's too many here. I'll be briefer. Throwback batter who doesn't K or walk. Not a great catcher, but can hang there for a few years. Expectation would be a starting catcher with a good but possibly empty average. If he develops any other batting skill - great. If not - he still probably is an average ML bat and that's good for C. 

Gray - RHSP - 23 (24 in Dec) - 2/3 in Nats org  

Productive but not as loved as numbers should indicate, AAA stats this year have a lot of luck behind them but still ready for major league trial. Very wild and homer prone in a very short period in majors, but every stop has been brief. Seems to be at least a 4/5 in the majors, a better prospect than Ross/Fedde but not likely to be an ace. 

Carrillo - RHSP 22(23 in Sept) - about 10 in Nats org

Big arm. Hurt. Almost certainly too wild to keep as a starter. Will probably transition to relief after a year or two if he doesn't click. 

Casey -  OF - 25 (Feb) - 25+ in Nats org

Good OF but strikes out WAY too much and stats are probably as much a function of maturity than talent. Likely eaten alive in the majors. Org filler.

Kyle Schwarber for Aldo Ramirez 

RHSP - 20 (May) - 10 in Nats org

Lottery ticket - a lot to like (throws strikes, has some hit and miss stuff, can really limit homers), a lot not to (already has major injury, not really dominant).  Best case - he's ok and comes back next year to show stuff in A+ that sets him on a MLB 2024 path. Worst case - very hurt and he's repeating A in 2023 working back health.  We all know with pitching prospects the latter is more likely than the former.

Daniel Hudson for Mason Thompson and Jordy Barley


RHRP - 23 (Feb) - 15-20 in Nats org

Classic big guy big arm. Way wild without the amazing stuff usual to keep a guy like this going as a starter so they moved him to relief and he got better. well more control at least. Kind of guy you look at and love but hasn't shown anything to get excited about other than talent. Seems hittable and without great K stuff. Hurt early on. I don't know, some people like this. I don't see it.

Barley  SS - 21 (Dec) 25+ in Nats org

Very fast. Was very raw, getting to a little raw and more can't hit. Likely nothing here but age gives him a couple more years to get it.

John Lester for Lane Thomas 

OF - 26 in Aug -  unranked in Nats org

Andrew Stevenson? Like a AAAA talent across the board. Org Filler, maybe a 5th OF here and there. What would you expect for Lester.

Yan Gomes and Josh Harrison for Drew Millas, Seth Shuman, and Richard Guasch


C - 23 (Jan) - 20-25ish in Nats org

good catcher - shows some patience at the plate but not much else so far. Catchers get more time.


RHSP - 23 (Dec) - unranked in Nats org

Has performed in the minors but history suggests he won't miss enough bats to make it up to the majors. If no one says "ooh watch this guy" then probably ignore the numbers.


RHSP - 23 (Apr) - 30ish in Nats org

Has stuff but wild and hittable. If he doesn't get it - like the other arms will transition into a relief role. 

Ok so wrapping it up. They got, as you'd hope, some guys who WILL play in the majors for Max and Trea.  It would be surprising if Ruiz didn't end up playing several years - even if it's as a single hitting back-up catcher and Gray will probably end up at least in the back of a rotation for a few years. Both of these are low-end projections in my book. The high ends are limited though, Ruiz might hit around .300... but probably won't walk or hit for power and isn't a great enough catcher to make up for that. Gray no one seems to think has ace stuff, who am I to say different. So you are topping out at a starting average catcher and a #3 rotation guy.  

Aldo Ramirez is probably the next most interesting guy to me. There are some big hurdles, most noticeably the broken arm, but if you get lucky you could get a really good pitcher. Yes you could get nothing but a lot of these guys are going to be nothing without any big promise. 

Millas is vaguely interesting as a "Catchers can take time to develop" guy and I like a guy who plays catcher well in the org. They seem to get even more time.  

Carrillo and Guasch are the usual failed starters that usually end up as failed relievers but maybe you get a good relief year out of them? I mean you can get real lucky and they end up a good reliever but yeah probably not. Mason Thompson is there now and just a Tanner Rainey to me. But we'll see if I'm right real soon! 

As for the rest:  Casey, Thomas and Shuman are org fillers (and if you don't know what I mean by that - you need guys to play to fill rosters - they can't all be real prospects. A few are guys who might be, but most are guys who never were but were good enough to keep moving up levels). Riley Adams won't hang and Jordy Barley might be out of the minors in a couple years. 

These guys make the Nats minors better but they don't quite by themselves set up the next window of success.  But we'll talk more about this next time.

Friday, July 30, 2021


 This blog has been traded to the Oakland A’s for an 12 yo ready to start a daily blog next year as part of a class assignment.  I hear his writing is a little rough but I get it.  Nats can’t be expected to pay my 0$ salary forever. My performance, while BOY* worthy for most of the contract has been off this year. But im a professional so I’ll do my best.   

On to today’s news;  Montas looked sharp last night… 

Bah of course the news is all the deals which I will get to but it’s a vacation recovery day so I’ll get to it but maybe not in the morning 

*blogger of the year

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Minimum or Maximum Pain

Well if that wasn't a sign I don't know what was. The Nats should deal and when they do they may deal a fan favorite or two.  If that happens there are definite teams you'd rather see the Nats deal with than other (assuming all else is the same - obviously return is important). So with the lack of anything else to talk about regarding playoff push - let's rank those teams from best location to worst location.

Acceptable, in context

Oakland - Getting recent perennial playoff choker Oakland a championship would actually make the legend of Max greater. Plus the Nats and A's always make trades. It feels natural.

San Diego - No titles, another division, usually bad. This would be ok.

Milwaukee - No titles, another division, but they've had their chances. Plus they just won an NBA title. Last thing I want to hear is Milwaukee : "Title Town".

Cincinnati - Not a big deal but doesn't feel like they deserve a title this year does it?

Not the Worst

White Sox - The Giolito/Max stuff would be terrible, and no one wants TLR to win again but White Sox championships are like gossamer. Do they even really exist? Lots of worse choices than this.

Giants - It's a great story. A bunch of old guys have one last run, fighting against two other squads that everyone figured would be the juggernauts of baseball. Except they have three recent titles and they are managed by Gabe Kapler. They don't need this. We don't want this.


St Louis - Ugh. Normally St. Louis would be much higher but like I said lots of bad choices out there. This falls to here because it's Max's home team and that's a little cool winning one with your home team. The rest? Very not cool.

Yankees - No one over 30 wants to see a guy going to the Yankees and winning another championship. But under 30 they may not care as much. As much. It's still the Yankees. 

Boston - They've won recently. They are obnoxious about it. Yet they continue to paint themselves as underdogs. This would be terrible. IYKYK. 

Constant in your face punishment for your sins

Mets - Now we get to the division rivals. The Mets are sad sack losers so are the best choice of the three, but they are also the type of sad sack losers who immediately act like they've always been big winners when ever they win.

Phillies - Carrying Bryce to a title? Can the Nats fans handle that?

Braves - Max on the mound. Late innings in a dominant start. The crowd is wild. And then they start the chop.

Dodgers - They just won! 

Time to stop watching baseball

Tampa - Last thing I want is to see Max traded to a team that will automatically view the trade as a win because it doesn't matter if they get a title, they've got a compensation pick coming!

Houston - Cheating cheaters get to win again with MAX? Get to say "oh see we're not cheaters! We win!" I can't even lean into a Dusty feel good story here. 

Monday, July 26, 2021

Monday Quickie - Sell Sell Sell

To be perfectly honest - when the Strasburg news (which was basically - he's not ready and we're not sure when he's going to be ready) came down this weekend I was ready to pack it in. With Strasburg you can figure out how this team might MIGHT come back and take the division over a Mets team (if they started failing) and mediocre Phillies/Braves competition. Without Strasburg? Can't see it.  Getting swept by the Orioles was only a helpful confirmation.  

Ugly weekend but now we have focus.  Trade everything. Well there are three questions actually

Do you trade Max?  Max seems to like it here and with a title has no reason to go chasing something at the end of his career. But he is a FA at the end of the year probably looking for a "finish my career" contract so at least 3 years, probably more. If the Nats aren't going to sign him* they should trade him 

Do you trade Trea? Trea is up for FA after next year. He's a top flight SS, who should get a nice big payday. You need players like that. But if you are being serious about it, the likely long term plan would be getting good again around 2024 - in time to convince Soto to stay. in 2025 Turner will be 31, more likely to get nagging injuries, more likely to be in his decline. Still it's not likely but the big reason you trade him is because he's your biggest chip, the one most likely to bring a piece back you can be relatively sure will be part of the next competitve team. Probably not a likely star, but a likely starter who might surprise. Maybe another piece too.  Everyone else is bringing back long shots and role players. 

Do you trade Soto? Ooof. No. If you are trading Soto you are giving up for a LONG time because you don't deal a definite All-Star maybe HoF caliber player at 22. You can probably get a couple really good prospects back for him. They will also probably be no more than 24 months younger than Soto and with no track record of success in the majors. This would be dumb. 

Time to call into talk radio and get ready for a return to the bad good old days. 

Friday, July 23, 2021

Rivarly Weekend? Rivalry Weekend.

 The Nats play the Orioles this weekend for their rivalry games and well no one cares too much.  At least as far as I can tell.  Hard to remember but for the first half of the Nats window the Os got good too making these games kind of interesting if you have no feeling about Baltimore vs DC or the MASN situation. Now the Os stink and have for a while so the games mostly don't matter other than what kind of boost they give the Nats and this year is no exception. 

The Orioles can't hit.  Cedric Mullins has blossomed into a fine player and Trey Mancini is a solid power bat but after that their best bats are merely average and 3-4 starters a night are well below. A couple of poor hitters are hot - Santander, old friend Severino - but this is just the normal streaks you see.  They don't do anything particularly well but they do particularly lack power after the two good hitters and DH Mountcastle.  It's a worse line-up than the healthy Marlins but maybe a tick better than the hurt Marlins? I don't know. But this hardly matters because where the Orioles really stink is on the mound!

They have one starter of use (John Means) and them a handful of guys that might not make it as other teams #5. The relief is a little better if only because if you throw 7 guys out there for limited innings someone is going to be ok.  Tyler Wells is probably the guy to watch as he has good control and can strike you out. I'm saying now he'll be the closer sometime before the end of next year.  An inopportunte homer or 2 (or 4) have hurt him though. The rest are either good stuff but wild guys or some control no stuff guys or at least I avoid the homers guys or whatever it is that Adam Plutko or Thomas Eshelman are.  Bad. That's what they are bad. 


Corbin vs Jorge Lopez - Corbin has been beaten around in a couple of his last starts, against the Padres and Dodgers with an ok Padres start in between.  He could be good he could not. I've kind of lost faith in him putting any long good stretch together but can he get the Orioles to scatter a bunch of hits and strike out too much over 6+? I think so.  Lopez has one decent start since May ended. He's trash. The Nats should beat his brains in (metaphorically). His one saving grace is he's not that homer prone so it's never like 8 runs in 3 innings more like 5 in 4 but they should get to him either way.

Scherzer vs Spenser Watkins Matt Harvey - Max had a disappointing for him start last time out against the Padres, unable to hold a big lead without giving some of it back. He's been a bit homer prone recently but against the Os that means 2 guys might hit solo homers as he goes 8 and strikes out 12. If the Nats score they win this game. That might be a problem?  Watkins isn't a prospect - but he's been very good since coming up with the Os. A junkballer who uses a cutter a lot he mixes things up and accepts the occasional single or walk to avoid the rare homer or big hit. It's a formula that has worked in the majors better than the minors - perhaps because of all the fast stuff usually seen up here. It's three starts so it could also be a fluke and the Nats could pummel him.  Dammit they changed it on me! Watkins was actually kind of interesting but they are giving him MIA later and keeping Harvey on schedule. Harvey stinks! The basic fact is you can hit Harvey well.  He won't get himself in trouble in the sense he stays away from the walks and homers but he's a BP pitcher to guys with fungo bats. Put it over, hope they hit it at someone. That doesn't usually work but it can. This would be a crushing loss

Lester vs Means - Lester gets the Marlins then the Os? That's a way to save your rotation spot. He looked fine against the Marlins and really his stuff plays at the back of a rotation. He'll handle the bad offenses. MIA? NYM? PIT? So he should handle the Orioles. John Means isn't bad. He's hard to hit and doesn't put men on.  But he's homer prone - possibly a spin rate casualty and he's hurt on and off.  If he can keep you in the park he can win.

The first game is in the Nats favor, the second one really so, the last one more of a toss up. While they should win any single game 2-1 is probably slightly more likely than 3-0 as these things go.  1-2 or worse would be a devastating failure in my book. 

Thursday, July 22, 2021


 Updating and adjusting 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) 
  • FAIL Survive a brutal pre ASG run (home for NYM(1), TB (2), LA (4) @SD (4) @SF (3))  (43-46) FAIL
  • FAIL Win a homestand vs SD/MIA (47-48) FAIL
  • Sweep the Orioles away (48-50)

The Nats didn't win the homestand. After losing 2 of 3 to the Padres they had to sweep the Marlins to do it but they couldn't muster up any offense yesterday and instead split the homestand 3-3. As we've talked about endlessly the mediocrity of the NL East has kept the Nats in it despite now falling two games off the pace I wanted them to be at but a sweep of the Orioles is very much needed. Not HAVE TO HAVE, but close. 

Before the Marlins series though I came up with a simple metric for the rest of season : Don't Lose Another Series.  

If the Nats didn't lose another series (meaning winning all odd-game series and splitting all even game ones) starting with the Marlins won they would end up with 87 wins and 87 wins just might win this division. Especially since the Nats would be gaining at least a couple games on every NL East team H2H. The Mets would have to go 37-32 to get there - certainly not a given, in fact probably around what you'd expect them to do.  

Can the Nats win at a 60% pace the rest of the year? Probably not! But if you harbor hope for the season this give you an easy way to keep overall pace. You don't have to think about who you are playing, or if they are in division, or if you are home and away.  Very simple. Each series not lost is keeping pace. Each 3 game sweep is a series loss cushion you have for later. And each series loss is a 3 game sweep you need later. The Nats swept Miami meaning they kept pace. Just 21 more series to go

I'll come up with my own more specific goals as we move along, but this does work rather well. So for now sweep the Os or beat the Os. Either way works.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Probably probables

The Nats made short work of former Nat Ross Detwiler - a guy who literally hasn't been good since leaving the Nats in 2015 and started this six game run with a bang, boom, and kapowie. How's the rest of the series look?

Rogers vs Espino  - Rogers was the Marlins All-Star but he stumbled into the All-Star break with a series of mostly unimpressive and short starts.  His control and Ks seem ok, same with the homers, so it's probably not a spin thing instead he's clumping together those hits and that's hurting him. Still that stretch included Toronto and the Dodgers - the 2nd and 3rd highest scoring teams in baseball, so that's probably more it than anything. I'd expect a tough match-up if the long layoff (last pitched in the ASG, last started on the 10th) doesn't bother him. I noted that Espino had given the Nats what they asked for (get into the 4th with the Nats in the game) every start... then he promptly couldn't get out of the third last time out. Espino isn't here to win the game. He's here to get the Nats to the 5th with the Nats within 3. It's not a big ask and the Marlins aren't a good hitting team to begin with. With Cooper and Chisholm out they border on terrible (which is what they were last night with Marte also out - he should be back tonight). 

Alcantara vs Fedde - You know I have picked on Fedde recently because after the tack ban he's been bad but all in all his spin rate hasn't dipped too much. It's been all over the place really with no real connection to results. Those results have been universally bad. Last time out he was crazy wild, two times ago he got hit around bad, three times ago (before the missed start) he gave up some bombs. He looks like Fedde looks - a AAAA starter, but the Marlins are the type of team that sets you right and it's about time for Fedde to go 7IP with 3 hits and 7 Ks and make everyone think he can be good again.  Alcantara IS a tack causality.  His spin rate has nose-dived and the stats have followed down - fewer Ks more walks, more hittable. He's not a bad pitcher but he's probably closer to a 3/4 than the 2/3 he was showing at the start of the year, at least until he learns to pitch sans tack. 

Both these games are winnable but the pitching match-ups favor the Marlins. It's the fact that the Marlins can't generate offense that makes it possible for the Nats to take both.  Honestly I feel better about today's game - let 4-5 relievers go all out for 1-2 innings and shut these guys down, while the Nats take advantage of a possibly rusty Rogers. Fedde... I just don't think he's right and if he can't shut down the Marlins that probably tells us for sure he isn't. He's a borderline rotation guy anyway. That type that isn't 100% is going to be just not usable.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Monday Quickie - You don't have to be faster than the bear... only have to be faster than the slowest person running from it. 

Or so goes the saying. The Nats have had a disappointing run. They've been the bears next target, eyeing the Nats as it devours the Marlins. Even factoring in the quality of the teams they have been playing 3-11 in the last 14 is straight bad.  That's not even a .500 type team. But the NL East has barely moved. The Mets have gone 7-7, the Braves 7-6, the Marlins 6-8.  Only the Phillies at 8-4 have made a significant jump and as they were 3 back from the Nats at the start of this slide* they only moved from "could catch Nats" to "Nats could catch them" 

The Nats can still hit their 7-2 goal but it means two sweeps. They are certainly capable of it. The teams they are playing are certainly lousy enough. Does the NL East give you hope? Of course! The Mets are more a little bit lucky .500 team. Sure they are .500ish in large part surprise disappointments and injuries but now deGrom is out. The base team available day to day is what it is and that's .500. The Braves might be the best team in the NL East this year but that doesn't mean much and they've lost Acuna. The Phillies are more of a team in a hot stretch than an above .500 team. There's nothing here that worries you EXCEPT the Nats are who they are. They are a below .500 team. That's what they've played like all year. to catch the others they have to at least be .500 and to do that they need something to happen. Soto having his Schwarber moment? The starting pitching just being ok but for a couple months? Something. 

 The season could have been done by now. If the Mets had just gone 5-2 against the Pirates instead of 3-4 they'd be 50-40 with an 8 game lead and I'd be ready to pack it in. That didn't happen. 6 games though - with these patsies... 5-1, while not what you want, is there, and that almost certainly picks up at least a game keeping you in the two-series distance. It's always relative, but it does feel with these 6 games the Nats need to win win win. They couldn't stem the bleeding, so now they need to get better as fast as they can.

Probables - holding off until we get coinfirmation. Ten days ago the Nats were hoping MAYBE Strasburg or Ross could be lining up for this series. Didn't happen. Now we need to see what they do. I've also heard Rogers may start tonight and coming back from the ASG it could happen so we'll wait.

Bullpen Game? vs Lester?

Rogers? vs

Alcantara vs Fedde?


*You may have forgotten but the Nats were only two games out at that point. (and two games over .500)

Friday, July 16, 2021


Padres! Nats! For all the marbles! 

We just looked at the Padres so no need to re-hash it.  The good news for the Nats is the Padres are scuffling a bit.  They are 4-6 in their last 10 with series losses to the Phillies and Rockies (in San Diego) and a series tie with the Nats. They are lucky to be that given that 9-8 crazy game. They managed to win the Cincy series before this but really played on their level.  So they haven't played up to their very good record for almost three weeks now. 

The Nats need to have two special series here. They need to do two of three - beat the Padres, sweep the Marlins, sweep the Orioles.   That gets them to 7-2, back to .500 and ready for the division gauntlet. There's nothing on injuries yet but Strasburg coming back would likely always slot in furthest out so Tuesday, so don't read into that yet.


Paddack vs Fedde - the Nats CRUSHED Paddack last time out in the 15-5 win.  He pitched a couple of mediocre innings against the Rockies after that short outing. He's been bad since the tack-ban. So the Nats need to jump on this game. Problem is Fedde also has not been good since the ban, although you'll say it's injury.  Still he's not AS bad.

Snell vs Corbin - Corbin's been a mid 4.00 ERA pitcher since his "OMG I'M WATCHING A SNUFF FILM" start. That's not good enough for the Nats, who need him to be a solid 2 now and a great 3 when Stras is in the rotation, but it is good enough to possibly win every other time out or so. Like last time when he beat the Padres. Snell was on the IL for the last series. He's hurt and basically works short outings that are pretty good until he gets too hurt and he walks like 6 guys or give up 9 hits in 3. He hits a limit, gives up a big hit, and goes to the dugout if he's pitched 3+.  Another winnable game

Musgrove vs Scherzer - Musgrove did not pitch well against the Nats. It may not be tack related - he put up a couple clunkers in early May - but it could be. The Padres would love to see him throw a post-tack-ban gem to alleviate those fears. Max was garbage last time, unable to hang on to a huge lead handed to him and giving up a grand slam to a relief pitcher. You'll know he'll be mad and he's still usually very good, so let's hope it was a random bad outing (like the Toronto one earlier in the year) and not some injury issue.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Soft Sell Returns

We talked about a soft sell yesterday which I think will be the most likely scenario for the Nats when we get to late July.. We can argue if it's the right one (I say yes - no reason to deal Max bc you won't get enough back for him. You'd get more value in the next 3 years keeping him maybe even in years 4-7) but we'll do that again later this month I'm sure.  In the meantime, we can look at the last soft sell, the 2018 deals in Davey's first lost season, and see what it got (and lost) the Nats. 


For Brian Goodwin (blocked from meaningful OF play by MAT and Stevenson, has late blossomed into a decent 4th OF) 

Jacob Condra-Bogan - Was doing ok as a control, no-homer reliever in mid-minors then surprisingly retired when he didn't make the majors out of camp (which was not a surprise).  

For Brandon Kintzler (talked to press angering Rizzo, has bounced to three different teams in 3 years getting better results than his pitching should have twice. Chickens came home to roost this year and he's dragging the Phillies down)

Jhon Romero - despite real rough outcomes when moved up aggressively, he's developed into a decent reliever though stuff seems a little weak to play in the majors and control/homer numbers are very good but not great, so you want to see more improvement.

For Shawn Kelly (threw his glove on the ground so became part of the bullpen shake up that Rizzo hoped would do... something and did nothing but make things worse, had pitched well for Oakland in 2018 but not good for Texas in 2019 and is out of baseball)

Cash that helped become Kyle Barraclough - big bust for the Nats who hoped he'd return to 2017 form. Instead he kept getting worse. He's in AAA for the Twins now but with no control he's just org depth in 2021.

For Daniel Murphy (end of contract trade dump, did well for Cubs, signed with Colorado but got hurt and couldn't get right and is out of baseball) 

Andruw Monasterio - ended up part of the Yan Gomes deal. Not doing much for Cleveland in AA.

For Gio Gonzalez (end of contract dump, was a bit of a star for the Brewers to end 2018 and was an admirable starter in 2019 for them too.  That got him a chance with the White Sox but he just didn't pitch well and couldn't stick with anyone this Spring)

KJ Harrison - having an ok year in AA as a guy with some pop.  K-rate is crazy though and with that lack of patience I don't think he can handle major league pitching any time soon.

Gilbert Lara - The only one to hit on Nats prospect lists post-trade (in the low 20s), was once a big time international prospect that has gone nowhere. Aggressive move up hasn't helped produced nothing in A+ and AA. Will he even be in the org next year? Don't know. 

For Ryan Madson (end of contract dump and bad, he wouldn't do terrible for the Dodgers - blow up a couple times yes, but otherwise ok and ok in the playoffs. At 38 didn't want to sign just to sign in 2019 and never got a deal he liked so hung it up)

Andrew Istler - looked like a late blooming relief steal for the Nats, with tough to hit stuff if a bit wild. I THINK he got hurt? I know he's out of baseball now. 

So for trading 5 decent or better major leaguers and a spare part the Nats got back 3 guys who probably had enough talent to make the majors in some way - but likely only 1 who will and he probably won't be good, cash they turned into a decent bet that failed, a prospect they threw in in a deal*, and two failed bats. Is that exciting? No. Is that useful... I guess kind of as opposed to nothing. And that's kind of what the Nats, with not the same level of talent to trade off this year, would hope for. Maybe get an arm to use for a couple seasons a couple years down the road. Maybe get a guy they can flip for something they want more.  It's not much but the only way you are rebuilding the minors is a complete gut.  Not just dealing Max, but also Gomes and Trea and Ross. Is that what you want to do? Because if so good luck - it doesn't always work and you can find yourself Pirating or Marinering the next decade.

*The trade really was for Daniel Johnson and Jefry Rodriguez. Jefry, a AAAA pitcher at the time, seems to be the same, but has made his way back to DC.  Johnson looked great in Columbus in 2019 but in the majors has struggled and this year's minor league numbers are straight bad.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

2019.... today!

Ed Note - Whoops. I knew the Reds in the WC sounded funny.  Rewritten given the Nats the worse odds they deserve

We can all agree 2019 was a magical season.  The Nats started like crap thanks in good part to a bunch of injuries, but got healthy and went on a run that would find them safely in the playoffs with over a week to go. The Nats and their fans would love it if 2021 could follow that path. 

Of course we're already into the "recovery" phase of 2019.  You all remember 19-31 is where that began. In 2021 there was a slightly earlier run, followed by a crash, that set them up with a slightly better record after 50 games. 21-29.  Let's see how it progressed

After 60 

  • 2019 : 27-33
  • 2021 : 26-34

After 70

  • 2019 : 32-38
  • 2021 : 34-36

After 80

  • 2019 : 40-40
  • 2021 : 40-40

At 89 games

  • 2019 : 47-42
  • 2021 : 42-47

So up until around game 82 2019 and 2021 matched up pretty well. At that point though 2019 took off with a little 9-1 run. They'd have another average run until game 116 where they'd stand at a decent 61-55. By game 135 they'd be a great 77-58.  So if you want to set points in the schedule for demarcation that'd probably be it. The Nats this year might be able to get to 61-55 but the 2019 Nats will smoke them after that.

But really it's about context, internal and external.  In 2019 after finishing out that 9-1 run the Nats were 49-42. But the division leader was 56-37 Atlanta, well ahead by 6 games and they'd never catch them. In 2021 the division leader is a mere 47-40 currently. In 2019 the Nats had already gotten to WC1 status, WC2 being the 49-43 Cubs and the first team out the 48-45 Brewers.  In 2021 WC2 is 53-40 San Diego a harder target than the 2019 division leading Braves.

So what does that all mean?  It means that the Nats in 2019 were in GREAT shape by now in terms of the WC situation. They couldn't just hold ground but as the WC1 team with a 2 game lead over the last team out and a team in between they also lead they had a cushion. (In the end they could have finished 38-33 and still made the playoffs). In this year they are in TERRIBLE shape. They are 9 out of the playoffs with 5 teams in between to climb past.

It also means that the division is a tough haul as well. You might think it would be easier. The 2021 Mets are not as good as the 2019 Braves. But again it's all relative. The 2021 Nats are not as good as the 2019 Nats. The 2019 Nats trailed the Braves by 6 games after 91 games. The 2021 Nats could very well trail the Mets by more given the post ASB matchups. The 2019 Nats never caught the Braves even with FOURTEEN head to head games remaining. The 2021 Nats "only" have 11 against the Mets. 

Also the 2019 Nats were almost completely healthy by now. Rendon had been back since early May, Soto and Turner mid May and they'd have played every game since coming back. Sanchez missed a start in May but hadn't since and Stras and Corbin had hit every start. Only Max, just starting an injury run that would limit him to one start from mid July to late August, was out. That's big but if that's your only thing - and it was - you can get past that. 

By contrast, the 2021 Nats have Schwarber and Strasburg and Gomes still out with no current timetable for return (we hopefully will get updates in the next couple of days). They are also worse - but you know that. That's why they are 42-47. 

To summarize, 2021

  • The Nats are as far away from the division lead
  • The Nats are in a much worse WC position, basically out of it.
  • The Nats are far less likely to make a sustained run. 
  • IF though they do make a sustained run the Mets are far less likely than the 2019 Braves to match them 

That last point is the bright spot and what they have to hang on. 

So what am I looking for?  I'm looking for, over the next couple days how healthy the Nats are. The healthier the better. I'm looking over the next week, how far out the Nats fall / how close they can get. And from that I'm evaluating their chances daily to decide whether to sell, hold, or buy. Currently it's a hold. What would buy look like? Something like after July 25th, everyone back Nats 49-49, Mets 50-46. What would sell look like? No one back, Nats 45-53, Mets 53-43. It probably won't end up as far in either direction so the choice won't be clear but still a choice is going to have to be made.  Currently "soft sell" looks mostly likely but if the injuries clear up then "soft buy".  To the IL reports

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

ASB Tuesday Notes

I didn't think I was being optimistic yesterday. The facts are this : The NL East has one team with a good record. It has no really good teams. The Nats, after a lousy and unlucky start, have played good baseball going 19-9 in June. They are three games from finishing what is likely their toughest stretch of baseball and have a distinctly less challenging schedule the rest of the way than either the Braves (slightly harder) or the Mets (much harder)*. The Nats CAN win this division

No it wouldn't be easy or expected, but if they are healthy coming out of this next stretch and only a couple games out heading into the division gauntlet it could happen. Rebuilding is no guarantee of success, not in 3 years, not in 5 years, not in 7. It's a gamble especially with a minor league system currently seemingly ready to produce one good starting pitcher and that's it over the next couple years. It's a gamble without knowing what is going to happen with the rest of the NL East. Do the Mets get healthy and dominate the next couple years? Do all those young Braves pieces finally fit together? Do the Marlins blossom? Why gamble on that when you can gamble on the division title right in front of you?

I'm not saying the Nats shouldn't sell this year. I'm just saying it's too early to tell.  There's time left to decide. There's a winnable situation out there. Don't pass it up. 

Other Notes : Soto beat out Ohtani in the HR Derby but couldn't get past the machine that is Alonso.  FWIW I though Ohtani was the better HR hitter but had the worst pitcher and he himself choked a little. Soto's 3 for 3 showed he (1) can still crush homers (2) probably needs a specific area of pitch to do it. 

For those worried about the HR Derby affecting swings - we've gone over this before but there's no factual basis to back that up.  People do hit fewer homers after the ASG but there are easily explainable reasons why that is so like - "there are fewer games after the ASB dummy!" and "the guys hitting abnormally the most homers get chosen for the derby so they are very likely to hit more normal amounts of homers for them going forward... dummy!" Take these things into account and HRs post derby are pretty much exactly as you'd expect.

I would expect to see Soto late as a PH.  Trea might come in half-way as I expect Tatis to get two turns at bat.  Roberts might also hold Trea to pinch run though

*the Phillies might have the easiest schedule left with their season series with the Pirates, D-backs, and Orioles and their remaining 4 Rockies games all coming after July 29th.

Monday, July 12, 2021

ASB Monday Quickie

 Got swept.  To be honest it wasn't all that shocking. The Nats starting pitching is in shambles right now.  If a series doesn't line up with Max, who isn't MAX anymore but is still usually pretty good, then it's a tough series to win. But this was to be expected. Like I said at the start, a .500 team might go 4-10 in this stretch. The Nats ended up going 5-9 and missing my goal. 

  • 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) 
  • FAIL Survive a brutal pre ASG run (home for NYM(1), TB (2), LA (4) @SD (4) @SF (3)) (43-46) FAIL
  • Win a homestand vs SD/MIA (46-49)
  • Sweep the Orioles away (49-49)

The next goals haven't changed though.  The Nats have 9 games after the ASB before the division gauntlet begins and we're already asking for a 7-2 run.  You can't ask for 8-1.  Why not ask for them to win them all?  49-49 would still be .500 and would still likely be close enough to catch the Mets (who probably go 4-5 or 5-4 in the same time period putting the Nats 3 or 4 games out). Is it as close as you like it to be?  Is it in "ok definitely go out and get someone" range? No. But it is close. What you've lost is that cushion. Yes, there was always a one-game cushion built in.*

The real problem is it brings the Nats very close to the trade deadline (July 30) and not in that "go for it" position though. That makes the Nats have to make a deal, if they choose to, on faith.  A lot about this will be how healthy the Nats are come the end of this 9 game stretch. If they are all together healthy and 49-49, that's a team that managed to play 96 win pace ball for a quarter of the season NOT healthy, now coming together at the right time to push past the Mets, et al.  Maybe you only end up with 87/88 wins but the idea is you pushing past them means pushing them down while you go up. They don't get there.  If they aren't healthy and end up even 48-50... I don't know why you try.  You might continue playing like the best team in the East for the rest of the year but you are at 86/87 wins and is that enough? What if you slip just a fraction? Are you going to bet on an 85 win team making it? 84?  We're at that point people where the difference between success and failure lies.

We won't go into any "has to" numbers yet (bc so much depends on where everyone stands going in) but the post ASB schedule breaksdown as this - 

  • The prelude - as described above SD/MIA at home then Orioles away
  • Division Guantlet Part 1 - @PHI(4), CHC, PHI(4), @ATL, @NYM, ATL
  • Intermission - TOR(2),  @MIL, @MIA
  • Division Guantlet Part 2 - @NYM, PHI, NYM (5!), @ATL
  • Recovery - @PIT, MIA, COL
  • Recovery on the Move - @MIA, @CIN, @COL
  • BOS

That second part of the recovery is a little sneaky - Miami and Cincy aren't bad and there are no breaks so the Nats would be going from DC to MIA to CIN to COL with no rest. I still think they could roll through it if needed but a dying Nats squad could break down to end they year at that point.

Anyway rest up Nats - Let's see how healthy they are coming out of this break (Stras?) and if they can go 7-2. A quick bad start could be all it takes to trigger sell mode.

*Now if you want to dig really into it, the Nats could probably lose 2-3 more games, like go 4-5 themselves, and be ok. There are that many games in the division left that they can make that up. HOWEVER, something like this means they have to go on a dominating run.  In those 31 games they can't go 17-14 but would need to 21-10 or something like that.

Friday, July 09, 2021

Don't get swept - Giants version

The Nats are at 5-6 and if you forget about the how (3-0 start then swept, 8-0 lead blown) again that's probably where we wanted the Nats to be going into this last series.  Win 1 of 3 from SF in this away series, the most likely outcome, and pack the whole thing up as a moral victory that continues to line the Nats up for whatever run they may make in the second half. 

Of course it's not exactly that simple - watching Max get blown out and having Ross go on the IL sets up a potential future where the rotation starts Corbin - Fedde - Lester - Espino... and that's not winning you anything.  But who knows? It could be this bad OR everyone could be back in place after the ASB and we're arguing if Lester needs to sit for Fedde and Ross. We don't know, no sense worrying about it now. 

Also some people worry about big losses starting something (or get hopeful about big wins starting something) and as your non-friendly non-neighborhood Soulless Automaton I can tell you stop. They don't. Or at least you can't definitively link them to such things, there doesn't seem to be an evidence, and usually such things are the work of back-fitting a season to the narrative rather than actual single game turning points existing. 

The Giants have been more mortal recently 4-6 in their last 10 and 3 of those wins being against the D-backs (that's the NL West cushion which should keep the Giants in STRONG WC contention even if they start to peter out). It's mostly been a slow down in the offense against the Dodgers on the far end of those 10 games. They seem better more recently.  Brandon Belt and Evan Longoria are both out and like most teams the Giants are just shuffling them off to a post-ASB return to get max rest for them. Posey, with a sore thumb, might not play either. That would make sense... if these games before the ASB didn't count too. But they do! Just the same! So put me in the group that likes the Nats "bring them back when they are ready" strategy.  Still their back-ups are doing fine because this is one of those charmed seasons when things like that happen 

The bullpen is still super deep with no real stand out arms but no terrible ones either. Think of the Nats bullpen after Hand and Hudson and before whoever the last arm is. Then make everyone one step better. That's the Giants pen. Reliable but not shutdown. No recent issues either so the Nats will like have to win these games by beating the starters and outscoring a hopefully sluggish offense.


Espino vs Logan Webb - Paolo's job is to get the Nats through 4-5 innings in the game. He's done it in all his emergency starts this year. He doesn't strike anyone out but limits the homer/walk mistakes. You have to beat him. This isn't historically Paolo though - he'd walk guys and give up homers - so it could all come crashing down. Webb is coming back from an IL stint. He was a guy with decent stuff who can get into trouble but stays away from the long ball.

Lester vs Anthony DeSclafani - Lester was trash last time out and the two times before that. This was after a run of mostly decent starts this entire season. He looks gassed though. Not missing any bats and trouble with command. If the Nats weren't missing multiple starters, he'd probably get a break. Sorry Jon! Maybe the long ASB will help - just bear down here.  DeScalfani is very solid though not a K guy so he probably won't keep the Nats scoreless.

Fedde vs Kevin Gausman - Fedde hasn't looked right recently. Is it injury or is it Spider Tack withdrawl? Either way 3 Ks in his last two starts matching 3 homers in those 8 innings, and 14 hits. He did look decent his first time through last game so maybe it's just stretching back out. Or maybe like the rest of his career he really isn't a starter. What a fun back and forth season this has been with him and Ross alternately disappointing just enough to make it a little bit of a mess. Gausman is good! You don't want to go into this game needing to win it.

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

Where we at

The Nats lost.  Oh well.  still 4-5 is on pace. 4-6 isn't even that bad if they lose tonight.  Only worry if they lost the next two because you'd rather have to take one from SF in SF, not win the series.

 Where the Nats are currently is they are a .500 team that have played like a .500 team. They pitch ok both as starter and reliever, which actually gives them a slight advantage over other teams who don't do one or the other well. They still don't score when Schwarber isn't doing a roided Barry Bonds impression, but they aren't the worse at it - the bad scoring luck of the early season gone away. 

Catching - Gomes is good! Avila was fine as a back-up catcher which means kind of bad but what are you going to do? It's a back-up catcher. You aren't finding a good player if you didn't develop one yourself. Avila is hurt now but 29 of 39 teams 3rd catcher is gonna be trash. 

First Base - Bell's been hitting better each month which yes is easy given the abysmal April but he's back over average.  He'll probably dip again soon but he's pretty much become the bat the Nats expected

Second Base - The opposite of Bell - after a torrid April has hit pretty poorly since. Not terrible but below average. 

Short Stop - Star turn continues. He'll probably never be the BEST SS in the majors but he's up in the conversation for "who else" once you get past whoever is at the moment.

Third Base - people act like he's a gaping hole but the truth is he is hitting like Harrison since April and completely in line with his previous stats. He's a decent fielder.  He stays healthy. I can see why you want better but he's not a disappointment. 

Left Field - Schwarber was ok then got AMAZING. Now hurt and out for a while 

Center Field - Robles is kind of bad.  If you are looking for one thing that is the Nats problem... this isn't it. But if you are on the second thing. Yes Robles not developing into anything could be it. He's a great defender but he's MAT production at the plate 

Right Field  - disappointing for Soto. He's probably hurt and hitting everything down because of a shoulder issue but it doesn't seem to be getting worse and he's still got a great eye and hits the ball hard so you keep playing him hoping for a return to form and the meanwhile he's still your second best bat. 

Bench - well here's your problem! Zimm has been useful in his limited appearances. Yadi stinks, Parra stinks, Stevenson stunk, Mercer... didn't stink but all Mercer can do is not much, Garcia stunk, 

Overall the Nats have a decent healthy offense set-up.  It's not as good as it has been (that'll happen if you lose a Rendon) but it's ok. Better than average with everyone healthy and hitting as expected. The second part is mostly happening, Soto not being SOTO costs them a little. But really it's the first part not happening that kills them. They replace someone good or at least ok with someone bad and the line-up becomes real short. 

Trade deadline - Get someone good! OF or IF! The IF has to be good. Pulling Castro for a guy hitting a 100OPS+ isn't getting you anything. The OF has to be good too... if you are replacing Robles. If you are filling in the Schwarber absence you can go with average. Wouldn't hurt to get both. 

Starting Pitching - Lester is degrading. Corbin still isn't good enough - rolling through decent stretches then tossing one or two stinkers. Ross and Fedde are unreliable. They need Strasburg (GOOD Strasburg) to help anchor the rotation and not force 3 of 4 starts to need 4+ innings of bullpen work. An extra stud pitcher or even a solid middle would help but I don't expect that from the Nats. An extra 5th type arm would be superfluous here. 

Relief pitching - Brad Hand hasn't been smooth sailing but he's been ok. The rest of the pen are guys that can come in and do well or not - they are pretty average. And while it's nice to have a bunch of arms to go to if you don't solve the starting pitching issues you can't find the good ones in any night because guys are overworked or resting. The end result is tossing out 4 arms almost every night knowing full well one is probably going to have nothing.  Hudson coming back will help out alot assuming he can keep up his pitching from before.


Looking at the Nats there isn't anything specifically wrong. But that's what you get with an average team.  And that can be a problem because without a glaring easy fix any fix that will actually impact your team will cost you and the Nats don't have the prospects to pay up. The Nats expected movement going forward is to fritter around the edges getting a decent OF (to play while Schwarber's out) and a not as decent IF (for depth) and maybe another bullpen arm if it's there because a LHP that can be decent against everyone - even if it's really just decent - would be preferable to Clay as your first LHP option. Nothing more. Anything more is just too expensive for a team who can't be sure it's going to matter in the end.

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Tuesday Quickie - surviving

The Nats have up to this point survived the stretch.  It wasn't done as planned. They streaked out on a 3-0 run making it seem like they had the stretch in the bag, only to get swept by the Dodgers putting them right back on their slow and steady schedule.  4-4 total so far means 2-4 is all they need so it's likely they'll do it but take nothing for granted for this beat up team. 

These 4 versus San Diego are of particular importance because of the situation the Nats find themselves in. In 2019 the Nats had managed to crawl back to respectability by now and sat at 42-41, just a game away from the 41-42 the 2021 Nats sit at. The 2019 Nats found themselves 7 games out of the division (with Philly in between a couple games up) but a mere 1.5 games out of the second wild card. They would be on the start of a 8-1 run that would leave them at 49-42 and a half game in the first wild card lead. The safety of being in the WC race was there while they tried for more. They wouldn't get it division wise even though they had their chances. They'd get to 4 games out of Atlanta and enter a late July series 5.5 out but would lose that. They'd crawl back to 4.5 out in the midst of an amazing August stretch  (18-5 from the 5th to Sept 1) but Atlanta would match them with an equally amazing August and the Nats couldn't get closer. Still it's more important that  they'd basically be RIGHT THERE in the Wild Card hunt and that August would all but guarantee their spot. In other words, by game 83 the Nats had made their way back into a good position and by game 92 they'd be in a great spot where even sputtering for a while they'd remain a good couple series run away from controlling their destiny.  

The 2021 Nats arguably have a better shot at the division title - only 4 games out of first and with a Mets team that seems unlikely to pull off an 18-5 type run at any time. Still Philly and Atlanta are only a half game behind.  It remains a dogfight (of weak old dogs).  The WC situation though is much worse. The Nats are 7 games out as of today and they are chasing... the Padres. That is why these games matter. I can't say going 3-1 in San Diego and picking up a couple games on the Padres would be great. Six games out is still a big chunk of games to make up. But going 1-3 and losing 2 games to the Padres would be devastating to any WC hopes. As much as a division title is nice because it's in your hands and conveys some benefits, it's also a very narrow path to success. The WC, with 2 spots and the jockeying of several teams to watch for, is usually the safer bet. Not in 2021.

So take these games in particular as important. If the Nats don't come out of this stretch and the games immediately after the ASB against the Padres at at least 5-2 then the focus of the second half becomes only on the NL East title and a whole bunch of series become must wins so September's soft landing can be used to hold off any late charges, instead of trying desperately to catch up to whoever is in the driver's seat.