The Closing Situation

Posted: 18th August 2014 by JTimmz3 in All Sports, Baseball, DC Nats

After a long hiatus caused primarily by some WordPress issues that have since been resolved, I had to get my thoughts out into the ether regarding Rafael Soriano and the closer role (especially after his blow up last night).

When considering altering the roles in your bullpen, there are a lot of factors that need to be taken into account. First, look at who is currently in the role. Soriano is 11th in the Bigs in saves with 29. He maintains a WHIP better than five of the top ten at 1.05, and an ERA better than four of the top 10 at 2.59. On the other side of it, he’s blown 5 saves now, more than all closers in the top ten.

With Soriano’s seasonal statistics so impressive and towards the top of the League in most areas, we then have to look at the ‘what have you done for me lately?’ factor. This is a much uglier picture of what is happening with the Nationals’ closer. You have the pre-All Star game Soriano, and the post-All Star game Soriano.
Pre-All Star game:Rafael Soriano
0.97 ERA
0.81 WHIP
0.97 Ks/IP
Was not taken out in the middle of an inning once.

Post-All Star game:
7.71 ERA
1.80 WHIP
0.77 Ks/IP
Has been taken out after recording one out or less twice.

There is also a somewhat subjective test you have to use on Soriano. This is ‘the eyeball test’ (also known as ‘the sniff test’). For any seam-head that has been watching the Nationals all year, they can see an obvious change in their 9th inning pitching. Soriano is getting behind in counts more often and his pitches are staying up. This is lengthening innings and giving fans an extreme amount of stress (another contribution to stress is the fact that Soriano takes about 37 minutes between pitches, walking around the mound and looking into his hat). They are seeing a fastball that went from topping at 95 to a fastball topping at around 91-92. These are all common symptoms of arm fatigue. How does one fix arm fatigue? You stop throwing..

The last factor is the ‘alternative options’ factor. This is another factor that does not work in Soriano’s favor. Since the All Star break, Clippard has a 0.00 ERA, a 0.36 WHIP, and 1.07 strikeouts per inning. He has been arguably the most dominant relief pitcher in the League since the break. Clippard has closed for the Nats before, saving 32 games in 2012 during their playoff run. Storen has been good as well since the break (2.89 ERA, but a 1.50 WHIP), but not near the level of Clippard. The difficult decision for Matt Williams will be if he should make a change, not who will be the guy if he does make a change.

Jayson Werth is the Face of the Franchise

Posted: 11th April 2014 by JTimmz3 in All Sports, Baseball, DC Nats

A debatable topic, sure, but should it be? Look at Jayson Werth’s body of work as a National.

In 2012, Werth hurt himself in a game against division rival and former team the Phillies. He was back in August, just in time for the Nats’ run to the playoffs. In that first month he batted .358, and finished the season at .300 for the first time in his career. Then, in the playoffs, Werth hit (and this is without debate) the biggest home run in Nationals’ history. Not Zimmerman. Not Bryce. Werth

In 2013, Werth topped his previous years’ career best with a .318 batting average, leading the team in what would be a disappointing season. That average was good enough for 8th in the Majors, along with an OPS of .931 that had him tied at 6th. Against division rivals alone, he batted .320 with 11 bombs.

So far, in 2014, he has a game-winning grand slam in which he tossed the bat in a way as to say ‘This is what you dumbasses get for intentionally walking a 23 year old to load the bases and get to me’. But it’s even more than his previous years’ stats and the fact that he’s batting .375 with arguably the first and second most exciting home runs in Nats history. It’s also his persona. He’s a massive guy at 6-5 with long Jesus-like hair and a Duck Dynasty-like beard.

It’s the things he says, as well. He doesn’t always just give the standard cliche answers like a Ryan Zimmerman might. For example, he had this to say after breaking his wrist against the Phillies in 2012:

“After walking off the field feeling nauseous knowing my wrist was broke and hearing Philly fans yelling ‘You deserve it,’ and, ‘That’s what you get,’ I am motivated to get back quickly and see to it personally those people never walk down Broad Street in celebration again.”

Jayson Werth after Grand Slam against MarlinsOr his line this year, ‘We’ll be back here tomorrow if anybody’s interested’ after hitting the grand slam to win the game against the Marlins. He has a personality to him. This Werth love-affair Nats have is not something that was appointed, either. Strasburg, Harper and Zimmerman are guys drafted by the organization that fans have watched from their Major League inception with high hopes. Werth was a guy everyone thought the Nationals overpaid that had to fight for every bit of his current status after a very disappointing first year with the club.

Unless you’re the Yankees and have Jeter, or were the Orioles with Ripken, faces of franchises in baseball can change a lot. Who knows, the way Rendon is hitting the ball, maybe there will be a big giant picture of him at the entrance of Nats Park next year. But for now, Werth is the guy.

Aaron Barrett is the Future

Posted: 10th April 2014 by JTimmz3 in All Sports, Baseball, DC Nats

The Nationals’ stud rookie reliever Aaron Barrett is without a doubt being bred to be their future closer. But when is the ‘future’?

Barrett has the kind of stuff even a casual baseball fan can notice as filthy. His fastball, that sits in the mid to low 90s, is the perfect setup pitch for his ridiculous slider that can/should be described as ‘unfair’. He’s pitched 4 innings of hitless baseball thus far, with six strikeouts and, most importantly, one walk. So, with a guy in the most enviable of all reliever roles currently that is coming off a season where he was in the top five in the NL in blown saves, and has put the club in questionable positions a couple of times already this year, why wait?

Simple: Rafael Soriano hasn’t screwed up yet this year. Sure, he’s lost a lot on his fastball, is leaving the ball up in the zone, and is giving up hits. He also has two strikeouts in every inning of work and has not given up a run. ‘Timely outs’ may best describe his year nine games in. As stressful as a figure he may be for fans, he has done nothing to disappoint.

Aaron BarrettSoriano does know he has a 0.25 WHIP on his ass, however. And inserting Barrett in a one run game in the 8th inning just to face the most dangerous batter in the opposing teams lineup (Giancarlo Stanton) is somewhat of a statement. Striking that hitter out may have been an even bigger statement.

Getting to Know Zach Walters

Posted: 11th March 2014 by JTimmz3 in All Sports, Baseball, DC Nats

Zach Walters, a guy acquired in a trade for Jason Marquis (remember him?) back in 2011, is the next guy Nats fans need to know that they may not. A natural shortstop, his future in DC may seem like a dead-end to a casual observer. What, with Desmond currently at short (maybe a top three player at the position in the league), a crowded second base with Rendon as the starter and Espinosa on his heels, and Ryan Zimmerman, the face of the franchise, at third base. He can play any one of these positions, but there just isn’t any room. A problem any team would love to have.

Zach WaltersWalters is a switch-hitting, middle-infielding, Major League prospect with above-average fielding ability and a bat with some power that has come on STRONG in the past year. In 2013 for Triple-A Syracuse, Walters hit a ridiculous 29 home runs. Quite impressive given that he only hit three more than that in his previous five years combined, including college (I’m not asking any questions). The Nats brought him up late last year (after all hope was pretty much lost) and he performed more than admirable. He went 2 for 2 with a walk in his first three ABs, and finished 3 for 8 on the year with a triple.

Now the question is what to do with him now. Currently in spring training, he is batting a ridiculous .583 in seven games with a 1.810 OPS. Those are eye-popping, unignorable numbers. So, do the Nats bring him up and let him come off the bench every once in a while for some pinch-hitting, spot-start duties? Matt Williams, of course, is a manager that is expected to lean on his bench much more than Davey did. Or do you let him stay in Syracuse to get at-bats every day and continue to progress. While I’m sure it’ll be the latter, the battle may quickly switch from ‘Rendon versus Espinosa’ to ‘Espinosa versus Walters’ depending on how Espinosa does in his spot-start/pinch-hitting duties.

From my meaningless perspective, I like the guy a lot, love how he carries himself, seems to do very well with the fans when given the opportunity, and his ceiling is very high. With LaRoche’s contract ending after 2014 and the possibility of Zimmerman moving to first, you could move Rendon back to his natural position of third base in 2015 and all of a sudden you have an opening at second. A lot of speculation, but I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays out.

‘What’s on Second?’

Posted: 7th March 2014 by JTimmz3 in All Sports, Baseball, DC Nats

Whats on SecondA position battle can mean one of two things; 1) You are so deep at the position you are having a tough time deciding which stud should play the right side of the middle infield, or 2) You are so weak at the position you are just praying a guy makes a couple of plays to standout and give you a glimmer of hope. With the Nats it’s kind of a mixture of both.

Anthony Rendon, a natural third baseman, and Danny Espinosa, a natural shortstop, are battling it out this spring for the starting spot at second base. That sentence alone would have you believe this position battle falls under number 2 from the previous paragraph. Not one natural second baseman in the battle for the position? However, from a defensive standpoint, the position change is not the issue. In fact, Danny Espinosa has looked gold glover-esque the majority of the time he’s spent at second, and Rendon began looking very comfortable towards the end of the 2013 season.

The issue comes with the bats. Espinosa had been a guy that projected as the perfect candidate to make the position his. Great defensively with a powerful bat. But, with 236 strikeouts in 752 at-bats over the past 2 seasons, the confidence in him being ‘the guy’ has grown thin quickly. And with 50 walks over those 752 ABs, he screams a guy that just can’t see the baseball.

Rendon, after a solid rookie campaign, has taken the previous role of Espinosa, and has that metaphorical ‘new car’ smell Espinosa use to ooze of. The question is will he make the progression to fulfill the Nationals’ hope of him being ‘the guy’. He is the obvious favorite to enter opening day as the starter, and little thus far has been done by either player to change that this spring. In fact, before their combined three hits today, they were 0-17 for the spring. Rendon began the spring with five strikeouts in his first seven at-bats. In the words of baseball great Yogi Berra, it seemed like it was ‘deja vu all over again’. A sigh of relief came today for fans, and Rendon I’m sure, after his first two hits of the spring today.

While Rendon seems like the guy, it is most likely both will be on the roster. Manager Matt Williams has made it very clear to Ryan Zimmerman that he would like him to play a little first base. With Lombardozzi being shipped off for Doug Fister, the Nats no longer have that utility guy that can play virtually every position. With both guys on the roster, however, and Zimmerman at first, you can move Rendon to his natural position of third, slide Espinosa in at second, and not miss a beat.

This is how I see it playing out at least. But what do I know besides the fact that I’m bored. The real games can’t get here soon enough.

Acquiring Doug Fister

Posted: 3rd December 2013 by JTimmz3 in All Sports, Baseball, DC Nats

Busy with life, I was about 18 hours late hearing of the Doug Fister trade. I immediately was giddy while sitting at work thinking of the ‘Strasburg-Gio-Zimmermann-FISTER-Detwiler/Jordan’ rotation. Another piece added to a loaded team, only losing a backup utility guy in Lombardozzi, an unproven young reliever in Ian Krol, and a pitching prospect.

Yes, this is a lopsided trade. There is no other way to describe it. It is not like the Tigers fans are jumping for joy up in Detroit due to some mysterious reason we DC fans know nothing about. This is not a Donovan McNabb-Philadelphia situation. Just browsing through their message boards will show you how upset the fans of Detroit actually are. When the rumor first started hitting yesterday, earlier in the day, that Doug Fister was being traded to the Nationals, fans began speculating who they would get in return. Some heard the Nationals had bundled Werth and Rendon together, others thought it must be Span and Werth. One guy even joked that it must be Bryce Harper. Then, over the hours, disappointment sets in.

But who gives a shit about Tigers fans. Honestly, it brought me an unusual amount of joy reading through the thread, watching the peak of high hopes for some solid starters to add to your lineup to the trough of verbally assaulting a general manager that has received nothing but praise over the years. But why? What is it about Doug Fister? It has to be more than the fact it seems like he had his name legally changed previously to his pornstar stage name, and was too lazy to change it back.

First off, the Nats have a far better, younger pitcher at the 4-spot in the rotation, especially with the bar being set so low by his predecessor, Dan Haren. While Fister did give up more hits last year than he has any other year (giving him a WHIP that I’ve become accustomed to cringe at), he was much more solid in that department in previous years. He also gave up half the number of home runs (14) as Dan Haren (28) in 39 more innings of work. He’s a 6-8, pitch-to-contact pitcher that has a fastball with A LOT of run at around 90 mph. He has 3 other pitches he throws and locates well (curveball, slider, and changeup, the curveball being his favorite). He also has postseason success with a 2.98 playoff ERA.

All of that plus he’s a fun pitcher to watch. I suspect it’ll pretty much be ‘business as usual’ with the position players and the lineup heading into the 2014 season. With a rotation like this, if they can hit like they did at the end of the season, Davey may have just been a year early.

The Rafael Soriano Signing

Posted: 16th January 2013 by JTimmz3 in All Sports, Baseball, DC Nats

My feelings regarding the signing of 33 year old reliever Rafael Soriano portrayed in temperature: luke warm.  Closer to hot than cold, though..

Soriano can gobble up a ton of innings from the bullpen if needed.  How the Nationals make him worth $28 million (and a forfeited 1st round pick) over 2 years with the likes of Clippard, Stammen, and Storen already in the bullpen (all making less than 1/5 of what Soriano will be making this year), I’m not sure.  Making him the 2nd highest paid reliever in baseball, behind only Mariano Rivera, tells me he will be the primary closer, however.

He’s had two great years in which he had over 40 saves in his decade long career.  Maybe it’s the fact that he’s only 0 runs on 2 hits in his last 5 appearances in the playoffs (7.1 innings) and has shown he can handle the big stage being the everyday closer under the Yankees bright lights.

The fact he is in the bullpen is only beneficial for the Nats for the immediate future, but then you begin to think of other places this $28 million could go, say, next year. Maybe when Ted Lerner said money isn’t an issue, he really meant it.

The Nationals recently announced they are projecting that Stephen Strasburg’s last start will be September 12th.  Last night, the Nationals had 19 hits, including a DC record 6 home runs.  Jayson Werth had 4 hits in the leadoff spot and has at least 1 hit since he’s come off the DL in every game except 5, LaRoche was a ridiculous 4 for 4 with 2 bombs, and Tyler Moore continued to contribute to my opinion that he has the most natural strength on the team (will be a real nice bat coming off the bench in October).

In the first month of the season, the Nationals were ranked 27th in runs scored.  They were completely relying on the phenomenal efforts coming from their rotation, including Strasburg.  In July and August, the Nats were ranked 4th and 9th, respectively.  The pitching has been very solid, but not the key.  For those that think we should have limited Strasburg at the beginning of the year (when we were not scoring runs), you are an idiot.

Without Strassy at the beginning of the year, it’s very doubtful that we have this extremely comfortable 7.5 game lead for the division at the beginning of September.  Those saying we should have limited him are just assuming we would have had those wins early without him pitching every 5 days, which is a huge assumption given our previous hitting struggles mentioned earlier.

Rizzo has put this team, arguably the best team in baseball right now, together from scratch without the extravagant payroll of a Boston or New York team.  Questioning this man who obviously has so much knowledge about the game is not the smartest thing to do, in my opinion.  But hey, if you want to listen to radio hosts and guys that use to be in baseball that are now ‘analysts’ go right ahead.  I’m going to trust the best General Manager in baseball and the doctor that performed the surgery.

How Clutch is Bernadina?

Posted: 8th August 2012 by JTimmz3 in All Sports, Baseball, DC Nats

Bernadina’s ridiculous game-saving catch last night in the bottom of the 12th inning to end the game (which was #1 on SportsCenter’s top 10 plays) made me start thinking about how clutch this guy is.  I’ve always been a huge fan of ‘the Shark’, and it seems like he always quietly finds a way to make plays not only defensively, but offensively, in big situations.  I decided to look up some stats and see if my intuition was correct.

First, non-pressure situations.  Currently, with no men on, Bernadina is batting a measly 23 for 102, putting him at a .225 average in this particular situation.  Unfortunately this makes up most of his at bats because, as you’ll see, he excels when there are bodies on the bags.

Overall, with runners on base, Bernadina is batting .347, over 120 points higher than with nobody on.  He has 2 more hits in this situation with 30 less at bats.

Breaking the ‘runners on’ split down even further, he is 17 for 44 for a .386 batting average with runners in scoring position.  And to go even further, he is a ridiculous 12 for 25 (.480) with men in scoring position and 2 outs.

A small cherry on top (aside from being undoubtedly the best defensive option in centerfield), he’s 1 for 1 with the bases loaded this year.  Shark week started waaay early..

Nats Bats Waking Up

Posted: 24th July 2012 by JTimmz3 in All Sports, Baseball, DC Nats

In addition to the Nationals being ranked in 1st place in every pitching statistical category of note, they are climbing there way up the ranks in batting.  I’ve advocated for a while now that our pitching maintaining its’ dominance is a lot more likely than our hitting maintaining its’ woefulness.  Hitting can be streaky and is the hardest thing to do in sports.  It may take hitters a while to get in a groove where they feel comfortable at the plate.  Just look at Espinosa..

I’m not saying pitching isn’t very hard, but with pitching, if you have great stuff (which our staff does), it’s just about the confidence you have in it.  It doesn’t have to do with the shear physics of trying to hit a round ball with a round bat.  Getting a hit, statistically, is just harder than getting a guy out.  There is a reason for that.

There are other contributing factors besides it finally clicking for some of our hitters in the batters’ box.  The addition of Morse from the DL has been huge.  He already has 25 RBIs on the year, 6th on the team, in only 45 games played.  He also has the 6th most home runs on the team with 6.

Another huge contributor, the medical advisors that advised Ryan Zimmerman to avoid the DL and take a cortisone shot on June 24th.  In those 26 games since then, Zimmerman has 11 homeruns, 31 RBIs and is batting .383 with a total of 41 hits.  Stupid numbers is all I’ll say about that.

How about Bernadina?  I’ve always loved this guy and had confidence he can get the job done.  In the month of July, he’s batting .441 (15 hits in 34 at
bats) and 6 stolen bases, 2nd only to Ian Desmond (who’s had more opportunities) with 7 on the month.  Another interesting stat is how he does against our biggest rival this year, the Braves.  He’s 9 for 14 for a .643 batting average.  My suggestion would be to keep him in the lineup around 7 or 8, and put him in centerfield, defense being his strength.  That keeps our strongest arm, Bryce’s, in right, and our weakest, Morse’s, in left.

The Nats are now ranked 8th in the National League, a rank that is trending up, in runs scored.  They are averaging just under 5 runs a game since the All Star break.  They’ve scored more runs than any other team in the NL in the month of July.  3rd in the Majors.