Murphy’s Law Strikes Again, Takes Harper

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Less than a week ago, Harper left the game for not hustling enough in Matt Williams’ opinion during a routine groundout. The Nationals eventually lost.

Six days later the Nationals lead by two against the Padres. Bases loaded. Harper hit one deep into right, off the scoreboard. The runners scored, and after his briefing with Matt Williams, Harper wanted a triple. He slid headfirst into third, safe.

But when the next inning began, McClouth replaced Harper in left field. Fans assumed he had just jammed his thumb, and would come back soon. But on Sunday, the Nationals announced he would go on the fifteen-day DL.

Where have we heard this story before?

Oh, wait, we all know. Opening Day, with Ramos. Against the Braves on April 11, with Zimmerman. Fister in his second to last spring training game.

Lady luck has not smiled upon the Nationals with injuries so far this season. Starters have already combined for more than roughly 43 games lost this season, all big blows.

Many things with the ability to go wrong went wrong. Harper sliding into third. Zimmerman with second. Ramos on a foul ball. Fister on a pitch.

But here’s the good news.

The Nats have won 56 percent of their games without Ramos’ big bat, and have gone 7-6 against two very good teams after the Braves series without Zimmerman. Desmond & Werth are stepping it up while Espinosa, LaRoche, Rendon and Lobaton continue to hit. Plus, the time left on the DL remaining for Fister runs out soon, and Zimmerman and Ramos can both come back by mid-late May.

Nats est. DL time left (C/O NatsWX)

Nats est. DL time left (C/O NatsWX)

Harper’s sprain hopefully won’t mean ligamental damage, and the Nats may pick up where they left off very soon.

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An Interesting Fifth Starter Idea

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There was really only one worry coming into Spring Training this year, and it was a good one. In a staff full of aces, who would be the fifth starter in the rotation? Would it be Detwiler, Jordan or Roark? Detwiler was demoted to the bullpen, but the question was never really answered, as Fister was injured in the final week of Spring Training, putting Taylor Jordan and Tanner Roark in the rotation.

But looking at the statistics and just the general output this year, the Nats need to change one or two things. And with Fister’s rehab taking even longer than expected, it may be time to make this move. No longer keep the two sophomores in the four and five spot. Instead, put the most dominant candidate for the fifth spot so far in the rotation, Ross Detwiler.

Detwiler has been not only persistent and strong, but also quick, not panic inducing and has not given up an earned run.

If you see the statistics, the clear winner is obvious.

  • Tanner Roark: 17 IP, 5.29 ERA, 10 ER
  • Taylor Jordan: 16.2 IP, 5.94 ERA, 11 ER
  • Ross Detwiler: 10.2 IP, 0.00 ERA, 4 R

The case is obvious here. If Williams gives Detwiler time to build up arm strength, he could be starting quite quickly.

The only question left is if his stuff will regress since starters turned relievers sometimes put more power into their arm. However, with the stats, I think it’s a bet Matt Williams is very willing to make. When Detwiler was demoted to the bullpen, he said that “It doesn’t mean he won’t start sometime in the future”

After a Depressing Road Trip, What Can the Nationals do to Bounce Back?

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There is no doubt there was room for improvement on that last road trip. Between being swept by the Braves, then giving up eleven runs to the Marlins, of all teams, with Strasburg consistently showing worrisome signs. They overall went 2-4, bringing their record to 9-6, a game and a half behind the Braves.

Not only could the Nats not beat the Braves, once again, showing signs of 2013 all over again, Strasburg had abysmal stuff and couldn’t figure out how to do the simplest of things, and the Nats were consistently down by three or more by the third inning.

A lot of these problems are real. But instead of worrying about them, and getting Nats fans riled up, it’s a lot more challenging to ask a different question: how can the Nats bounce back?

The first, and most worrying question is if the Nats will be able to beat the Braves. Atlanta has absolutely dominated the Nationals for the past year. The Nationals have not been able to figure out the supposedly decimated starting pitching, and have consistently been behind big, very early. It seems to be completely mental. The Nats play completely differently than any other time when the other team has a tomahawk on the uniform. There’s no obvious solution. I’m not inside the heads of the players or Matt Williams. However, if they can work it out mentally, they can easily beat the Braves, as they seem to be the better team.

Strasburg is supposed to be the ace. However, lately, he’s acted like a struggling rookie up for the first time. His confidence and stuff seems to be on and off, sometimes dealing like an ace, and other times giving up more than five runs in less than three innings. Once again, this looks completely mental. His stuff and arm is good enough to strike out anybody. However, something needs to change mentally, once again.

Another large problems is sloppiness and errors. The Nats have made a shocking amount of errors so far. The obvious solution here is just more repetition, more drills, and just being careful. That one is simple enough.

The Nats have also been dominated by certain division foes. Yelich and Upton (Justin) have dominated the rotation so far. This is a problem that happened last year. What needs to happen is that the plan needs to change for these players. They need to see a pattern, then adjust their game plan.

The Nats season isn’t over. Not even close, in fact. But these problems are pretty worrying. They’ll have to fix them some way, or we won’t be seeing playoff baseball. But if a thirteen year old can think of solutions, so can the rest of the Nats… so hopefully, there won’t be a problem.

Grand Slams and Resilience Lead Nats to Sweep Over Marlins, But Will it Beat the Braves?

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As Strasburg dealt like an ace on thursday, striking out twelve and giving up one run over 6.2 innings, the Nats finally backed him up with a win, adding on to Werth’s early inning home run with a Harper walk with the bases loaded, to load them up once again for Desmond, who immediately teed off and gave the Nationals their second grand slam in two nights. (Just some perspective, it took them nearly three months longer to get one grand slam in 2013.)

But last night’s game shouldn’t be why fans with Curly W’s on their caps should be excited. On Wednesday, they didn’t have the ace of the 2013 season, Zimmermann. They had some odd replica of him, who didn’t have his A-game – or his C-game, and was hit early, giving up five runs in less than three innings. The bullpen came in, dominated the Marlins to one run over the next seven innings, and slowly, but surely, the Nats chipped away. After Harper’s moonshot that was fair by about seven inches, singles and sacrifices brought the Nats to a tie game by the eighth inning. And sure enough, the comeback kids did it once again, loading up the bases so Werth could send a home run into the Marlins’ bullpen, a type of home run he last hit in that Game 4 of the NLDS.

Comebacks have begun to become a staple of this season. But as the Braves continue to plague the Nats, the question remains, will the Nationals be able to come back and win against the Braves?

The signals are mixed. They’ve been the rally boys in the first and third series of the year, but the Braves gave them trouble last time. We’ll wait and see, starting tonight, but it’s not an option to not bring this atmosphere to Turner Field… or there’s no division title in D.C.

First Pitch at a Nationals game, NL Preview

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A few weeks ago, MASN announced VIA Twitter a big contest. You had to answer the question “Why should you throw out the first pitch on April 5th?” – the most creative answer would get to throw out the first pitch, on April 5th.
I entered with a video of me playing the guitar and a slideshow, covering “Take on Me” by A-ha, with lyrics including

“Please let me… (See you later)
Throw that pitch (See you later)
I would probably… Throw it better than John Walllllllll!

Unbelievably, a couple days ago, I got a Twitter message from MASN, letting me know I would be the starter on April 5th. As you can probably guess, I was pretty happy.
After spending the next couple days perfecting my windup and getting my arm loose, I got to Nationals Park. I was greeted by the woman who ran the contest, Olivia, and a member of the Nats PR Department, Julia. They took me down onto the field, where I watched the Braves finish batting practice and hung out.

After what felt like twenty minutes but what was really an hour, I was called onto the mound to throw my pitch. Here was the result.

All in all, even though the Nats lost 6-2, it was an incredible experience. Thank you so much to MASN and Twitter for giving me this incredible opportunity.

Note: I will not be previewing the NL or the Nationals this year. You all know what I think will happen, but for a quickie: 

NL WEST: Dodgers

NL CENTRAL: Cardinals

NL EAST:  Nats

WILD CARD: Braves, Pirates

NLDS: Dodgers over Pirates, Nats over Cardinals

NLCS: Nats over Dodgers

World Series: Nats over A’s.

 

This has to be the year.

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True this may be, don’t forget by 2018, Zim (the SP), Hairston, LaRoche, Soriano and others will all be gone or have taken severe pay cuts if they stay, and the young talent in the Minors (Giolito, Cole, Taylor, Walters & Goodwin) will be up by then. Don’t lose hope!

Natstradamus

I’m not going to write about how Washington beat the Nats in the home opener yesterday. I alreadywentballisticaboutthatontwitter.

So, instead, I’m going to write about why you should be “all-in” (God, I hate that expression) on the 2014 Nats. No, it’s not because my projection has them winning 96 games.

Rather, it’s because of this article in the Post. In it, Adam Kilgore talks to Nats principal owner Mark Lerner. What Uncle Mark says  about the Nats payroll going forward is not very encouraging:

“We’re beyond topped out,” Lerner said. “Our payroll has skyrocketed to like $140 million. It’s in the papers. I don’t think we can go much further with the revenue streams that we have.”

* * * *

“We take it one at a time,” Lerner said. “We’ll look at it after the season as far as what we can…

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