The Unknown Crisis also known as Max Scherzer

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Like his eyes, Max Scherzer seemingly had two different seasons in 2015 – one powerful, striking and attention-grabbing, like his blue eye, and one mediocre, flying under the radar, like his brown eye. Even though Scherzer posted a 2.79 ERA, starting 33 games and pitching a career high 228.2 innings, the stats that will forever be associated with his historic campaign last season which included two no-hitters, there was still a hugely problematic span for the big righty.

From April to June, Max Scherzer headlined the NL Cy Young Award Conversation, holding steady to a 1.75 ERA, striking out 130 and holding opposing batters to a meager .179 clip, all on top of a no-hitter that was one out away from a perfect game. But when the calendar turned from June to July, something clicked in Scherzer’s head – or rather, unclicked. His starts went from must-see events and guaranteed wins to a decent start and a good game, to a serious problem. From July 7th to September 7th, the “ace” posted an ERA of 5.11 in an average of 5 innings per start, numbers, that for two months, certainly doesn’t look like it should belong to someone who commands a $210 million contract. All of this was forgotten in late September and early October, when Scherzer posted a string of incredible starts, capped off by yet another no-hitter, against another playoff team, the New York Mets.

Nats fans ended the season with the notion of Scherzer as an incredible pitcher who enjoyed a historic season. While two no-hitters are an accomplishment that is unprecedented, the biggest factor in the Nationals rotation worked against them for two months, and that’s not acceptable.

But what, if anything, was behind this sharp decline that took the most dominant pitcher in the league to a mediocre starter who could barely last five innings?

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Two Years Later, The Strasburg Decision Holds Stronger Than Ever

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One thing that the Major League Baseball advertising department would like you to believe would be that you can’t predict baseball. And while that’s been a slogan for many a campaign, it’s a mainly false statement. Baseball, for the most part, is a very predictable game. The best hitters only make something happen one third of the time. And there are only so many possible outcomes for every situation. Groundout, flyout, strikeout or hit. But the times where you see something amazing, crazy or just odd, are the times where the phrase comes to your mind. Maybe it’s an unassisted triple play. Maybe it’s when the pitcher hits a home run, or when catcher legs out a bases-clearing triple. However, the one thing you can never consistently predict is how successful a player will be next year, next month, week or even game. So when Stephen Strasburg was controversially shut down as an effect of his previous Tommy John Surgery in 2012, right before the Nationals were poised to make a deep run into October, and right after he had a career year, the baseball world was unhappy. People questioned if he’d ever have a year this good again. People wondered if it was the right decision for him mentally and physically. Everybody from government officials to columnists to football players weighed in. The verdict typically seemed to be to let him pitch. Mike Rizzo stuck to his plan. Two years later, on the brink of another postseason, how does that decision look now? Continue reading

Braves VS Nationals: Again, But With More Feeling

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The Nationals and the Braves are meeting for the seventh time this season tonight. At this point in the season, the Braves have absolutely dominated the Nationals. Atlanta has won five of the six so far. However, that hasn’t seemed to define the Nationals’ season, as they sit in first place with a 1.5 game lead over Atlanta. Statistically, the Nationals have scored many more runs per game, have had better pitching, made more comebacks and have been just generally the better team. But as the Cardinals proved, some teams just have the Nationals’ number. So what can the Nationals do to win this series and take a definitive lead in the NL East? Continue reading

The Panic Button

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This was the team that made D.C. dream. We cheered with them, cried with them, and sung “Take on Me” with them. 2012 was an incredible year for the Nationals.
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Don’t Press The Panic Button on Doug Fister

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From the get-go, it didn’t look all too great last night. Even with a half full O.Co colliseum, a low stakes game and a huge ballpark, Doug Fister just did not have it last night. He gave up three home runs and took the loss for the Nats. But don’t, repeat, don’t, press the panic button just yet.

Even though the Nationals’ 4th starter has been traditionally bad these past two years, Fister should be different. One bad game happened for a couple of reasons.

The biggest reason is that it was basically his Opening Day, he was amped, and didn’t have his A stuff, since he was focused on things too mentally. Basic plays like the throw to first in the first inning would get done during the rest of the year – it’s quite literally jitters.

This is also an Oakland team that has studied Detroit and their pitchers for the past two years, as they’ve played each other in two ALDS series since 2012. Doug, being traded from the Tigers, had seen them many times. This team was not unfamiliar with him from those experiences, or just seeing him as a Mariner or Tiger.

Another large reason here is the injury. The arm and all looked fine last night – but he hasn’t faced real batters all year. He missed the end of Spring Training, which is actually crucial for pitchers to see batters that are going to be in the big leagues and actually trying. The last team he faced was a AA team.

So, please. History repeats itself, but it’s highly unlikely it will in this case of Doug Fister.

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.

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.