Medlen’s injury just more validation for Strasburg’s shutdown

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Medlen exits against the Mets. It was later announced he would likely need a second Tommy John Surgery.

Medlen exits against the Mets. It was later announced he would likely need a second Tommy John Surgery. (BleacherReport)

This is a tale of two Tommy John surgeries.

Within fifteen days of each other, both Stephen Strasburg and Kris Medlen tore their UCL, requiring baseball’s most dreaded and talked about surgery – Tommy John. The two promising prospects returned in September 2011. This is where the stories differentiate.

In March of 2012, it was announced that no matter what, Stephen Strasburg would be shut down after pitching a certain amount of innings.  Kris Medlen would start the season in the bullpen, and then become a starter in July.

Kris Medlen had a good start, but began his domination of the National League as a starter. He completely dominated the Nationals throughout the entire season, and for that matter, the National League. But Medlen’s start in the NL Wild Card game proved ineffective as the Braves lost the “infield fly” game.

Strasburg had a very good season also, not as dominant as Medlen, but really showing what he would be like in the future. However, as the shutdown loomed, he began to stop producing, and finished early. Strasburg did not play in the playoffs at all, as Rizzo knew it would be better for the overall future, even though the Nats lost in game five, and many people said the opposite, and that if Strasburg had pitched in the NLDS, it might’ve been a different story.

After both posted a good, but not as good follow up year, the two promising prospects entered this year’s Spring Training with high hopes for division titles and great seasons.

Both started this year’s spring training hot. However, one sunny March afternoon, after delivering a pitch, Medlen grimaced, and jogged off the mound. It was later announced he was likely to get a second Tommy John Surgery.

Six days later, Strasburg matched up against Josè Fernandez and the Marlins, giving up two hits over four innings, completely dominating them.

Strasburg throws a pitch in his dominant performance against Miami last week.

Strasburg throws a pitch in his dominant performance against Miami last week.

Even though it was a meaningless Spring Training Game, it showed what road Medlen could be on right now – and that two years later, it’s clear that Mike Rizzo made the right move.

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Matt Williams gets rave reviews, players and fans alike.

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“He who holds the ball controls the game.”

AT THE END of the Davey Johnson era, the scent of stale beer and gloom filled Nationals park. The perfect season had rotted, beautiful at first, but now ugly. As fans stared down at the field watching the Nationals play a half hearted game against the Miami Marlins, losing by a score of four to two, everybody knew in their hearts that the miracles, and the “We Believe’s” had reached their end. There was no chance of a World Series, let alone a playoff berth in Washington this year. Every magazine, newspaper and blog had predicted it incorrectly. As they filed out of the stadium, one by one, leaving the game they had bought tickets to, expecting it to be a clincher, or a game where the starters didn’t play because of the berth, but instead fought for the second Wild-Card spot – and failed. We could smell victory that Opening Day against the same team, when Harper hit two bombs and Strasburg went seven innings without giving up a run. The scent of the World Series was in the air, but it was snatched away from us.

Even though the Braves and other mediocre teams defeated them many times, it was obvious that something else had to change. Immediately after the season ended, Mike Rizzo intensified the search for the new manager. This was not a bad situation to come into as a manager – in fact, this was one of the most, if not the most coveted positions to come into as a manager. The Nationals had a decent season, and were still poised to be in the playoffs the next year. Candidates included Trent Jewett, Randy Knorr, Cal Ripken Jr., and Matt Williams.

After working in the Major Leagues for 16 years as a Third Baseman for the Giants, D-Backs and Indians, he became a coach for the D-Backs in 2009. His only managing experience was in the Arizona Fall League, with a couple Nats prospects including Anthony Rendon.  Williams was close to Rizzo after

Career Stats:  BA: .268 HR: 378 RBI: 1,218 College: UNLV (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Career Stats:
BA: .268
HR: 378
RBI: 1,218
College: UNLV
(AP Photo/John Bazemore)

working together in Arizona before, and was the frontrunner the whole way. He was given the job officially on October 31st. News sources immediately started searching for more information on him, and told many stories of his greatness, his World Series rings, his steroid use, and the rest of his life.

Early on, he mapped out the problems with the Nationals, every day of Spring Training, (“Day one through forty-one, it’s all there” he says) and how they could bring a title and a banner home to D.C.

As the long months between the Winter League and Pitchers and Catchers rolled on, he watched his General Manager pick up Doug Fister, Jerry Blevins, Nate McClouth and Jose Lobaton, while extending every key player. 

On Thursday, the long waiting concluded, as pitchers and catchers reported to Viera, Florida. Williams had already been there for a week.

“Every pitch we make is with conviction.”

As players walked into the facility, some seeing the same thing they had been seeing for years, putting on old, familiar jerseys, while others looked somewhat lost, putting on new jerseys with new numbers and new colors, everyone was greeted warmly by the players already there, Rizzo and Williams.

Williams had already made his position very clear onto what he would do with certain players.

On Bryce Harper, he said that “He loves the way he plays the game” but at times could be “A little smarter, and not run into walls.”

On Danny Espinosa, Anthony Rendon and the Second Base job, he announced that he “Believes it’s an open competition”

On Ryan Zimmerman, he said that there would be a first baseman’s mitt in his Spring Training locker, and lone and behold, there was.

Congratulating Adam Eaton on a Home Run as Third Base Coach. REUTERS/Ralph D. Freso

Congratulating Adam Eaton on a Home Run as Third Base Coach. (REUTERS/Ralph D. Freso)

And so far, the players are enjoying him.

“(His intensity) got me a little fired up” says Stephen Strasburg

“I’ve got a lot of confidence in Matt” Werth announced. “I think with the playing experience and the type of guy he is, his overall baseball IQ, I think he’s going to do a good job.

Anthony Rendon played under him in the Arizona Fall League, and says that he “Likes that he brings a little fire. (He had) his opportunity to show people that he could bring out the best in his players, and I believe he did that.”

“There is a difference between control and command.”

Fans have also been raving on him all over Twitter, saying that they are confident in his abilities and how he will bring the Nats back to their fundamentals and change the attitude of this season as opposed to last year’s.

Being introduced as the new Manager at Nationals Park (Washington Post)

Being introduced as the new Manager at Nationals Park (Washington Post)

The change we see in Spring Training will not be visible to the majority of us, partially because of the fact that Spring Training should not be too intense, partially because the drills, batting practices and bullpen sessions are not visible to us.

However, one interesting thing we can see is a new thing, the “Quote of the day”.  The quotes above have been from the first three days of Spring Training. He has planned one from day one to forty one.

Many people are concerned about a young manager guiding this team, but if there is one thing that Nats fans know, it’s that Mike Rizzo makes great decisions nearly every time. The odds that this one is an exception are quite low.

“Expect the ball to be hit; demand it to be caught.”

Many people are trying to find the downside on this team, and are saying that Matt Williams’ inexperience, quotes of the day and fundamentals will throw off the Nats. However, if what we’ve seen so far is a sign, I can tell you I have upmost confidence in him.

So laugh all you want about his managing style. But he can definitely lead the Nats to something special, so get on the bandwagon now. Because when it starts rolling, you won’t want to be late.

“If not you, then who?”

 

Rotations, Rotations – The odd reason the Nats have the best rotation in baseball

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On opening day, there were no questions about the rotation. Now, there are, and they aren't that bad.

On opening day, there were no questions about the rotation for the Nats. Now, there are, and they aren’t that bad.

Ever since the end of the steroid era, pitching has been the key element of most teams. If they haven’t developed their own ace rotation, they’ve signed one. And at this moment, it’s seeming like they’re only getting more important and bigger contracts.

Clayton Kershaw is going to be payed roughly $147,000 dollars per inning he pitches for the next seven years. Justin Verlander is commanding 180 million for the next five or six years. Felix Hernandez has also gotten a huge seven 7 year deal. Rookies like Jose Fernandez, Matt Harvey, Michael Wacha and players before their fifth year or not free agents yet like Stephen Strasburg & Jordan Zimmermann are expected to get about as much. Unfortunately, one pitcher does not win a world series.

The four men behind the ace are just as important, if not more. If you only had one reliable winning pitcher, you would win around 1/5 of your games. Having three good pitchers has always been considered acceptable. However, baseball has probably never seen a time like this in which the rotations are so strong for so many teams.

But who’s rotation is the best heading into this season?

While I love what the Red Sox, Tigers, Dodgers, A’s and Cardinals have, I think that it is the Nats. And not for the reason you may think.

As a Nationals fan last year, I learned something very important. There is a need for more than five pitchers in a rotation. You need that number six and seven as much as you need your ace. Last year, the Nats were supposed to be dominant with everything. However, they surprised everyone, starting the year in a slump and with really only two reliable pitchers. While they finished off better than they started, it was an annoying year. Strasburg was hurt for about a month, and Ross Detwiler barely played half a season. They called up players from Triple-A, but it wasn’t the same. While Taylor Jordan and Tanner Roark held things up for the most part, the Nats realized that not having a sixth starter in the lineup killed them, or at least partially. (Not hitting until September also probably hurt.)

This year, they have too many problems with that. There is an argument over who will have the number one slot, but I think everyone knows it’s Strasburg’s to lose. This is the year he needs to prove he is an ace. Gonzalez, Zimmermann and Fister were all very good last year, but the number five slot is a curious thing. Some people say that Taylor Jordan or Tanner Roark should take it, while normal number five Ross Detwiler can move to the bullpen as a power lefty. I disagree, and say keep the National Det in the rotation, and have Jordan and Roark as backup. But it really comes down to what new manager Matt Williams sees in Spring Training.

The Red Sox & Cardinals probably have the best depth with players like Lester, Buchholz, Wainwright and Wacha, and the Tigers have probably have the better rotation, but the depth nor the rotation is as complete for any one of them is as good as the one in our Nation’s Capitol.

However, offseason predictions aren’t always correct. Who had the Red Sox winning the world series last year? (Hint: Literally nobody)

But even with the unreliability of predictions, I still like the Nats’ chances.