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Second-half storylines

Jul 14, 2011, 10:00 AM EDT

After a surprising, often exciting and certainly eventful first half, the Nationals return to the field Friday night in Atlanta boasting a 46-46 record and reason to believe they can sustain that pace over the season’s final 2 1/2 months.

Whether they can keep themselves over the .500 mark or not, the Nationals have plenty to sort out before this season comes to an end. There are players (young and old) that need to get themselves on track, others who could find themselves on the trading block, rookies fighting for league-wide honors, key injured players trying to get back in the big leagues and a new manager who must decide whether he wants to keep the job long-term or not.

Here are the five biggest storylines for the Nationals over the second half of the season…

1. CAN JAYSON WERTH GET HIS SEASON BACK ON TRACK?
There’s no sugarcoating this: Werth was terrible during the first half of his first season with the Nationals. His .215 batting average is second-worst among all NL qualifying hitters, his .681 OPS is 167 points worse than his career number and he’s on pace to finish with a paltry 55 RBI.

Simply put, Werth is too good a ballplayer to put up such wretched numbers. Either he’s injured — he’s had a few nagging ailments but
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  1. Gonat - Jul 14, 2011 at 11:08 AM

    @Mark Zuckerman…Still, Espinosa has turned plenty of heads around baseball, and if they awarded Rookie of the Year honors at the All-Star break, he'd be the slam-dunk choice.____________________________Kimbrell is a record setter in rookie saves in Atlanta and they will probably be a Wild Card team.Not sure Espinosa is a "slam-dunk" right now. I take the every day player who plays great defense and clutch offense. Still, I think back to Neftali Feliz who won last year as a closer so some precedence has been set.Now we have 70 more games to play to see who is the best. I am hoping for Danny Espinosa to see if the Nats get any respect!

  2. Anonymous - Jul 14, 2011 at 11:17 AM

    1. CAN JAYSON WERTH GET HIS SEASON BACK ON TRACK?How can Werth get "BACK" on track? He had to have been "ON" track before he could get BACK on track.

  3. Gonat - Jul 14, 2011 at 11:48 AM

    Anonymous said… 1. CAN JAYSON WERTH GET HIS SEASON BACK ON TRACK?How can Werth get "BACK" on track? He had to have been "ON" track before he could get BACK on track. July 14, 2011 7:17 AM ________________________________Good point. Can Werth at least get back to mediocrity? That mid .250's batting average and a few clutch hits would be nice for starters to at least build on that. Werth will be one of the big stories for the 2nd half. I hope the jeers turn to cheers!!!!

  4. Anonymous - Jul 14, 2011 at 11:56 AM

    Gonat said… Let's go Jason, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap. We're all behind you.

  5. sjm308 - Jul 14, 2011 at 12:10 PM

    OK Posters, I need some help. After reading Mark and NJ I went looking around and came across an article, I think, at ESPN where they ranked the top 250 players in fantasy baseball. I don't play but I wanted to see who the top player for the Nationals was. They used 9 experts and took their rankings for a score. Interesting that RZimm was our top choice and way down the list just behind Adam Jones of the O's, somewhere in the 60s. But what caught my eye was our 2nd best. Jason Werth was still in the top 90 and ahead of Beltran, Starlin Castro and a bunch of others. I don't know anything about fantasy baseball but maybe these experts also expect him to bounce back. Our 3rd player was Storen who was around 110 and ahead of Hanrahan. The player I thought might be highest was Morse and he was at 150. Again, I don't know who to play and don't really want to learn but I was surprised to see Werth so high.Go Nats!!

  6. sjm308 - Jul 14, 2011 at 12:11 PM

    should have been "how to play"

  7. NatsJack in Florida - Jul 14, 2011 at 12:34 PM

    I'm just so over this all star break and all the jibber jabber! Let's start playing some meaningfull baseball!!!

  8. 82-80 (nee still waiting) - Jul 14, 2011 at 12:39 PM

    I think it will be interesting how DJ handles the roster and lineup under the eye of the FO.I cant believe he wouldnt like to sit or platoon Werth, but will he be allowed to? I know i am beating a dead horse, but there has to be somebody who can make a bigger contribution than Stairs.

  9. JayB - Jul 14, 2011 at 12:45 PM

    exactly…If Werth takes a fastball right down the middle for called strike one in that first AB back….he is toast for the rest of the year. No point starting him…put him on the DL….he likely has some physical injuries but he clearly has a mental issue right now. A month on the DL and a few weeks in Viera may help him but it will surely help the Nats to have Nix, Rick A and Roger in the OF with a prospect from the Right side from the trade of Pudge and Jason M splitting time in CF with Rick A.

  10. carolync - Jul 14, 2011 at 12:57 PM

    Week-end series coming up against Atlanta. Let's hope for one of our exciting ninth inning rallies to give Kimbrel a blown save.Espinosa is a special player. Don't know if I would call him a slam dunk, but I think he has an excellent chance.Go, Nats!

  11. A DC Wonk - Jul 14, 2011 at 1:02 PM

    Other storylines to watch:1. The development of our prospects. Bryce, Peacock, Lombardozzi, Millone, AJ Cole, Solis, Marrero, Gilbert, Rhinehart, Arnesen (Detweiler?)2. How many of our "best draft ever" picks get signed?3. Coming back from injuries — not only Strassy, but Wang . . .

  12. A DC Wonk - Jul 14, 2011 at 1:03 PM

    Hey, carolync — if Espi can hit a game winning homer off of Kimbrel . . . ;-)

  13. Anonymous - Jul 14, 2011 at 1:14 PM

    1. Werth return to his Phillie form soon?: Not likely. The guy has not even had moments of brilliance this season. His approach at the plate is awful. It is still very early in the 7 years and all, of course, but at this point it sure looks like Rizzo blew the money.2. Deals at deadline? I am guessing that there will not be much activity in any event as the club has never been good at moving guys. Rizzo could not move Adam Dunn at the deadline last year, why would anyone think that he can work in more nuanced situation right now?3. Espinosa ROY? No, unless he hit 30 HR’s and knocks in 100, no chance. Have you seen Craig Kimbrel pitch? 4. Stras in Sept? Likely, but unless the club gets more in the conversation for the WC there is no real reason to get excited about a call-up for Stras st this point.5. Johnson back in 12? Gonna say no. He’s too big for the Lerners to tolerate. They like minions, Acta, Rizzo, Bowden, Riggleman – all had to tow the company line to some extent. Johnson is already saying things about needing to change the roster in a big way, wanting offensive weapons, guys who can help him dictate match-ups — stuff they do not have o nthe roster the club assembled. I see them paying Davey to consult next year and them hiring another Riggleman type on a a 2 yr deal (a baseball guy with managing experience but not with some sexy resume or national appeal); it is their option what role Johnson plays not his, I believe. We’ll see what happens.dfh21

  14. A DC Wonk - Jul 14, 2011 at 1:22 PM

    @anon 9:14 — in other words, you disagree with everything in the negative direction.

  15. FlapJacks in Olney - Jul 14, 2011 at 1:30 PM

    Sjm308,Depends on the rules of the fantasy leagues, but a lot of those 'experts' rely on statistical projections that are based on the last few years of data. Most don't adjust well on the fly to in-season changes. Thus Werth, who at the start of the year was a good choice and Zim even though the poor first half is still one of the best 3b in the NL are still anticipated to return to normal. Also means someone like Morse, who was off the radar at the start of the season is expected to regress to the mean of his last few years. Won't be universal though, I picked Morse up off the waiver wire about a month ago and has been a starter ever since, and in another league benched Werth. That's were they will stay until proven otherwise.

  16. Doc - Jul 14, 2011 at 1:34 PM

    Right on NatsJack! Time to get back to real baseball.Goooooooooooooooo Nats!!!!!

  17. David - Jul 14, 2011 at 1:43 PM

    trade desmond. bring up Lombardozzi. switch Espi back to SS. trade marquis.

  18. Anonymous - Jul 14, 2011 at 2:17 PM

    I would think that whether Ian Desmond shows he can hit major league pitching would have to be one of the top issues of the second half for the Nats.

  19. Anonymous - Jul 14, 2011 at 2:20 PM

    Anonymous said… I would think that whether Ian Desmond shows he can hit major league pitching would have to be one of the top issues of the second half for the Nats.I think Jason Werth mentors Ian Desmond.

  20. Anonymous - Jul 14, 2011 at 2:28 PM

    "trade desmond. bring up Lombardozzi. switch Espi back to SS. trade marquis."Amen

  21. 82-80 - Jul 14, 2011 at 2:37 PM

    i would bring up a young infielder for the same reason i would start a Nix/Werth platoon. To motivate the incumbant. the only tradeable commodity we have that could bring something back is Coffey. And he is replaceable from within.Trading marquis would be a mistake. we will need his innings when JZ is shut down. In fact,i would consider an extension. He may well be our Livo type veteran presence and innings eater down the road……

  22. John C. - Jul 14, 2011 at 2:57 PM

    Lombardozzi has been in AAA ball for 20 games. 20 games! In his one year at AAA Desmond hit .354/.428/.461; Lombardozzi in his 20 games is hitting .348/.362/.424. While there's no indication that Lombardozzi will hit in the majors better than Desmond, Lombardozzi can't carry Desmond's glove and has a weak arm where Desmond's is a plus arm. So why exactly would the Nationals dump Desmond for Lombardozzi NOW? It. Makes. No. Sense.Let Lombardozzi play six more weeks in AAA, and call him up in September if he merits it. Let Desmond try to find his bat and make his case to be a day-to-day SS. All of these things will help the team evaluate where they need to go with the infield.

  23. Mark'd - Jul 14, 2011 at 3:09 PM

    Great points John C. on Ian Desmond. Also, Ian has been hobbled by his leg injury most of the season. He was one of the clutch batters last year so let's see what this rest did for him.

  24. Sunderland - Jul 14, 2011 at 3:53 PM

    Whether Strasburg makes a few MLB starts this year may be an interesting storyline, but in the big scheme of things it is completely unimportant. Ditto with Espinosa and ROY. The performance of Davey Johnson is real important. If there is a blockbuster trade, that would be important too, but any standard trade of Coffey, Marquis or Nix is just a blip.What I think is most important is what Rizzo and DJ do with the roster in the coming month. Does they inject youth and competition by bringing up Lombardozzi and / or Marrero? Imagine Lombardozzi at 2B, Espinosa at SS, Marrero at 1B, Morse in LF, Nix in RF and Werth on the bench. That would let people know that we are serious about production & performance.The baseball establishment for the past 30 years seems to have determined that competition is only good in March. After March, it seems that they believe it is counter-productive.I'd hope we would buck that trend. And that would be a storyline.

  25. David - Jul 14, 2011 at 3:57 PM

    because Lombardozzi might be able to hit major league pitching. plus his high OBP could potentially make him a leadoff candidate. something Desmond has never been projected to be.

  26. NatinBeantown - Jul 14, 2011 at 4:20 PM

    Re: NL ROY, it's quite enjoyable to look at the Fangraph's WAR MLB leaderboard (essentially, the players with the greatest overall contribution):1. Danny Espinosa 3.32. Wilson Ramos 1.8On the pitching side, Pineda leads at 2.0 and Kimbral leads the NL at 2.0. Statistics agree with what our eyes tell us: Danny for ROY!

  27. Mark'd - Jul 14, 2011 at 4:22 PM

    Sunderland, I think it was SteveM who suggested several weeks ago replacing Stares with Marrero and that idea wasn't received with much enthusiasm from many here.

  28. natsfan1a - Jul 14, 2011 at 4:52 PM

    In other news, it's a mistrial for Clemens:http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20110714&content_id=21780830&vkey=news_mlb&c_id=mlbBaseball can't start soon enough for me.

  29. Unkyd - Jul 14, 2011 at 5:16 PM

    Does they inject youth and competition by bringing up Lombardozzi and / or Marrero? Imagine Lombardozzi at 2B, Espinosa at SS, Marrero at 1B, Morse in LF, Nix in RF and Werth on the bench. That would let people know that we are serious about production & performance.Yeah, it's all fun and games, until Lombardozzi has trouble with ML pitching, Marrero makes a few errors, at 1st, Morse cools off, away from what is CLEARLY his optimum defensive position, and Werth feels betrayed and cranky. Not saying all/any of these things come to pass, but they're distinctly possible, and would serve to kill the momentum. If you want to trade JM and TC, and cut MS and RA, to get some big league ABs for some fresh faces, fine, but the youngsters are best served by playing every day.And thanks, Johm C….. My Boy Desi appreciates the common sense support!!!:)

  30. Anonymous - Jul 14, 2011 at 5:23 PM

    Desmond is just not that good. Rizzo thinks that the guys he has are better than the guys the other GM has, a flatal flaw in the thought process for a GM with an every year last place club.

  31. DFL - Jul 14, 2011 at 5:36 PM

    The Nats should immediately offer Werth to the big dumbies in Ballmer for Zack Britton. Who knows, they might take the offer?

  32. Tcostant - Jul 14, 2011 at 5:42 PM

    Why would the Nationals just let JC Romero walk fro another minor league job, without getting anything?http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2011/07/14/j-c-romero-released-by-nationals-signs-with-yankees/

  33. JD - Jul 14, 2011 at 5:45 PM

    John C. Your points are reasonable although your Desmond sample is also very small (55 games). Also to be fair Lombardozzi is showing some of the same failings in AAA as Desmond is in DC (1 walk in 92 at bats) and his BABPIP is .405 which is not sustainable (very very lucky). My frustration with Desmond beyond the .261 OBP is his over aggressive approach to hitting. Hitting the 1st or 2nd pitch time and time again and making weak outs is not good. At least make the pitcher work a bit harder for his outs. When you are not a power hitter you have to figure out a way to get on base more often or you become Yuneski Betancourt.

  34. #4 - Jul 14, 2011 at 5:45 PM

    I don't really think GMs like competition for positions in March or otherwise. They almost always rely on a player's track record to decide whether he is ready to perform. A couple of hot weeks in spring training or a couple (or many more in Werth's case) of cold weeks during the season don't change their minds generally. That's exactly how it should be.Hitting major league pitching is the most difficult thing to do in sports. If a hitter is worried that every 0-4 might land him on the bench, that creates a difficult situation in which to perform. Rizzo picked his roster and line-up in February. He needs to let in play out and then retool again in winter, 2012.Werth's going to hit, unless he's hurt. He's proven he can.

  35. Anonymous - Jul 14, 2011 at 5:47 PM

    Mark -Did anyone ask Andrian Gonzalez why he chose to not boycott the All-Star game. From Mexico, he made comments (while playing in San deigo) that he would boycott the game due to Arizona's immagrations laws.http://bleacherreport.com/articles/756133-mlb-will-adrian-gonzalez-make-good-on-his-threat-and-boycott-the-all-star-game

  36. Unkyd - Jul 14, 2011 at 6:06 PM

    tcostant: that is curious…. Perhaps he had a mulligan in his contract? Or some unannounced "future consideration", between Cash and Rizzo…? He didn't cost anything…..

  37. NatsLady - Jul 14, 2011 at 6:14 PM

    Looked at the comments on Romero, apparently a) he asked to be released, b) he's had a bundle of problems, including (possible, just possible) PED's. Is considered unreliable, and a publicity hound. Poor control and cannot pitch to right-handers. (Lefty specialist). Seems to me that if he doesn't want to be here and he's trouble, let him go. You get what you pay for.

  38. Sunderland - Jul 14, 2011 at 6:28 PM

    unkyd and others, I agree that those things could happen (Lombarozzi has trouble with MLB pitching, Morse cools, etc). But our offense is in an epic funk. Werth and Desmond are not in slumps. They are fully lost in the batter's box. And we have nothing resembling a legit leadoff hitter. So what's the downside of change? Not much, since we're pretty inept offensively already.And the upside is a leadoff hitter. (remember those amazing days of July 2009 with Tony Plush v1.0?)I'm as certain as I can be that Werth has issues a batting coach can not fix. His lapses in the field, his poor route on balls over his head, he's not visually & mentally processing things like a quality MLB player. I'm not raggin' the signing or Rizzo or the contract or Werth or anything like that. Just facing what I perceive to be reality.Morse got benched when he didn't perform in April. And when Nix got his chance to play, he played well, Morse was boxed out. Then LaRoche goes down and Morse gets another shot, and he delivers as well. Why can it work for Nix and Morse and not for all of baseball?

  39. Unkyd - Jul 14, 2011 at 6:31 PM

    HeyLady: I read those comments, too. Still seems like, if you know somebody wants him, you try to get the proverbial "bag o' balls", in return… Certainly no great loss, there….

  40. Anonymous - Jul 14, 2011 at 6:44 PM

    1. The development of our prospects. Bryce, Peacock, Lombardozzi, Millone, AJ Cole, Solis, Marrero, Gilbert, Rhinehart, Arnesen (Detweiler?)1. Gilbert, Rhinehart, and Arneson are not prospects. At least as Sickels defines it? Honestly I often wonder DCWonk? The word AAAA given their ages and minor league history would be the right word. That said, there is the case of Michael Morse. But honestly the only guy that could mirror a Morse surprise would be Matt Antonelli and believe it or not he is still young enough and at the right level to be considered a prospect. Like Desmond and Espinosa he was selected in the top 3 rounds unlike Desmond and Espinosa he was a first round pick. All three are athletic, have great arms and should hit. 2. See above. Lombardozzi projects as more of a utility guy when compared to Desmond, Espinosa, and Antonelli. Its Antonelli's performance that could make a trade of Desmond palatable. Lombardozzi's ceiling is that of a starting 2nd baseman. Desmond, Espinosa, and Antonelli can play shortstop at the major league level. They can also play third or second base as we've seen. 3. Marerro failed to make the AAA All Star team where Antonelli and Milone did? That should tell you something shouldn't it? He isn't good enough to replace Morse or a healthy LaRoche. But he's young and can stand to be in AAA for another year or two to see how he develops as he is showing major league maturity at the plate and his fielding has improved. Now, he just needs to bring back the power. Again, he is still at least 2 years younger than the big AA power guys Moore, Rhinehart, and Gilbert. That may still develop. Patience.4. Its likely Arneson is an org guy that will b shuffled between AA and AAA where needed at this point. Tom Milone is ready. He should be in the Nats rotation now. Replacing either for Livo or Marquis. Lannan has proven to be a reasonably effective #4 starter so far. Peacock just got promoted to AAA let's not start harping about bringing that kid up just yet. Solis, Cole, and Ray have a year or more to go and might be joined by Meyer and Purke.

  41. JD - Jul 14, 2011 at 7:01 PM

    Anon @ 2:44, That was a pretty good analysis. I would separate Solis from Ray and Cole. Solis is a college arm who if he's a real prospect should be at least at AA; I think his ceiling isn't that high. Ray and especially Cole may be prospects but at this point they are still projects and because they are so young I would venture to say that they are at least 2 full years away. Meyer and Purke like Solis should start at AA if they are serious prospects . I think that 2013 is not unreasonable to target for Alex Meyer. The one prospect omitted is Derek Norris; I wouldn't get too concerned about his low BA because he is still a good OBP guy. I think that he's still considered a solid prospect if not for the Nats then as trade bait.

  42. Anonymous - Jul 14, 2011 at 7:08 PM

    If Wang really does pan out … then that would save the Nats from having to trade for a top major league starter like Anibel Sanchez. (He fits their criteria as well any.) The problem is Wang is older at 30+ so you have to wonder how long he could maintain if he proves he can come close to his previous level of competence? Wang ends up being the veteran you trade for to make a race of it. The frugal side of the Lerners will love that. But you still have to go out and find another young 20 something top of the rotation starter for the future. Unless its Brad Peacock and far too many currently project him as reliever. There's still Solis, Cole, Ray, Meyer, and Purke but they are 1.5 – 2+ years out.Slowly but surely things do get better.

  43. Unkyd - Jul 14, 2011 at 7:12 PM

    I feel you, Sunderland. I think the answer to your last question, is "amount invested". Morse's cost to the organization was… Langerhans (right?). The sky remains up, if he fails, so his leash was much shorter. Werth, cost a bazillion dollars, over the next six more years. You simply Can. Not. Sit . Him . Down…other than for an occasional day off. Not this year. He is our RF, at least through next year… If we can't fix him…well I don't know what you do with him, but doing anything punitive, before late next year, is just throwing the cash away. And it's not gonna happen. As for Desi, the investment is time. How many years invested? What draft pick? He's SOOO close!!! Hitting it right on the nose, the last several games…good contact will beget more hits… He can acquire the discipline nessecary to walk more, and get better pitches. Watch… He finishes the season over .250, and picks up right where he left off, next spring!!!Here in Unkydland, we make no apologies for irrational optimism! :-)!!!(even if nobody mentions us in midseason rating discussions…) ;-)

  44. Anonymous - Jul 14, 2011 at 7:14 PM

    Imagine Lombardozzi at 2B, Espinosa at SS, Marrero at 1B, Morse in LF, Nix in RF and Werth on the bench.Let's try this. Imagine Lombardozzi instead of Hairston. Antonelli instead of Desmond plus Espinosa. Antonelli is the better, athletic fielder with the better arm over Lombardozzi.In other words you don't lose anything giving up Desmond as you might gain more offense. Hairston has seen better days and Lombardozzi would be a platoon bat coming off the bench.It could end up that way but Lombardozzi and Antonelli still need to prove they can his consistently. They need to prove they can produce high OBP's at the top of the order. The jury might still be out.

  45. Anonymous - Jul 14, 2011 at 7:16 PM

    #4 above said some jazz about Rizzo having picked his roster in the spring and thus should stick with it. That is nutso. I guess that the Giants should not have juggled their roster last year to chase the playoffs? Right now it is hard to tell what the Nats should do – buy, sell, tinker to stay in it, stand pat? But the game is not about setting the lineup in April and running out the schedule to see where you end up with the horses you started with, not at all. Rizzo has some options right now, decisions to make, I want to see the guy be bold one way or another — either go for it and grab an impact guy or two to make a run at the WC or sell the parts that have value and are not part of the long term plans. dfh21

  46. Doc - Jul 14, 2011 at 7:28 PM

    Espi for ROY!Kimbral couldn't carry Danny's WAR, glove, bat…or for that matter, his arm!!!!!

  47. David - Jul 14, 2011 at 7:35 PM

    I want to see Rizzo make some bold moves. I want Lombardozzi and Antonelli get at bats this Sept/Oct. I want to see Milone and maybe even Peacock get a few starts. I want to see Wang get some starts. Maybe put Desi on the DL for 15 or 30 days for Antonelli, like Gorzo's completely random but perfectly timed injury for Maya's "tryout". D Johnson is right, we're talented, the roster and lineup isn't perfect yet. Needs retooling.

  48. natsfan1a - Jul 14, 2011 at 7:39 PM

    Hey, Unk, I had you covered in at least a couple of categories in my late post to the prior thread. ;-)Not being much for grading individuals here, either, I'll just say that I think the Insider community as a whole contributes plus plus skills on a number of fronts. You have your pithy, humorous commenters; you have your optimistic, even keel commenters; you have your passionate, outspoken commenters; you have your stat-loving, debate-loving commenters; you have your expert Expos background commenters; and more. All provide unique contributions that combine to make this the special community that it is. Heck, I'd take y'all out for ice cream, too!Thanks to the Z-man for starting it all and thanks to both him and CSN for keeping it going. (Can I get an "A"-men for that? :-))

  49. natsfan1a - Jul 14, 2011 at 7:40 PM

    Oops, ended my italic coding a few lines early. But at least I know how to do it now. Baby steps…

  50. Unkyd - Jul 14, 2011 at 7:43 PM

    Good post, 3:14, but I would change two words: "might be", to "is definitely "… Has either of these gentlemen had so much as a cop of coffee, yet? Unless one of them turns out to Danny, by this time next year, the jury will be out for quite some time…. And I want both of them to be awesome!!! Whether we play 'em or trade 'em… It's all good!!

  51. Unkyd - Jul 14, 2011 at 7:48 PM

    Amen, 1A!!!! And I'll take the general recognition :)(you know I was only fishin' anyway…) ;-)

  52. Gonat - Jul 14, 2011 at 7:58 PM

    Steve M. said… Is it time to bring up Chris Marrero who is hitting .303 to give Michael Morse a day off every once in a while and allow Michael to play some left field?June 29, 2011 12:00 PM_____________________________Bringing up Marrero has been brought up many times. It makes sense as SteveM laid it out to allow Morse to play some outfield and probably more sense now to get Werth out in his RH matchups -if- Marrero can hack it at the MLB level. The only way to know is give it a chance. The Nats could certainly afford to send Stairs on a one-way trip out of DC.

  53. Gonat - Jul 14, 2011 at 8:08 PM

    Again, not sure why so many are dumping on Ian Desmond. He's not setting the world on fire although he is on a modest 5 game hitting streak and 6 for 19 with a walk and finally started to get on track. Davey has been giving him some extra attention and it seems to be working. My guess is these days off will allow his legs to feel better and Ian Desmond will be one of the better players here the rest of the way.The problem here as I see the 2nd half is JZim's innings limit, overuse of Clip and Storen, who gets traded by the trade deadline, and Jayson Werth woes.I have liked since June 15th the ideo of an infusion of some of the young studs into the lineup.

  54. Mark'd - Jul 14, 2011 at 8:28 PM

    Gonat – Desi is 20 for 24 in stolen bases and 4th on the team in runs scored. He is 5th on the team on 1st pitch swings as Morse swings the most on the first pitch. Also on a poor offensive team I like the Runs Created stat per game which is Morse #1 by a huge margin then Nix, Espi, Bernadina, Ramos, Hairston, and Zim. When you factor in clutch hits contributing to batting wins, the order is Morse, Espi, Nix, Ramos, Zim.

  55. Gonat - Jul 14, 2011 at 8:37 PM

    Unkyd said… Does they inject youth and competition by bringing up Lombardozzi and / or Marrero? Imagine Lombardozzi at 2B, Espinosa at SS, Marrero at 1B, Morse in LF, Nix in RF and Werth on the bench. That would let people know that we are serious about production & performance.July 14, 2011 1:16 PM ___________________________________Marrero now and I think you give Desmond some time to see if this little hot streak can be continued. As bad as Werth has been playing, at least he takes walks, Desmond has had a horrendous OBP. Somehow though as Mark'd points out Desmond scores runs by getting himself in scoring position with all those steals.

  56. Natslifer - Jul 14, 2011 at 8:38 PM

    We should stop thinking about the playoffs this year (does anyone really think we're going to catch the Braves?) and focus all of our energy on a potential run in '12 and a "it's gonna happen" run in '13.For me, that means trade one or two, sign the rest of the draftees, get Rendon his surgery, and give people who are going to contribute next year at least some coffee cups so they're prepared. That may take us from 82 wins this year to 78 but so be it – both are ahead of where most of us thought they'd end up. Can't wait to see how things shape up when the offense improves over the next month.

  57. Dave - Jul 14, 2011 at 8:42 PM

    Werth is obviously the big question–too overwhelming a problem to waste a lot of additional pixels debating.But @Gonat, I hope they'll think long and hard before dealing Storen. Clippard, too, for that matter, but Storen is just at the beginning of the road. As Mark Z. said in the video, it's pitching and defense that have caused the Nats' success so far. Storen's been an important part of that. Trading him away is not like trading away Matt Capps. Rizzo would have to get huge return for Drew, and I'm not sure even then that I'd consider it worth it.Keeping a certain ex-Philly out of the discussion, there are at least two bats–RZimm and Desmond–who ought to put up better offensive numbers than they have so far, based on their past performance.Like Espinosa, I have high hopes for second half. So much so that I'm going to start working with my season-ticket plan partners on a scheme for distributing playoff-ticket chances. Why not?

  58. Dave - Jul 14, 2011 at 8:44 PM

    Wait, Gonat, I just realized that I misread your post. You weren't suggesting that Clippard and Storen get traded by the deadline. You were putting the question "who gets traded?" in a series of items.Looks like you agree with me about Desmond. I think he will heat up soon, just like the Z-man.

  59. Gonat - Jul 14, 2011 at 9:08 PM

    Dave, we are on the same page.

  60. NatsLady - Jul 14, 2011 at 9:10 PM

    I believe Clipp is under team control for two more years, although he's eligible for arbitration. Someone can check me on that. I say, "Pay the man." It's true that we have HotRod and Mattheus developing, but how easy is it for an injury to mess up our strong bullpen? If we have to trade a reliever, it would be Coffey, though he is a lot of fun and has been reliable (what to do about Burnett, heaven knows? First he burns you, then he turns in a good performance). We need a long reliever, though. I don't think CMWang is who you want in that role, long term. If he succeeds up here he needs to be in the rotation.

  61. Anonymous - Jul 14, 2011 at 9:11 PM

    Desmond has a lot of talent, but he has not put it together in the bigs now for a lot of chances (maybe 1,000 plate appearances?), and his numbers are pretty much all moving in the wrong direction. He had such a bright future in 2009 based on his numbers that year, but since then, since he got the nod as the guy for the club every day at SS, he has not had much of a run at any point where he was performing well in all facets of his game. Maybe it is the pressure of the bigs, maybe it is a focus thing, maybe it's just bad luck to some extent, who knows. But the guy looks to me to be not ready for prime time — way to many K's, no power to go with them, not sterling with the glove by any stretch, he's just not contributing enough to be an every day SS in MLB (especially on a club that canot afford much margin for error either in the field or on offense). I have been saying it since May, the guy should be in Cuse learning how to play, not here in DC.dfh21

  62. sjm308 - Jul 14, 2011 at 9:19 PM

    I am torn here. I would love to see what some of the youngsters can do but I do not want to mess with Desmond after less than two years. The idea of Marrero for Stairs is interesting in that it gives Morse some rest or it gives Davey some flexibility to rest Werth with Morse in LF. Everyone seems to love Lombardozzi but in reading what has been posted it seems Antonelli is who you bring up as the utility guy. Again, I want Desmond and Espinosa to play this entire year out but they both need days off as well.Rizzo made just one move last year before trade deadline and it was a great one. I would not mind one more great trade but can't see that happening with what we have to offer. I mean how much can you get for Coffey, Marquis, maybe Pudge and I hope not Livan but I realize everyone has a price. Also, put me in the camp that Werth might not hit his regular numbers but he has to be allowed to play and work his way out of this. Benching him does nothing positive in that his replacements are just not that great. Can't wait until tomorrow night. Way too much talk about speculations and nothing about reality.Go Nats

  63. NatsLady - Jul 14, 2011 at 9:21 PM

    I'm not sure I'd be in a rush to replace Desi. A guy who is just as good a fielder, and a top SS with a top bat is, well, as rare as Reyes. Clearly the Mets dumped K-Rod so they could re-sign Reyes, and that's going to take him out of the picture.We have a good infield. We have a top bullpen, and above average rotation, and some depth at catcher. All together now, what does that leave us needing??? So I would ask not what infielders but what outfielders do we have in our system (besides Oppo Boppo, who is not ready)? Or, can we get Hunter Pence?

  64. NatsLady - Jul 14, 2011 at 9:34 PM

    Re: Marquis/Livo. I am not at all sure that Marquis is the same "veteran presence" as Livo. Livo is one smart cookie, and into every game. Just watch him on the bench, he never takes a minute off. I know he'd love to end his career here, and if necessary, I'd move him to long relief and let him show his moves to the guys out there. I don't think Livo gets a lot of respect around MLB, so Rizzo probably couldn't get much for him anyway, especially with his home/away split.

  65. JD - Jul 14, 2011 at 9:43 PM

    Nats Lady said: 'I'm not sure I'd be in a rush to replace Desi. A guy who is just as good a fielder, and a top SS with a top bat is, well, as rare as Reyes. Clearly the Mets dumped K-Rod so they could re-sign Reyes, and that's going to take him out of the picture.' Really? Based on overall value there are only 3 shortstops in both leagues who are have a worse year than Desmond. Who would you replace in the outfield? Nix and Bernadina are having decent years and Werth can't be benched. So now what?

  66. NatsLady - Jul 14, 2011 at 9:52 PM

    Nix. I think he's injured and won't sustain for the rest of the year.

  67. JD - Jul 14, 2011 at 9:53 PM

    Your pitching rotation of the future has:1)Strasburg2)Zimm3)Lannan4+) Peacock, Milone, Meyer, Detwiler….. So no; don't extend Marquis for $7 mil and don't go crazy trying to land a Greinke. I think we're in good shape here.

  68. NatsLady - Jul 14, 2011 at 9:57 PM

    It's also clear that Werth is playing in pain. I say it's at least a 25% chance he goes on the 15-day DL sometime in August or early Sept. If we don't have a plan for the outfield and we are 3 games out of the WC we are up a tree.

  69. JD - Jul 14, 2011 at 9:57 PM

    Nats Lady, I agree Nix is likely to regress and I wouldn't mind an upgrade here but Pence is terrible defensively and probably expensive. Keep in mind that whoever has that position is just keeping it warm for Harper. I think we can mix and match until he arrives and we should be ok if Werth picks it up which he should.

  70. JD - Jul 14, 2011 at 10:00 PM

    Nats Lady, Now I see the difference in our perspectives. I don't think we have a hope in hell to get the WC (I hope I'm wrong) therefore I'm not that concerned about the outfield. BTW; I think we have to go back to LaRoche at 1st and Morse in left next year because I think we owe LaRoche a bushel of money for next year.

  71. NatsLady - Jul 14, 2011 at 10:01 PM

    I was really just kidding about Pence… Don't think we need another high-priced free agent at this point–though that was one nice throw in the ASG.

  72. Nats in Athens - Jul 14, 2011 at 10:02 PM

    DC Wonk hit it right on the nose IMHO: I think that the biggest story will be August 16th. How many of the draftees get signed. I know we still have a month left but it seems to me that we are running late compared to other years. I think the call ups in September (together with the possible glimpse at the state Strasburg is in) is the other big hurdle. Even though I would love for the Nats to win now, this team has a big future in it and how big will be determined on those two dates.

  73. NatsLady - Jul 14, 2011 at 10:05 PM

    Agree on LaRoche. Good as Morse is, LaRoche is a magician at 1B. If he comes back and can HIT, that would be great.I know I'm being optimistic, but if we can get close to .500 on the road (sheesh, what a split) we have a chance for the WC–and the players and Davey seem up for it. Sometimes it's your year whether you expected it or not. Just, y'know, sometimes.Can we play a baseball game, already? Tired of talking.

  74. JaneB - Jul 14, 2011 at 10:13 PM

    I live in a state contiguous to Unkydland, and I say we let Desi play the rest of the season and see him succeed. As in, not rooting for him not to. As in, have you seen him start to connect with his bat these last few games? I have. I bet that he is going after it too hard because his defense is so improved and he wants the hitting back to where it was. How anyone could think it's s good idea to break up that double play combo is beyond me. If Zimm and Werth were back to their usual form, no one would be complaining about Ian.Well, probably, SOMEONE would be, just because that is what happens. But watch him. He is the best shortstop we've ever had out there and his heart is as big as Jamey Carroll, which is (to me) about as high praise in the heart department as you can come.I have to say, I kinda wish Werth were injured. It would be easier to heal.

  75. Anonymous - Jul 14, 2011 at 10:30 PM

    JaneB — I am not pulling for Desmond to fail, but he is what his stats say he is: not an starting MLB SS at this point. Werth is a guy with a track record and a mosnter contract to boot, Desmond has options left and unless he goes on a tear starting right now they can and should dmeote the kid and get him figured out in the minors, where instruction (which he sorely needs) is meted out. Desmond has put together a nice several games, and that is encouraging, but his average has not been near .250 since early April and his 3 HR's don't support his place on the most K's list. The kid is struggling mightily and he is not helping the club. Cora can play an adequate SS and at least put the bat on the ball in the 8 hole.dfh21

  76. Anonymous - Jul 14, 2011 at 10:36 PM

    hey 82-80. There is somebody who can make a bigger contribution than Stairs. Unfortunately Ray Charles has passed away.

  77. NatsLady - Jul 14, 2011 at 10:39 PM

    Anon 6:30 — I like Cora a lot, but he isn't hitting any better (or much better) than Desi and he can play a lot more positions. You need that utility guy in case of injury and late-inning defensive substitutions, and Bix is not enough. Now, if Hairston comes off the DL, then you have a good utility guy. Also, I'm not sure you learn to hit major-league pitching in the minors. Seriously, I think Desi's had plenty of "instruction," he needs to work this out for himself. In the meantime, we have a killer DP combo.

  78. NatsLady - Jul 14, 2011 at 10:52 PM

    P.S., just checked Fangraphs. Desi's WAR for 2011 is zero, so, although you would obviously like it to be better, he's not hurting the team as much as some people seem to think.

  79. sjm308 - Jul 14, 2011 at 11:14 PM

    Put me in the NatsLady Unkyd camp of wanting to see Desmond for the rest of the year. I don't think sending a 25 year old back to AAA does anything positive. Its not like he is a pitcher, working on a delivery. Hitting against AAA pitching does not help him progress in the majors at this point. He is already fielding head and shoulders above last year and I expect that to improve again next season. He has hit in the past and like Werth I think he will hit again. I have said this in repeated posts but as I watch our double play combinations at all four positions I am extremely impressed. I don't watch other teams but I like what I see. dfh – you have lots of stats that show how poorly he has done and I don't dispute those but there is no stat for his leadership which was noted both last year and during the first half. He has his head on straight so to speak and I think he will prove to be the right choice for us.Go Nats!!

  80. Unkyd - Jul 14, 2011 at 11:23 PM

    Great takes, NatsLady! You seem to have adapted to the posting protocol… Glad to hear from you…And happy to hear that we're neighbors, JaneB ;-)

  81. Joe Seamhead - Jul 14, 2011 at 11:34 PM

    JaneB said…I live in a state contiguous to Unkydland, and I say we let Desi play the rest of the season and see him succeed. As in, not rooting for him not to. As in, have you seen him start to connect with his bat these last few games? I have. I bet that he is going after it too hard because his defense is so improved and he wants the hitting back to where it was. How anyone could think it's s good idea to break up that double play combo is beyond me. If Zimm and Werth were back to their usual form, no one would be complaining about Ian.Well, probably, SOMEONE would be, just because that is what happens. But watch him. He is the best shortstop we've ever had out there and his heart is as big as Jamey Carroll, which is (to me) about as high praise in the heart department as you can come.I have to say, I kinda wish Werth were injured. It would be easier to heal.Here! Here! I say that Jane is the voice of reason here. I'll take a light hitting SS that is providing Ian's "D" anytime. Plus, Ian was pretty good with RIS last year. Folks, our most glaring weakness right now is the lack of a lead off batter, preferably a CF. Roger may be the guy, Nix certainly isn't. They are, so far, "okay" outfielders, but certainly neither of them is a top tier player. Laynce has been a pretty good interim player. We are getting very close to being a pretty darn good team! Of course, I'm assuming that Jason Werth will come around.

  82. Joe Seamhead - Jul 14, 2011 at 11:35 PM

    I meant to say that Ian was pretty good with RISP

  83. Joe Seamhead - Jul 14, 2011 at 11:51 PM

    Here is a list of our 2011 draftees and their status. Note that a few were signed today.http://mlb.mlb.com/team/draft.jsp?c_id=was

  84. Wally - Jul 14, 2011 at 11:55 PM

    Hey, everyone's favorite analyst Keith Law came out with his Top 50 prospects. Harper #1, and AJ Cole #36. No Peacock. Here is his blurb on Cole:"Going pro may have been the best decision of Cole's life, as he's been more focused and aggressive and is commanding the fastball better than he did in high school. Since his first two starts, he has posted the following line for low-A Hagerstown: 39 1/3 IP, 34 H, 6 BB, 50 K, 2.75 ERA"

  85. Anonymous - Jul 15, 2011 at 12:36 AM

    Yeah, Law never mentioned Peacock in the Futures Game, either. By the way, to you WC doubters, imagine if we were .500 on the road. There is something for DJ to work on, starting tomorrow. –Nats Lady (still trying to figure out how to post)

  86. Unkyd - Jul 15, 2011 at 12:52 AM

    Ok….. Anybody wishing to hold that, MASN has no sense of humor, needs to see the commercial I just saw, on channel 9."How do you define 'Lighting It Up'?Jayson Werth…. batting .333, at Turner Field…"I kid you not….. Still ROFL…… :)

  87. Slidell - Jul 15, 2011 at 1:12 AM

    Wang pitched 6 innings tonight for Harrisburg; 6 hits, 0 runs, 1 K.

  88. Anonymous - Jul 15, 2011 at 1:19 AM

    So no; don't extend Marquis for $7 mil and don't go crazy trying to land a Greinke.Grienke is a free agent in 2013. He'll be 29. He said he would be interested in playing for the Nats under those circumstances (not giving away the farm to get him). Why not pay the man to pitch in the rotation?

  89. Gonat - Jul 15, 2011 at 1:20 AM

    Slidell, nice boxscore. Hopefully lots of ground outs.

  90. Anonymous - Jul 15, 2011 at 1:28 AM

    Imagine Lombardozzi at 2B, Espinosa at SS, Marrero at 1B, Morse in LF, Nix in RF and Werth on the bench. That would let people know that we are serious about production & performance.Again unkyd or whatever, Antonelli has proven he is a better shortstop, second base, third base and even outfielder than Lombardozzi. On par with Espinosa and Desmond. Its the offense that counts. Again, over the long haul of 1/2 a season in AAA BETTER than Lombardozzi who still projects to be a utility guy as opposed to a starter. The only way Desmond gets supplanted is if Antonelli proves he can translate his come back success in AAA and his All Star selection to the majors. The only MI the Nats currently have that projects better is named Anthony Rendon. And believe me when he gets started its almost a foregone conclusion that Lombardozzi will be the UTIL. And there's nothing wrong with a skill set and platoon bat that match up extremely well with that need? Lombo doesn't hit for power. Is a get on base switch hitter who can play a lot of positions around the diamond. In other words; a younger Hairston and Cora.

  91. Slidell - Jul 15, 2011 at 1:29 AM

    Gonat: 9 groundouts, 4 flyouts on 75 pitches.

  92. Anonymous - Jul 15, 2011 at 1:29 AM

    Yeah, Law never mentioned Peacock in the Futures Game, either. Most project Peacock as a reliever. Relievers don't typically make the top 50 when they are starting. ;)Best to stick with Sickels. And not KLaw.

  93. Gonat - Jul 15, 2011 at 1:34 AM

    Interesting, the Nats have Rendon listed as a SS on the Draft chart instead of a 3B.http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/team/draft.jsp?c_id=was

  94. Gonat - Jul 15, 2011 at 1:35 AM

    Slidell said… Gonat: 9 groundouts, 4 flyouts on 75 pitches. July 14, 2011 9:29 PM _____________________________Thanks! Very encouraging. He must have had a bunch of double plays also!

  95. Anonymous - Jul 15, 2011 at 1:37 AM

    Finally, Morse is the far superior fielder to Marerro. Morse literally has played ever position in the infield except for catcher. In AAA and the majors okay? Marerro is BARELY ABLE to finally play first base well enough for major league consideration. Does anyone see the difference? There's the dearth of power to consider. Antonelli's numbers look better than Marerro's. As do Jesus Valdez's numbers. Why aren't you clamoring to have them brought up? For criminy's sake? That doesn't mean Marerro is a bad player or prospect. He might just start hitting 30+ homers in 2 plus years when he is Tyler Moore's age. With some players maturity brings the power around. PATIENCE! He's not as good as Morse and LaRoche. Not even close both offensively and defensively. He is still far too young to get stuck on the bench as a PH for Davey Johnson. He needs to play everyday. Especially to bring the defense around. STOP.

  96. Joe Seamhead - Jul 15, 2011 at 1:40 AM

    As Slidell said, Wang registered 9 groundouts, but 5 of the 6 hits that he gave up were doubles, and though he didn't give up any runs, Bryce Harper threw a guy out at the plate from LF. Though not as impressive as his last outing, another pretty good, and promising outing by CM Wang.

  97. Gonat - Jul 15, 2011 at 1:48 AM

    Anonymous said… Finally, Morse is the far superior fielder to Marerro. Morse literally has played ever position in the infield except for catcher. In AAA and the majors okay? Marerro is BARELY ABLE to finally play first base well enough for major league consideration. Does anyone see the difference? There's the dearth of power to consider. Antonelli's numbers look better than Marerro's. As do Jesus Valdez's numbers. Why aren't you clamoring to have them brought up? For criminy's sake? That doesn't mean Marerro is a bad player or prospect. He might just start hitting 30+ homers in 2 plus years when he is Tyler Moore's age. With some players maturity brings the power around. PATIENCE! He's not as good as Morse and LaRoche. Not even close both offensively and defensively. He is still far too young to get stuck on the bench as a PH for Davey Johnson. He needs to play everyday. Especially to bring the defense around. STOP. July 14, 2011 9:37 PM _______________________________If Lombardozzi or Antonelli could play outfield, I don't think we would be discussing Marrero.The Nats need another RH bat in the outfield that can hit. Morse is the logical choice if you can replace him with a RH 1st baseman and Marrero fits that.Will it work out? Who knows, but give Marrero a chance.You are talking 2 to 3 times a week on average when the Nats face a LH starting pitcher.The other choice is bringing in BJ Upton and who really wants another .230 batting average.

  98. In Case Of Emergency - Use the Elevator - Jul 15, 2011 at 1:55 AM

    Our old friend Wily Mo Pena was DFA'd today. When I heard an (ex) Nats power hitter who couldn't meet expectations was DFA'd I thought it was a Matt Stares report. Darn.

  99. Luqman - Jul 15, 2011 at 3:41 PM

    I think the Nationals will have a strong second half of the season, because they are being good at the right moment. Jayson Werth will get better, he needs to be patient, and dont swing everytime. Desmond needs to keep doing what he is doing. I dont see Strasburg coming in September, because the Nats are rushing him to come. If they are smart, then he should be doing minor league work this season, and next season in the beginning of next season until May of 2012, play in the minor leagues and then if ready, then he could come back in the Major Leagues. Espinosa will win NL Rookie of the year, because those stats speaks for themselves, he has done a great job in hitting, fielding and being patient at the plate. I dont see Davey Johnson coming back as manager. I think they will find the right guy, and the right guy is Bo Porter. He is good fit, because he is a young manager, who gives fresh start to the team who is ready to contend in the NL and they have many young teams, with Harper coming, Strasburg coming, Espinosa developing, and Morse as a great player. The Nats will finish above .500, and could contend in the Wild Card.

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