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What would make the Nats a playoff team?

Oct 10, 2011, 11:00 AM EDT

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Stephen Strasburg could be a playoff ace, but the Nats would need more pitching.

While watching some absolutely thrilling postseason baseball over the last 10 days, I can't help but wonder how far away the Nationals are from competing alongside these October contenders.

Clearly, the Nats as currently constructed aren't on par with the Tigers, Rangers, Brewers or Cardinals. And they're not on the same level as the four clubs who got knocked out during the division series: the Yankees, Rays, Phillies and Diamondbacks.

But none of those teams is flawless. Each is lacking something that would make its path to a World Series title a little bit easier, whether it's pitching depth, more potent bats, crisper defensive play or more reliable bullpen arms.

So it's not like the Nationals need to achieve perfection to place themselves on the same pedestal as the clubs currently battling for a championship. They do, however, need to add something to theRead more ยป

  1. Anonymous - Oct 10, 2011 at 11:30 AM

    I voted #3 starter due to the fact that Strasburg is on an inning count will be finished in August and having an experienced pitcher takes pressure off a very young rotation. I don't believe there is a key addition to get them to playoff contention as there are several holes still to be filled. Leadoff hitter is missing, the bench needs to be revamped and the bullpen after Clip and Storen have question marks.RDEXPOSFAN

  2. WillieHarrisUnderpants - Oct 10, 2011 at 11:41 AM

    One word, and it starts with an 'R' and rhymes with 'PEYES'.

  3. Tim - Oct 10, 2011 at 11:48 AM

    As a franchise, we have made huge strides and now we are thinking playoffs… how good is that!?! However, this town and this team is not satisfied… at least I hope this town isn't. I know the team isn't.However, we have a bit of the fast-food syndrome… wanting it hot and wanting it now. If you look at the age of the players on the teams in the playoffs, you'll see that they are making their playoff runs while their players are hovering around 30 years of age.Our core, save Jayson Werth and Michael Morse, is around 26 years old right now. We have a big bat coming from Oppo Boppo. We have rising stars in the pitching corps. We have a top-notch bullpen. We have what we need right now. We are just young.Our team is learning to win. Winning on the road vs the NL East at the end of the year WILL carry over to next year. We must beat Florida. Had we come closer to winning the season series vs the Marlins, we would've been in the playoff picture.We must cut down on strikeouts and learn a hitting philosophy that's based on the situation in the game. Aggressiveness when it's called for. Patience when it is. Grinding out at-bats. We did better with that toward the end of the year, but we need to do it when it matters.I'd like to see us stand pat with most of our team. We could use a legit leadoff man, but I'd hate to trade a key ingredient to get one. We will need veterans to help us get through injuries and to provide punch and leadership off the bench.If we're going to make a trade for a leadoff man, we need to do it in the offseason. No team in contention will trade their leadoff man away. My suggestion: Brett Gardner for Ross Detwiler and a prospect in Rookie or A-Ball. The Yankees are desperate for pitching. Gardner is good but doesn't command what a Bourn would.

  4. baseballswami - Oct 10, 2011 at 12:03 PM

    Haven't voted yet as I have to think about it – but what struck me this year is that we just are not THAT far away – we handled our division pretty well this season, we had a really good showing in September and were not that far back from the wild card teams. I think one of the things that is hard to accept right now is that you can spend tons of money and do everything possible to build a great team and still lose — the yanks and phils for example. There is still a lot of luck involved over a long season and playoff season – especially with injuries –like the Giants. There are just so many factors that are not controllable. I hope the organization, the coaches and the players do as much as they can to control the things they can – then we just play it out and hope for the best.

  5. natsfan1a - Oct 10, 2011 at 12:05 PM

    I don't do the armchair GM thing but I took care of my civic (blogic?) duty by voting for a leadoff hitter.

  6. Nats1924 - Oct 10, 2011 at 12:08 PM

    definitely a leadoff hitterWe went out and signed a big bat last offseason, and look what happened. Though, I still think it was a good thing signing Werth, he brings a lot more to the table than just his bat. He brought in a much needed type of positive attitude.With that said, speed never slumps. Plus, the W's never have had a TRUE speedster and CF'erGo W's!!!!

  7. Nats1924 - Oct 10, 2011 at 12:10 PM

    let's still go after BJ UptonI think he'd blossom here in DC

  8. Rich - Oct 10, 2011 at 12:13 PM

    We need to improve OBP overall… A leadoff hitter might help… but we also need another pitcher since Stras is on an innings limit…

  9. LoveDaNats - Oct 10, 2011 at 12:38 PM

    I voted for a big bat. The Phillies have shown us that pitching, however important that is, cannot guarantee a championship. Overall, our pitching was not too bad last year. Could be better but that's always gonna be the case. What we needed more of were runs to support the good pitching performances we got. And not just a home run hitter, someone consistent with a higher (over .325) batting average. As for leadoff, I still think Desi could fill that role. He improved over the year and if he continues to progress, may be our answer.

  10. Dawn - Oct 10, 2011 at 12:43 PM

    Not into in-depth analysis, molding a sports team is such an in-exact science. I voted for needing a lead-off hitter, an added stipulation "with speed and a brain". You can't for the most part teach speed, like Pudge's arm it is a god-given talent.

  11. Gonat - Oct 10, 2011 at 12:43 PM

    Nats1924 said… let's still go after BJ UptonI think he'd blossom here in DC October 10, 2011 8:10 AM ________________________________He sure didn't do the job in Tampa. If the Nats take him, he is another player who is a question mark at leadoff as he really hasn't batted leadoff before. Batting middle of the order he was a high strikeout guy at 160+ again. That .243 BA won't cut it and .331 OBP is about the only stat line that stands out. His power numbers are reminiscent of Espinosa where you get high strikeouts as a trade off.I can't say I have seen him play much, but I wasn't impressed with what I saw in the playoffs. One of the biggest plays was in the playoffs was on a caught stealing. Not sure if he got the steal sign with 1 out to steal third but he got a bad jump and was thrown out. It was a turning point in the game. He's not a prolific base stealer with a 75% success rate.On defense he wasn't good on balls over his head. I was surprised to see his jumps. He was good on balls going side-to-side. What really scares me is he doesn't seem to be a full out hustler. That is my biggest problem with him and that is the reputation that precedes him.Why do "you think he would blossom here"?

  12. Drew8 - Oct 10, 2011 at 12:51 PM

    The Nats ranked 24th in the majors in runs scored and 25th in on base percentage.This team badly needs high on-base guys at the top of the order who can score runs.Harper will bring another big bat soon enough. LaRoche and Werth should have better seasons. They need guys to drive in.

  13. JamesFan - Oct 10, 2011 at 1:00 PM

    First, thanks for writing about the Nats during the playoffs. Other sites have gone to sleep on the Nats.

  14. Gonat - Oct 10, 2011 at 1:03 PM

    Getting to the playoffs is a marathon so you need good "balance". Once you are in the playoffs it is a sprint. At the trade deadline which is the 2/3 pole in the season, you have to add the 1 or 2 players to fix the most glaring holes so you don't have to be perfect, just good enough to that point. The Phillies added Pence, the Braves added Bourn, the Brewers add KRod/Hairston, Arizona shored up middle infield and called up Goldschmidt and the Cardinals had the most amazing transformation I have ever seen, Chris Carpenter turned his 1-7 season with a 4.47 ERA around on June 23rd and would go 10-2 the rest of the season with a 2.46 ERA and end the season at 11-9 and a 3.45 ERA. The Cardinals essentially found an ACE.The playoffs are a sprint. You need 3 starters that can go toe-to-toe worse case with the other team or at best case totally out shine them with dominant pitching. The hitting needs to be CLUTCH.The final game of the Phillies/Cards showed you how Chris Carpenter outdid Roy Halladay. A botched cutoff allowed the leadoff man (Furcal) in the 1st to stretch a double into a triple. He should have been thrown out. That was the only run of the game.

  15. sm13 - Oct 10, 2011 at 1:05 PM

    A high OBP lead off man seems to be top on the list. We need more men on base ahead of Zim and the Beast.

  16. Nats1924 - Oct 10, 2011 at 1:11 PM

    attn GonatA new scenery, playing close to home, teamed up with RZimm (childhood acquaintance) and Rizzo's good relationship with the Upton family all come into play.I watched those games, granted I stink in baseball, but it be miserable to play in that awful place in Tampa. …that just tells you how talented that organization is in general

  17. JamesFan - Oct 10, 2011 at 1:12 PM

    I voted for the leadoff hitter, although I don't think that is the real issue. What the Nats really require is a higher on-base percentage. That can come through an addition (Upton incidentally does not fit that requirement). It should also be done through improvements with the guys we already have. DJ helped Desi. The other huge change to help the team would be improving Danny's OBP. We cannot win with the guys up the middle hittling .220. If Danny had hit .260, he could have been ROY. We need a hitting coach that can make an improvement in this area. It should not be up to the manager to fix these problems.We could also use a quality experienced starter to go with what we have in the rotation, but this is a lower priority than OBP.We have plenty of power. I like our emphasis on defense, so I don't like the idea of getting a slugger who will add to our strike out problems.Refine the pen without giving up our studs out there, and strengthen the bench. With that we will contend in 2012. Expect one or all of Ramos, Espi, Desi to break out next year. Zim and Werth return to form. Starters will become a quality MLB staff and relief stays tough. With any or all of that we win 90 games and contend.

  18. sjm308 - Oct 10, 2011 at 1:15 PM

    I had to really think about this and I love playing faux GM (no pressure and I can spend someone else's money). I voted for leadoff hitter but my caveat is that I do not want to trade away key prospects. I aggree with Tim that we are close and have gotten better each of the last two years. I also do not want to spend tons on this leadoff hitter. My trade bait is Lannen who I think can easily be replaced with the young pitchers who did well in Sept, and Flores. I think together they can bring us a decent player.As always, my first move is to sign Zimmerman to a long term contract. I would also try and get Wang for two more years. My final move would be to give the faux GM a full season ticket package at reduced cost.

  19. Anonymous8 - Oct 10, 2011 at 1:15 PM

    A must read on the status of the Phillies. Outside of Halladay/Cliff Lee and most like;y Hamels, they have lots of issues.http://www.stltoday.com/sports/baseball/professional/article_6b006b59-d50a-58a8-b8aa-b13964f98c21.html

  20. Doc - Oct 10, 2011 at 1:19 PM

    As I have intermittenly watched some of the games, I've had the same thoughts. Wad do they have that the Nats don't have????Overall team experience and offense come to mind for most of the playoff teams, in comparison to the Nats. All of them are/were better hitting teams, and most of them have more settled lineups. Not sure that the Cards are that much better than the Nats, but they know how to get on base. Notwithstanding the real stats, the Nats seem to be better than most of the playoff teams at 3B, 2B, catcher, and the BP.Ramos, Espi, Desmond, should be that much better next year. Still need another hitting OFer, but team OBP should be more competitive in '12.

  21. Gonat - Oct 10, 2011 at 1:26 PM

    Do you know why the Phillies lost the playoffs?Cliff Lee wasn't dominant in Game 2. It is a 4×200 meter relay sprint. Halladay is supposed to pass the baton to Cliff Lee then Lee to Hamels and if all goes well they win with 3 guys. If you need the 4th game, Halladay comes back on 4 days rest and that's how the 1st round works.Cliff Lee got smashed in Game #2 for 12 hits and 5 runs over 6 innings and the Phillies offense doesn't explode like the Cards & Brewers do most times.BTW, laughable how Greinke gives up 6 runs over 6 innings and his team scores 9 runs for him. If Greinke played for the Nats his record would be worse than John Lannan!

  22. Anonymous - Oct 10, 2011 at 1:33 PM

    Didn't we manage sweeps of both the Brewers and the Cardinals this year? Yeah…thats what I thought…I think they should go after David Dejesus to play in RF with Werth in CF next year. Dejesus had a down year, but pretty much everyone that plays in Oakland has offensive struggles. He is still a guy with a .350 obp and plays solid D.I would also move to pick up a starter. I keep seeing people being against Wilson because of contracts given out to AJ Burnett and John Lackey. I would like to point out they are both right handed and went to much more volatile markets in NY and Boston. The pressures playing their are far higher than DC. Not to mention CJ Wilson is left handed and has been excellent pitching in a band box down in Texas. If this team wants to make a serious run at the Phillies I think a front end of Strasburg/Wilson/Zimmermann looks like a pretty good start.Your line up could be solid as well.Dejesus – RFDesmond – SSZim – 3BMorse – LFLaroche – 1BWerth – CFEspinosa – 2BRamos – C-PDowdy83

  23. Nats1924 - Oct 10, 2011 at 1:37 PM

    Dejesus? thats awful

  24. Gonat - Oct 10, 2011 at 1:38 PM

    Nats1924 said… attn GonatA new scenery, playing close to home, teamed up with RZimm (childhood acquaintance) and Rizzo's good relationship with the Upton family all come into play.I watched those games, granted I stink in baseball, but it be miserable to play in that awful place in Tampa. …that just tells you how talented that organization is in general October 10, 2011 9:11 AM ______________________________Sorry, none of that holds water. Zim barely knows BJ Upton as it was his brother he played against. Rizzo has met Upton's mother many times but it isn't like that relationship would help much. Closer to home? Tidewater is 3+ hours away.This isn't like sleepaway camp that bringing Johnny closer to home will make him more comfortable.Upton's agent and home is in Tampa now. I'm sure he goes back to the Tidewater area but seriously, if that is your basis for thinking he will do better, then you definitely don't want him here.Moving players like you have seen with Dunn, Crawford and Werth sometimes don't have the desired effect. Moving Mike Napoli had an incredible effect. It is a crap shoot any time you move a player and "hope" for improvement. There is nothing I see that tells me moving BJ Upton to Washington would make him even marginally better and add to that the fact that he hasn't been a leadoff hitter and the Nats would be better looking at other options.

  25. Nats1924 - Oct 10, 2011 at 1:47 PM

    attn Gonatwe're goin to have to agree to disagree on UptionAnother idea…anyone think the W's would go after Oswalt if he becomes a FA?…I think it be interesting to have him for a 2yr contract.

  26. Constant Reader - Oct 10, 2011 at 1:53 PM

    Here are some interesting stats for the six guys we are most likely to have on the field next year. First two numbers are AVG/OBP with the bases empty. Second two numbers are AVG/OBP with runners on base.Desi … 247/291 … 266/311Espi … 195/288 … 300/378Morse … 294/311 … 314/384Ramos … 300/328 … 231/311Werth … 239/329 … 221/331Zim … 292/341 … 314/384Espinosa desperately needs runners on. Ramos is shockingly worse with runners on (is that hitting eighth?). The others? Seems like it's not that critical.Here are my two cents: I don't see the numbers justifying mortgaging the franchise for a high OBP leadoff hitter (Spann for Storen). Trading disposable parts for a one-year rental makes more sense to me. Will Upton's price drop that much? One other reality check question: how serious can we be about making a playoff run when we KNOW our number one starter will be shut down by Labor Day?

  27. Anonymous - Oct 10, 2011 at 1:56 PM

    After watching and thinking about it, the Nats need 3 things that could be relatively easily had. First, a top of the order bat. That could be available with a FA like Furcal or, potentially, JRoll although he would be expensive. That would shore up the infield defense and make Desmond expendable. Unfortunately, Ian doesn't have the bat to overcome the glove nor the glove to overcome the bat; clearly not a guy to take us to the playoffs on his makeup alone.Second, another pitcher. Edwin Jackson is a FA and a Boras client. He could be a difference maker at #3.Third, another bat to add depth. Kill two birds with one stone and trade for Upton to play center and bat sixth or seventh.Those three pieces would let the Nats stand toe-to-toe with anybody in the NL!

  28. rogieshan - Oct 10, 2011 at 2:00 PM

    Leadoff hitter.I believe the team has the necessary pieces internally to address the other areas. However, Desmond is not a natural leadoff hitter and to expect him to be the spark to ignite the offense over a full season could prove costly. Having a proven table-setter should pay dividends as Werth, Zimmerman & Morse would no longer carry the burden of compensating the deficiencies at the top of the order.

  29. Theophilus - Oct 10, 2011 at 2:06 PM

    I voted for bench help, specifically bats. The Nats have been "in" a lot of games but have been unable to either put them away or get over the hump because there's no heat coming off the bench. Between Stairs, Cora and Gomes, probably 60-70 PH ABs wasted. If you got a .270 average and some doubles and one or two HR out of your pinch hitters, how many wins does that translate into? Tinkering w/ other spots at this point in the team's evolution means (A) overspending on some mediocre pitcher (e.g., Buerhle), (B) taking on someone else's knucklehead (e.g., Upton) or walking medical encyclopedia (e.g., Reyes),(C) redundancy (e.g., anyone who would play a position someone like Rendon would be able to take over in a year or two.Overspending is a really big issue. They already have $125 MM committed to Werth, they need to commit another $125 MM (or more) to Zimmerman; they can't afford to drop $175 MM or more on a Pujols or Fielder (not that I want Fielder) without losing all of their financial flexibility in the future. They need to look at a future, 3-4 years from now, where Werth, Zimmerman and Strasburg are the big money players and they're figuring out how to tie down Harper for 6-7 years.Strasburg will improve the pitching next year by 6-7 games, all by himself; the offense will fix itself w/ full seasons from Zimmerman and LaRoche and improvement from Werth. Fill the perceived holes (CF, leadoff) from within the system or modestly priced gamers. Get some good hitters to come off the bench (think of the guys who played in the outfield for the Orioles in 1983 — Ayala, Bumbry, Jim Dwyer, Dan Ford, Tito Landrum, Lowenstein, Roenicke, John Shelby) and the Nats will be in — at least — the Wild Card race up till the final week.As a footnote/sidebar, don't think you're going to get a player like Gardner (who I like) from the Yankees for Detwiler, or anybody the Nats are likely to give up. The Yankees can drop $80 MM on an established pitcher in a heartbeat, without giving up anything.

  30. Anonymous - Oct 10, 2011 at 2:12 PM

    First, Nats need a table setter leadoff hitter. Too many 1-2-3 first innings. We need the guy we thought Nyjer Morgan would be in 2010.I also think the Nats need a new hitting coach. I know the organization is in love with Eckstein, but there were too many sub .250 hitters, too many strikeouts, and too many guys who hit below expectations or previous mlb production not to hold the coach a bit responsible. Werth, Desmond, Espinosa, Ankiel, Nix, while all contributing at times, were undependable and a disappointment. Someone needs to get Werth to swing on the first pitch at least sometimes. The opposing pitchers know they can grove a belt high fastball for strike one with impunity and get ahead. He needs to start making them pay for their get me over fastballs and maybe he might get the count leverege he wants.

  31. Gonat - Oct 10, 2011 at 2:16 PM

    I am repeating what I have said before and largely what Steve said a few weeks ago. The Nats need balance. 7th in starting pitching and 23rd in team offense and middle of the pack in defense. For the Nats to get just above the league average in offense they will need to add 1/2 run per game.Easier said than done as that is adding 80 RBIs on to what you have. Certainly with a leadoff with a .340 OBP vs. a .300 OBP will make a difference, the difference in itself isn't as large as you may think. Based on 600 plate appearances, that difference gets you on base 24 more times over the course of the entire season. You won't score 24 more times but that is also 24 outs you didn't have before. If you score 1/2 of those additional on-base opportunities than that translates to 12 more RBIs.Moving Werth permanently to the 2 hole will hopefully get him into a more comfortable spot of working the count and getting on base as he did with a .330 OBP.The big question mark is the health of LaRoche. He had been a solid RBI guy and high OBP guy at .337 lifetime.If Desmond is the guy or someone else at the top of the order, Rizzo has to add 1 outfielder. I prefer adding a corner outfielder and the reasoning is that next year there will be a big Free Agent class to really upgrade at Centerfield and my hope is Bryce Harper will start to show the potential to be a star.1) Desmond SS2) Werth CF3) Zim 3B4) Morse LF5) LaRoche 1B6) NEW ACQUISITION RF7) Espinos 2B8) Ramos1) JZim2) Strasburg3) NEW ACQUISITION (LH)4) Lannan5) Wang/Peacock/Milone/Detwiler

  32. raymitten - Oct 10, 2011 at 2:26 PM

    I'm not sure there is any real 'need' but with the depth, perhaps a few parts that are 'spare' to the Nats — such as Marrero, Lannan, Lombardozzi and Shark — could be combined in a three for one deal that another team would make to help their roster without the Nats losing a key contributor. I'd hang onto the Clippard, Storen, Desmond and Espinosa under any circumstances. Would Andrew McCutchen, Adam Jones or Joey Votto be available? Any of these players might be available from their smaller market teams as they are nearing the last two years of control. Think the Reds couldn't use Lannan or Lombardozzi? Wouldn't Pittsburgh prefer Marrero and Lannan to what they were using?

  33. ehay2k - Oct 10, 2011 at 2:27 PM

    Why wasn't there an option to vote for a new Hitting Coach?OK,given what we got to vote for, I would go for a new leadoff guy. Gardner is intriguing because his batting slot is determined by the big bats all in front of him. He could easily bat leadoff here. I don't follow the Yankees but a colleague who does says he is a slap hitter, steals well, and plays good D, albeit not with a strong arm.What would they want in return? LannEn? Detwiler and Lombardozzi?

  34. Mark'd - Oct 10, 2011 at 2:27 PM

    Constant Reader, great stats. Another reason Werth is not a #3 to #6 batter. Werth is a #2 or #7 guy so I like what Gonat has and the point of the reality of what a .340 OBP is. It is all about incremental improvement.

  35. Mark'd - Oct 10, 2011 at 2:36 PM

    Nats1924, statistically speaking you have given nothing for your theory on Upton other then "Dr. Feel Good" will make him better. If you want to go to the playoffs, the Nats need real options and the Yankees aren't trading Gardner who may not look as good in a less potent offense. The Yankees are #2 in the Majors in team offense.I like Alex Gordon. A .376 OBP guy they might trade. A 2 year rental.

  36. Gonat - Oct 10, 2011 at 2:47 PM

    2 names mentioned that I have said before that make sense that Ray & Mark'd just wrote about are Adam Jones and Alex Gordon. Ray's other names of McCutcheon and Votto won't happen until Free Agency.Both Jones and Gordon have 2 years of team service left where you would trade a little more for either. Jones is a steadier performer while Gordon had a BIG breakout season and you just hope it wasn't 1 and done.The Royals need pitching and would be the easier trade partner as you saw when they traded Greinke. I hope Rizzo sees that as an opportunity but doesn't overpay. You are getting 2 years of service so you can't go crazy with it. My only issue is Rizzo may have tipped his hand to much with the Royals on Greinke. Can't give away the farm. Give them 1 pitcher and 1 middle infielder and that's it. Hopefully you could do Milone and Lombardozzi or worse case Detwiler and Lombardozzi. I know they wanted Espinosa last year. That's a lot to trade for 2 years.

  37. NatsLady - Oct 10, 2011 at 2:48 PM

    Nothing really to contribute without spending more time on this than I have right now. But an observation:A smattering of replies to the post for the playoffs, and then this one goes up readers come alive! Baseball is a local game (unlike the pointy ballgame). Though I watch the playoffs, my interest isn't there until our team is. Go NATS!!

  38. greg - Oct 10, 2011 at 2:59 PM

    the nats need a "professional" hitter. not necessarily a big slugger, nor a slap singles guy. but a guy who gets on base and has extra base power. a guy like brian roberts (even w/o the SB skills) in his prime would be absolutely perfect (not many of those out there). good OBP, doubles machine, hard nose player. just a solid professional hitter. the kind of guy who rubs off on others with his hitting. go to a stats page and sort hitters by 2Bs to see who had the most. in the top 20, there are three guys w/OBPs under 340. these are the kinds of hitters you want to lead your team. on some levels, kind of what a lot of us hoped werth would do from a hitting perspective (he was 2nd on the list in 2010). maybe he'll get it together next year and be that guy…btw, gonat, buster olney had a column focused mostly about the idea that the reds may be (and should be) willing to deal votto.

  39. greg - Oct 10, 2011 at 3:00 PM

    (there are *ONLY* three guys w/OBPs under 340, i meant to say).

  40. JaneB - Oct 10, 2011 at 3:01 PM

    I vote we don't spend more money on more pitchers. Our guys are really good; they need run support. Spend the dough on a true lead-off guy. AND DON'T TRADE OUT OF THE BULL PEN to get it. Unless it's, you know, Maya (like anyone would pick up that tab). People keep harping on how "bad" Rick Eckstein is. Has it occurred to anyone that, without him, our guys might be much worse? Maybe he is doing as much as he can, within the limits of the hitters we have. There HAS to be be something the pros are seeing him do that is working, and the armchair GMS among us don't get to see. And do we know how Span is these days? AND what does anyone know about the Giants pitcher who got beaned by that comebacker this summer? I haven't seen anything new on him. Thanks for the lead on the Phillies article, ANon8. Most of all, thank you Mark Z for keeping us in Nats talk. I love it.

  41. Anonymous - Oct 10, 2011 at 3:09 PM

    I think way too much emphasis is placed on the lead off position. Realistically they only lead off once maybe twice in a game. We don't have the same mentality for the number four guy or seven guy when they lead off the 2nd and 3rd inning. If anything i want to see a guy who knock the #7 or #8 guy in after the pitcher moves them over. Desmond will be a fine #1 batter as he matures. The Nats spoiled a lot of scoring opportunities throughout the season by hitting groundouts, striking out or hitting into double plays. Many times they runners on third because they couldn't get a fly ball to get him in. Winning teams do simple things like that. In due time this will come.

  42. Anonymous - Oct 10, 2011 at 3:19 PM

    The top of the order may only be the top of the order a couple of times a game, but they are always the batters up directly in front of the heart of the order. Spots 1-2 need to be on base for spots 3-4-5 to drive them home. Lacking that, runs are tougher to come by.

  43. Eugene in Oregon - Oct 10, 2011 at 3:19 PM

    2011 runs scored by NL playoff teams:St. Louis – 762 (1st in NL)Arizona – 731 (4th in NL)Brewers – 721 (5th in NL)Phillies – 713 (7th in NL)2011 OBP by NL playoff teams:St. Louis – .341 (1st in NL)Brewers – .325 (5th in NL)Phillies – .323 (6th in NL)Arizona – .322 (7th in NL)2011 Nats: 624 runs scored (12th in NL); .309 OBP (13th in NL)[NOTE: The other three teams in the top seven among both RS and OBP leaders were Colorado (1st at home in both categories, but well down the list on the road), the Reds (done in by poor pitching), and -- surprisingly to me -- the Mets (also seemingly done in by below-average pitching).]I don't know about anyone else, but I see a correlation there. And I thus checked "leadoff hitter" as a proxy for OBP/runs.But, as a couple of earlier posters have noted, it's not so much a particular position in the order (or even in the field) that the Nats need as it is additional runs scored. The real GM and the manager can mix and match a bit as to where someone best fits in the order or even where they play in the field, but to increase runs scored they need more/better hitters to work with. And even if you assume that Werth will have a better year, that LaRoche will be back and hitting to his career norms, and that the Nats will get a full year of career-average production from Zimmerman, the team needs OBP from an additional bat that will translate into runs scored.

  44. Theophilus - Oct 10, 2011 at 3:21 PM

    Concur w/ JaneB on no more money for pitchers, and Anonymous11:09 on leadoff hitters. I think I noticed Ian Kinsler was leading off for Texas. Doesn't look much like Michael Bourne to me. Seems to be working out for them.

  45. Eugene in Oregon - Oct 10, 2011 at 3:27 PM

    BTW, the rankings don't change significantly if you look at SLG or OPS instead of OBP. The Nats move up a notch, but the playoff teams — with the exception of the Phillies, who are 7th in both categories — are even more tightly clustered within the top four.

  46. Avar - Oct 10, 2011 at 3:36 PM

    Well, first, I think they are more than one piece away. I think Mark does too but I just wanted to clarify.I ran some #s that told me the NL playoff teams had mostly average and below average OBP guys hitting leadoff. I think our boy Morgan w/ MIL was the only exception. Point being, I think as long as your lineup gets on base, it doesn't have to be headed by a strong OBP guy at #1.The area of greatest need from my view is higher team OBP. So, I would go for another outfielder w/ high OBP. I don't care if he's fast or steals bases, that's a bonus but not a requirement.If LaRoche and Werth have career average years, then all of a sudden we have Morse, Zim, Werth, LaRoche, Espi and Ramos that should be avg to above average OBP for their positions. That's pretty strong. Add one more of those and we could really be close. Add one more those and a legit guy in the rotation, and I think we are solidly in the mix for the playoffs. I feel dump saying that but I think it's true.

  47. Anonymous - Oct 10, 2011 at 3:56 PM

    95 wins.

  48. Wally - Oct 10, 2011 at 4:07 PM

    I am with Avar, we are more than 1 piece away. Here is an example: most bloggers here seem to think that we have a pretty good bullpen (I like it too). Yet, I saw a stat during the STL-MIL game that STL was second in the league in blown saves. Behind US. So I think that we need to continue to upgrade overall.I say we need a SP pitcher first, and then a good bat second. In both cases, they need to be clearly upper level guys. That may be enough to contend, if we get Espy/Ramos/Werth improvement, too.

  49. Will - Oct 10, 2011 at 4:13 PM

    Who do we need?We don't need anyone. We just need good performances from certain players. If Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman can put up career-best seasons, Steven Strasburg can pitch 200+ innings of fantastic baseball, Bryce Harper can start and put up half the number he did in Hagerstown, and the rest of the team does exactly what they did this season, then we can make the playoffs.However, that's not a likely scenario, so a high OBP player would do it for me. It doesn't have to be a CF. We actually have a lot of flexibility. The only positions that are off limits are C and 3B. Werth can be shifted to CF if necessary. Espinosa can play either middle IF position, and Morse should play 1B. But a batter with a high OBP (.350+ ideally), could fit in at 1B, 2B, SS, RF, CF or LF. A CF or SS is our biggest hole, but Rizzo shouldn't limit himself to only players from those two positions.

  50. Gonat - Oct 10, 2011 at 4:23 PM

    Greg said…btw, gonat, buster olney had a column focused mostly about the idea that the reds may be (and should be) willing to deal votto. ______________________I saw that and most has to do with their belief in Yonder Alonso where 1st base is his position and selling high on Votto. The sell high part is the problem as the Nats still have LaRoche. The Reds want to capitalize so it would come at a high price. This is why the Yankees like to deal in Free Agency and that may be the thing to do with Votto is wait it out.I thought the deal where the Red Sox got Adrian Gonzalez for the Rizzo kid who bombed after a quick start was a steal for the Sox.The one area Rizzo has to get better is in trades. It would behoove the Nats to utilize Kasten as a consultant for trades. I read in Goessling talking about the Willingham trade in which he said that was the Nats best offer. Well, then walk away. I just think this is the area that Rizzo isn't good at. I think he EXCELS in most other areas although he needs to be quicker with the DFAs on players during the season.

  51. Joe S. - Oct 10, 2011 at 4:25 PM

    If the Nats want to get into the playoffs with only one new addition, they'll need a lot of luck. Let's pretend that the Nats are lucky. If they are lucky, Wang or Detwiler will turn into a good #3 starter. (I'm not going to tempt the gods by mentioning Peacock or Milone–as Boswell once said, rookie pitchers are the most unstable isotope in baseball.) If they are lucky, they have bodacious slugging (lucky HRs inserted): Desi(15)-Espi(25)-LaRoche(25)-Morse(32)-Ramos(18)-Werth(25)-Zimm(30). If they are lucky (and smart), they'll pick up a good bench cheap. And the bullpen only needs to avoid bad luck.But no amount of luck will give them a top-grade leadoff hitter. They don't have anybody in the system who projects to be one next year, even optimistically. They have a number of possible mediocre leadoff hitters, but nobody who is really good. Even if Desi or Bernardina have a good season by their standards, neither will be a really good leadoff hitter.

  52. Anonymous8 - Oct 10, 2011 at 4:31 PM

    Wally said… Yet, I saw a stat during the STL-MIL game that STL was second in the league in blown saves. October 10, 2011 12:07 PM You really need to go back to posts in July and August. The blown saves were discussed in detail then. It wasn't from Clippard and Storen as much as from Burnett, HenRod, and others due to a blown hold in many scenarios is a blown save.

  53. Mark'd - Oct 10, 2011 at 4:44 PM

    Theo mentions Ian Kinsker, add in Corey Hart from Brewers. For the person who mentioned Nyjer, he rarely hit leadoff this year for the Brewers.

  54. rogieshan - Oct 10, 2011 at 4:45 PM

    If deemed healthy, maybe a Grady Sizemore is worth considering.

  55. Anonymous - Oct 10, 2011 at 4:47 PM

    Nats1924, I'm glad you managed to put some statistics to your statement of "Dejesus? That's awful."I'm sorry that you consider a guy with a career .356obp as awful. Not to mention he is an above average right fielder. Over his career he has averaged 3 WAR a season as well. He is coming off a down year (still posted a .323 obp which was WAY ahead of Nats leadoff hitters.) so a 1 year deal so he can re-establish himself will be in order which makes him an ideal stop gap until Harper is ready.Can you tell me how many free agents to be have an OBP higher than Dejesus and also play a position the Nats need to fill and WON'T cost an arm and a leg and a ridiculously long contract…Oh wait…there are no others.Don't get me wrong, Dejesus alone won't make them a contender but he is a guy who could bring some on base consistency and less strike outs to a lineup that sorely needs it and also won't hamstring the organization with a terrible contract.-PDowdy83

  56. Anonymous - Oct 10, 2011 at 4:55 PM

    Rogieshan, I agree on Sizemore on a 1 year deal, maybe with an option in case he does make a solid return next year. Couldn't hurt to bring back Ankiel as plan B and sign a guy like Sizemore who has a lot of upside.pdowdy83

  57. Anonymous8 - Oct 10, 2011 at 5:00 PM

    -PDowdy83, I looked at DeJesus and his problem has been health. Possibly could get him for a good price. A decent alternative. Sizemore had another knee injury and seems destined for the bench.

  58. baseballswami - Oct 10, 2011 at 5:01 PM

    You can only bring in so much. Can you imagine how much better we would have been with a healthy Zim all year and a productive Werth? What this team needs is a better hitting approach ( right , Debbie Taylor?). Sometimes I think they don't have a plan when they go up there, or they have the same plan in every situation. I don't call "swing for the fences every time you are up" a smart hitting approach. Some improvements need to be made internally. In the regular season we were not worse than the Cards or the Brewers – in September they got hot and have kept it up. When a team is hot then most of their lineup is producing all at once at the same time their pitching is good. It's a perfect storm.

  59. Mark'd - Oct 10, 2011 at 5:13 PM

    Baseballswami, the best hitting coach is from the team you mentioned, Mark McGwire. Outside of Pujols, they have created productiin

  60. Anonymous - Oct 10, 2011 at 5:18 PM

    Reds are listening on Votto…just saying. We finally have prospects we can trade for a young MVP who can play both 1B and OF.

  61. Joe Seamhead - Oct 10, 2011 at 5:40 PM

    I think that we are very close, but certainly there is room for improvement in several areas. Though our closer and 8th inning setup guys look great, we actually led the NL in blown saves. That said I really believe that we have very good pitchers that are getting better, and will continue to do so. And though a great defensive, high OBP guy playing CF and leading off would be a huge addition, I just don't see anybody that's available that meets the criterium needed to fill the slot. And even if we had the guy who gets on, we still need a steady guy to drive him in. How many times did we come up empty with RISP last year? If I only get one wish from the Genie it's for a high average/ good glove power hitter playing CF.

  62. JamesFan - Oct 10, 2011 at 5:57 PM

    These posts from the truly attentive Nats fans are interesting. Generally, they are happy with the team as it stands, not willing to trade away core players for big names at high cost in trade. Rather, they see incremental upgrades and added depth at pitching, OBP and the bench. All of this, I suspect presumes that Davey is back as manager, Ramos, Desi and Espi continue to progress, CMW is signed, Ankiel returns and LaRoche comes back as projected. My guess is that Rizzo is thinking along the same lines. Hopefully, he can find the next Michael Bourne and a quality experienced starter and some bench help. Then, Let's play ball.

  63. Mark'd - Oct 10, 2011 at 6:19 PM

    Rizzo's strength is amateur athlete evaluation. Not sure how he is as a contract negotiator however the end results are excellent as he gets them all signed just like the Free Agents. I have been a nervous observer on his ability to make trades. There is an art to it and anyone can overpay. The Red Sox, Rays, Braves and Phillies are top tier on trades. That leads me to Greinke. Watching him yesterday made me relieved the Nats didn't get him.

  64. SonnyG10 - Oct 10, 2011 at 6:24 PM

    I voted for a lead-off guy, although Desi might be able to do that job. I basically want a higher batting average up and down the line-up.

  65. Cassandra - Oct 10, 2011 at 7:21 PM

    Someone we expect to do well will get hurt.Someone we expect to maintain his 'career norms' will slump.Someone we expect to move quickly through the minors will stagnate.For every positive assumption you make, you've got to make a negative (or, at least, neutral) one. That leaves you as a .500 team.If you want to get better, add some bats (real ones) and stock up on arms (i.e., get another decent starter to go with all the baby pitchers we have). Don't stand still and assume that 80-81 will turn into 90-72 just because some players will 'mature' or 'return to their norms' (some may, but not everyone). If Priam had only listened to me…well, he didn't, but you can…

  66. Anonymous8 - Oct 10, 2011 at 7:47 PM

    From Tom Boswell: There is another $100-M free agent player out there with the Nats name on him. And I think the Nats payroll should head from $66M to $100M ballpark.But, for now, I don't think its Reyes (selfish, immature), Fielder, Pujols or CJ Wilson. I could be wrong. Ted Lerner believes in spending big if you can get the best of the best. He did it with Teixeira. But what lesson will he see in that!? Tex has been awful, generally, in post-season.Trades that increase payroll are a good possibility. But, NO, I never want to see the Lerners go back to the bad old days.Rizzo really, really believes that they need a high quality No. 3 starter to get to the next level and to contend, not just a solid pitcher or a youngster who may develop someday into a No. 3. I think he's right about that.I'll be more interested in seeing what they do this winter than in trying to pretend to tell them what to do. There will be plenty of time for that after the Series. And you'll read plenty about it, I'm sure.

  67. Wally - Oct 10, 2011 at 7:48 PM

    Anonymous8 said…Wally said… Yet, I saw a stat during the STL-MIL game …You really need to go back to posts in July and August. The blown saves were discussed in detail then. It wasn't from Clippard and Storen as much as from Burnett, HenRod, and others due to a blown hold in many scenarios is a blown save.Anon8 – I remember those, but here are the stats:Total blown saves for Nats – 28Leaders: Clip (7), Burnett (6), Storen (5).But that wasn't the point I was trying to make. As I said, I like the bullpen but it is a good example where I feel that, as a team, we are more than 1 guy away. This strength also has guys who had some earlier big blow ups, so it wouldn't be hugely surprising if they had some issues in 2012. And that is from an area of strength.So I draw this conclusion for this offseason. We either go for it with some guys who are clearly a cut above (CJ Wilson, Beltran or Reyes), or keep playing the kids and see how they do, and reevaluate next year. I think the middling guys like resigning Marquis will be wasted money (ie, not enough of an improvement over internal options to justify the cost).

  68. Wally - Oct 10, 2011 at 8:21 PM

    Just read Bos's chat, and he made two other interesting points.First, he repeated something that he said last week, that the players involved on our side were never agreed to. He says that there was a list of players to pick from, but no way it would have included JZimm, Espy AND Storen. Maybe one, he says.Anyway, more interesting was a question asking, would you trade Werth & Laroche for Carl Crawford? Boz said that Bosox would trade Crawford for Werth straight up (he was their first choice), but Nats wouldn't. I had asked something similar in a Fangraphs chat a while ago, and the guy thought Bos would say no to it (and held a survey, with most readers agreeing Bos would say no).

  69. Wally - Oct 10, 2011 at 8:24 PM

    Sorry, I should have said the players in the failed Greinke trade were never agreed on.

  70. Anonymous - Oct 10, 2011 at 8:33 PM

    I think Rizzo is a bigger risk take than the people on this board. I think he is going to either sign a free agent or more likely make a trade that most people will not like but will be good for the team in the long run. It really does not matter if the team gives up fewer runs or scores more runs the run differential equates to more wins.

  71. Drew8 - Oct 10, 2011 at 8:36 PM

    Theo 11:36 said: "I think I noticed Ian Kinsler was leading off for Texas. Doesn't look much like Michael Bourn to me. Seems to be working out for them."Of course it's working out. Ian Kinsler has a fantastic .355 on base percentage — even higher than Michael Bourn's .349.It's not about batting average. It's not about stolen bases. It's about GETTING ON BASE in front of the 3,4,5,6 hitters.Guys like Kevin Youklis and Wade Boggs, who carry a piano down the baseline, excel as tablesetters because they have high on base percentages.Even if Anthony Rendon turns out to be a plodder, he will eventually be a godsend in one of the top two spots because he will get on base.

  72. Anonymous - Oct 10, 2011 at 8:37 PM

    I would vote for offense in the OF. That offense would preferably come in a leadoff hitter. But, if a true leadoff hitter is not available at an acceptable price, fill the third OF spot with someone or some combo that would give the Nats 20HRs/80 RBI. I think the fact Harper will be in the mix by 2013 and the fact the Nats are still trying to determine exactly what they have in Desmond and Espinosa, leaves the team in somewhat of state of flux this offseason. Maybe the team signs a mid level free agent bat to bridge the gap until the Harper era begins. With that said, I see 2012 the line up being one of the following"Desmond SSWerth OFZim 3BMorse OFLaRoche 1B? OFEspy 2BRamos COR…? OFDesmond SSZim 3BMorse OFLaRoche 1BWerth OFEspy 2BRamos CPS – Having grown up an O's fan during the late 70s and early 80s (before Angelos killed my fandom), I still hold out hope the Nats could survive a year on a Lowenstein/Roenicke type platoon in one of the OF spots.

  73. John C. - Oct 10, 2011 at 10:11 PM

    Frankly, I don't think that the Nationals are a playoff team in 2012. Even in a best case scenario Strasburg is shut down in August, which severely limits both your chance of making the postseason and then winning a short series. But that said, now they can see playoffs from where they are standing. The goal is to make moves that don't undermine the team long term. This is why Pujols is out and Fielder, Reyes or Wilson are risky. If you're going to invest money, I'd say go for Yu Darvish (25 years old, actual salary figures per year will be manageable). They do need a solid OF/OBP guy, but I think a solid not spectacular stopgap would be in order – David DeJesus would be a possibility. [BRETT GARDNER IS NOT COMING TO DC. Stop it. Just don't. I can't see any deal the Nationals would offer as making any sense for the Yankees to accept]It's possible the Nationals catch lightning in a bottle, with Werth and Zimmerman stepping up and Strasburg and Zimmermann leading the pitching charge. In that case the Nationals are in great position to make deals at the deadline.

  74. gonatsgo - Oct 10, 2011 at 10:20 PM

    I also think that we are not in the playoffs in 2012, as much as I would LOVE it and I am not saying it's not possible.Maybe we threaten for the wild card? I think this next season is critical, though. I just think we need to get through Strassie's pitch limited season and get Harper all the way up, get through the Adam Laroche rehab or leave season and see what's up with first base – figure out a few other pieces and let the rest age and settle a little bit more. Maybe one more season with Desi and Danny will really settle them in. Looking really good, though – I see the light at the end of the tunnel.

  75. Gonat - Oct 10, 2011 at 10:36 PM

    Drew8 said… Theo 11:36 said: "I think I noticed Ian Kinsler was leading off for Texas. Doesn't look much like Michael Bourn to me. Seems to be working out for them."Of course it's working out. Ian Kinsler has a fantastic .355 on base percentage — even higher than Michael Bourn's .349.It's not about batting average. It's not about stolen bases. It's about GETTING ON BASE in front of the 3,4,5,6 hitters.Guys like Kevin Youklis and Wade Boggs, who carry a piano down the baseline, excel as tablesetters because they have high on base percentages.Even if Anthony Rendon turns out to be a plodder, he will eventually be a godsend in one of the top two spots because he will get on base. October 10, 2011 4:36 PM ______________________________Does anyone check stats or watch the games? Kinsler was a 30/30 guy this season. He is a 5 tool player in every sense except he doesn't get to show off his arm at 2nd base so you get his speed, power, average, OBP and baseball smarts. Only Granderson scored more runs than Kinsler this year with a 121. He had 30 steals and a 89% steal percentage better than Bourn. I would say Kinsler could bat anywhere in the order. By the way, he had MORE home runs than Michael Morse with 32.

  76. Anonymous - Oct 10, 2011 at 10:37 PM

    hmm What do the Nats need to contend? #1 veteran starter#4 quality starterBetter, much better bullpenlead off hitterA better glove at shortstopGet rid of LaRoche — addition by subtractionget a third base coach whose has instinctsFind a manager whose not rooted in 1980 s era A third baseman with an armAnd you all are discussing just one thing the Nats need? They need a ton of improvements. Stop fooling yourselves.

  77. Anonymous - Oct 10, 2011 at 10:39 PM

    yeah — if the Nationals sit pat, they're, well … DEAD in the WATER

  78. Gonat - Oct 10, 2011 at 10:47 PM

    Wally, it is a lot easier to blow a lead in the bullpen when you are working with 1 run leads. I understand what you are saying plus out of all of Storen's blown saves only 1 turned into a loss.The Nats also had 3 blown saves in the Chisox game.I just think it is a very misleading stat as most think it is in the 9th inning of a game. Its there as a stat but we should be able laugh it off with the exception of Burnett as most of his were disasters.

  79. Anonymous8 - Oct 10, 2011 at 10:49 PM

    Anonymous said… hmm What do the Nats need to contend? #1 veteran starter#4 quality starterBetter, much better bullpenlead off hitterA better glove at shortstopGet rid of LaRoche — addition by subtractionget a third base coach whose has instinctsFind a manager whose not rooted in 1980 s era A third baseman with an armAnd you all are discussing just one thing the Nats need? They need a ton of improvements. Stop fooling yourselves. October 10, 2011 6:37 PM GO BACK TO BALTIMORE FOOL.

  80. Section 222 - Oct 10, 2011 at 11:34 PM

    Of course the Nats need more than one thing to contend. But the reason this is an interesting thought experiment, and has inspired over 80 comments so far, is that it forces us to think about what are the most likely positive developments among the players we already have. In other words, is one of our current young starters (or Wang) more likely to develop into a solid No. 3, as good as anyone available out there, than Ian Desmond is to become a respectable lead off guy? Is the bullpen possibly adequate as it is, is someone on current 40 man roster (Marrero?) going to provide that big bat off the bench, or at least as good as what we can get on the FA market? I voted for a big bat because I think the Nats really lack the offensive firepower that is needed to compete at the next level. I don't expect Werth even to return to his career norms, inflated as they were by feasting on the Nats pitching staff for 18 games per season from 2006-2010). He's just not the third power guy (see Pujols/Holliday/Berkman, Utley/Howard/Pence/Ibanez) that we need to join Zim and Morse. And no, LaRoche isn't that guy either. I don't think Desmond will ever be the high OBP kind of leadoff hitter we need so a high OBP leadoff guy is also a priority. Our pitching staff, on the other hand, is headed in the right direction both starters and relievers. And I'm less enamored of the hairy chested pinch hitter than Davey is. Fortunately, we are blessed with a shrewd GM and very rich owners. I completely disagree with an early commenter who said: "they can't afford to drop $175 MM or more on a Pujols or Fielder . . . without losing all of their financial flexibility in the future." Actually, they can. They are BILLIONAIRES, the richest in all of MLB. They can re-sign Zim for the long term. And if the right players are out there — Reyes for the leadoff guy, Fielder or Pujols for the big bat, they can afford them. We've followed a "Plan" for 7 years that has brought us only to .500 baseball. It's time to start buying some key pieces to go along with homegrown youngsters and build a championship team — starting next year. We've waited long enough. And the Phillies are ripe for dethroning. Why do we have to accept that the Braves will take over in the NL East before we will?

  81. Wally - Oct 10, 2011 at 11:36 PM

    Gonat- agreed. Clip was arguably the most valuable reliever in the game in 2011, yet led the team in blown saves. That isn't consistent, and I agree with you that blown saves is the dubious one. I was not trying to say the bullpen stinks, just that we aren't one player away by showing that even one of our strengths has a little hair on it.Let me try it another way. Baseball is a long season, and the talent level of the top teams isn't that far apart, meaning that luck (in the form of injuries, BABIP,HR%, etc) often will determine who is in or out of the playoffs. So, to feel confident going INTO the season, I think that you want to feel like if you compare rosters around the league and assume everyone produces in line with their true talent level (or said differently, has an average season for that player), your team is among the top 4. What actually happens …. well, who knows. That is why they play the games, and why it is great. But I would feel pretty confident going in to the season.I don't think one player gets us to that level. Maybe a good SP and two bats? Maybe less, I dunno.

  82. Drew8 - Oct 11, 2011 at 12:28 AM

    Section 222 said of Werth: "He's just not the third power guy (see Pujols/Holliday/Berkman, Utley/Howard/Pence/Ibanez) that we need to join Zim and Morse. And no, LaRoche isn't that guy either."Bryce Harper is that guy.

  83. Section 222 - Oct 11, 2011 at 2:58 AM

    @Drew8 said: Bryce Harper is that guy. At some point, yes. At least we all hope so. But not in 2012, and probably not in 2013 or even 2014 either. See Heyward,J. Let's get another big bat so he doesn't have to completely fulfill the high expectations for the Nats to contend sooner rather than later.

  84. PSA Function Key - Oct 11, 2011 at 10:40 AM

    Please don't feed the trolls.GO BACK TO BALTIMORE FOOL.

  85. natsfan1a - Oct 11, 2011 at 10:42 AM

    To be fair, so is that other team in Andy – wait, what? He did? Never mind then.Fortunately, we are blessed with a shrewd GM

  86. natsfan1a - Oct 11, 2011 at 10:43 AM

    Oops. My bad on the feeding.

  87. Anonymous - Oct 11, 2011 at 2:36 PM

    Mark – I read your question to be "What one thing do we need to win in the playoffs?" and not "What one thing do we need to get to the playoffs?" As the Yankees and Phillies just showed, you can construct a team to dominate the regular season and yet fall prey to the unforgiving small sample sizes of a 5- or 7- game series. If you were asking about getting to the playoffs, I'd agree – we need a leadoff hitter to more regularly get on base and increase the number of runs we score over the course of the season.To win in the playoffs, though, Rizzo's right – we need another frontline starter. Note: I didn't say "innings-eating veteran." Marquis, Livo (much as I love him), etc. need not apply. In a seven game series, Stras pitches games 1,4,and 7 ZNN pitches 2 and 5. The question is, who pitches 3 and 6? That guy needs to be a horse – not some 100 ERA+, 4.5 ERA, 200+IP type. Basically, the way to win the in playoffs is to walk into every game (or nearly every game) saying "Well, our pitcher should outpitch their guy." That's not a guarantee, but it's as good as you can get. I totally agree with the comment that the Phillies lost because Lee pitched poorly.It's too easy for an offense to shut down over the course of seven games – look at the Yankee offense. Except for their two blowouts, they scored 9 runs in their three losses. The offense averaged 5.3 runs a game and actually outscored the Tigers 28-17 in the series, and yet they lost. Pitching in the critical three wins made the difference.So, for the Nats, I think they need to take a hard look at the pitching market and make some calls as to whether they really have that #3 guy in-house. I hope Detwiler or Peacock can become that third horse, or that Solis or Purke can in a year or two, but if you're asking what gives you the best chance to win in the 12-19 games of the playoffs, the answer is dominant starting pitching. Other than that, it's a crapshoot – anybody can get hot, anybody can go cold – basically over a sample size of 20-30 ABs anything can happen, which is why teams talk about such nonsense and voodoo this time of year like "Beast Mode," and various "Rally animals" (squirrels, monkeys, etc.)

  88. Steve M. - Oct 11, 2011 at 2:58 PM

    Throughout the season we have all seen where the Nats were lacking. Part of the complexity in my evaluation has been clouded by the injuries to LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman as key components.The season started off bad. No leadoff hitter after Nyjer was exiled. I questioned in Spring Training the health of Ryan Zimmerman which I was correct about. I took the word of Adam LaRoche that he would be fine and he was not. The Matt Stairs debacle worked itself out. The bullpen evolved to a better product. Offensive run production dropped from '10 to '11.September mirages are often difficult to assess like the bullpen. Davey was working with a 12 man bullpen after Mattheus came back and that's not a reality so it is hard for me to evaluate what Davey's real bullpen is going to look like.The positives in no particular order:1) Jordan Zimmermann was an ace 2) Stephen Strasburg is on pace as an ace3) Jayson Werth improved in the 2nd half4) Ryan Zimmerman's bat helped the offense5) Michael Morse put up big offensive numbers6) Clippard & Storen anchored the bullpen7) Good improvement in the offense8) Nats were a good 1st to 3rd team in speed9) Good cohesive clubhouse10)Ramos and Espinosa were impressive Rookies11)Nats catchers kept the opposition from running12)Ian Desmond showed he could bat lead-off13)Davey Johnson transitioned after Riggles14)Infield errors decreased15)Milone and Peacock can pitch16)Wang with valiant return17)Ankiel has a cannon for an armI am sure there are more to add to the list. The Nats were top 10 in pitching and bottom 10 in offense and middle 10 in defense. Still, you can never have enough pitching.To answer Mark's question, "What would make the Nats a playoff team?", I will answer that below.

  89. N. Cognito - Oct 11, 2011 at 3:02 PM

    There isn't one thing they need to make them a playoff team. You always need a lot of little things that each win you an extra game or two.They need Werth and LaRoche to bounce back and have productive seasons.They need to stay healthy.They need people at the top of the order getting on base.They need the 3-5 pitchers in the rotation to be reliable and productive, each to their expectations.They need a bench.They do not need another big bat, but one would certainly help.As they are constructed now, they are not a playoff team.

  90. Steve M. - Oct 11, 2011 at 3:48 PM

    To answer Mark's question, "What would make the Nats a playoff team?"The Nats were top 10 in pitching and bottom 10 in offense and middle 10 in defense. Since defense and pitching go hand-in-hand and your offensive players also play defense, it is important to get good 2-way players.For example, if you add a Josh Willingham for offense, you give up on defense.There is 1 offensive opening on the team with LaRoche coming back as I see it. Do you get a speedy CF who can play defense and can possibly be leadoff or get the #6 hitter who will play corner outfield and be a HR threat? I see 1 player who is a triple threat. Alex Gordon was the Royals leadoff for 89 games and spent the rest of the time in the 3 hole. He actually excelled at leadoff as kind of an Ian Kinsler type. Big power to go with high on-base and some good speed. He not only gives you the on-base threat but is also a RBI guy.For those that don't know the Gordon storyin the 2005 Draft, he was the heralded 3rd baseman who was ranked higher than Zim. JUpton went #1, Gordon went #2, RZim, #4, Braun #5, Ricky Romero #6, Tulowitzki #7, McCutcheon #11, Jay Bruce #12, Elsbury #51 so it was a bumper crop for draft picks except Alex Gordon was a late bloomer in the bunch.Gordon was a 5.9 WAR on BaseRef and 6.9 WAR on FanGraphs a .879 OPS with a .303/.376/.502 slash. Based on service time he appears to have 1 to 2 years before Free Agency. Crisp is a Free Agent and can bat almost anywhere in the batting order from leadoff to 8th. Big speed, good glove, good arm, clutch bat. Durability may be his biggest problem. He can also play off the bench.Bringing in 2 new players may be overkill but if you want to be a playoff team, you need depth.If the Nats get CJ Wilson, great, if not I pointed out a while ago 2 other lefties in Mark Buehrle who is Free Agent or Wandy Rodriguez in a trade. Both are durable pitching into the 7th inning of each game consistently. Buehrle didn't finish his season well and what I found was that is typical for him in his career. He starts out a little slow in April which is probably due to the colder Chicago weather and for May, June and July goes respectively 3.28, 3.48 to 3.79 in ERA. In August and September, he is 4.02 to 4.21.So I believe you go after another strong bat, a player like Crisp who is your insurance for leadoff and a 4th outfielder and get the #3 starter. You slide Detwiler then into the bullpen.1) Alex Gordon RF LH2) Jayson Werth CF RH3) Zim 3B RH4) Morse LF RH5) LaRoche 1B LH6) Desmond SS RH7) Espi 2B Swith8) Ramos C RH1) JZim RH2) Stras RH3) Buehrle LH4) Lannan LH5) Wang RH1) Gorzo Longman LH2) HenRod RH stopper3) Coffey RH stopper4) Mattheus RH5) Burnett LH6) Detwiler LH 7th inning setup7) Clippard RH 8th inning setup8) Storen RH closer1) Crisp CF Switch2) Flores C RH3) Lombo Infield Swith4) Ankiel OF SwitchI am thinking Davey goes with an 8 man 'pen and 1 short on the bench.

Archives

FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
x-WASHINGTON 96 66 --
ATLANTA 79 83 17.0
NEW YORK 79 83 17.0
MIAMI 77 85 19.0
PHILADELPHIA 73 89 23.0

NL POSTSEASON SCHEDULE

NL WILD CARD GAME
WED: Giants at Pirates, 8:07 p.m. (ESPN)

NLDS
FRI: Game 1, Pirates at Nats, 12:07 p.m.,
OR Giants at Nats, 3:07 p.m. (FS1)
SAT: Game 2, PIT/SF at Nats, 5:37 p.m. (FS1)
MON: Game 3, Nats at PIT/SF, TBA (MLBN)
OCT. 7: Game 4, Nats at PIT/SF, TBA (FS1)*
OCT. 9: Game 5, PIT/SF at Nats, TBA (FS1)*
*if necessary

Mark joins Rob Carlin and Joe Orsulak every Thursday at 4 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet for a half-hour show on the Nats, Orioles and rest of MLB. Re-airs Thursdays at 11:30 p.m., Saturdays at 9 a.m. and Sundays at 11:30 a.m.

ON THE RADIO

As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...

MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.

*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.

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