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Midseason report card: Offense

Jul 11, 2012, 3:00 PM EDT

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Ian Desmond's breakthrough performance earned the shortstop an A.

While the Nationals' pitching staff excelled throughout the season's first half and was the primary reason for this club's 49-34 record at the All-Star break, the performance from Washington's lineup and bench were more sporadic.

Things did take a nice upward turn over the last month, especially once Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse returned to their peak forms. Those two stalwarts combined with veteran Adam LaRoche, emerging star Ian Desmond and dynamic rookie Bryce Harper to give the Nationals a formidable quintet in the heart of their lineup.

With the All-Star Game now completed and everybody enjoying two more days off before the second half opens in Miami, it's time to hand out some midseason grades. We'll start with the offense. Check back this afternoon to see how the pitching staff rated…

RICK ANKIEL — C-
He's got maybe the best outfield arm in baseball, and that counts for something. He also occasionally runs into a pitch and hits it over theRead more »

  1. Gonat - Jul 11, 2012 at 3:18 PM

    Mark, you have to add the offense from Stras and JZim on there. Those guys are better than Nady!

  2. Tcostant - Jul 11, 2012 at 3:20 PM

    I'm not joing to nixpick ever grade but Flores deserves at least an A-. This guy is amazing, calls a good game, does a better job on balls in the dirt than Ramos and gets cluch hits too. Considering this guy injury history, we should all be please (A- pleased) with the job he does!JESUS FLORES

  3. joemktg - Jul 11, 2012 at 3:21 PM

    After 140+ PAs for Morse, I think it's not too early to grade his performance. Thinking a B- as his SLG avg needs to increase a bit.Espy and Lombo should receive the same grade given their reliability on one side of the plate, and their lack of reliability on the other side of the plate. Once they start platooning, I can see Esbo receiving a B+/A-.

  4. Gonat - Jul 11, 2012 at 3:25 PM

    Tocstant, you must not follow too closely. Check your stats again on Flores and check your eyes. The guy does deserve an A+ for heart and A+ for bouncing back time after time.D for his offense. C+ for his play calling. A- for intangibles. B- overall.

  5. Gonat - Jul 11, 2012 at 3:26 PM

    Ghost Of Steve M. said… If 160 innings is Strasburg's limit, his season will end probably by the 1st or 2nd start of September. If his limit is 170 innings like I outlined this week, Strasburg only misses 1 or 2 starts.July 11, 2012 10:36 AM ________________________________You have written a few times about 160-170. Where did this 170 come from that you keep saying. I have only heard 160.

  6. joemktg - Jul 11, 2012 at 3:27 PM

    Gonat's comment prompts the point that the Nats' pitchers, as a group, should be graded. They're collectively hitting .200 with an OPS of .531(!). That's called contribution.

  7. Gonat - Jul 11, 2012 at 3:35 PM

    The official Pitch F/X confirms what ticked me off last night. The ball 4 to Bautista in the Strasburg at-bat was clearly a strike 3 and against Cano, the ump called a ball that should have been strike 2 and led to a strikeout.http://www.brooksbaseball.net/pfxVB/cache/numlocation.php-pitchSel=544931&game=gid_2012_07_10_nasmlb_aasmlb_1&batterX=35&innings=yyyyyyyyy&sp_type=1&s_type=3.gifhttp://www.brooksbaseball.net/pfxVB/cache/numlocation_io.php-pitchSel=544931&game=gid_2012_07_10_nasmlb_aasmlb_1&batterX=33&innings=yyyyyyyyy&sp_type=1&s_type=3.gif

  8. Gonat - Jul 11, 2012 at 3:37 PM

    joemktg said… Gonat's comment prompts the point that the Nats' pitchers, as a group, should be graded. They're collectively hitting .200 with an OPS of .531(!). That's called contribution.________________________________________Plus JZim is playing Gold Glove defense.I am sure Mark will include their offense in their overall but these guys are hitting so well that they deserve acknowledgement both places IMO

  9. Tcostant - Jul 11, 2012 at 3:39 PM

    I'm just doing the eyes test. But when the guys in front of him fail, he seems to get a hit with two outs even with the pitcher hitting behind him. I know is average isn't good, but I'll take Flores as my starting catcher, anytime!

  10. JaneB - Jul 11, 2012 at 3:46 PM

    I would also give a slightly better grade to Flores. Looking forwardvto Chad Tracy getting back. And absolutely our pitchers deserve a score on offense. I'd take JZimm and Stras off the bench before Nady and DeRosa. And I truly think they oughta keep Stras active as a pinch hitter when he gets shut down as a pitcher. He can hit and we know he has ice in his veins and it keeps him with the guys he's gonna help send to the post season.And that's it for me writing or speaking about post season, till we clinch…or at least till just before. Back to the business of taking a series from everyone we see, especially if they play in the NL East.

  11. JamesFan - Jul 11, 2012 at 3:54 PM

    Flores is vastly under rated. His hitting is way down from what he showed previously. I attribute that to the pressure of handling a great starting rotation in a penant race largely by himself. I wish he would lighten up and realize that he has made it. He is a big-time ML catcher. Enjoy the position; enjoy the moment. I expect him to be better at the plate in the second half.

  12. Will - Jul 11, 2012 at 3:54 PM

    Jeez, what's deserving of an "F"? Mark, you're far more generous than I am of DeRosa and Nady's grades. Those guys are obvious failures in my book.

  13. Gonat - Jul 11, 2012 at 4:03 PM

    Tcostant, come on. You are talking about stats that are readily available to sort. Flores is batting .184 with RISP. That stinks. Look where the pitchers are and the catcher who got injured:http://mlb.mlb.com/stats/sortable.jsp?c_id=mlb&tcid=mm_mlb_stats#elem=%5Bobject+Object%5D&tab_level=child&click_text=Sortable+Player+hitting&sectionType=sp&statType=hitting&page=1&ts=1342022408749&team_id=120&playerType=ALL&timeframe=&last_x_days=&split=risp

  14. JD - Jul 11, 2012 at 4:09 PM

    At the risk of getting yelled at I have to disagree with the notion that Flores is under rated. His numbers are somewhat below his lifetime average but I think this is due to: being out for 2 years, playing winter ball and then playing a lot more than he has ever played before. I think that Flores is a decent major league average catcher, below average hitter with some occasional pop and he won't be a major drag on the team's post season efforts but he's not a star by any measure.

  15. Bzl. - Jul 11, 2012 at 4:13 PM

    I think DeRosa is going to earn his keep in the 2nd half. He just looks like he knows what he's doing at the plate, esp. since he returned from injury. Nady, not so much.

  16. JD - Jul 11, 2012 at 4:16 PM

    In the 2nd half we will need significant improvement from: Espinosa, Zimmerman and Morse to counter balance a possible regression by Desmond and LaRoche who had tremendous 1st halfs. I am hoping but not certain that Harper can maintain his pace and that Werth will contribute. The bench should be better because Moore and Lombo will move into that role and they are upgrades over DeRosa and Ankiel who should depart. Bernie is also an under rated bench player and along with Tracy should provide some production from the left side.

  17. JD - Jul 11, 2012 at 4:18 PM

    BZL, DeRosa has about 3 weeks to prove he belongs. When Werth returns I don't know who else you drop.I would replace Ankiel with Brown now but that's just me.

  18. Gonat - Jul 11, 2012 at 4:21 PM

    JD said… At the risk of getting yelled at I have to disagree with the notion that Flores is under rated. His numbers are somewhat below his lifetime average but I think this is due to: being out for 2 years, playing winter ball and then playing a lot more than he has ever played before.I think that Flores is a decent major league average catcher, below average hitter with some occasional pop and he won't be a major drag on the team's post season efforts but he's not a star by any measure. July 11, 2012 12:09 PM ______________________________I agree with that assessment. We have to see it for what it is. He quickly regressed as playing time increased. I really liked the idea of splitting up time further where Solano needs to play every 3rd day which will hopefully help Flores numbers.I put a lot of blame on Davey. Everyone with decent vision could see when Flores was dragging and Davey kept putting him out there. Flores for a while had serviceable offensive numbers.His current .273 OBP ranks 26 of the 30 starting catchers in the MLB. That is close to an F rating but I was nice and gave him a D.

  19. Ghost Of Steve M. - Jul 11, 2012 at 4:26 PM

    Gonat said… You have written a few times about 160-170. Where did this 170 come from that you keep saying. I have only heard 160.This was the inside word I got that it would be closer to 170 than 160 based on a post-season possibility.Here is a good piece posted today on the subject:http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/dc-sports-bog/post/stephen-strasburg-nats-will-have-to-rip-the-ball-out-of-my-hands/2012/07/11/gJQAgZ9zcW_blog.html?wprss=rss_dc-sports-bog

  20. Doc - Jul 11, 2012 at 4:26 PM

    JFlo is an above-average C on defense. His depressed hitting is probably most reflective of the time and effort he puts into handling the pitching staff, not the least of which is blocking balls in the dirt. Of that latter skill, Davey says that JFlo is the best in MLB.He always has had the potential to be a good hitter, gong back to when Davey scouted him on Gary Carter's advice. More relief from Solano, might give him the breaks that he needs to get back to being the hitter that he has shown that he can be. He chases too many off the plate breaking stuff.

  21. Ghost Of Steve M. - Jul 11, 2012 at 4:30 PM

    JD said… In the 2nd half we will need significant improvement from: Espinosa, Zimmerman and Morse to counter balance a possible regression by Desmond and LaRoche who had tremendous 1st halfs. I am hoping but not certain that Harper can maintain his pace and that Werth will contribute.All good points but I think LaRoche can improve if Davey would get him and some of these guys some more rest. When you have Morse and Moore who can play 1st base and September callups, there's no reason to keep fatiguing these guys like there is no backup.Totally agree on Flores and he is a prime of example of extreme over-use. Solano can handle it. Sure, he screwed up on Sunday, it happens.

  22. Feel Wood - Jul 11, 2012 at 4:31 PM

    Occasional Pop. That would be a good name for a band.

  23. Gonat - Jul 11, 2012 at 4:33 PM

    Ghost Of Steve M. said… Totally agree on Flores and he is a prime of example of extreme over-use. Solano can handle it. Sure, he screwed up on Sunday, it happens. _____________________________Flores is only 27 years old. Davey will probably carry 3 to 4 catchers in September. Figure Flores, Solano, Leon and Maldanado in September. Flores has to be fresh mentally and physically and he will probably play better.

  24. JD - Jul 11, 2012 at 4:35 PM

    Steve, Gonat, I am not sure that Davie et. al trust Solano as much as the fans do or he would have played more. We'l wait and see how this plays out. Agree on ALR and Davie has played Moore there a fair bit lately against lefties. Our lineup is too right handed without ALR; if Espi brings more pop from the left side that would take a lot of pressure off Harper and ALR.

  25. JD - Jul 11, 2012 at 4:37 PM

    Steve, The reason I'm concerned about more than 160 innings for SS is that he throws more pitches in those innings than your average pitcher.

  26. Theophilus T. S. - Jul 11, 2012 at 4:40 PM

    Off topic, somewhat, but I just realized Nats/Braves play day-night DH on 7/21. Which will be six games in five days. Who will be the sixth starter? You can't really pull one out of the bullpen, with more games Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Lannan or Maya? (Just to get some outrage started.)

  27. JD - Jul 11, 2012 at 4:41 PM

    Theo, My guess – Gorzo.

  28. JD - Jul 11, 2012 at 4:44 PM

    I just saw where Matt Purke is on the DL. Does any one know what is up with that?

  29. Firm Possession, My Gorsehacken Sofa - Jul 11, 2012 at 4:47 PM

    Feel Wood said…Occasional Pop. That would be a good name for a band.Particularly one that plays every other weekend.

  30. Feel Wood - Jul 11, 2012 at 4:48 PM

    Lannan or Maya?Lannan. Also for the doubleheader on 8/3. It will be his audition for September baseball – or for the haters among you, a trade. The second doubleheader coming after the trade deadline doesn't matter. Significant trades can still be made in August. Ask Livan Hernandez and Adam Dunn about that.

  31. Feel Wood - Jul 11, 2012 at 4:49 PM

    Firm Possession, My Gorsehacken Sofa said… Feel Wood said…Occasional Pop. That would be a good name for a band.Particularly one that plays every other weekend.Or one that likes to sprinkle a lot of barbershop into its repertoire.

  32. Firm Possession, My Gorsehacken Sofa - Jul 11, 2012 at 4:50 PM

    Lannan does want to be traded. So maybe not just the haters.

  33. Firm Possession, My Gorsehacken Sofa - Jul 11, 2012 at 4:52 PM

    Whether it is Lannan or Maya, somebody has to be moved somewhere to make room to bring him up for the two weeks or so that will require.

  34. Theophilus T. S. - Jul 11, 2012 at 4:53 PM

    Because it's the Braves, it will probably be a LH, I agree. The point is, because it is a day-night DH, they get to add one person to the roster for the day. If Mattheus has been optioned to Syracuse (for Storen), then maybe they bring him up for the day, in case the BP blows up in Game One. If Gorzelanny starts, he's unavailable Friday (probably), Saturday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (probably). And, of course, Mattheus (under this scenario) would be available only for one day and the BP would be short all of the rest of that time. So, my prognostication is Lannan. Unfortunately, we're going to that night game.

  35. Firm Possession, My Gorsehacken Sofa - Jul 11, 2012 at 4:56 PM

    because it is a day-night DH, they get to add one person to the roster for the day. I had forgotten that. Thanks, Theo.

  36. Ghost Of Steve M. - Jul 11, 2012 at 4:58 PM

    Theophilus T. S. said… Because it's the Braves, it will probably be a LH, I agree. The point is, because it is a day-night DH, they get to add one person to the roster for the day. If Mattheus has been optioned to Syracuse (for Storen), then maybe they bring him up for the day, in case the BP blows up in Game One. If Gorzelanny starts, he's unavailable Friday (probably), Saturday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (probably). And, of course, Mattheus (under this scenario) would be available only for one day and the BP would be short all of the rest of that time. So, my prognostication is Lannan. Unfortunately, we're going to that night game. July 11, 2012 12:53 PM The Braves are mostly a lefty team so I also hope Lannan as a LH picks up the doubleheader game against the Braves. With any luck on that day against the Braves to have 2 lefties on that day.

  37. Feel Wood - Jul 11, 2012 at 5:02 PM

    Lannan has traditionally pitched well against the Braves. And for those of you arguing for Gorzelanny or Stammen, keep in mind that they would need to be stretched out before taking a start. When's that gonna happen?

  38. JD - Jul 11, 2012 at 5:04 PM

    Feel Wood, Lannan has been the 3rd best pitcher at AAA and by quite a significant margin. Duke leads in wins but Maya has the better peripherals (less hits, less walks etc). If we have to go that route I would go with Maya.

  39. Gonat - Jul 11, 2012 at 5:05 PM

    Feel Wood said… Lannan has traditionally pitched well against the Braves. And for those of you arguing for Gorzelanny or Stammen, keep in mind that they would need to be stretched out before taking a start. When's that gonna happen? July 11, 2012 1:02 PM ______________________________Agreed. They are long men now and while they could do a spot start, no reason to torque them up like that when the new CBA allows for the spot starter in the doubleheader.

  40. Gonat - Jul 11, 2012 at 5:06 PM

    JD, Bryce's #'s weren't great in AAA. Don't you think Lannan will be "up" for the challenge?

  41. JD - Jul 11, 2012 at 5:09 PM

    Lannan? Really? 5 k's and 3 walks per 9 innings and 117 hits in 101 innings not to mention 13 HR or 1.15 per 9 innings. I don't get how this merits a promotion.

  42. JD - Jul 11, 2012 at 5:11 PM

    Gonat, but these are the type of numbers Lannan always put up in the bigs. It's not his fault; he just doesn't have the weapons to get big league hitters out consistently. The reason he has high walk numbers is that he has to live on the edges of the strike zone; if he pitches to contact he'l get pummeled.

  43. Gonat - Jul 11, 2012 at 5:17 PM

    JD said… Gonat,but these are the type of numbers Lannan always put up in the bigs. It's not his fault; he just doesn't have the weapons to get big league hitters out consistently.The reason he has high walk numbers is that he has to live on the edges of the strike zone; if he pitches to contact he'l get pummeled. July 11, 2012 1:11 PM ______________________________Yes, and that is John Lannan who has a darn good sinker. He has always lived on the edges and so does Gio Gonzalez (unfortunately).I haven't seen Lannan pitch once in AAA. I'm hoping he is working on new mechanics, pitches, technigue to get better. I will wait like everyone else to see what Rizzo/Davey does.

  44. JD - Jul 11, 2012 at 5:27 PM

    'Yes, and that is John Lannan who has a darn good sinker. He has always lived on the edges and so does Gio Gonzalez (unfortunately).' Except that Gio gives up 71 hits in 101 innings and only 4 HR's and his K to BB ratio is 10/4 per 9 innings.

  45. Steady Eddie - Jul 11, 2012 at 5:37 PM

    Gonat — I like John Lannan as a guy and admire his effort as a pitcher for the Nats in past years. But don't mention John Lannan and Gio Gonzales in the same sentence except to say they have both pitched for the Nats and are both southpaws.

  46. Gonat - Jul 11, 2012 at 5:46 PM

    Steady Eddie, cute.

  47. Gonat - Jul 11, 2012 at 5:50 PM

    If Gio would get back to pitching like the guy we saw in last night's All Star game instead of the guy throwing 25 pitch 1st innings and walking numerous batters then I can get back to calling him one of the best lefties in baseball.The month of June he reminded me too much of Lannan and while that isn't horrible, its not good either. 4+ ERA, walks, high pitch counts

  48. JD - Jul 11, 2012 at 6:09 PM

    Gonat, I agree with your points on Gio re efficiency but when you look at the entire season as a whole you have a pitcher who is strongly in the CY Young discussion; one who can still miss bats. I don't know that he nibbles as much as he misses he spots. He has never been a control pitcher and I suspect that this will improve with experience.

  49. Grandstander - Jul 11, 2012 at 6:22 PM

    I think you're being a little harsh on Bernadina. While it's true that at the beginning of the season, he didn't come right out and take the LF job, he's really flourished as a PH since. He's slashing .333/.484/.458 when not starting and he's swiped 8 bags in limited playing time while only getting caught once.I'm not saying he's an A+ or anything, but a C- seems kind of harsh given his performance off the bench this season.

  50. Theophilus T. S. - Jul 11, 2012 at 6:26 PM

    I like the idea of the Braves game as a showcase. Lannan throws a three-hitter (in my dreams) and the Red Sox or Angels give up a can't-miss prospect. (What might have happened if Marquis hadn't tanked the last two starts before last year's trade deadline.)

  51. Gonat - Jul 11, 2012 at 6:28 PM

    JD, thanks. He has been inconsistent and its the change from not using the big hook in June and July like he did in April and he used it last night to strike out Napoli.Thats the Gio I want to see. Throwing 11 pitches and making the opposition swing & miss.

  52. Manassas Nats' Fan - Jul 11, 2012 at 6:40 PM

    Bernadina and ANkiel get the same grade? What am I missing. I think Bernadina at lowest is a C, Ankeil at highest a D. DeTRossa and Nady easy F. Zim C- seems fair enough it was in the D- zone a good part of the year. Tacy for his roll a A- seems better. I would give Desmond a solid A if not A+, Straus and JZim both get A.(Stras A+)

  53. Ron In Reston - Jul 11, 2012 at 6:56 PM

    My two cents on things (before my post disappears as they have been doing lately):I think DeRosa was playing hurt (a la RZim) early in the season, and he's been significantly better since coming off the DL.Everyone keeps saying that Solano was #5 on the depth chart, but he wasn't, he was #3, behind Ramos and Flores. When Ramos got hurt, Solano was on the DL, so Leon (#4) got the call. Leon was here for 35 seconds and got hurt, Solano was obviously still on the DL and Maldonado got the call. Then when Solano was off the DL, they decided Maldonado had back issues or whatever, and Solano came up. So yes, he was our fifth catcher, but not #5 on the depth chart…..as evidenced by his play.And I don't agree with Nady getting an F as some have suggested. He hit a pinch hit HR to win a game, that means he did not fail. True, he's been terrible at the plate otherwise, but not worthy of an F.And yes, we should definitely include the pitching staff as a whole in the offense category and I would give them an A+, not just for the hitting prowess of JZim and Stras, but the fact that they are ALL getting sac bunts down when asked, unlike previous seasons when NOBODY could.

  54. Eugene in Oregon - Jul 11, 2012 at 7:34 PM

    Mr. Zuckerman:You're a tough grader with (appropriately) high standards; I assume you developed such expectations at Northwestern's journalism school (that's right, isn't it?). But today's university students would revolt at such a scale (or at least slam you in their course evaluations). Most Cs and Ds — even if deserved — would be replaced with low Bs (at the worst) on most campuses to keep all those tuition-paying parents happy. But I digress.Since these are only mid-term grades and can all be brought up, I'm only going to quibble with two:– Adam LaRoche deserves extra credit for carrying the team's offense in the first six weeks of the season, particularly given his history as a slow starter. Having stepped up and filled that requirement when it was essential, I'm giving him a soft A, which the understanding that he needs to get back on his usual trajectory of having a strong July-September — with bonus points available for playoff contributions.– And I would give Ryan Zimmerman a bit more slack given his injury and its aftermath. A C+ would seem more appropriate, particularly given his recent resurgence (and with the expectation that he continues to improve). A C+ — if he were a student — let's him know that he can realistically bring it up to a solid B+ or maybe even A- for the year, provided he works hard, applies himself, and generates better second half offensive numbers.

  55. peric - Jul 11, 2012 at 10:29 PM

    Espy and Lombo should receive the same grade given their reliability on one side of the plate, and their lack of reliability on the other side of the plate. Once they start platooning, I can see Esbo receiving a B+/A-.Espinosa is NOT a platoon player. Not a bench player. He projects as a solid starter perhaps even a superstar, he likely could play pretty much any position on the field short of catcher.He must be considered a possible replacement for Zimmerman at third base once Zimmerman is moved to first.Lombardozzi projects as a solid bench player … possibly a starter at second base only.

  56. peric - Jul 11, 2012 at 10:33 PM

    The only thing keeping Harper from an A+ might be his fielding. I think Harper has had the effect of jump starting this offense. His constant hustle coercing others to also push the envelope and push higher. Desmond was ineffective at lead-off. He really didn't become a big factor offensively until he was moved to bat fifth. The loss of Werth seems to have helped with that. Desmond appears to be the superior offensive force the Nats were looking for in Jayson Werth but will likely never see.

  57. Anthony Matthes - Jul 12, 2012 at 2:30 AM

    Although the pitching ratings were pretty spot on, several of the hitters were overated by at least a whole letter grade. Flores was a C- at best, Bryce was a B, Nady was a stone cold F, LaRoache a B, and Desi was a B+. This offense didn't score enough runs for anyone to grade out as an A.

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
WASHINGTON 76 57 --
ATLANTA 71 64 6.0
MIAMI 65 68 11.0
NEW YORK 63 72 14.0
PHILADELPHIA 61 73 15.5
Through Friday's games

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
SAT: Nats at Mariners, 9:10 p.m.
SUN: Nats at Mariners, 4:10 p.m.
MON: Nats at Dodgers, 8:10 p.m.
TUE: Nats at Dodgers, 10:10 p.m.
WED: Nats at Dodgers, 4:10 p.m.
THU: OFF
FRI: Phillies at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
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