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Beltway Baseball: How to fix Nats for 2014

Oct 8, 2013, 3:25 PM EDT

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Yesterday Mark and I looked at what went wrong with the Nationals, so now it’s time to look forward to next year. How can the Nats make sure what happened this season doesn’t happen again?

We each have our own theories with what they will do, what areas they will try and improve, etc. And Mark also has one underrated spot in the lineup that the Nationals could look to upgrade.

Check it out right here:

  1. David Proctor - Oct 8, 2013 at 5:46 PM

    The Arizona Fall League began today. Interestingly, Alex Meyer pitched against the team that our team played on. Meyer wasn’t that great: gave up 5 hits and 3ER in 3 innings. 2 Nats prospects got hits off of him: Brian Goodwin and Matt Skole. Though Goodwin was picked off first base. Goodwin is 2/3 today and Skole is 1/2 with a walk.

    • David Proctor - Oct 8, 2013 at 6:24 PM

      And Matt Skole just homered

  2. ArVAFan - Oct 8, 2013 at 8:47 PM

    Where are you watching the Arizona Fall League?

    • David Proctor - Oct 8, 2013 at 9:38 PM

      I can’t find a way to watch it, but I’ve been following along on Milb.com

  3. nats128 - Oct 8, 2013 at 8:58 PM

    Nice Mark. Glad you said the truth with 1st base. I’m jumping on the Werth to 1st base bandwagon if Rizzo can get Choo.

  4. texnat1 - Oct 8, 2013 at 9:49 PM

    Well it certainly isn’t true that first base is the only position they could improve. They could move Span to make way for a better outfield bat. It would actually be far easier to do that than to move Laroche.

  5. breakbad1 - Oct 8, 2013 at 9:56 PM

    I was surprised, and a little disappointed, that you only discussed personnel–not fundamentals.

    First, personnel: I only watched your tape once, but did you indicate Hairston will be back, because he has a two year deal? There is no way this team goes to the playoffs with Hairston on the roster. I mean, what did he hit–like .215?

    Here’s a question for Nats media folks: in the last game or two, Ray Knight said Tyler Moore would be a “100 RBI, 30 homer guy” if he played every day. Mark and Chase: do you believe this? I do not.

    I was deeply saddened by Rizzo’s decisions to gut our bullpen from 2012. Man did we pay a price for it.

    Fundamentals: In the 2012 season, including the playoffs, including Game 5, our pitchers failed to hold runners. This was repeatedly brought up to management–including Davey and Rizzo, who said on radio and TV we fixed it, don’t worry about it.

    Then what happened? In 2013, we had the WORST numbers on catching men trying to steal against us, of any team in baseball.

    And so I ask: If we said we’d fix it in 2012 and didn’t, and then after 2012 said we’d fix it and didn’t for all of 2013, then, will they tell us now that we’ll fix it in 2014? Will Mark and Chase ask for some evidence they’re serious this time?

    • therealjohnc - Oct 8, 2013 at 10:29 PM

      Problem 1: “there is no way this team goes to the playoffs with Hairston on the roster. I mean what did he hit – like .215?”

      OK, that’s just kinda foolish.There is no way the Nats go to the playoffs because of who the 25th guy on the roster is? Seriously? Also, you assume that because he hit .215 (.221 for the Nats, actually) that means that’s who he is and what he will do in 2014; I note that Hairston had an OPS+ better than league average in three of the previous four seasons (103, 80, 113, 118). And he rakes against LHP (career OPS .815; even last year he hit 10 HR and a .743 OPS vs. LHP). you might have noticed that the Nats really struggled against LHP. Maybe a veteran guy, who knows how to come off the bench and is effective against LHP would be a useful guy to have on the roster?

      Problem 2: Rizzo “gutted our bullpen” from 2012? What is surprising is how little the bullpen turned over from 2012 to 2013, In fact, most of the guys who struggled were holdovers, like Zach Duke, Ryan Mattheus, Drew Storen and Henry Rodriguez. Heck, maybe Rizzo didn’t gut the bullpen enough. Of course Clippard and Stammen were also holdovers. The guys who left? Christian Garcia was sent down to try his hand at starting, but was hurt most of the season. Sean Burnett was hurt (reportedly a concern of the Nationasl when they considered bringing him back) and hardly played in 2013. Michael Gonzalez was lousy (0-3, 4.68 ERA, 1.660 WHIP). Tom Gorzelanny was simply mediocre (3-6, 3.90 ERA, 1.266 WHIP). When you look at the actual performance of the guys who left, it’s hard to see any negative impact.

      You are right about holding runners. They still need to get better at that.

  6. Theophilus T.S. - Oct 8, 2013 at 10:21 PM

    1. Hire a manager who doesn’t coddle the players. He doesn’t have to be a hard-ass, just insist on maturity, accountability and team baseball.

    2. Hire some guy at Johns Hopkins to do a complete workover on LaRoche. As I understand it, LaRoche changed his ADHD meds before the season, lost weight, couldn’t hit, changed back to the original meds and still couldn’t hit. That doesn’t explain anything. And it calls into doubt how he accomplished anything in 2012, unless that isn’t the real explanation. They need a complete endocrinal/metabolic/neurological workup, an accurate diagnosis and effective medication/treatment. LaRoche is the biggest hole in the lineup — and he’s likely to hit somewhere in the middle — 4th through 7th. Fix him and you fix a lot of the problems.

    • letswin3 - Oct 8, 2013 at 11:31 PM

      I’d rather dump him. Package him with someone of value (Span, Moore or both), suck up part of his contract dollars and don’t look back. He’s simply not the same player that we expected anymore. We can’t go into a season with our hopes riding on a medical solution tied to prescribing the right medication……first base is a production position, and Adam can’t produce anymore.

  7. Theophilus T.S. - Oct 8, 2013 at 10:26 PM

    I wonder if there somebody is keeping a team metric, somewhere, showing percentage of runners advanced into scoring position when batting w/ zero or one out. Not that the Nats were good at bringing home RISP but I’ll bet that when it came to getting runners into scoring position they were among the worst in baseball.

  8. Theophilus T.S. - Oct 8, 2013 at 10:40 PM

    The point isn’t to build a fantasy baseball team. The point is to be able to look at the top eleven position players (including LH and RH off the bench and a spare OF and a util. IF) and the top eight pitchers and say, “we can win the pennant with this guy in this spot.” Right now, 1B is the only position where you can’t say that — plus two starters and arms 5-8 in the BP (everybody after Soriano, Storen, Clippard and Stammen). All in all, that’s a lot of holes.

    If all of those nineteen spots are filled with guys with whom you are sure you can win, that doesn’t mean necessarily you will win — but you won’t lose because they lack talent. Compare, for example, Braves at 2B and LF.

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
WASHINGTON 75 56 --
ATLANTA 68 64 7.5
MIAMI 65 66 10.0
NEW YORK 62 70 13.5
PHILADELPHIA 60 72 15.5
Through Tuesday's games

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
WED: Nats at Phillies, 7:35 p.m.
THU: OFF
FRI: Nats at Mariners, 10:10 p.m.
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.
Full season schedule

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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