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Nationals Stock Watch: Harper has rough week

Apr 23, 2014, 12:36 PM EST

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Record: 3-4
Team slash:  .173/.272/.268
Team ERA:  3.68
Runs per game:  3


Tanner Roark, SP: 13.0 IP/2.08 ERA/10K

Roark had a very solid week, even if his numbers don’t jump out at you. He pitched well enough to win in each of his two starts, but didn’t get enough run support to be the pitcher of record in either outing. He especially shined Monday night against the Angels, going 6.2 shutout innings against the high-octane Anaheim offense, but was denied the win when the bullpen faltered later in the game. It’s early, but through four starts Roark is giving the impression that his stellar 2013 season may not have been a fluke.

Rafael Soriano, SP: 1-0/0.00 ERA/0.33 WHIP/2 SVs

So far, so good for the Nationals’ closer. While other parts of the bullpen are still trying to find their groove, Soriano is quietly putting together a nice April. He saved two more games this past week, which keeps him perfect so far in save opportunities with four on the season. Add in the fact that he hasn’t given up an earned run in eight innings of work, and Nats fans have no reason to think he won’t “untuck” if he’s called upon these days.

Danny Espinosa, 2B: .400 SLG/1 HR/10 TBs

It wasn’t a great week for the offense overall, so no one in the lineup had sterling numbers. But Espinosa has continued to quietly re-invent himself at the plate, as well as provide quality defense at second. He’s going to be asked to play more now that Ryan Zimmerman is out of the lineup for an extended period of time, so it’ll be interesting to see if he can build on what’s been a solid April. If he can keep the strikeouts down, he certainly has a shot.


Bryce Harper, LF: .091 AVG/.167 OBP/5 K  

To say Harper didn’t have a good week would be a bit of an understatement. For one, he struggled at the plate, notching just two hits in 22 at-bats. But the lowlight came when he made headlines over the weekend for getting benched by Matt Williams for what the manager called a “lack of hustle” when running down the first base line on a groundout.  A player usually known for his tenacity and relentlessness, Harper of all people had to have been a bit embarrassed to be benched for that reason. So as you’d expect, he came out the next game and responded to the challenge, hustling down the line when he had to. Will this incident be the turning point of the season for him? Time will tell.

Taylor Jordan, SP: 0-2/7.82 ERA/1.65 WHIP

Jordan lost back-to-back starts this week, extending his losing streak to three straight overall. Though he hasn’t had the best defense behind him (four of the 13 runs he’s allowed the last week have been unearned), but the Nationals need him to do better. While he hasn’t been issuing a ton of walks lately, hitters have had an easy time seeing his pitches and crushing mistakes (see Pujols, Albert). Sure, he’s not supposed to be the staff ace, but he still has to provide some type of stability on the back end of the rotation.

Tyler Clippard, RP: 0-1/2.0 IP/4 R/3.00 WHIP

Clippard’s inconsistency had already been a bit of a concern heading into Monday night’s game against the Angels. But after he allowed four runs in the eighth inning of a tie game, it’s now become a mini crisis for Matt Williams. Should Clippard be given some time off, or should he be taken out of the setup man role entirely? Williams said after Monday night’s poor outing that he will stick with Clippard in eighth inning situations, but you wonder just how long that will last. There are a number of options he could go with in that spot, from Drew Storen to Aaron Barrett to even Ross Detwiler, so you’d think Clippard has to start turning this around soon.

  1. micksback1 - Apr 23, 2014 at 12:43 PM

    Although Bryce has picked it up a little, he is not playing to his potential. On another note, i read JD’s post about Cat and I have to admit, he may have a valid point. I could see MW canning Cat before the end of the season if things get bad with the pitching. I like cat and am hoping his approach will pay dividends, I hope i am right

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 23, 2014 at 12:59 PM

      You know, there could be something to that but like someone posted in the last thread I think the loss of Ramos is huge to this pitching staff.

    • letswin3 - Apr 23, 2014 at 1:59 PM

      Mick, I have no particular reason to like Cat (other than he seems to be a nice guy), so I will be a little tougher on him. Sometimes a change serves as a catalyst for improvement, like the replacement of Eckstein last year. I can’t honestly say that any starter (excepting Roark) is performing better than, or as well as, expected. The big 3 have all experienced “issues” this year that may have nothing whatever to do with Cat, but he also doesn’t look to be providing “value added” to the equation. New and different personalities, thought processes, communication skills, etc. can be helpful, and is helpful in many situations. Is there reason to consider replacing him? Maybe (I wasn’t crazy about Stras not understanding what aggression meant at the beginning of this season, and giving up early inning runs drives me crazy). But, if Williams decides that a change needs to be made, I’m okay with it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating it … just saying that I would be alright with it, if Matt thinks it would be helpful.

      • micksback1 - Apr 23, 2014 at 2:28 PM

        excellent post

  2. micksback1 - Apr 23, 2014 at 12:45 PM

    I am so done with taylor Jordan for 2014. he lacks mental toughness and looks like a deer in the head lights, get him the hell otta here and bring him back in 2015 spring training

    • therealjohnc - Apr 23, 2014 at 12:59 PM

      In the short term I agree that the Nationals need to do better than Taylor Jordan for the #5 rotation spot right now. That said, I’m not done with him for the year. Get him out of the spotlight back into AAA and work out his location issues and see if he can help in a couple of months if needed. Remember Drew Storen, how bad he was early last year? After getting down and getting work in, he was still able to contribute in 2013 and has been even better in 2014. Taylor Jordan may yet be an asset for this team later in the season.

  3. Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 23, 2014 at 12:56 PM

    The gloom and doom and comparisons to Atlanta’s pitching staff is over the top.

    In bad games I look at cause and effect and the poor defense once again made the bad situation worse. Unearned runs, extra pitches, frustration pitches, and yes, pitches up.

    A sinkerball pitcher who is up in the zone is a stinkerball. Taylor was up in the first inning but look what happened before the runs scored. 1st batter hits a ball off the end of his bat and gets a double, Trout hits a grounder right to Rendon who boots it for an error. 3rd batter gets the frustration pitch and knocks it out for a 3 run homer.

    Good defense has become the exception instead of the rule. TeeJay is just about a Rookie and clearly was flustered. He didn’t pitch well but look at how the game started.

    Most people forget the gem he threw threw in his first start against Atlanta. He hasnt pitched any games vs Mets or Marlins. He’s faced the Braves, Cardinals and Angels. His game 2 was very bad. Game 3 received poor defense and yesterday started off bad.

    Cause and effect.

  4. Joe Seamhead - Apr 23, 2014 at 1:33 PM

    Steve, agreed on the sinker that doesn’t sink, or for other pitchers the slider that doesn’t slide is called a home run.As to gloom and doom? Well, we are only about 1/8th of the way through the season, but this team is making way too many defensive mistakes, the hitting has been abysmal and the team is coming out flat and playing uninspired ball in way too many of the games. Something is definitely out of sync with our Can’t Miss Kiid, our normally steady RFer looks like a deer in the headlights, our CFer/ leadoff guy can’t hit his weight,our starting pitching has been erratic at best, and the bullpen management has been shall we say, questionable. Three of our projected key members of the team are on the DL, and history says that with the injury Ramos has he may not hit with power for a year, and who knows how Zimmerman will play when he returns. But you know what? Otherwise things look rather cheery.

    • David Proctor - Apr 23, 2014 at 1:59 PM

      And despite all that, we’re 11-10. We’re starting to get healthy. Fister will be back soon. The starting pitching (Jordan excepted) has settled down. The offense was hot and then it got cold. That happens. It’ll get hot again.

      • David Proctor - Apr 23, 2014 at 2:03 PM

        But the defense HAS to get better or else we’re going nowhere. That is unacceptable.

      • adcwonk - Apr 23, 2014 at 2:14 PM

        FWIW, I have a vague recollection that our defense was kinda weak at the beginning of last season, and then got better. Am I remembering right?

      • Eric - Apr 23, 2014 at 2:30 PM

        Yes. Desi and RZim were particularly bad early. By the end, I think we had the 7th best Fld% in the majors? Not sure where we were in terms of other defensive stats, though.

  5. adcwonk - Apr 23, 2014 at 2:13 PM

    (off topic)

    Hey — I’m back again — did I miss anything? 😉

    Wonk’s Wednesday’s Widbits

    – In Arizona’s 23 games, 14 games were started by pitchers who have ERA’s above 6.00 on the other end of the spectrum, the Astros started 7 guys in their lineup with a BA of .220 or less. They are, however, improving. They got 10 hits last night, raising their team BA to .200, and their DH went 2-for-4 raising his BA to .148.

    – Arizona is 1-11 at home.

    – The White Sox have the only bullpen that has walked more hitters than they’ve struck out.

    – Braves’ Alex Wood pitched his second consecutive game of 8 innings pitched allowing 1 run (this time, with 4 H, 11 K, 0 BB). He’s lost both of them.

    – In the Sunday Tigers-Angels game, Ian Kinsler scored from first on a Miguel Cabrera walk. (!!). It’s not that Kinsler was so daring, it’s that there were three errors charged on the play.

    – When the Rockies score three runs or more against the Giants, they’re 1-2. When they score two runs or less, they’re 2-0.

  6. veejh - Apr 23, 2014 at 2:16 PM

    Im starting to get a bad feeling about this season.

    • secretwasianman - Apr 23, 2014 at 2:50 PM

      I agree with you. I’m already kinda bored with this team.

      • bowdenball - Apr 23, 2014 at 3:15 PM

        Yeah, nothing says “I’m bored with this team” then posting on a blog about the team at 2:50 on a Wednesday.

      • secretwasianman - Apr 23, 2014 at 4:20 PM

        I wake up early, it helps me fall asleep for my nap

      • Natsfool - Apr 23, 2014 at 5:53 PM

        I think the team lacks mental toughness and the organization is poorly run from the top down. Our town doesn’t see this because we don’t know baseball and don’t want to lose the franchise. It doesn’t help that the MLB hypes the franchise so as to compete with football. That being said, I love having baseball, even if I turn away for moments out of frustration.

  7. micksback1 - Apr 23, 2014 at 2:20 PM

    all good posts in here and something to agree on with each of them However, veejh may unfortunately have the most astute post and I feel the same right now. I’m starting to get a bad feeling as well.

    • veejh - Apr 23, 2014 at 2:26 PM

      I dont buy the we’re injured excuse. Good teams overcome. Just bad baseball. Tons of errors and the hitting has been streaky.

      • micksback1 - Apr 23, 2014 at 2:30 PM

        Braves pitching adds to your point, 2 starters out with TJ surgery.

    • secretwasianman - Apr 23, 2014 at 2:51 PM

      Me too. And the rolaids ain’t working.

      • chaz11963 - Apr 23, 2014 at 3:16 PM

        Are you sure you guys aren’t suffering from some 2013 season PTSD? I’m thinking they could win 4 out of the next 5 and look at 2 games against the Astros to close out the month and everybody is happy again.

    • bowdenball - Apr 23, 2014 at 3:22 PM

      Boy, if I had a dollar for every “I’m getting a bad feeling about this team” post or comment I heard at various points of the 2012 season, I’d own the team. Hell, if I had a dollar for every “I’m getting a bad feeling about this team” post or comment made in the 24 hours between 10PM on July 20, 2012 and 10 PM on July 21, 2012 I’d have enough to pay for that retractable roof on Nats Park.

      It’s a long season, there will be many ups and downs. The season started with a bang, now the team is in a lull. Both will happen again, and we won’t have any idea what they all mean together until mid-August at the absolute earliest.. Accept it. Embrace it. That’s baseball.

    • letswin3 - Apr 23, 2014 at 4:35 PM

      I think it’s just that pastrami you had at lunch.

  8. micksback1 - Apr 23, 2014 at 2:25 PM

    Also, i hope I am wrong as heck and one day i can eat crow gladly. I wonder if it is the next manager that takes nats to the promise land and that MW is not the one?

  9. Eric - Apr 23, 2014 at 2:43 PM

    Personally, I don’t think MW has anything at all to do with struggles on the field. For instance, nothing about Desi’s rash of errors suggests lack of preparation, it suggests failure to execute. We fixed it last year, but of all our problems, this is the only one that currently has me actually worried about how the season will go.

    I’m not so worried about the other problem areas:
    – Starting pitching was much improved this go-round, last night notwithstanding. And, Fister will be back soon
    – We’ve already shown that we can hit like crazy this year
    – When we haven’t hit like crazy, we’ve walked a lot. This make me think the lack of hits arises from pitchers not pitching to us as much as anything. The lack of clutch hitting is making it difficult for us to truly capitalize, but it seems like a pitching strategy that will ultimately play back into our favor.
    – We seem to have backed off a bit from the use of aggressive base running. This is an easy problem to manage. If it’s not working, just don’t run as much.

  10. secretwasianman - Apr 23, 2014 at 2:48 PM

    Does anyone here think that MW has already lost his players? They sure are not responding

    • David Proctor - Apr 23, 2014 at 3:00 PM

      It’s 21 games.

    • veejh - Apr 23, 2014 at 3:04 PM

      Nah. MW is not the problem. These guys just need to step up and execute.

      • Eric - Apr 23, 2014 at 4:31 PM


    • letswin3 - Apr 23, 2014 at 4:40 PM

      I don’t think there’s anything about this team, these players, this manager, these coaches, the ownership, the ballpark or the weather that wasian likes. Other than that, he’s just a flaming optimist.

  11. chaz11963 - Apr 23, 2014 at 3:21 PM

    I just don’t think it’s really that bad. Am I worried? -yes Am I disappointed? -yes I think I’m still in recovery from the constant disappointments of 2013 and tend to think the worst about the 2014 Nats. If they win 4 out of the next 5, and just split away with the lowly Astros, they will finish April with 16 wins. All good.

    • ponchrelo - Apr 23, 2014 at 4:21 PM

      The errors are frustrating, but all is far from lost.

      Does everyone remember losing three to the fish right before the All-Star Break last year?

      That was scraping the bottom of the barrel.

      We are losing to good teams and considering the number of errors we are still staying in most games. Just clean up the D and we’ve got this.





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