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After 40 games, some good, some bad and some ugly

May 15, 2014, 6:00 AM EDT

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The Nationals now have played 40 games, roughly one-quarter of their season. And what conclusions can be drawn about this 21-19 team at this juncture? Not a whole lot.

Some things have gone well. Some things have not. And some things really have not.

We’ll try to put it all into perspective by breaking down the events of the last 40 games into three categories: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly…

THE GOOD: Adam LaRoche, Jayson Werth and Anthony Rendon
All three got off to strong starts at the plate and haven’t let up, which has proven invaluable given the onslaught of injuries that has befallen the Nationals’ lineup. LaRoche (now on the DL with a strained quad) entered the season a major question mark after a terrible 2013, but his .925 OPS is 72 points better than the number he posted two years ago while winning the Silver Slugger Award. Werth picked up right where he left off at the end of 2013 and is now hitting .310 with a .393 on-base percentage over his last 1,000 plate appearances. And Rendon has blossomed into an elite big-league hitter, a doubles machine who has delivered time and again in the clutch while proving adept at both second and third bases.

THE BAD: Ian Desmond and Denard Span
Desmond figured to be the last guy on the roster the Nationals needed to worry about entering the season, but he has struggled at the plate and in the field. Even with a recent uptick, he’s hitting just .226 with a paltry .275 on-base percentage. On top of all that, he leads the majors with 10 errors. Club officials remain confident he’ll turn it around, but the time has come for that to happen. Span, meanwhile, hasn’t been able to continue what he did during a strong finish to 2013. His .286 OBP is worst among all big-league leadoff men with at least 100 plate appearances. His importance to this lineup can’t be overstated, and his eventual improvement is critical for this team’s long-term success.

THE UGLY: Injuries
An astounding five members of the Opening Day lineup have spent time on the DL, with three currently incapacitated by injuries (Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, LaRoche). Wilson Ramos broke a bone in his hand on Opening Day. Span spent a week on the DL with a concussion. And don’t forget Doug Fister, whose season debut was delayed six weeks due to a lat strain suffered on the final day of spring training.

THE GOOD: The bullpen
This figured to be a strength, and it has proven to be just that. The Nationals’ bullpen sports a collective 2.28 ERA (third-best in the majors). Rafael Soriano didn’t give up a run in his first 13 appearances. Drew Storen’s 0.57 WHIP is second-best among all big-league relievers. Tyler Clippard, after a rough start to his season, hasn’t allowed an earned run in more than a month. Aaron Barrett has been an absolute revelation. Jerry Blevins has been exactly what the Nats needed him to be. Craig Stammen continues to do whatever the Nats need from him.

THE BAD: Defense
Matt Williams preached improved defense from the very beginning of his introductory news conference, and the rookie manager added a coach to his staff (Mark Weidemaier) whose sole purpose is to position the defense. Yet the Nationals have been charged with 36 errors in 40 games (most in the NL) and rank near the bottom in just about every measurement of defensive performance available. Some of the errors (ie. dropped popups) have been downright hideous, and plenty of other gaffes in the field haven’t technically been errors but have been just as ugly and damaging.

THE UGLY: Drew Storen and Ross Detwiler’s roles
Williams has two pretty potent weapons at his disposal in these former first-round draft picks, but the young manager hasn’t been able to figure how to use either reliever to maximize their performance. Storen, as stated earlier, boasts the second-best WHIP of any reliever in baseball and basically has been unhittable. Yet he has thrown the fewest innings (12 1/3) of anybody in the Nationals’ bullpen to date. That makes no sense. Even more confounding is Detwiler’s usage. Williams explained the club’s somewhat controversial decision to convert the left-hander into a full-time reliever by touting him as a potentially huge weapon late in games. But Detwiler has been treated like a glorified mop-up man, having appeared only twice with the Nationals leading a game (each time by at least five runs) while appearing five times with the Nats trailing by at least three runs.

THE GOOD: The bench (other than Nate McLouth)
One of the Nationals’ biggest problem areas in 2013 was overhauled during the offseason and has now become a key strength again. Kevin Frandsen, Danny Espinosa, Tyler Moore and Jose Lobaton have been forced to play more than expected due to injuries, and all have contributed in significant ways.

THE BAD: Nate McLouth
The lone exception to the improved bench, unfortunately, is their highest-priced reserve. The Nats signed McLouth to a two-year, $10.75 million contract in December believing he would be among the best fourth outfielders in baseball. Instead, the veteran finds himself hitting .117 with one RBI and only one stolen base. With Harper out at least another month-and-a-half, it’s imperative that McLouth produce at least at serviceable levels.

THE UGLY: Roster management
The Nationals have made some curious roster decisions already this season. Barrett was sent to Class AAA despite a brilliant first week of the season just so the club could add a fresh arm in Blake Treinen, who wasn’t really needed in the end. Fister’s rehab schedule wasn’t coordinated to allow the right-hander to make his debut on a day when the club needed him and instead was forced to recall Treinen to make one emergency start. And the Nats spent their entire, just-completed road trip carrying three catchers for no apparent reason. The explanation was that they wanted to free up Ramos to DH in Oakland and Lobaton to pinch-hit in Arizona. Neither wound up happening, leaving Sandy Leon on the active roster for the last week despite never once coming close to being needed.

THE GOOD: The 9th inning
There’s something about this team that makes it a nightmare for everyone else with the game on the line. The Nationals are outscoring opponents 19-3 in the ninth inning of games this season. That’s a tribute to their resiliency, their strong bench and really strong bullpen.

THE BAD: The 1st inning
On the other hand, this team has shown an inexplicable penchant for digging itself into early (sometimes insurmountable) holes. The Nationals are being outscored 39-18 in the first inning. They’ve given up three or more runs an astounding nine times in the opening frame.

THE UGLY: Inconsistency
Perhaps the best description of the 2014 Nationals through the first 25 percent of their season is that they haven’t seemed to find themselves yet. They win four in a row, then they lose three straight. They win 5 of 6, then they lose 6 of 8. They’ve had to deal with plenty already this year, much of it out of their control. And they’ve managed to keep their heads above water (barely). But at some point, this team is going to have to go on a sustained run. We said the same thing one year ago, and it didn’t happen until it was too late. The Nats can only hope it comes much sooner this time around.

  1. 3on2out - May 15, 2014 at 6:23 AM

    Not sure I would put Espi and TyMo in the good column. Inconsistent is probably more accurate. And I am very concerned about Danny’s reverting back to his ’13 style at the plate.

    • Hiram Hover - May 15, 2014 at 8:47 AM

      I agree about Espi’s recent offensive struggles. But as others pt out below, if you think of him as a back up pressed into everyday duty for the moment, he’s still a positive.

      As for T-Mo: he’s slashing .209/.277/.442, with a wRC+ of 99 (ie, pretty much a league average hitter). Again, for a backup, I’ll take it.

      • adcwonk - May 15, 2014 at 9:42 AM

        Good point on T-Mo. “average” for a “back up” is pretty good.

        Further, I think with more regular play his wRC+ will climb above 100

      • dcwx61 - May 15, 2014 at 1:07 PM

        1

  2. Joe Seamhead - May 15, 2014 at 7:08 AM

    Off subject, but what was with Kevin Frandsen sliding in to first last night? He would’ve probably been safe if he had run through, even so, he started the ill advised slide way too early.. His sliding in the dirt was akin to applying the brakes. He’s been a good addition to this club, but he needs to take a course in Baserunning 101.

    • natsjackinfl - May 15, 2014 at 7:22 AM

      I know you don’t follow twitter but that was my very tweet seconds after the slide. I actually said “stupid baseball” .

      • Joe Seamhead - May 15, 2014 at 9:23 AM

        It is stupid baseball. It’s a simple fact that you get to 1B faster by staying on your feet virtually 100% of the time. And yes, Frandsen has been a terrific utility guy, but no, I don’t think his base running guffaws should be excused by the coaching staff. You are in a one run game and a brain fart mistake like that is worse then a physical error because it is totally avoidable and it can cost you a game, which in the big picture can cost you a playoff spot.

    • NatsLady - May 15, 2014 at 8:00 AM

      That’s the second time I’ve seen him do that. There is no advantage at all, unless you are evading a tag, plus there is the injury risk. Head-first slides into 3B can be justified because you can sometimes get your hand behind the fielder and grab the bag–obviously not necessary at 1B.

      • Section 222 - May 15, 2014 at 8:29 AM

        Exactly right. Of course, you can also injure your thumb and be out of action for two months. So there’s that.

    • Hiram Hover - May 15, 2014 at 8:52 AM

      The only thing I could think is that he was afraid of the possibility of a tag, but that was a misread.

      It’s a snap judgment, and players do make mistakes. So I would let it slide (ha!), except that as folks are saying, he seems in a small # of chances to have had a lot of miscues on the base paths.

    • dcwx61 - May 15, 2014 at 1:07 PM

      Unless he wanted to avoid a collision….can’t do that anymore

  3. natsjackinfl - May 15, 2014 at 7:28 AM

    I also stated my thoughts on Desmond. I have decided there are two things about him that are ver consistent. One is his positive team first attitude in the clubhouse, which I admire. The second is his inconsistent play on the field, whether it’s at shortstop or at the plate.

    I’ll just have to accept the second but I’m not sure the organization will.

    • texnat1 - May 15, 2014 at 12:45 PM

      And if the price tag is 6 years at 110 to 120 million, I’m not sure that they should.

  4. natsfan1a - May 15, 2014 at 7:45 AM

    (Reposting a modifed version without all the links, which Word Press evidently did not like. Yes, that *is* rather ironic.)

    Speaking of Desi, I almost spit out my coffee when I read the following in the dead-tree edition this morning.

    ” Ian Desmond is not known as a first-pitch hitter. Facing a side-arming right-hander, one who had not allowed a run in 19 games, he changed tactics — and it worked out quite well for the Washington Nationals.”

    When I did an online search for the phrase so I could post a link here, I turned up many stories that had been modified (example below), although the original start of the piece remains as an online artifact if you search on it.

    “Ian Desmond likes to be aggressive early in the count, often swinging at the first pitch.

    Facing a side-arming right-hander, one who had not allowed a run in 19 games, Desmond’s approach worked out quite well for the Washington Nationals.”

    Wonder who clued them in? Maybe we *do* need online editors, after all. I totally would have caught that. (Love Desi, but that was too funny not to share.) :-)

  5. Greg f - May 15, 2014 at 7:49 AM

    Good article. The things that bug me the most are defense and roster management head scratchers. I think maybe the coaching staff is over thinking things. All the while Randy Knorr has that s— eating grin on his face.

  6. sjm308 - May 15, 2014 at 7:51 AM

    This is a good reason to read “insider” as it really made me think about all the various parts to running a team.
    I think if you view Espinosa as a bench player and not a starter you can sneak him into the good category but he certainly is not what you would hope your starter provides. It will be interesting to see how he adapts to that bench role when Zimm returns but that might be longer than we first thought.

    I realized that Det was not being used but was not paying attention to Storen’s lack of use (I can always blame travel rather than ignorance but that wont work). Is managing the bullpen something that Williams is learning on the job or is this McCatty?

    It is a very small sample size but I like how Tyler Moore has played in these first two games I have watched since coming back. I had read that his defense had improved but seeing him in action confirms that for me. Please lets hope he never has to play another inning in left field.

    I am thinking the roster moves or issues with them is layed on Rizzo and not Williams but I am not sure of that. Help me out here.

    Finally, Frandsen has been a most welcome addition. With Espinosa struggling, why wouldn’t it be smart to give him a day off and play Frandsen at what I think is his normal position. I realize he played a lot of first last year and has done well in LF but isn’t he a 2nd baseman?

    Jet Lag is pretty much over. Looking forward to hitting the park again.

    Go Nats!!!

  7. laddieblahblah - May 15, 2014 at 7:56 AM

    Another excellent summary from Mark. I would add that both Fister and Roark showed on this last road trip that the Nats have no holes in that starting rotation. When Fister and Roark have their command, each is as effective as any of the rotation’s Big Three.

    In evaluating Danny this year, keep in mind that he is no longer a starter. His numbers as a reserve are decent in that role. No one should expect his bat to be equivalent to Ryan’s. Holes have crept back into his game, but he has improved his left-handed swing to a large extent. He is never going to hit .280 as long as he continues to swing at junk, no matter how improved his swing mechanics.

    Whenever Tyler Moore has been penciled in at first, he has produced, as he did, again, last night. When kept out of the OF, and not used as a pinch hitter, he has been just fine. Put that guy in the best position for him to succeed, and he does.

    McClouth has been terrible at the plate. He showed yesterday how effective he can be when he gets on base. He and Span are the 2 guys who fit the profile of leadoff hitter better than anyone else on the roster, but neither man seems able to get to 1b with any consistency.

    I don’t care that much about Frandsen’s base running gaffes. The guy has been terrific in the clutch, as a pinch hitter, and against lefties. That’s why they got him. I don’t think he has any errors, either, and he can play OF, 1b, 2nd base, 3rd base, and is the emergency catcher. What more can you ask of a utility guy?

    The defensive lapses have as much to do with stupidity as to ineptitude. Those guys are not rookies out there, yet they keep repeating the same dumb mistakes as they have been committing for years now. We are talking years. I noted how Fister turned to Desi after Desi’s latest, yesterday, and motioned that he, Fister, would pick him up, and Fister did.

    Let’s see how Fister reacts after 4 years of having to “pick up” the same guys in the IF for making the same dumb mistakes over and over again, for years at a time, that JZ, Stras, and Gio have endured. It’s difficult to fault Ryan for all those throwing errors, given the physical problems he has been dealing with, but that doesn’t change the fact that he is now a consistent defensive liability, and is not going to get any better than he is now.

    They need La Roche’s big bat to return as soon as possible. Desi took an outside pitch to RF for a triple in Arizona. He needs to do more of that if he wants to hit for a decent average. He knows what to do and how to do it.

    Looking at Rendon, Werth, ALR and Desi in the heart of the order I see a team that can score enough runs to win most games behind that rotation with that pen, if they finally start to play smart, and lose the stupid.

    • ArVAFan - May 15, 2014 at 8:04 AM

      ” . . .start to play smart and lose the stupid.” That could apply to a lot of situations in Washington D.C. But let’s start with the Nats. See you at the ballpark tomorrow–must get my bobblehead!

    • NatsLady - May 15, 2014 at 8:15 AM

      The stupid is puzzling. A scout said the Nats make more mistakes than any other team. As you say, they are not rookies. tt’s almost as if they aren’t ready for the game to start in the first couple of innings.

      Even Werth made that mistake on the foul ball and hasn’t seemed sure of himself a couple of times in the outfield–though he’s still the smartest player on the team. Very quick thinking to get the out at 2B after no one caught that popup yesterday (in the FIRST inning).

      • laddieblahblah - May 15, 2014 at 9:27 AM

        There is no excuse for it from such a veteran team, IMO. They have given away enough games to be in 1st place, in spite of all the injuries. They are very fortunate that the Braves have been unable to capitalize on their bumbling to the same extent that they were able to, last year.

    • natszee - May 15, 2014 at 12:56 PM

      “In evaluating Danny, keep in mind that he is no longer a starter. His numbers a a reserve are decent”

      Well, keep in mind that Danny has appeared in 38 of the first 40 games and he STARTED in 31 of those! He is batting .116 with a .116 OBP and 21k in 43 AB in May (when he started in every game except one). Yes, his “title” is reserve but he needs to be judged as a starter because that is how he has been utilized because of injury circumstances.

      He is no longer improving and in fact, he is regressing badly. I hope he can shake it off and find that April form but for the bast few weeks, it’s been ugly!

  8. Drew - May 15, 2014 at 8:11 AM

    This is off-topic, but another example of what is going well for the Nats.

    In 2013, the Gulf Coast Nats went a ridiculous 49-9.

    This year’s Hagerstown Suns, featuring a number of guys who played for that GCL squad, including Drew Ward, Lucas Giolito and SP Austin Voth, are off to a 30-8 start!

    So, out there on the horizon — beyond Goodwin, Cole, Solis and Skole — there’s another wave of talent coming. They’re not just winning in the low minors. Their teams are dominating.

    It will be fascinating to watch this group progress at the next levels.

    • tcostant - May 15, 2014 at 8:48 AM

      I heard about this on the pregame radio show on Sunday. A lot of people here know I drew up a Mets fan, It had me remembering the Lynchburg Mets who had a crazy record like that one season (with Gooden and Dykstra) and they later became key New York Mets. I found this great summary as I wrote this:

      http://www.hardballtimes.com/remembering-the-1983-lynchburg-mets/

      Key stats:

      – Lynchburg scored 786 runs allowed just 553.

      – 96-43 record (.691 winning percentage). They then swept the South Division champions, Winston-Salem, 3-0 to win the league championship.

    • laddieblahblah - May 15, 2014 at 9:32 AM

      I’ve been watching them, too. They are not only dominant, but very young, as well.

  9. rayvil01 - May 15, 2014 at 8:17 AM

    I know the Braves lost some pitchers, but have they lost even one position player for even one game? Remarkable that the Nats are within shouting distance at this point.

    Biggest thing that would help this team until everyone heals is getting Desmond and Espinosa to stop trying to be home run kings. If those two would hit for contact it would buoy the whole offense.

    New poster. Love the tone of discussion over here. Much better than that raging cat fight over at WAPO.

    • adcwonk - May 15, 2014 at 9:47 AM

      Welcome aboard rayvil! Yes — the tone here is magnitudes better than anywhere else that I’ve found (which is why this is the only place where I even read Nats comments).

      • sjm308 - May 15, 2014 at 9:52 AM

        Agreed Wonk and its always great to get new people here.

  10. Doc - May 15, 2014 at 8:18 AM

    Matty continues to be a bit of an enigma to me, at least.

    Maybe as the division race grinds on, we’ll see more efficient use out of the pen,. He seems to recognize his under utilizing of Detweiler, but hasn’t figured out how to go about it. Balancing off Blevins with Det may come in time.

    McClouth’s performance has caught me off guard. I just thought that he was a real good off-season signing. Frandsen is all ball player, but, as previously noted, probably needs to take his running game down a notch.

    I didn’t see ALR coming around the hitting corner, but Rendon and Werth I did.

    Also, Rendon’s fielding has been mostly spectacular at 3B, even better than his hitting. Love watching that guy!

    • Section 222 - May 15, 2014 at 8:31 AM

      His arm over there is especially impressive. I wish they had a radar gun on infield throws. Rendon would be lighting it up.

  11. Section 222 - May 15, 2014 at 8:30 AM

    Reposting to make sure everyone see this:

    Hey folks — If you are thinking of going to Pittsburgh to see the Nats over Memorial Day weekend, the leader of the NATS NATS NATs cheer group in Section 313 has purchased a block of tix in a similar spot in PNC Park. They are reasonably priced — under $25 I think. He still has tickets for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday’s games. So if you want to be heard on the radio broadcast, contact me and I’ll put you in touch. My email address is on the NIDO BBS.

    http://prettyfrickenbueno.wordpress.com/whos-going/his-her-ni-bbs/

  12. tcostant - May 15, 2014 at 8:34 AM

    The other good – it’s like night and day comparing this year to the last few years for holding runners in base. They are so much better at holding runners on and throwing guys out when they do run. Great job there.

    • Hiram Hover - May 15, 2014 at 8:42 AM

      That is an excellent point, and one worth emphasizing given how much it’s frustrated us fans in the past.

      The Nats have allowed the 3d fewest SB in MLB, and 2d best in % CS (only Cards are better).

    • Joe Seamhead - May 15, 2014 at 9:30 AM

      Though a lot of that, maybe most of it, is on the pitchers doing a better job, the other huge part of that equation is that we are sans Suzuki. All three catchers on the present roster seem to do a better job in that regard than Zook did.

      • 6ID20 - May 15, 2014 at 10:52 AM

        There is literally nothing a catcher can do to help a pitcher hold runners on base. Nothing. Get off Suzuki’s case on that.

    • snerdblurter - May 15, 2014 at 10:51 AM

      +1 – great point, tconstant. Both Ramos & Lobaton have done an exceptional job with this. I remember throwing so many things at the TV last year because of how easy it was to run against us. Nice to see the improvement, even if its gone largely unnoticed.

  13. DaveB - May 15, 2014 at 8:42 AM

    I want to second several commenters (and Mark) that TyMo has started to look good, now that he has had some regular starts. I was definitely drifting strongly into the camp that it was time to look at him as merely a AAAA player and move on, but he seems much better at identifying bad pitches when playing regularly. I still haven’t seen that as a pinch hitter, so it will be interesting to see if it can carry forward after ALR comes back.

  14. nats2005 - May 15, 2014 at 9:18 AM

    Just an observation, so far, ALR has really produced the year his contract is up and needing a new one the following year.

    Take it for what it’s worth, just curious that he’s producing again in that scenario.

    • tcostant - May 15, 2014 at 9:27 AM

      How about one more year, so next year is a contract year too. He seems to play better when he is playing for his next deal.

      • npb99 - May 15, 2014 at 10:46 AM

        Yes, but then what about RZim? Continue playing him at 3rd and hold our breaths on every ball hit that way? We have too many candidates for 1B – ALR, RZ, TyMo, and even an aging Werth.

    • therealjohnc - May 15, 2014 at 3:21 PM

      Well, except that the Nats and ALR have a mutual option for next year; if the Nats decline their option, they would have to pay ALR to buy out HIS right to exercise that option.

      I’ve seen this “ALR is a free agent/is producing in a walk year” chatter a lot. Even MZ has fallen into it a couple of times. Not true.

      Putting aside that statistical studies have shown no correlation, positive or negative, between performance and pending free agent status

  15. chaz11963 - May 15, 2014 at 9:18 AM

    Great analysis Mark. Especially insightful about the use of Det and Storen, and carrying Leon on the road trip. Not very efficient managing by MW. I wonder if these are rookie manager mistakes.

    One other surprising bad which has led to the 1st inning bad is the bad start for our Big Three SPs. Nationals Big Three SPs ERA’s are all above their career averages; Strasburg 3.48 vs 3.02, Gonzalez 3.97 vs 3.61, and ZNN 3.59 vs 3.41.

    • 6ID20 - May 15, 2014 at 10:59 AM

      Don’t understand all this angst about how Williams is using a pitcher who is just plain useless. Detwiler has failed in every role he’s been tried in. Best case for Detwiler’s role going forward: mop up. Worst case: DFA.

      • Hiram Hover - May 15, 2014 at 11:15 AM

        Detwiler has failed in every role he’s been tried in

        That’s an … interesting thing to say.

        Because the general discussion during the off-season was that Det had been successful enough in the past to compete for the #5 spot in this season’s rotation, but might be even more successful in a relief role.

        So in other words, the exact opposite of what you said.

      • dcwx61 - May 15, 2014 at 1:15 PM

        I think they are holding on to him for a trade to a desperate pitching staff..my poor yanks are in need.
        I think Det will be ok in a new environment (this may win me an IEA….Irrational Exhubarance Award down the road, however)

  16. adcwonk - May 15, 2014 at 9:24 AM

    Wonk’s Thursday’s Thidbits

    – Nats have outscored opponents 74-36 from the 7th inning on, the largest differential in MLB
    — Helped by a team ERA of 1.69 in the 7th-9th inning; and a team BA of .274

    – Desmond career on at bats ending on the first pitch he sees: BA .377, SLG .550; career bases loaded BA .423, SLG .577

    – Doug Fister, in two starts, hasn’t walked anybody.

    – Astros took two of three from the Rangers!
    — That breaks a streak of 15 consecutive lost series to them

    – The Tigers have as many stolen bases through 36 games as they had all of last season
    — The stolen bases total is helped by Victor Martinez who stole a base last night to match his career high
    — Martinez has two stolen bases this year (and six in his 12 year career)

    – Mets pitchers are 0-for-64 at the plate this year

    – Marlins Anthony DeSclafani made his MLB debut.
    — Marlins scored 12 runs for him in the first four innings

    – The bottom four batters in Cleveland’s lineup combined for 14 hits, 10 RBIs and five scored runs in a 15-4 blowout; David Murphy and Lonnie Chisenhall each had five hits for the Indians
    — After Neil Wagner had already given up 6 runs in the 9th (to make it 15-2), utility infielder (and sometimes outfielder) Steve Tolleson came in to pitch, allowing a bases empty double and an out to end the inning.

    – Pujols broke out of an 0-for-15 slump by tying Lou Gehrig for 33rd on the all-time list with his 534th career double.

    – Gordon Beckham homered on the first pitch of the White Sox-A’s game.
    — John Jaso returned the favor and led off the bottom of the first with a HR on the 3th pitch

    – Brewers are 25-14, best record in the NL.
    — In 2007 on this date they were 25-13 (the only time in their history they’ve been better than this year)
    — In 2007 they finished 83-79 and failed to make the playoffs

    – David Ortiz homered twice. (Again. He did it the night before, too)

    – Jimmy Rollins singled for his 2,211th career hit, tying Ed Delahanty for third on the Phillies all-time list (Trivia question: who are the two ahead of him?)

    • tcostant - May 15, 2014 at 9:30 AM

      Richy Ashburn and Mike Schmidt would be my guesses…

      • adcwonk - May 15, 2014 at 9:41 AM

        Ding ding ding! We have a winner already.

        Ashburn, while hitting 2574, hit 2217 (just six more than Rollins) for the Phillies. (He spent two years with the Cubs, and his last year with the record-losing lovable ’62 Mets — where he led the team by hitting .302 (.424 OPS) and made the all star game.

        Schmidt had 2234 hits, all for the Phillies

        And so — holy moley! — Rollins could be the all time Phillie hit leader within a month! (I had no idea he was so close)

  17. atomicovermind - May 15, 2014 at 9:33 AM

    My (admittedly probably crackpot) theory on Desi is that he’s distracted by his wife’s pregnancy. Anyone else remember how it was like flipping a switch for him the moment his first kid was born? He went from absent minded error machine to monster ball player in the space of a week, as I remember it.

    • tcostant - May 15, 2014 at 9:43 AM

      I think that is Desi third kid coming, not his first. Nothing scary about a third kid. From reading that article with lots of quotes from Desi’s wife, I get the sense that she is assuming that they won’t be in Washington in two years, Not sure if it;s because they want to live somewhere else or she assumes the Nationals will not pay him market value, but that is what came though to me reading her words.

      • atomicovermind - May 15, 2014 at 9:46 AM

        Dunno, man. I just find the coincidence interesting. :) I DID say it was a crackpot theory.

      • nats106 - May 15, 2014 at 2:52 PM

        Spoken by someone who doesn’t have three! Our first child was 8 hours in labor. Second was 4 hours. Third was 2 hours and we barely made it to the hospital. No way was I going to have a 4th. Now that was a scary drive!

    • Hiram Hover - May 15, 2014 at 10:08 AM

      Not only will this be their 3d kid, but she was pregnant with #2 during his breakout 2012 season, and I seem to recall folks joking that having a pregnant wife suited him.

      • atomicovermind - May 15, 2014 at 10:15 AM

        DAMMIT GUYS. Quite debunking my ill-informed theories! (Thanks for the fact check, though)

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 15, 2014 at 10:41 AM

      2 kids under 5 and another in the oven can scramble anyones brain.

    • TimDz - May 15, 2014 at 10:51 AM

      I think it may be more related to him quitting the dip….should have waited until the offseason to do that…

  18. adcwonk - May 15, 2014 at 9:51 AM

    Agreed on Storen

    Yeah, like WTH on Storen. He’s allowed only one walk, and allowed runs in only one appearance. He’s been awesome, bouncing back from his demotion last year. Use him or lose his effectiveness!

    Detwiler? Don’t get it at all

    Other rosters moves, and Mark pointed out: real head-scratchers.

    • adcwonk - May 15, 2014 at 9:51 AM

      I mean to add: Mark, can you ask MW that question? (re: Storen)

    • tcostant - May 15, 2014 at 10:15 AM

      I feel bad for Det, they pitch him (pun intended) on how he such a weapon out of the pen and the first time he faces his batters he is lights out and all that. At the end of the spring (after the pen move), they used him for a inning pretty regularly and he looked good. When we get to Washington, they start using him like a skip starter who might have to warm up and get a few inning a particular game. What a waste.

      With all that, I’m fine with Det not being in the current 5 starter group, it just sad…

    • Hiram Hover - May 15, 2014 at 10:26 AM

      About Storen – The fewest IP in the BP is a little misleading. You don’t generally expect to see him for more than an inning, and he has more appearances than both Det and Stammen, who as long relievers have more IP (no surprise).

      Storen had a couple of gaps when he didn’t appear for 3 or more games, from April 29-May 4, and May 6-7-9. Someone so inclined could go back and investigate them, but I am not. My sense is that they’re trying to reserve him for high leverage situations, and maybe there were a couple in there where you could 2d guess the decisions.

      But what they’re doing with Det, I really don’t get.

  19. natsjackinfl - May 15, 2014 at 10:11 AM

    Off days comments are so much better after a win. They tend to get overly troll like after a loss.

    As for the lack of use for Drew and Detwiler, I have to think it’s more about Williams learning the intricacies of bullpen management, which is no easy feat.

    • knoxvillenat - May 15, 2014 at 10:19 AM

      I hope you’re right about that and that his somewhat confusing use of both Storen and Det isn’t about something else, and don’t even ask me what that would be.

      I did find it puzzling as to why MW brought in Blevins on Sunday in Oakland in a game we were getting blown out of instead of Detwiler. You would of thought that at the very least either Williams or McCatty would have thought “…hey Det needs some work, lets give him an inning or two.”

      • Hiram Hover - May 15, 2014 at 10:32 AM

        Before that appearance in Oakland, Blevins hadn’t pitched since May 7, and MW may have just wanted to get him some time on the mound. Det had pitched 2.1 innings 2 days before, on May 9.

    • Section 222 - May 15, 2014 at 10:54 AM

      Agreed NJ. Also, MW may sense that Clip is finally on a roll and he wants to ride that when we’re in an 8th inning situation. I would have thought that yesterday, being a non-save situation, Drew might have been used in the 9th, particularly because at some point, Rizzo will want to be sure Sori doesn’t finish too many games this year. But I didn’t see when Sori started warming up. It may have been right after Desi’s hit to make the score 3-1. At that point, and with an off day coming up, it made sense to use him.

      As for Det, this is a tough problem. Blevins is performing so well, that I can understand why they don’t want to use Det in high leverage situations. But they have to figure out how to get him in games and get him going. I still think he can be a great weapon, but not if he can only be trusted to do mopup work.

    • 6ID20 - May 15, 2014 at 11:15 AM

      Bullpen and roster management can’t be planned out in advance. They have to be done in response to the events and situations presented as the games and the season unfold. The plan is clearly to use Storen in high leverage situations when they’re ahead and Barrett in high leverage situations when behind. Lots of late comeback wins means not enough 7th/8th innings when leads need to be protected. Ergo, not enough opportunities for Storen.

      The plan for Detwiler was that he would pitch effectively out of the bullpen, knowing that he would need to make an adjustment to be able to do that. Similar to the adjustment Stammen successfully made. Plain and simple, Det failed to make the adjustment. He’s out of options, so they can’t send him down to do it. So he’s in limbo, just like HRod and CM Wang were in previous seasons. And just like those guys, Det will be gone as soon as they figure out how to get rid of him.

      • 6ID20 - May 15, 2014 at 11:19 AM

        Also, re Storen, wasn’t Davey criticized for using him in the game 3 blowout because he hadn’t pitched in a while and needed the work to stay fresh? You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

    • dcwx61 - May 15, 2014 at 1:18 PM

      Good opp for Det on Sunday when we were down 7-0.

  20. dgourds - May 15, 2014 at 10:16 AM

    Missing from the conversation was Ryan’s continued issues with routine throws across the diamond. It’s a huge problem. Even though Espi has struggled at the plate lately (except his clutch ninth inning HR the other day), his defense is superb and so is Rendon’s at third. I don’t think it’s a slam dunk that the team is better with Zim at third and Rendon at 2nd. That makes an already terrible defensive team even worse. With pitchers like SS on the mound, errors just devastate.

    • Hiram Hover - May 15, 2014 at 10:44 AM

      Even if Espi stabilizes his offense (and I think that’s a big if) there’s still a pretty big drop off bwn his offense and Zim’s.

      And Rendon, as much as we love him (and I’m including myself) is not yet a GG caliber 3B–he’s got 5 errors at 3B in the equivalent of 30 games, or about 25 over 150 games. Last year, the only 3B with more than 20 errors were Zim (21) and Alvarez, of Pitt (27).

      • npb99 - May 15, 2014 at 10:51 AM

        But with experience, Rendon will only get more comfortable at 3rd, his natural position. No upside for RZim at that position. And as I posted above, we have too many 1B candidates.

      • Hiram Hover - May 15, 2014 at 11:03 AM

        npb

        Over time, yes–Rendon will improve at 3B, and yes, in the long term, that’s where I expect to see him, when Zimm can be moved to 1B full time.

        But Zimm will not be FT at 1B this year with ALR hitting as well he has been. And so keeping Rendon at 3B once ALR and Zimm are both back means Zimm becomes a bench bat. They’re not going to do that with the face of the franchise, and they shouldn’t.

      • npb99 - May 15, 2014 at 11:32 AM

        HH – not sure how ironic you’re being with FOF monicker. But I agree they will stick him at 1B soon, but not immediately. There’s a lot of commenters who may have stats on this- how does RZ’s hitting rate if you compare him with 1b-men rather than 3b?

      • Hiram Hover - May 15, 2014 at 11:51 AM

        Yes, I was being ironic, but to make a serious point – the Nats have too much $$$ and marketing invested in Zimm to stick him on the bench. And he’s too good a hitter to do it anyway.

        ZIm’s career wRC+ is 121, ALR on his career is actually lower (112). Median for 1B over the past 2+ seasons for qualifying 1B has been 116, so his offense would be above average but not elite at 1B.

  21. Muddy Ruel - May 15, 2014 at 10:33 AM

    I hate to rain on a good story but, before we get too excited about the 2013 GCL team moving to Hagerstown and continuing to dominate, a look at the stats shows that most of the Suns’ damage is being done by non-GCL guys — Difo, Ballou, Wooten, Yezzo, Bautista, Martinez etc. some of whom played for the woeful Doubledays …. And Johansen, Voth, Pivetta, and Giolitto weren’t in Viera in 2013, either.

  22. Ghost of Steve M. - May 15, 2014 at 10:51 AM

    Using Laddieblahblah’s “stupid” is a great point. The Nats ran themselves out of that Braves game after the double stuck/not stuck under the wall and several more times this season. Almost too many to count. Aggressive baserunning has not paid off at all and if anything has hurt the team.

    Smartest baserunning yesterday was not rumning actually. When Henley was stopping Span on 3rd with no outs after the Rendon double was smart. If he sent him, what do you gain net/net ? On April 1st in the same scenario you coukd guess the outcome.

    Smart ball has to replace stupid ball.

    • dcwx61 - May 15, 2014 at 1:20 PM

      overagression will lead to mistakes in any venture. Smart Agression can be difficult to discern and learn for every player…that takes experience.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 15, 2014 at 1:36 PM

        I’m just happy Henley has a Stop sign and has started to use it.

        Matty laid out his team plans and aggressive baserunning was at the top of the list. I think he figured out that this team has several good baserunners but that doesn’t mean a good baserunner is mutually inclusive to being a fast baserunner.

        There is a time and place situationally to do everything in baseball and the good managers pick their spots.

  23. thelatencn - May 15, 2014 at 11:02 AM

    Atomiccover’s thought about the relation between Desmond’s hitting and his babies is worth exploring. His first, if I recall correctly, absolutely corresponded to his sudden breakout late in the 2011 season — which continued into 2012 and beyond. And while Tcostant is in general correct about 3rd children being no big deal, there are exceptions, particularly if Momma is unhappy, which sounds like a possibility from the material cited by Tcostant.

    • Hiram Hover - May 15, 2014 at 11:07 AM

      Except that Ian’s first kid was born spring 2011.

      #2 was born fall 2012, so his wife was pregnant for that season.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 15, 2014 at 11:22 AM

        The game is very mental for these guys. Any discord can rattle them.

        Desi quit dipping and it seemed to affect him. Whether it did or didn’t in actuality is irrelevant if he “thinks” it was.

        Same as I pointed out about Rendon in Oakland. After the Frandsen comments all of a sudden Rendon was off.

        I’ve heard the Haren theories also. The fact he’s given up 3 runs in his last 3 starts is irrelevant since he lives with his family now.

        I don’t mind giving these guys excuses as they bring problems from the office home and vice versa but I expect more out of veteran players and Desi wouldn’t use any excuse because he isn’t that guy.

        “Steady head leads to steady stats”

      • 6ID20 - May 15, 2014 at 11:44 AM

        Clearly you have never quit the dip or the drink or caffeine or anything of the sort. The negative after effects are in no way mental. They are entirely physical. You can’t smarten up or compartmentalize in order to get through them.

      • dcwx61 - May 15, 2014 at 1:22 PM

        Re: Desi’s dipping….some good news as cannibus may become legal in the district soon.
        Get a whiff at Stoney’s

  24. snerdblurter - May 15, 2014 at 11:37 AM

    Great article, Mark. Especially those points about roster management, which are especially important on a team thats faced as many significant injuries as the Nats have.

    On an unrelated note, I had an idea for a post that might be good one for an off-day or a rainout, if you havent already done something similar. It would basically be a Nats-themed Mythbusters, where you list out some of the more common notions/complaints about the team and actually dig into the numbers to see if there’s any truth to some of the more intriguing/nebulous theories that get thrown around on this board.

    Off the top of my head, here are a few of the more common ones:

    1. Strasburg pitches poorly when he has to react to unexpected external circumstances (i.e. rain delays, extreme temps, errors, bad umpiring, etc) as compared to similar top 20 MLB pitchers.
    2. Soriano underperforms in non-save situations vs. save situations as compared to other similar top 10 MLB closers.
    3. Nats hitters are below MLB-average in their ability to make productive outs.
    4. Nats hitters are among the worst in MLB in RISP vs. starting pitchers
    5. Nats hitters are among the worst in MLB at scoring runs in the following scenarios – a.) when the first batter in an inning gets on; b.) with a runner on 3rd with 0 out; c.) with a runner on 3rd with 1 out. (hopefully this analysis would factor in how many runs they score in each situation, not just a simple “yes/no”)
    6. Nats hitters struggle against mediocre/bad pitchers more than other top tier NL teams.
    7. Nats have been among the worst teams in terms of base-running errors/missed opportunities.
    8. Nats injuries so far this year have accounted for more lost production (measured in WAR?) than almost every other MLB team.
    9. Nats have had more lineup/defensive variations than almost any other MLB team.
    10. Anthony Rendon is having more fun than anybody else in MLB history.

    I’ll probably email you this as well in case you don’t read down this far in the comments. Thanks for all your hard work on this site!

    • npb99 - May 15, 2014 at 11:53 AM

      Love #10! He has a great spirit about him.

  25. Section 222 - May 15, 2014 at 11:57 AM

    Good comments about diving into first. While it’s true that a dive might help you avoid a swipe tag, is it really plausible that a player can sense an off target throw that would lead to such a tag in time to decide to dive? I doubt it. On the play yesterday, the fielder was on the ground making a high toss and a swipe tag almost an impossibility.

    All this leads me to conclude that the Nats hitters should simply be instructed NEVER to dive into first. You can NEVER get there faster that way, and the chances of injury on head first dives are great enough (e.g. Josh Hamilton, Harper, Zim and a zillion others) that it’s just not a good play. Period. The fact that once in a blue moon you might end up being safe instead of out is irrelevant.

    • Eugene in Oregon - May 15, 2014 at 1:42 PM

      +1

      • unterp - May 15, 2014 at 2:15 PM

        did I meet you in Burger King after the Sat game against the A’s?

      • Eugene in Oregon - May 15, 2014 at 8:28 PM

        You were with a guy from Northern California?

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - May 15, 2014 at 3:33 PM

      Dueces,
      While I do agree it’s not faster to dive hands-first into first (nobody really dives *head* first, I hope), it is absolutely possible to have some idea of whether the throw is off-line. If it’s from the second-baseman, or even up thr middle from short, it isn’t too hard to see peripherally (remember, the avg MLB player has much better vision than us puny earthlings). The first-baseman can tip it off, too.

  26. secretwasianman - May 15, 2014 at 3:43 PM

    MW has done a terrible job with Det and Storen. As bad as some of the starting pitching has been at times GIO in particular. I would go quick hook knowing Det is available.

    • Hiram Hover - May 15, 2014 at 4:00 PM

      swm

      If you’re really interested in discussing this, there are some comments re: Det in the Podcast thread.

      If what you’re really interested in is dumping on MW, then never mind.

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