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Nats involved in first double challenge

Jun 2, 2014, 8:02 AM EDT

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

In the Nationals’ 2-0 loss to the Texas Rangers on Sunday, Major League Baseball’s new system of managers challenges showed us something we had previously yet to see: a double challenge.

Both managers – Matt Williams of the Nats and Ron Washington of the Rangers – challenged the same play, thus creating two separate rulings on the same sequence.

The play occurred in the top of the first inning, with Nationals’ starter Tanner Roark pitching with two outs and runners on the corners. Elvis Andrus was standing on third and Alex Rios was on first.

With Donnie Murphy at the plate, Roark threw an 85 mile per hour slider for a ball. While the pitch was in the air, Rios took off from first to try and steal second.

Given it was an off-speed pitch, Rios had a good opportunity to make the play and beat Wilson Ramos’ throw to the bag. And as he was running into second, Andrus started running and reached home before any throw attempt was possible.

Rios, however, couldn’t stop his momentum in time to stay on second base and overshot his slide. He was then tagged by Danny Espinosa for the third out of the inning. Meanwhile, Andrus scored and gave the Rangers what appeared to be a 1-0 early lead.

The sequence was bizarre on its own, but then things got interesting. Immediately both managers ran out to get an explanation from the umpires of what had happened. Both skippers then decided to use their allotted challenge upon hearing from their dugouts they had a case.

Williams challenged the fact Andrus had scored before the tag on Rios was made, and Washington said Rios should have been safe. The umpires converged behind home plate and got on the headset with officials in New York.

Two minutes and 45 seconds later, and we had a verdict: both calls were given to the Nationals. Not only was Rios out, but Andrus did not reach home in time to earn the score. The Rangers lost their run and the game remained tied at 0-0.

Williams has now challenged 11 plays through 55 games this season. Six of those he has come out on top, and that’s not including plays challenged by the opposing manager.

Willams says he’s starting to get the hang of it and, in general, favors the new system.

“It helps with us getting everything right on the field,” he said. “I think it’s important for your team to be able to have that available to them. Today was an example. Sometimes it goes your way and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it’s conclusive and sometimes it isn’t. But to have it available gives you an option. In that respect, I think it’s a good thing.”

Williams believes everyone around baseball is used to the new rules and it is now just part of the game.

“I think everybody’s got their feet wet, too. I think everybody’s gotten used to it from a team standpoint, from a player standpoint. Players are starting to realize they can signal to the bench if we don’t see something from the bench necessarily. I think it’s a good thing.

“Ultimately we just want to get it correct. I think everybody’s in that same boat. If it takes an extra look then everybody’s okay with that, we’re willing to do that.”

  1. Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 2, 2014 at 8:15 AM

    “Williams has now challenged 11 plays through 55 games this season. Six of those he has come out on top, and that’s not including plays challenged by the opposing manager.”

    The system is working better now and Managers are winning a larger percentage now where there is clear and concise video evidence. In the beginning there seemed to be a bias for the umps original call even when video evidence appeared clear.

    • sjm308 - Jun 2, 2014 at 9:59 AM

      +1

  2. jd - Jun 2, 2014 at 10:12 AM

    In the previous thread there was some discussion about the wisdom of playing Zim in LF vs. 3rd base.Here is my 2 cents worth:

    1) From an offensive perspective the discussion is really Mc.Louth vs. Espinosa which in my opinion is basically a wash.
    2) I think the team has concluded that Rendon is the guy at 3rd based on the fact that Zim has regressed to the point where they think playing him at 3rd is untenable and Rendon is very good at 3rd defensible.
    3) Rendon is not as good defensibly at 2nd as Espinosa.
    4) They want to give Espinosa who is just 27, is a switch hitter and plays great defense and had 2 years of 6.5 WAR in 2011 and 2012 one more chance before they move away from him permanently..

    If Zim is really moved off of 3rd base permanently there will be some interesting decisions to make once Harper returens:

    1) What do you do with 4 every day outfielders for 3 positions?
    2) Can they still carry Espinosa’s bat in the lineup?
    3) trade?

    Stay tuned. This will get interesting.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 2, 2014 at 10:34 AM

      jd, you say 4 every day outfielders and I count 4 just in Harper, Span, Werth, and McLouth. If you throw RZim in there you have 5 and then how do you play them.

      We still don’t know how proficient RZim can play LF. Is he Scott Hairston with a .867 fielding percentage and that type of range and arm? If so, I will pass. He has to at least be able to far surpass that or it’s not worth it. Matt Holliday has survived in LF for the Cardinals because of his offense on a NL team. Only CarGo and Morse rate worse in UZR for NL leftfielders.

      If RZim goes back to 3rd when Harp returns, can he supply good enough defense to justify his offense.

      I agree with you to stay tuned, it will be interesting.

      • jd - Jun 2, 2014 at 10:44 AM

        I don’t consider Mc.Louth an every day outfielder. He can be a super sub but he doesn’t have to play every day. The others do.

        I think Zim will be fine in Left after a short breaking in period. Compared to the stiffs you mentioned clearly Zim is the better athlete. He just has to get used to recognizing the ball off the bat. I’m not worried.

        I think the fact that he hasn’t even tried playing 3rd base in his return is very telling. I may be wrong but I.m sensing that the team is moving away from that scenario.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 2, 2014 at 10:56 AM

        jd, I’m certainly intrigued by all this and it seems RZim is embracing this. Some times the hardest thing an athlete has to overcome is self-realization. It’s that process of looking in the mirror and coming to grips of what you are.

        MLB Network did a piece on RZim and they previewed it with a blooper reel of his throws from 3rd base. Tough to watch.

        I just want to see him accel again. He was once the best defensive 3rd baseman in baseball and had won the Gold Glove and ESPN top Web Gem score for that year.

        This team needs him contributing both offensively and defensively.

      • Hiram Hover - Jun 2, 2014 at 11:17 AM

        He’s never played LF, so it doesn’t surprise me they want him to get as many reps as possible.

        Given that, it also doesn’t surprise me he’s not playing 3B at Potomac, and so I wouldn’t conclude from that that he won’t ever again play 3B in the majors. There’s not much they’re going to learn about his ability to play 3B from seeing him there for a few innings during a rehab stint.

    • sjm308 - Jun 2, 2014 at 10:40 AM

      jd

      very well put and I think that until Harper is ready we probably will see Zim in LF with McClouth returning to the role the Nationals and he signed him up for. Werth can certainly use more time off and you can easily insert McClouth in the late innings after Zimm has his last at bat.

      Now, when Harper returns, that is when things get very interesting. By then Espinosa will have had more than enough time to “state his case”. I just can’t believe that he will start when Harper is back. You almost have to move Zimm back to 3rd at that time. Yes, he can play a little first against a tough lefty, and there are four dh games but to have a lineup with Span,Rendon, Werth, Zimm, Harper, laRoche, Ramos and Desmond looks to me to be very very solid. (not that exact order, thats just how they came into my head)

      As good as Rendon has been, the fact that Zimm has played just about his entire career at third makes me think he will end up there when everyone is healthy. Next year will see a change but I don’t see making that change in the middle of this season and where do you play him, if not third? Of course all that goes out the window if 5 of his first 6 throws are either over LaRoche’s head or look like lazy pop flys.

      Like you said, Stay Tuned

      Go Nats!!

      • jd - Jun 2, 2014 at 10:54 AM

        sjm308,

        I don’t know. It seems strange to me that Zim practiced and played LF exclusively since returning. Maybe I’m reading too much into it but I don’t know if Rizzo wants to see Zim at 3rd any more.

  3. Joe Seamhead - Jun 2, 2014 at 10:18 AM

    Off topic, but a short farm report:

    Michael Taylor leads the Easter League in Home Runs[15], OPS [1.034], and Strike Outs[73]. He is 3rd in RBI’s, 4th in hits, 5th in SB, and 7th in BA

    Meanwhile, in the International League, Brian Goodwin is 2nd in the league in BB’s, 4th in K’s, and fifth from the bottom in BA at .208 I think that the clock is ticking quicker for Brian, OBP not withstanding.

    • stoatva - Jun 2, 2014 at 10:38 AM

      BHUHR

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 2, 2014 at 10:40 AM

      I’m hoping that the stats on Goodwin are because of an emphasis on OBP and seeing a lot of pitches and taking pitches and shortening his swing.

      His statline is looking very similar to a guy named Derek Norris when he was a Nats farmhand.

      I almost feel like Rizzo never wants another Espinosa issue again created in the Minors. These young guys love the Home Runs.

      If Goodwin can get that BA up to .240 he could be a force at leadoff with a .375 OBP.

      • jd - Jun 2, 2014 at 10:50 AM

        Ghost,

        That’s a very astute comparison. I don’t think you ever want to under estimate a player’s understanding of the strike zone. Having said that, it took Norris a few years to become a solid major league hitter and he was a lot younger than Goodwin when he had these strange stats.

        Goodwin does have to show an ability to hit some (K rate way too high) before he can be considered a real possibility. I am intrigued by Taylor and would be curious to see him against AAA pitching.

        In Syracuse Souza, Walters and Hood and even Solano are having solid offensive years.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 2, 2014 at 11:15 AM

        I made wild comparisons 2 years ago of Goodwin and Espinosa in LH approach. Goodwin would swing long for the fences and then would follow that up with tons of swing and miss.

        I really do believe Rizzo saw it and this is all a re-tool. He has a .359 OBP and that .208 BA and the 62 Ks is far too much. He’s not ready for primetime yet. The other oddity is that he is hitting lefties better than righties and that will improve. He’s below Mendoza against RHPs. He’s also been a .906 OPS batter in RISP with a .302 BA.

    • knoxvillenat - Jun 2, 2014 at 10:44 AM

      Sounds like Goodwin looks at a lot of pitches and when he does swing, he swings and misses.

  4. David Proctor - Jun 2, 2014 at 11:44 AM

    HH, I disagree. I have a really hard time believing he’d go his entire rehab assignment without a single inning at 3B if they planned on him playing 3B upon his return. I mean, I think they would want to know how the shoulder holds up.

    Of course, ever is a strong term. I’m sure Zim will play 3B again at some point. But will it ever be his primary position again? I have some doubts.

    • Section 222 - Jun 2, 2014 at 12:13 PM

      Can’t they check on his shoulder in infield practice? You get what, three or four chances a game at 3B? Some games there’s not a single ball hit to 3B. That’s not really enough to see how his shoulder is “holding up”, is it?

      • David Proctor - Jun 2, 2014 at 12:18 PM

        It’s completely different. For two years now we’ve seen Ryan make the throws across fine during infield practice but then have issues during games. It’s one thing to throw across, but it’s different in game speed.

    • Hiram Hover - Jun 2, 2014 at 12:27 PM

      Problem is, any results they get in a few innings at A+ really don’t mean much–because, good or bad, they’re necessarily b

      Of course, he’s not done with his rehab assignment yet, so in that sense this is all premature.

      • Hiram Hover - Jun 2, 2014 at 12:32 PM

        Yikes, hit reply too soon–first sentence should be:

        Problem is, any results they get in a few innings at A+ really don’t mean much–because, good or bad, they’re necessarily based on a small sample size (remember ST, when they were celebrating Zim is back for a few weeks, only to discover otherwise) on conditions not really that commensurate with MLB.

        There’s too great a risk of a false positive (he’s a-ok!) or false negative (bad results just based on rustiness or bad luck). Basing a decision about the rest of his career on a few innings in A+ would be irresponsible, one way or the other.

      • Section 222 - Jun 2, 2014 at 12:48 PM

        Agreed. DP,I don’t know what you’ve been watching, but I haven’t seen Ryan throw across the diamond fine in practice for years. Even when he’s on target, he’s been awkward and weak. Again, just because the majority of Zim defenders here only recently accepted reality in April, doesn’t mean that Rizzo hasn’t known about the problem for years. They’ve tried to manage it, and I think they’ll continue to do so. Maybe they think they can hide his arm in LF easier. I think that would be a mistake, but I’m not in charge.

  5. Section 222 - Jun 2, 2014 at 12:01 PM

    jd, I’m with HH that you may be reading too much into Zim playing LF during his rehab. They want to give themselves the option, but I doubt that a decision has been made to play him in LF, especially since when Harper comes back, he won’t have a position to play unless you bench Span, which just doesn’t seem likely at all. So why play him out there for a month? It just doesn’t make sense.

    The leap of faith and logic in the argument that our infield should not change when Zim returns is that Espi started 44 games last year before being demoted. This year he has now started 42. He is cratering yet you think the Nats want to give him “one more chance.” How long should that chance last? I just don’t think his rope is much longer when Zim’s big bat gets back. To say that McLouth vs. Espi at the plate is a wash is being very kind to Espi in light of recent events.

    In addition, do you really think that Rizzo et al just noticed that Zim is a defensive liability at 3B? Is he any more of a liability now than when they said he’d just make all throws sidearm after he took a few days off in April? I think if his defense is a big enough concernt to justify playing him elsewhere, they would have started working him out more at 1B and LF long before this rehab.

    The great thing about being an armchair GM/manager is you can slip seamlessly from saying (1) They’ll never play Zim in LF to (2) They shouldn’t play Zim in LF to (3) They won’t play Zim in LF for long. I started at No. 1, have moved to No. 2, and will move to No. 3 if they start him in LF for his first game back. And I’ll hold my breath every time a base hit heads out there, and curse every time Espi strikes out.

    • jd - Jun 2, 2014 at 12:23 PM

      I don’t share your concern about Zim in left. After Willingham, Dunn, Morse, Moore etc. there is no question in my mind that Zim will play the position way better than any of these guys.

      Again. I think you are coming at this from the perspective of wanting to sit Espi. I get it but when you are a GM you have to take a bigger picture perspective. Espi is just 1.5 years removed from completing 2 very productive years at 2nd base and you don’t just give up on that without being 100% sure that it’s gone forever.

      As far as Zim goes it makes 0 sense that he wouldn’t take any balls at 3rd, not even play an inning at 3rd after being out for nearly 2 month if the team had any intention of putting him back there any time soon. I agree that there is a log jam in the outfield once Harper returns so yes in the end he may end up at 3rd for the remainder of the season barring a trade.

      As far as Mc.Louth and Espi go. The difference in offense is relatively negligible given Mc.Louth hasn’t exactly set the world on fire and considering that I’d rather keep Espi’s glove in the lineup and Rendon’s at 3rd base until Harper returns.

      • jd - Jun 2, 2014 at 12:27 PM

        Just for fun I checked. Espi is + 0.1 WAR so far and Mc.Louth is -0.1. So basically they both stink.

      • Section 222 - Jun 2, 2014 at 12:52 PM

        Are you certain that Zim hasn’t taken a single grounder at 3B in practice since he started baseball activities?

        You’re right. I’m ready to give up on Espi. Maybe the Nats give him until Harper comes back. I just hope in the meantime we don’t lose games because Zim makes a poor throw from LF. Willingham and Morse could throw. Even Moore has improved. There’s a difference between lumbering and making every single a potential double because you can’t get the ball in. There’s only so much that Desi can do to protect him.

        Agree that McLouth and Espi are both bad. But McLouth is improving, Espi is not.

      • Hiram Hover - Jun 2, 2014 at 1:52 PM

        Both Espi and McLouth deserve credit for playing good D even amidst their offensive struggles. And Espi certainly plays the more demanding defensive position, so in that sense the edge is to him.

        That said – as 222 says, offensively, McL is improving over the past few weeks, and Danny has stunk the joint up for a month.

        Even more than that, to my mind–McL looked like he knew what he was doing, even when he didn’t have the results to show for it (he knew when not to swing, and how to draw a walk, for example). Danny knows what to do, and just can’t bring himself to do it–thus the awful ABs, skyrocketing Ks, etc.

        The lineup looks like it will be a jigsaw puzzle with an extra piece once Zimm and Harp are both back, and Danny does not look like the keeper to me.

      • veejh - Jun 2, 2014 at 4:14 PM

        Despite McLouth struggles hitting, his OBP is pretty ridiculous. Now that he’s hitting, I see more upside w him.

  6. Section 222 - Jun 2, 2014 at 12:16 PM

    On the actual topic of this post, three cheers for instant replay! It’s working out well, and will only get better.

  7. David Proctor - Jun 2, 2014 at 1:01 PM

    FWIW, in his rehab games, Zim has got the ball in quickly and with strong throws, per the reports. He says that’s because he can put his body behind the throw, where on the infield it’s mostly arm. I don’t understand how you could be more concerned about his throwing from LF than 3B. If you want to question his range or instincts at LF, that’s one thing. But the arm doesn’t bother me as much there as at 3B. Hell, McLouth is playing LF now and he has a noodle arm.

    • Hiram Hover - Jun 2, 2014 at 1:28 PM

      Agreed–the throwing that LF requires is different enough that his problems at 3B don’t doom him in the OF.

      Not only can he put his body behind the throw, but he’ll often be throwing to a cutoff man who can take a step or two and give Zim a greater margin for error than he has trying to throw out a runner at 1B (ALR, TyMo, or anyone else can only stretch so much and keep a foot on the bag).

      As for whether 3B is ever again his primary position. We’re just going to have to wait and see, and that was really my point. I know people want clear and definite answers and they want them now. But we’re not going to get them, and we’re grasping at straws if we think we can divine the future course of his career from a 3-4 game rehab assignment.

      I can certainly see Zimm in LF as a stop gap til Harper returns. After that it gets more complicated and there are more moving pieces (at 2B, CF, etc) for the rest of this season, and then even more next season.

      Given those uncertainties, I think the most important thing is for the team and Zim himself to show flexibility. They are, and I’m happy about that.

      • Section 222 - Jun 2, 2014 at 4:13 PM

        Good point about the differences of throwing from LF and 3B. But the consequences of a bad throw from LF could be much worse. Imagine that teams start trying to go from 1st to 3rd whenever a single is hit to LF. If Zim heaves the ball in and sends it over the head or skipping past the SS/cutoff man, that could result in a run scoring. You don’t want the whole infield to have to change how they play a single to left with men on base because of Zim’s arm. At third, if ALR is able to corral a bad throw, the damage is just a guy reaching base on an error.

      • Hiram Hover - Jun 2, 2014 at 4:21 PM

        222

        At this point, we’re all speculating. Seems pretty clear the Nats are going to give him a try in LF, so we will get to see.

      • Section 222 - Jun 2, 2014 at 4:29 PM

        I agree, it does seem that way. So I’m ready to move from Stage 2 (they shouldn’t) to Stage 3 (they shouldn’t have and won’t for long). I’ve beaten the horse sufficiently to be able to say “I told you so”, so I’ll stop. :-)

  8. NatsLady - Jun 2, 2014 at 3:14 PM

    You need to keep McLouth in order to rest Werth, who desperately needs it, and Danny to rest Desi, who desparately needs it. As I said in a previous thread, worry about Harper after the All-Star break. Who knows what injuries or trades will have taken place by then.

    • veejh - Jun 2, 2014 at 4:16 PM

      Dez needs rest? Nah…dudes a horse. Think he took off 3 days last year.

      • Section 222 - Jun 2, 2014 at 4:17 PM

        I believe I owe you a drink, Sir.

      • veejh - Jun 2, 2014 at 4:18 PM

        Woo! They’re stacking up!

    • Section 222 - Jun 2, 2014 at 4:16 PM

      You’ve been saying this for years, and Desi still won’t take a rest. :-) Face it, he’s an every day player except when he gets injured. He just is. They don’t need Espi to back up Desi. Rendon can play short for a day (that’s how many times Espi has played SS this year) if necessary.

      • letswin3 - Jun 2, 2014 at 7:58 PM

        You nailed it. Desi thinks he might possibly need a day or two off in the OFFSEASON. Make a trade for a second baseman who can hit 245 and earn an OBP somewhere near 290 (Geeez, I think I just described Frandsen), and wish Danny well on his future.

        I also don’t know where Zim plays when Harper returns, but it’s safe to say that we need his bat in the lineup, if he’s a Nat.

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