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After 81 games, Nats are in good (not great) shape

Jun 29, 2014, 10:50 AM EDT

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CHICAGO — The optimist will look at the fact the Nationals are tied for first place, with the best pitching staff in baseball, sporting a +39 run differential despite the fact they had their full, Opening Day lineup together for all of seven innings … on Opening Day.

The pessimist will look at the fact the Nationals are in the bottom half of the majors in runs scored, with a bunch of veteran regulars having been unable to sustain success, and question how this team can reach the playoffs (or perhaps even more) with a lineup that figures to feature a lot of moving parts over the next three months … not to mention some major defensive question marks.

So, what to make of this team at the official halfway point of the season? Through 81 games, the Nationals are 43-38, tied with the Braves atop the NL East. Plenty of clubs would love to be in their position. The Nats, though, would love to be in better position.

“For me, certainly not where we’d like to be,” first-year manager Matt Williams said. “Also not where we could be with all that’s gone on. I think we’ve got a group of guys that continue to battle hard every day. They use nothing as an excuse and play. Would we like to be better than we are? Of course. Everybody would. But we are where we’re at. We have to look at, after today, what we do moving forward. There’s nothing we can do about what’s happened other than forget about it and move forward. It’s a long season. We’ve got to keep doing that.”

In that regard, the Nationals have ample reason to believe that things will be better during the season’s second half than they were during the just-completed first half, if for no other reason than they are about to be fully healthy for the first time in 2014.

After watching five of their eight Opening Day position players — plus two-fifths of their rotation — spend time on the DL through the season’s first three months, the Nationals will have everybody on the active roster Monday night against the Rockies once Bryce Harper makes his expected return from a torn thumb ligament.

Certainly, there’s no guarantee they’ll make it through the rest of the season in one piece, but it’s hard to imagine the Nationals experiencing worse injury fortune over the second half than they did during the first half.

A healthy lineup should be a more-productive lineup, with everybody slotted where they should have been all along and no one player feeling pressure to carry the entire club (which has too often the case to date).

There is, however, one major dilemma facing Williams and Co. Harper’s return forces one of either two things to happen: 1) Ryan Zimmerman must return to third base and confront his throwing demons, or 2) Somebody else must be benched.

Though he wouldn’t reveal his plan over the weekend, Williams strongly suggested he intends to put Zimmerman back at third base, at least to begin, a decision that would push Anthony Rendon back to second base and the struggling Danny Espinosa back to the bench. That won’t necessarily be the everyday plan — Zimmerman is likely to bounce around between third base, left field and first base — but it appears to be the initial plan, with Williams placing a greater emphasis on offensive production than defensive prowess.

One thing Williams doesn’t have to spend much time worrying about is his pitching staff, which leads the majors with a 3.07 ERA despite earlier injuries to Gio Gonzalez and Doug Fister. The rotation has been utterly dominant at times, and though there have been a couple of hiccups along the way, it remains as formidable a starting five as there is in baseball.

The Nationals’ bullpen, meanwhile, continues to carry this club. The seven relievers who opened the season on the roster all have remained there from Day One (except for a brief period in early April when rookie Aaron Barrett was sent to Class AAA not because of poor performance but because the club needed to add a fresh arm for a few days). Rafael Soriano, Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Barrett all boast ERAs of 2.00 or better. Craig Stammen remains as versatile a reliever as there is in baseball. Lefties Ross Detwiler and Jerry Blevins have been inconsistent but have shown flashes of effectiveness.

Stepping back and scanning the situation, the Nationals seem to be a better team at this point than they were a year ago at the same time. Their record is only marginally better; the 2013 Nats went 41-40 through the season’s first 81 games, but that club trailed the Braves by 6 1/2 games. With Atlanta having gone 26-31 since going 17-7 to burst out of the gates, and with the rest of the NL East under .500 and not realistically in contention, the Nationals find themselves in a fortuitous position.

It may not take 90 wins to capture the division title this year. And even if it does, this team seems better-equipped than any other in the NL East to go on the kind of sustained, second-half run that would be required.

“I like our position in the standings, and I like where our team’s at, for the most part,” Adam LaRoche said. “There’s always little things here and there that we can tighten up. But I like how we’re fighting back in these close games, even in some of these games we’re losing. I just don’t feel like we’re out of too many games. … That’s a good sign.”

  1. 6ID20 - Jun 29, 2014 at 11:09 AM

    The Zimmerman throwing demons at third argument is way overblown. He demonstrated before he got hurt that if he uses the sidearm throw all the time he is at worst adequate at third. He won’t be nailing runners from the far side of the 3b hole, but he won’t be air mailing routine throws and giving runners an extra base either. He’ll be fine.

    • JamesFan - Jun 29, 2014 at 11:33 AM

      Right. Who cares if he launches one occasionally. We need offense.

  2. adcwonk - Jun 29, 2014 at 11:16 AM

    As I was spending time on writing a previous post, I got new-posted. So, with your indulgence, I’d like to repeat it here (completely off topic — sorry!):

    ==============

    I saw Mays play. In my mind (and many others) he was the Best. Player. Ever. He had an incredibly vicious swing. He covered everything in CF and an arm that couldn’t be beat (over 10 assists from CF 8 times, lead the league three times, and one year had an eye-popping *22*). Incredibly talented baserunner (Mr. Take-the-extra-base — led the league in triples three times, and in SB’s four straight years once). Even at age 40 he led he league in walks (helping him to lead the league in OBP). Led the league in WAR 9 times (and missed almost two full years in his prime for military service). Had to play his entire career in the Polo Fields (480 feet to dead center — that’s not a misprint) and windy Candlestick. He was a 5-tool player where he busted the charts in all five categories. All this with his 5’10” frame (170lbs).

    (BTW, Harper’s swing and baserunning reminds me of Mays).

    Most (every?) year, one of the greatest baseball writers alive (Joe Posnanski ) writes an article on Mays’ birthday.

    Here’s a recent excerpt (from http://joeposnanski.com/joeblogs/willie-mays-turns-81/)

    There’s a famous story about Willie Mays scoring from third on an infield fly ball. It was while looking for the story that I came across a curious play-by-play from a game in 1967. The game happened on a Tuesday at the end of August, and it featured a Giants team that was 11 games back in the standings and a Dodgers team that was more than 20 games behind. The game was, in that way, the very definition of a baseball dog day. Willie Mays was 36 years old then. He was already a legend, already viewed as the best all-around player to ever play baseball. And he was in the middle of what was, by quite a lot, the worst year of his career to that point.

    The play-by-play reads like this.

    Bottom of the 5th. Giants leading Dodgers 4-1.

    – Willie Mays walk
    – Jack Hiatt single to RF (Mays scores)

    That’s it. That’s the whole masterpiece. Mays walks. Mays scores on follow-up single. What? How? Here’s the most amazing part of all: Mays had, by 1967, done these sorts of minor-miracles so many times, that the witnesses did not even feel the need to explain it anymore.

    See many more stories that will put a smile on your face. http://joeposnanski.com/joeblogs/willie-mays-turns-81/

    • realdealnats - Jun 29, 2014 at 9:28 PM

      I loved Mays too. Saw him in the ’62 All Star Game at what was then called DC Stadium. It might be my imagination but I think President Kennedy was sitting below us and closer to home on the 1st base line. We were in the upper deck. I was 10 and my big brother who was 30 took me. Just me and him. Pretty cool of him. Mays made two of his patented over-the-shoulder catches that game both racing toward the track in Center. Really that’s all I remember of any of the individual plays of the game. At least that’s how it is in my mythic memory.

  3. JamesFan - Jun 29, 2014 at 11:32 AM

    After 81 games, RZim, Desmond and Werth are having very bad years at the plate (BA, HR, RBI). Combined with the Ramos absence for most of the first half, the Nats are lucky to be where they are. Offense continues to be the problem. We will see what Harper adds. Certainly, he will bring energy but will he be able to deliver at the plate. This won’t be AA pitching from here on out.

    • scmargenau - Jun 29, 2014 at 9:40 PM

      Dez on pace for 30 hr and 90 plus RBIs
      Werth is hitting 275 while slumping

      Hardly “very bad”

  4. stoatva - Jun 29, 2014 at 11:32 AM

    Asked Williams if he heard what Harper did tonight: “I did. He hit into a double play. … He also did a couple other things.”

    I wish there were some evidence that this was just good natured joshing, but I have never gotten a very positive vibe from what we know of the Williams/Harper relationship.

    Oh well. Always something to fret about.

    • Section 222 - Jun 29, 2014 at 11:55 AM

      I’ve never got a good vibe about that either, but it’s pretty clear his comments last night were tongue in cheek.

    • masterfishkeeper - Jun 29, 2014 at 12:33 PM

      Reports were that MW smiled when he said that. I think you’re misreading that comment.

      • stoatva - Jun 29, 2014 at 12:39 PM

        I confess that I’m skeptical about just about everything regarding MW.

    • natsjackinfl - Jun 29, 2014 at 2:56 PM

      Williams is notorious for his sense of humor.

  5. Section 222 - Jun 29, 2014 at 11:55 AM

    If indeed Zim goes back to 3B, NJ and I, along with all the others who selected option 2, will take a victory lap. But 308 deserves honorable mention. His option 4 had legs. It was just Espi the K Machine’s crappy hitting that undermined its viability.

    6ID20 makes an important point. After his disastrous error on April 5 against the Braves, Zim sat out a few games with shoulder inflammation. Finally admitting he has a serious problem that’s not getting any better, when he came back he vowed to throw sidearm only. It wasn’t pretty, but he had 16 chances in the next four games before he got hurt — and no errors. He’s fine on bunts and slow rollers he can charge. The big weakness is the shot down the line where he has to wheel and fire. As much as I’ve been concerned about and critical of Zim’s arm for years, I’ll take my chances on those plays to have Harper and Zim in the lineup and Espi on the bench.

  6. texnat1 - Jun 29, 2014 at 12:07 PM

    Some of you are whistling past the graveyard on Zim at 3rd. Lets be clear. He’s the single worst defensive 3rd basemen in MLB. Errors don’t even measure the full extent of the problem. He has to play way up so that he can make side arm throws only which reduces his range to a ridiculous extent.

    Unless his arm has gotten better during his time away from the position and time off, he is not a long term option at 3rd.

    • adcwonk - Jun 29, 2014 at 12:26 PM

      I think — or at least speaking personally — since “the experiment” is going to start tomorrow, there’s not a whole lot of need to speculate. What he’s able to do or not do at 3rd will be very apparent after one-to-three games. And then: we’ll see what we need to do.

    • dcwx61 - Jun 29, 2014 at 12:39 PM

      Agree, just for 3 more months and not everyday…..Against lefty’s Espinosa would be an option

    • Section 222 - Jun 29, 2014 at 1:01 PM

      I’m not whistling at all. In fact, I’m cringing, I’m hiding, I’m scared *$&^less. There were plenty of people before this season who thought Zim was a long term option at 3B (“he’s a gold glover, for goodness sakes”) because he just needed to fully heal from his surgery. Not me. I was calling him our future 1B by 2010, if not earlier.

      But that’s not the question. The question is where do you play him now, and unless you want Espi’s bat in the lineup instead of Span, or Harper, or Werth, or ALR, or Desi, then he has to play 3B, at least some of the time.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 29, 2014 at 2:05 PM

      +1 Rendon has saved numerous doubles that RZim will never reach because he plays so far off the line and when he is told to play no doubles he is near the bag instead of on the lime and deep.

      The conclusion is there is no easy solution.

      The bigger issue is RZim is below Mendoza since he came off the DL.

      This is a pitching 1st team where defense can’t be just discarded. It’s more than just throwing errors which one poster here really “swung and missed” on.

      There’s no easy solution and I think I prefer Ryan playing sparingly at 3rd and sitting the pine until he shows his bat can justify the defensive liability he is at 3rd. I still prefer him in LF.

      • therealjohnc - Jun 29, 2014 at 7:48 PM

        Remember last year when Zimmerman got off to a slow start in April? There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth and a few who were suggested sitting him down on the bench. And in 2012, when he was pretty bad the whole first half of the season (.243/.308/.386) and led the league in hitting into double plays?

        Benching him at the low point means that you don’t get the rest of Zim – and both last year and in 2012 his numbers by the end of the season were – Ryan Zimmerman numbers (career 120 OPS+; last year 122 OPS+; 2012 121 OPS+). Trying to time slumps makes about as much sense in baseball as trying to time markets in finance. Both are great ways to lose a lot. The best bet is that Zim is Zim, going through hot streaks and cold streaks, and if you bench him during a cold streak you never find out when the hot streak starts.

      • BurnedOnce - Jun 29, 2014 at 11:31 PM

        Why does no one take into account that he’s coming off a thumb injury. I expect Harper will have issues too minor league pitching notwithstanding. They are back in the line up but it’s not the second coming. The game is way faster than when they left. And they are gripping the bat with recovering thumbs. It will take time. But they won’t get their timing and stength back sitting on the bench.

  7. Eugene in Oregon - Jun 29, 2014 at 12:25 PM

    The Nats have been a couple of games ‘unluckly’ — their Pythagorean record is 45-36 — and I’m willing to discount a few other losses due to injuries (e.g., when they were three or four regulars down) . . . but the notion that they’re in ‘good’ vs ‘great’ shape obviously correct. I will, however, reiterate and expand on something I wrote yesterday: their 81-game record is not what many of use (and I’m not just talking about the doom-and-gloom crew) feared it would be as recently as a month ago (when they were 25-27 after dropping two home games to Miami). I will give the team credit not only for keeping themselves in the NL East race, but for being at the top of the standings. As noted above, that was something they couldn’t manage last season, for whatever reason.

    • sjm308 - Jun 29, 2014 at 12:27 PM

      Mr. Oregon – you mean we are not a bunch of gutless, no fight quitters?
      Wow, I guess I should believe everything I read.

      • BurnedOnce - Jun 29, 2014 at 11:38 PM

        They are not quitters but they don’t rise to the occasion either. They don’t take charge which they have the talent to do. When they win a battle they take 3 games off. I want to see them grab the brass ring and dominant. They haven’t yet. And that’s why I grouse about team dynamics and championship attitude. I want to see it because I know they can do it…if they put their minds to it.

    • adcwonk - Jun 29, 2014 at 1:08 PM

      +1

      (Oh, and just a 1/2 game away from having the 4th best record in the NL. Given injuries and where we were . . . )

    • scbilly - Jun 29, 2014 at 2:44 PM

      If a record like this had been enough for first in the NL East last year the Nats would have been in first frequently. That part of the “improvement” is driven by Atlanta’s regression.

      • Eugene in Oregon - Jun 29, 2014 at 4:48 PM

        Agree. But everything (or virtually everything) is about the relative distribution of power, whether you’re talking international affairs, domestic politics, or baseball.

  8. sjm308 - Jun 29, 2014 at 12:25 PM

    I don’t think Zimm is the long term answer at 3rd but what is your description of long term?
    If he can hang in for the rest of this season there is probably no doubt in most people’s minds he will either be in LF or First Base starting next year. I am also hopeful that while MW will not use the complete plan of rotating 7 position players (it really was outside the box huh?) I do hope he rests people more in the 2nd half then he did during the first half. I still want to see McClouth get some more time as he has been getting better and better.
    Question – with Espinosa probably moving to the bench as a part-time player who can give Desmond & Rendon a rest now and then, why do we need Frandsen. I know he is veteran and probably gives you a good clubhouse vibe, but you have McClouth as your extra outfielder, not to mention Zimm and you now have 4 infielders for 3 spots as well. I don’t know who is out there and I suppose you want to keep Walters and Moore playing every day but its just another of my wacky thoughts. Can we do better than Frandsen for that bench spot. In no way do I want Espinosa sent down as he still remains our best defensive infielder at both SS and 2nd.

    I am hoping that Rendon still gets full games at 3rd and I am pretty sure that if we are leading in the 7th inning that you will see Espinosa come in at 2nd and Rendon move to 3rd just like we bring in Storen and Clippard.

    • dcwx61 - Jun 29, 2014 at 12:41 PM

      Also against lefties, I think Espinosa can play and move RZ back to LF or even 1B occasionally.
      The key is to give his 3b shoulder a rest weekly until he moves on to 1b next year.

      • Section 222 - Jun 29, 2014 at 1:04 PM

        I could live with Espi at 2B against LH pitching, in place of Span. His splits are decent.

      • adcwonk - Jun 29, 2014 at 1:09 PM

        Or: against a tough leftie, RZ to 1st, ALR takes a spell, Rendon back to 3rd, and Espi at 2b.

  9. Doc - Jun 29, 2014 at 12:39 PM

    Personally, I’d like to see more of a Werth/McClouth split in the 2nd half.

    JDub seems to have lost some of his power, and McClouth can do better with some regular ABs. It would make both better coming off the bench to PH.

    If Harps still has problems with lefties, an occasional split with Zim might be in order.

    I have to believe, going towards the end run to the playoffs, that MW won’t give some splits a chance.

    • dcwx61 - Jun 29, 2014 at 12:46 PM

      That’s what makes them so strong when healthy. The ability to give the Werth’s/Zimms/Desmond/LaRoche/Span a rest option during the dog days of August.
      You can sit one of them here and there for a recharge. Sunday day off’s are few and far between except in the offseason.

      • sjm308 - Jun 29, 2014 at 12:52 PM

        Agreed and I think, even though both are young, you still need to give Rendon and Harper a day now and then. Especially Harper vs. a tough lefty.

    • adcwonk - Jun 29, 2014 at 1:10 PM

      JDub seems to have lost some of his power,….

      Querey: is that because he completely carried the team in April/May and he needs some rest . . . or is it age?

      Discuss ;-)

      • Doc - Jun 29, 2014 at 1:40 PM

        Like most outcomes, JDub’s lack to power is a little bit of boht—age and overuse.

        Still like him as a ballplayer; but with less playing time.

  10. micksback1 - Jun 29, 2014 at 1:02 PM

    been reading posts and listening to Bill Ladson and Holden Kushner this morning. I think Bill is probably the most correct on the situation with R Zim.

    The bottom line is the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. The only thing that makes the question about Zim playing 3rd a bit easier is that espi is a liability every time he is at bat. imagine if Espi could hit, what the dilemma would be?

    I agree with Ladson that it seems insane to move Rendon away from 3rd and Zim back to 3rd. Its almost as if one is asking for 1-2 disaster throws a game from Zim. I think this is where we find out if MW is a good manager or not. There is no sugar coating or spin if he screws this up. What frustrates the hell out of me is the fact that MW talks about resting players and yet by moving Zim back to 3rd, he is forcing Werth, Span and Bryce to play almost everyday. This is insane to me.

    Why not keep Zim in left and that way the infield is set defensively, if Espi continues to suck, then play Frandsen at 2b
    With McClouth, Span, Werth, Harper and Zim all resting now and then you reduce the risk of injuries and fatigue.

    I just think MW is going to create defensive problems by moving Rendon back ti 2b and Ryan back to 3rd. also Zim batted 190 in the month of June, if that is not changing then what the heck!

    • IsawTeddywin - Jun 29, 2014 at 2:01 PM

      If Zimmerman stays in left, either Span, Harper, Werth, or Zim is off every single day, and Espi stays at second with an almost automatic out.
      Pretty sure Zim will be at third unless he actually costs them games.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 29, 2014 at 2:16 PM

      Mick, I never agree with Bill Ladson but he’s mostly right so I kind of agree with him.

      Again no simple solution.

      I’d probably sit RZim the most until his bat gets hot. He has been hitting under Mendoza since he came off of the DL.

      • adcwonk - Jun 29, 2014 at 2:22 PM

        I’d probably sit RZim the most until his bat gets hot.

        How can he get hot on the bench?

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 29, 2014 at 2:36 PM

        If he sits on a Tuesday and plays on a Wednesday and sits on a Thursday and plays on a Friday you think that will be a problem? He’s been playing everyday and

      • adcwonk - Jun 29, 2014 at 2:48 PM

        OK, I hear you. A plan similar to that might be in order.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 29, 2014 at 2:52 PM

        Here’s the problem, RZim and Espi aren’t hitting and if one or the other was, easier solution.

        I think everyone will do better being fresher with some rest including Desi.

      • Section 222 - Jun 29, 2014 at 3:04 PM

        You hear around here all the time — Werth needs to sit for 3 or 4 days, Desi needs to sit out for a week, Zim should sit every other day. How about just a day off from time to time? Zim is not going to get hot playing every day. And in that context, what’s getting hot? If he goes 3-4 one day is that getting hot so he can play the next day? How many times playing every other day is enough to put him back in the lineup?

        The only guy who is so cold that he needs to sit for a lengthy period of time is Espi. The rest, including Zim, need a day off maybe once every week or 10 days. But they are every day players and should remain in the lineup unless there is someone better to take their place. Right now, there isn’t.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 29, 2014 at 3:37 PM

        9 guys for 8 spots. That’s a good problem to have.

    • Section 222 - Jun 29, 2014 at 3:00 PM

      So Mick, what you’re saying is that if MW doesn’t do what you and Bill Ladson think he should do, he’s a bad manager. Yeah whatever.

      Sounds like you’re in the NatsLady camp — rotate all the outfielders, including Zim. Never put him back at 3B and leave Espi at 2B no matter how many times he strikes out. That’s an option of course. But to pretend that that’s the only option that makes any sense at all is silly. All four camps have arguments for and arguments against. MW gets paid the big bucks to decide. No solution is obvious.

      Camp 1 (Ghost) — Zim in LF, Span sits, Harper plays CF
      Camp 2 (NJ and 222) — Zim back at 3B, Rendon to 2B, Espi sits.
      Camp 3 (NL) — Zim never plays 3B again. Rotate the outfielders to give everyone rest.
      Camp 4 (308) — Days off for everyone. Musical chairs among Zim, Harper, Werth, Rendon, Desi, Espi, and ALR.

      • micksback1 - Jun 29, 2014 at 4:29 PM

        NL is correct. My point on MW is that if this team is healthy and fails to make post season, how can anyone justify that MW is the man for the job?

    • therealjohnc - Jun 29, 2014 at 7:50 PM

      If I were making an argument I’m not sure that I’d use Bill Ladson as an authority. Just sayin’

  11. micksback1 - Jun 29, 2014 at 1:07 PM

    we need Rick Schu to deal with Des’s high strike out rate, what is going on?

  12. mdmcommish - Jun 29, 2014 at 1:08 PM

    Different topic, anybody else we need a new backup catcher? Somebody who can hit more than a buck fifty?

    • adcwonk - Jun 29, 2014 at 2:21 PM

      Lobaton is a lifetime .224 hitter. I’m not sure there are many backup catchers out there that call as good a game as he does, and fields as well, that can hit like that. Not that .224 is great, but if you hit even marginally better than that, you’re a starter somewhere.

      E.g., Giant’s backup hits .200; the catcher with the most AB’s for Cubs, Marlins, Mets, and Padres have BA’s that range from .190 to .245

  13. David Proctor - Jun 29, 2014 at 1:18 PM

    Well, in AL parks, Zim is DH. That’s easy. Against lefties, he either plays LF or 1B, depending on whether you want to give Span or LaRoche the day off. Espi can play against lefties.

    That still leaves the majority of games to be decided though.

    • Joe Seamhead - Jun 29, 2014 at 1:48 PM

      I have the answer! None of us will like it, but just bring the DH into the NL. Ryan Zimmerman problem solved.

      Seriously though, I’m in agreement with Ray Knight regarding Zimm in left. Every 3B coach in the league is going to successfully exploit his noodle arm. This isn’t Little League where you always have your cutoff guy run out to your left fielder to relay EVERY THROW. In one of the earlier Cubs games, guys on 2nd and 3rd a ball drops in shallow LF in front of Ryan, not very deep. He doesn’t even attempt a throw home, he just throws to 2nd, both runs score. Same game, same situation, a ball goes further to the wall. Desi runs out 80 feet to receive a lolly pop throw from Zim, Desi throws home, has no chance to get the 2nd runner at the plate. Both runs score, the batter gets to 2nd on what should’ve been a single. Nats Lady said the Cubs announcers commented about it, and saw it the same way I just described it. They will not win with Zim in the outfield. Matt Williams knows it, Mike Rizzo knows it, Ray Knight knows it, and every opposing third base coach in the league knows it.

      GYFNG

      • David Proctor - Jun 29, 2014 at 2:17 PM

        Every 3B coach ran on Juan Pierre too. They run on Nate McLouth who has a very weak arm. Obviously you prefer to have a strong arm out there, but it’s silly to say we can’t win with his arm out there. There have been several cases where players have tried to take second on him and turned back because he made a decent enough throw to second (Altuve comes to mind and he is very fast). The play at the plate where a guy with an average arm has a shot is rare enough that I’m willing to live with Ryan’s below average arm.

      • Section 222 - Jun 29, 2014 at 2:55 PM

        I’m willing to live with RZ’s lollypop arm in left, but not with Espi’s lollypop bat in the lineup.

      • Another Tyler - Jun 29, 2014 at 3:24 PM

        I had a weird dream last night that Werth was playing second and LaRoche was playing third.

      • Eugene in Oregon - Jun 29, 2014 at 3:56 PM

        Another Tyler – Was the weird part where those two were playing or simply that you had a dream about Messrs. Werth and LaRoche?

      • Joe Seamhead - Jun 29, 2014 at 11:30 PM

        David Proctor? McLouth has a weak OFarm. Zim has NO arm. It’s not going to work.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Jun 29, 2014 at 1:49 PM

      Yes, but…don’t assume everything else will remain static. Someone else (one or more) will go on the DL for a few weeks, there could (not predicting it, but the possibility is greater than 0%), etc.

      Also, when you get down to the bottom line, I’d prefer to have the problem of deciding where to play nine potential starters (including Danny Espinosa in those nine) than where the Nats have been for most of the season (trying to generate a legitimate eight-man line-up).

      • Eugene in Oregon - Jun 29, 2014 at 1:51 PM

        Sorry, that should have read: …there could be a trade (not predicting it…)…

      • adcwonk - Jun 29, 2014 at 2:23 PM

        +1

      • sjm308 - Jun 29, 2014 at 4:30 PM

        +1

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 29, 2014 at 8:34 PM

      They have 5 DH games left in this season. Not enough to worry about.

  14. Whynat - Jun 29, 2014 at 2:37 PM

    I don’t know who plays where, but Zim is going to have to start putting up some serious numbers with his bat to justify a starting role.

    • Joe Seamhead - Jun 29, 2014 at 11:15 PM

      +1

  15. sjm308 - Jun 29, 2014 at 4:29 PM

    Actually, while I think its pretty safe to think that Zimm will improve, the only numbers he has to beat to stay in the lineup are Espinosa’s if all you are talking about is offense.

    I also would like to see MW rest his players a little more in the 2nd half but unlike Mick, I am not going to label a first year manager this early. Basically, Mick has MW in a lose/lose situation with his demands and we know how that will work out. If they win, its because of the players if they lose Mick will blame MW for one thing or another. You can’t rest everyone on every day. It could be subtle changes with the rest but I have to think with all of our guys back, even if its for a short time, we will see some movement. Obvious rest comes against left-handed pitching where you can rest either Span, LaRoche or yes, even Harper. I think Werth gets more time off as McClouth continues to show he can contribute and certainly Zimm is in need of a day here or there especially if he is still struggling. The guy who obviously tell MW he never wants a day off is Desmond and here is where I would like MW to step up a bit and sit him once every two weeks or so.

    Go Nats!!

    • micksback1 - Jun 29, 2014 at 4:41 PM

      I want MW to successful, believe me, i just am not seeing any evidence of it et. i also do not know how he could be considered a good long term manager if this team does not make post season if all are healthy. a rationale would be appreciated

  16. Section 222 - Jun 29, 2014 at 5:05 PM

    Ok, let’s talk turkey about this idea of resting someone against “tough lefities” and putting Espi in the lineup against them. First of all, I’m not sure how you determine who’s a tough lefty vs. just a lefty. But at any rate, here are the splits against lefties of the three LH batters in our lineup, and Espi, batting right handed. Bryce’s splits are last year’s since he only has 22 PAs against lefties this year so far.

    ALR .314/.419/.373/.792
    Bryce .214/.327/.321/.648
    Span .269 /.310/.397/.707
    Espi .277/.365/.462/.826

    Looking at this, I don’t think you would platoon ALR. And despite his numbers last year, I don’t think you platoon Bryce either. If he’s going to be the superstar we want him to be, he has to used to facing LH pitching. In addition, this year’s small sample size numbers suggests he’s figuring it out — .476/.500/.810/1.310!

    So that leaves Span. Are we really ready to make him a platoon player? I know Ghost is since he wants to make him a bench player, but I’m not so sure. And then, of course, there’s the possibility of resting Zim against lefties to let Espi bat. His splits so far this year (30 PAs)? .222/.300/.370/.670.

    • adcwonk - Jun 29, 2014 at 6:38 PM

      Bringing in data, eh?

      Well done. Thanks. Food for thought.

    • therealjohnc - Jun 29, 2014 at 7:54 PM

      Food for thought, but benching Zim against LHP based on 30 plate appearances is kinda nutty. Especially since Zim’s career splits against LHP are .308/.393/.500 (!).

      They’re not going to rest Zim against LHP to let Espi bat. They may move Zim to LF or 1b to give an occasional day off to one of the other LH bats (Span, Harper, LaRoche) but they’re not sitting Ryan against LHP.

      • Section 222 - Jun 29, 2014 at 9:37 PM

        I totally agree. I was being ironic. It seems like every other day someone talks about resting ALR or Span or Harper against “tough lefties.” I don’t think that’s the solution.

      • therealjohnc - Jun 29, 2014 at 10:35 PM

        Particularly Span. His career splits are just about even versus LH and RH pitchers. You can sit him if you like some other alignment/lineup, sure, but to sit him against LHP just because he bats LH is pure Riggleman-style reflex management and not reality based.

    • David Proctor - Jun 29, 2014 at 8:12 PM

      But it’s not really a straight platoon. Against some lefties you sit Span, against some lefties LaRoche and maybe rarely Bryce though I agree he needs to play most of the time against lefties. I think between that, you can get Espi in there against lefties just about every time–and maybe more importantly–get Ryan Zimmerman off 3B.

      • Section 222 - Jun 29, 2014 at 9:42 PM

        I guess we’ll see how important it is soon enough. I just question whether there’s really much to the idea of sitting our regulars “against tough lefties.”

        MW also doesn’t seem enamored of resting one player at a time (the 308 idea). He waits until that day game after a night game and gives a whole bunch of bench players a chance to start.

        Pretty soon this whole “where does Zim play when Harper comes back” debate will no longer be a debate. And then someone else will probably get injured….

  17. destewart01 - Jun 29, 2014 at 6:55 PM

    Can LaRoche play 3B?

    • Eugene in Oregon - Jun 29, 2014 at 8:50 PM

      I realize that was in jest, but it led me to check his professional history.

      As a MLB player, Adam LaRoche has only played 1B and DH. As a minor leaguer, however, he has three games in the OF early in his career, plus two pitching appearances (one of which resulted in him getting a W after throwing one inning).

    • therealjohnc - Jun 29, 2014 at 10:30 PM

      No. He’s left handed.

  18. NatsLady - Jun 29, 2014 at 9:13 PM

    Well, I listened to the Philly-Barves game on my way home from Chicago. Who knew the Fillies were going to lie down like a doormat for the ATL????

    There is a lot of season left. Just go back and read stories from the beginning of June, when the Giants were leading their Division by 9.5 games. Since then they have lost 15 of 19 and are now in a virtual tie with the Dodgers, the Dodgers have yet to win four straight games (or lose four straight). So it’s not always about a long winning streak, sometimes it’s about not going in the tank, and just consistently winning series.

  19. NatsLady - Jun 29, 2014 at 9:23 PM

    I’m still in the same camp. Watching Werth over the last week, first stop for Harper has to be right field when the Nats are at home. So rotate the outfielders, with maybe RZimm occasionally playing first base to give ALR a break if there is a string of hot days or a doubleheader. I’d still play Werth in RF in the trickier parks, like in San Francisco, maybe those are the days Zim plays first, or whatever.

    Desi ALMOST went 0-for-the-series in Chicago, and Werth was close to it also.

    My analysis of the starters is they are tired, except Gio–who had a month off. We are in the “grind” part of the season until the All-Star Break. However, everyone else’s starters are just as tired.

  20. realdealnats - Jun 29, 2014 at 9:52 PM

    I think you have to keep Zim in the lineup for his bat. His hitting will average out which means he will get fairly hot the second half. Maybe a little off his career average b/c of his hand but he’ll come on.

    But one thing about Zim at 3B that scares me that I haven’t heard much talk about is the way he instinctively lays out horizontally for those line drives and hits the turf. I think he stands a much better chance of returning to the DL at 3B than in LF.

    Not saying there is an easy answer or that I even know where I want him, but this injury possibility is a concern.

  21. realdealnats - Jun 29, 2014 at 9:56 PM

    Regarding trading Zim–don’t you think there are some AL teams who smell the playoffs who might trade a pretty package of young hitting talent to land Zim and his contract for a DH? I like Zim and want him to stick around, but just curious what anyone else thinks?

    • NatsLady - Jun 29, 2014 at 10:24 PM

      Zim has a no-trade. He’d have to agree to it, and I’m not sure he would, or that Rizzo would ask him.

    • therealjohnc - Jun 29, 2014 at 10:38 PM

      Zim’s contract is not an albatross, but it’s not a bargain either – so unless the Nats paid a significant portion of the contract the answer is no, you’re not going to get a major haul of talent for Zim.

      And as NL points out, it’s a moot question – Zim isn’t going anywhere.

  22. NatsLady - Jun 29, 2014 at 11:09 PM

    With regard to Zim: I think his bat will come around. You have to remember he was injured in the hand, that’s gonna take a while.

    There was some analysis of the “recency” effect in baseball, that is, the tendency to value recent events/history over projections that take into consideration track record. Zim has a track record which is very consistent, and he’s not old enough to project a decline. Unless the thumb injury lingers, I expect Zim’s offense to be what it usually is when the numbers are added up at the end of the season.

  23. thelatencn - Jun 30, 2014 at 12:05 AM

    i think we’re way too concerned about days off. The lineup we’ve been wailing about only having had for 7 innings is back as of today, and already we’re trying to set up situations where we don’t ever have it again even if we avoid new injuries) because we’re always giving somebody a day off.

    The real key to covering defensive liabilities seems to me to be with late-inning defensive substitutions. I think Zim starts a lot of games at 3b, but doesn’t finish very many, exiting after he bats in the 7th or 8th inning, say. Then Espi comes in to play second and Rendon moves to 3rd.

    I don’t mean to suggest that nobody ever needs a rest, but they should be as infrequent as possible

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
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ATLANTA 72 65 6.0
MIAMI 68 69 11.0
NEW YORK 64 73 14.0
PHILADELPHIA 62 74 15.5
Through Sunday's games

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
MON: Nats at Dodgers, 8:10 p.m.
TUE: Nats at Dodgers, 10:10 p.m.
WED: Nats at Dodgers, 3:10 p.m.
THU: OFF
FRI: Phillies at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
SAT: Phillies at Nats, 4:05 p.m.
SUN: Phillies at Nats, 1:35 p.m.
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