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Nationals Stock Watch: Gio on the rebound?

Jul 2, 2014, 1:17 PM EDT

MLB: Game One-Washington Nationals at Chicago Cubs
We take a look at the Nationals’ past week, at a glance:

Record: 4-2
Team slash: .229/.304/.358
Team ERA:  3.43
Runs per game:  4.83

STOCK UP

Gio Gonzalez, SP: 1-0 / 7.0 IP/ 0.00 ERA

It might be too early to make any grand proclamations, but perhaps we’re in the midst of witnessing a midseason rebound for Gonzalez. He turned in his best outing of the season against the Cubs over the weekend, hurling seven shutout innings en route to a 3-0 victory that raised his overall record to 5-4. Combine that with his previous start against the Brewers, and Gio’s now pitched 13 consecutive scoreless innings. That’s impressive enough, but what’s even more interesting is that he’s not really overpowering hitters just yet. His fastball is sitting in the low nineties and he’s gone to his changeup and breaking pitches more often than he did before he went on the disabled list. Is this a direct consequence of coming off shoulder inflammation? Who knows, but whatever he’s doing these last few starts is definitely working.

Adam LaRoche, 1B: 3 HR/ 5 RBI/ .926 OPS

Last week we mentioned how LaRoche might be the team’s most consistent hitter, albeit without the gaudy power numbers. So in that time all he does is hit three long balls and posts the highest slugging percentage (.615) of any of the regulars in the lineup. Oops. Hopefully LaRoche’s solid season at the plate doesn’t get lost in the shuffle as Anthony Rendon continues to rake and the rest of the lineup begins to flourish with all the key missing pieces finally back from their respective injuries. It’s easy to forget that LaRoche carried this offense for the early part of the season while Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper and Wilson Ramos were gone for extended periods of time. He showed he could still be productive without protection behind him in the lineup; what’ll you think he’ll do now that he does?

Stephen Strasburg, SP: 1-0 / 7.2 IP/ 8 K

The curious case of Stephen Strasburg continues. One week, it seems like he’s laboring just to work his way into the middle innings. Another week, he cruises through a lineup in dominant fashion. This week he was the good Strasburg, flummoxing the Rockies Tuesday night by hurling 7.2 innings of one-run ball while striking out eight. He showed why he has the potential to be one of the top pitchers in the league when he doesn’t nibble and has his command going. He got ahead of hitters with the fastball early in at-bats, and finished them off with the breaking pitches in two-strike counts. That’s what fans envisioned he’d look like early in the season, and he’s shown glimpses of being that guy from time to time. The big question for him heading into the second half of the season is whether or not he can reel off several of these dominant outings in a row. The rotation’s been good despite his struggles, but they have a chance to be elite if he returns to his 2012 form.

STOCK DOWN

Ian Desmond, SS: .185 AVG/ .185 OBP/ .296 SLG

Yes, Desmond hit a bases clearing double Monday night to help propel the Nats to a 7-3 victory over the Rockies. But that moment was an aberration in what has otherwise been a tough stretch in which he’s struggled mightily at the plate. He’s had multi-strikeout performances in six out of the last ten games — 15 K’s in all during that stretch. He hasn’t drawn a walk in his last thirteen games, dropping his on-base percentage to .285 for the season, good for second lowest of those in the everyday lineup. But despite all of that, there are still silver linings to be found. Desmond leads the team in home runs and RBI despite the recent quagmire, and he hasn’t carried his struggles at the plate with him to the field when he’s playing defense. He’d be a shoe-in for the All-Star game if his average and OBP numbers were a little bit higher.

Jerry Blevins, RP: 2 GP/ 16.20 ERA/ 2.40 WHIP

For the majority of the season, the only reliever to consistently show up in this section was Ross Detwiler. But now, Blevins appears to be the the current weak link in the bullpen. After a rough outing against the Cubs in which he allowed three runs in just 2/3 of an inning, his season ERA now sits at 5.16 — worst among Nationals relief pitchers. His big problem right now is the number of walks, as he’s given a free pass to six hitters over his last 4.2 innings of work. Luckily for Matt Williams there’s a bevy of relievers who are pitching lights out right now, so Blevins doesn’t have to be put into pressure situations until he can work himself out of the slump.
  1. karlkolchak - Jul 2, 2014 at 1:34 PM

    Any chance we can get a “do over” on those two transactions last winter that essentially led to the Nats and A’s swapping Blevins for Abad? Abad has looked great for the A’s this year.

    • knoxvillenat - Jul 2, 2014 at 2:29 PM

      Reposting from last thread:

      One second baseman that I haven’t heard mentioned as a possible addition to the Nats roster is the White Sox Gordon Beckham. I know at one time Rizzo was thought to be trying to get him away from the Chisox so I wonder, would Riz still be interested in him? What would we have to give up to get him? Is he somebody we really want? I’m not that familiar with Beckham as I don’t watch many AL games in general and certainly not any White Sox games.

  2. jd - Jul 2, 2014 at 1:46 PM

    Reposting from last thread:

    The Nats have $80 million committed to 7 players for 2015. In addition they have 12 players eligible for arbitration including players who will get big time raises like: Strasburg, Storen,Clippard,Fister,Ramos and Stammen.

    I think they need to start graduating some of their prospects soon.

  3. veejh - Jul 2, 2014 at 1:51 PM

    Not to keep harping on Stras, but he always seems to pitch much better with a lead, which he had last night. Any of you stat junkies know a way to look up Stras’ stats pitching from behind vs with a lead?

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jul 2, 2014 at 2:12 PM

      To be fair, most people, esp. power pitchers, pitch better with a lead. Does he pitch better than other pitchers with a lead (vs simply better than himself, w/o a lead)? Interesting question.

      • veejh - Jul 2, 2014 at 2:21 PM

        I think more telling in Stras case will be how much worse he pitches from behind.

    • Hiram Hover - Jul 2, 2014 at 2:44 PM

      Check bbref, under splits.

      On his career, Stras is better when he’s behind–opponents #s batting against him.

      Ahead: .228/.301/.356
      Behind: .210/.252/.316

      Not to spoil the narrative, or anything….

      • Section 222 - Jul 2, 2014 at 3:21 PM

        Facts. Damn you!

    • ratiocinational - Jul 2, 2014 at 2:48 PM

      Here are Strasburg’s run support splits:

      http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/split.cgi?id=strasst01&year=Career&t=p#rs_extra

      He does pitch better with a lead, but as Sec 3 points out, he may not pitch better with a lead than other pitchers.

      • ratiocinational - Jul 2, 2014 at 2:53 PM

        Should have looked at that Hiram. The link I posted is simply for run support regardless of whether we were ahead or not…a slightly different question.

      • Hiram Hover - Jul 2, 2014 at 2:56 PM

        Haven’t seen your handle in a while – nice to see you back!

  4. David Proctor - Jul 2, 2014 at 2:12 PM

    Washington Nationals ‏@Nationals 2m View translation
    #Nats lineup vs. #Rockies: Span CF, Rendon 2B, Werth RF, LaRoche 1B, Zimmerman 3B, Harper LF, Desmond SS, Lobaton C, Fister P

    So much for Espi getting in.

    • karlkolchak - Jul 2, 2014 at 2:33 PM

      I’ve been a vocal supporter in defense of Bryce speaking his mind, but the one thing he was clearly wrong about was Espinosa. Since 4/25, Espy is slashing .182/.251/.287 while striking out 78 times in 199 PAs. Basically, after a hot start he has almost reverted to being as bad at the plate as he was last year.

      • karlkolchak - Jul 2, 2014 at 2:34 PM

        Oops, I meant “almost as bad at the plate.”

      • David Proctor - Jul 2, 2014 at 2:37 PM

        He’s good against LHP though

      • natszee - Jul 2, 2014 at 3:55 PM

        David Proctor said “He’s good against LHP though”.

        Well his BA is .277 vs LHP but it’s .281 when no one is on base (Span’s BA is .260 with nobody on BTW). Does that mean Danny should lead off?

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 2, 2014 at 2:35 PM

      I posted that thus morning to 222 that it doesnt matter what Matt says the night before in his presser. He did the same last week saying Desi would only play 1 game of the doubleheader and Desi played both.

      Regardless I think you need your A infield defense behind Fister.

    • bowdenball - Jul 2, 2014 at 2:37 PM

      Really surprising that Espinosa won’t get a single start in this series against three lefties. Could give lefty Span or lefty LaRoche a nice day off and get Zim off 3B with no real drop-off on the offense considering Espinosa’s production against lefties. He has to be in Matt Williams’ doghouse, there’s really no other explanation.

      • Hiram Hover - Jul 2, 2014 at 2:57 PM

        Yes. Weird….

      • adcwonk - Jul 2, 2014 at 3:07 PM

        agreed, weird — also: no starts during the Sunday double header, either.

      • therealjohnc - Jul 2, 2014 at 4:21 PM

        This may well be a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” (other than the traditional starting catcher day off on the getaway game).

        Also, I think it would be more likely that Espinosa would get a start in a game that Ramos also plays, for the simple reason that the Nats can live with two holes in the lineup (#8 and #9 spots) but to have three lined up 7,8,9 is too much.

  5. bowdenball - Jul 2, 2014 at 2:33 PM

    Minor quarrel- any chance that future versions of this could have runs/game and runs allowed/game? Comparing runs/game and ERA doesn’t really tell us all that much about the team’s play over the last week, since one obviously includes unearned runs and the other does not.

  6. Hiram Hover - Jul 2, 2014 at 2:36 PM

    The curious case of Stephen Strasburg continues…. [The Nats] have a chance to be elite if he returns to his 2012 form.

    Even when Stras gets listed under “stock up,” the write up includes a lot of digs. Wow.

    As for that last bit, about returning to 2012 form–in terms of the things he controls, he’s pretty much already there:

    K/9: 10.50 vs 11.13 (2014 v 2012)
    BB/9: 1.92 vs. 2.71
    K/BB: 5.46 vs. 4.10
    HR/9: 0.88 vs 0.85

    His ERA is higher (3.53 v 3.16) as is his WHIP (1.25 vs. 1.15). Part of that is just the luck of BABIP (.348 this year, vs .311 in 2012).

    People insist on setting ridiculous expectations for this guy, then declare him a disappointment. Incredible.

    • Section 222 - Jul 2, 2014 at 2:42 PM

      +1. We need to appreciate him while he’s here. Doubt that will be beyond 2016.

      • jd - Jul 2, 2014 at 3:40 PM

        222

        I don’t understand the speculation about players leaving years down the line. There are so many variables to consider and things change so much that I don’t think anything should be taken as a certainty.

        Give Stras recent TJ history and other pitcher’s having a 2nd TJ surgery don’t you think it’s conceivable that Stras would lock in a long term contract if offered? I know JZZim didn’t so far but he’s not necessarily making the right decision.

        Eventually we will need to replace one or 2 of the expensive pitchers with A.J.Cole and Giolito I just don’t quite know which ones and when.

  7. Theophilus T.S. - Jul 2, 2014 at 3:06 PM

    Because jd reposted from the previous thread, allow me my reposte.

    With the possible exception of Strasburg, the cumulative “big time” pay raises in store through arbitration will be negligible in the grand scheme — the total likely to be completely offset by the departure of Soriano. If you’re looking at 2016, if they allow Desmond, Zimmermann to walk it will be because they have decided their jobs can be filled at a lower cost (e.g., something less than $26MM). I don’t see any big total team compensation bubble for at least a couple of years. In that context, an extra year of LaRoche doesn’t move the needle.

  8. jd - Jul 2, 2014 at 3:34 PM

    Theo,

    I am not saying there’s a bubble there but I also don’t agree with your math. I think Stras, Fister ,Storen and Clip will get raises (together) that will far outpace the savings from Soriano. Also JZiM is getting a $9 mil raise and Desi $4.5 mil raise, Gio a $2.5 mil raise. That’s $16 mil right there and it’s already locked in.

    All I’m saying is that they are not likely to give ALR $15 mil

  9. natszee - Jul 2, 2014 at 3:45 PM

    Speaking of status, not a Nat to be found in the All Star top 5’s (or top 15 for outfield):

    http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20140701&content_id=82543886&vkey=pr_mlb&c_id=mlb

    My guess is Soriano gets to be the pick as our lone club rep this year. Too bad, I believe Rendon deserves the trip.

    • jd - Jul 2, 2014 at 3:53 PM

      Natszee,

      I agree.

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
WASHINGTON 72 53 --
ATLANTA 66 61 7.0
MIAMI 63 63 9.5
NEW YORK 60 68 13.5
PHILADELPHIA 56 71 17.0
Through Wednesday's games

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
THU: Diamondbacks at Nats, 4:05 p.m.
FRI: Giants at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
SAT: Giants at Nats, 4:05 p.m.
SUN: Giants at Nats, 1:35 p.m.
MON: Nats at Phillies, 7:05 p.m.
TUE: Nats at Phillies, 7:05 p.m.
WED: Nats at Phillies, 7:05 p.m.
Full season schedule

Mark joins Rob Carlin and Joe Orsulak every Thursday at 4 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet for a half-hour show on the Nats, Orioles and rest of MLB. Re-airs Thursdays at 11:30 p.m., Saturdays at 9 a.m. and Sundays at 11:30 a.m.

ON THE RADIO

As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...

MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.

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