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State of the Nats: All-Star break

Jul 14, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

Top storylines:

All-Star Game - This week is the 2014 All-Star break, giving the Nationals four days off before they begin the final 2 1/2 months of the season. Despite sitting tied for first place at the moment, the Nationals will not be well-represented in Minnesota. None of their players will be in the Home Run Derby on Monday night and only one member of the team is on the NL All-Star roster. That player is Tyler Clippard, who was added on Sunday. And as a relief pitcher, there’s no guarantee he’ll even appear in the game.

Perhaps it is a good thing that the Nationals will not have a large group of players participating in this week’s events. It could go both ways. Having your stars at the Midsummer Classic could keep them fresh for the second half as they continue to take batting practice and go about their business at the ballpark. On the other hand, though, this allows just about everyone on the Nationals to have a few days off in what is a very long season. Would you rather see your team get practically nobody in the game, or have nearly your whole team there like the Oakland Athletics? That could be an interesting debate.

Zimmermann on the mend - With the Nationals moving through the beginning of July with a completely healthy roster, it was bound to happen at some point where another player would go down. Unfortunately this time it had to be Jordan Zimermann, arguably their most consistent pitcher over the last three seasons. Zimmermann will now have to sit out the All-Star Game for the second consecutive season. It’s too bad for the 27-year-old, but obviously the most important part of all of this is him coming back healthy.

Zimmermann is expected to avoid the disabled list after an MRI showed a strain to his right bicep and no structural damage. The telling day will be Thursday when he is likely to throw a bullpen session during the team’s workout. From there it will officially be determined whether a stint on the DL is needed.

Tough schedule on other side - The Nationals will have a fairly difficult stretch awaiting them after the break beginning with three games against the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers have actually lost 11 of their last 13 games heading into the break, but they remain the top team in the NL Central and hold the second-best record in the NL at 53-43.

After that the Nats will go on a nine-game road trip through Colorado, Cincinnati and Miami. The Rockies have also been a disaster lately, but they have been strong all season at home. They are still the best offense in the National League and at Coors Field can turn any game into a home run derby.

Things should get interesting when the Nationals travel to play the Reds. Cincinnati won seven of nine heading into the break and is playing as well as any team in the NL. The Reds look poised to take over the NL Central some time soon.

After playing the Reds, the Nats will face a Marlins team that has been very good at home this season. Miami is 27-22 in South Florida, and though they look more like pretenders this season than true contenders, they have played the Nats pretty evenly so far this season in head-to-head matchups.

NL East Standings

source:

Offensive game of the week: Jayson Werth 7/13 vs. Phillies – 2-for-3, 2 R, HR, 4 RBI, BB, HBP

Pitching game of the week: Tanner Roark 7/13 vs. Phillies – 7 IP, 4 H, ER, 0 BB, 6 SO, 104 pitches, 65 strikes.

Quote of the week:

Zimmermann on his injury:

“I didn’t think it was bad, anything serious. The MRI came back and looked pretty good. A little inflammation. Give it rest for a few days and go home and come back and start throwing on Thursday again.”

Tweet of the week:

Road ahead

MON – Home Run Derby
TUE – All-Star Game
WED – OFF
THU – OFF
FRI – 7:05 p.m. vs. Milwaukee Brewers (Strasburg)
SAT – 7:05 p.m. vs. Milwaukee Brewers (Gonzalez)
SUN – 1:35 p.m. vs. Milwaukee Brewers (Fister)

  1. Doc - Jul 14, 2014 at 12:08 PM

    The ASG is an honor for guys chosen, so Clip has a right to be excited.

    As a fan, however, I have little interest in it—particularly so as no Nats are represented.

    Home Run Derby—just glorified batting practice!

    • jd - Jul 14, 2014 at 12:22 PM

      Doc,

      You are right and I also agree with your point about Souza. I think most teams would have found a place for a young player hitting .370 with power and speed but the Nats simply don’t have a way to do this without a drastic shake up which is something you can’t do in a pennant race.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Jul 14, 2014 at 1:47 PM

      Home Run Derby = worse than glorified batting practice.

      • scnatsfan - Jul 14, 2014 at 2:41 PM

        It is so much worse; the last thing you want a player to do is get the mindset to swing for the fences every swing. Its like Espi was in the HR derby in college and forgot to check out lol.

  2. Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 14, 2014 at 12:26 PM

    I’m interested to see if Rizzo makes an upgrade to the bench and tweaks the bullpen.

    The Nats are one of the few contenders that really could stay silent at the trade deadline and push towards August 31st if they needed to.

    • jd - Jul 14, 2014 at 12:30 PM

      Ghost,

      What are your suggestions in upgrading the bench?

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 14, 2014 at 12:41 PM

        First let’s look at the bench:

        Lobaton S
        Frandsen R
        McLouth L
        Espinosa S
        Hairston R

        I think Hairston has to go and allow Frandsen to be the primary RH with Espinosa behind him as his right-handed splits are good.

        This gives Rizzo the opportunity to look for either a lefty or righty or a toolsy type of guy.

        There are just not any candidates in the Minors that I would consider a primary bat bench rather guys who would sit and wilt and I see no value to bringing up Souza or TyMo and little them get splinters on the bench.

      • natinalsgo - Jul 14, 2014 at 12:47 PM

        Ghost,

        Do you have any names you would target?

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 14, 2014 at 1:02 PM

        Gonat, I will give you a bunch of names that are doable:
        Brandon Barnes, Reed Johnson, Jeff Baker, Cody Ross, and Tommy Medica.

        Guess what they are all right-handed.

        The lefty bench players are few and far between. The good ones are taken by contenders. My best pick is Kirk Nieuwenhuis of the Mets.

      • natinalsgo - Jul 14, 2014 at 1:09 PM

        Ghost, if McLouth was doing his job then it would be an easy decision. I think you have to find then a RH pinch-hitter who can also hit righties well.

      • Hiram Hover - Jul 14, 2014 at 1:26 PM

        Ghost

        Have to say, that is not a wildly impressive list of RH hitters.

        Souza will be a Sept call up and available as a RH bench bat, so we’re really only talking about a month and half until then.

        If the Nats are willing to pay, why not bring back Willingham?

      • jd - Jul 14, 2014 at 2:46 PM

        All off these guys are at or near replacement level this year. Right around what Hairston is. They can go replace Hairston with one of these guys but don’t expect any significant difference. The point is that worrying about the 25th spot on the roster is essentially a waste of time. None of the potential available pieces is very good or they wouldn’t be the 25th guy on the roster.

        Mc.Louth was supposed to be the perfect bench guy, he could play defense, he could run, he could let you rest a regular etc. Guess what, for $5 mil a year he has contributed exactly –0.2 WAR in more than half a season and because of injuries he has had 150 PA.

        BTW Frandsen in 150 AB’s is also below replacement level.

        At lease Hairston has the excuse that he’s only been given 45 plate appearances.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 14, 2014 at 9:15 PM

        jd, before you criticize the list I gave, look at their pinch-hitting stats. They are all better than Hairston and players like Cody Ross would add that post-season experience and clubhouse leadership.

    • David Proctor - Jul 14, 2014 at 12:46 PM

      We need someone who can hit RHP. I think McLouth has been useful even though he’s not hitting, because he can get on base, run and play good D. We have guys who can hit lefties in Frandsen and Hairston, though either one or both are easily replaceable. We have nobody who you can put up in a big spot against a RHP. I’m not sure who is available.

      I think the bullpen is fine, even with some recent struggles. Matt is using Blevins as a LOOGY now and he’s good in that role. Det has settled in nicely. Barrett has struggled, but it’s to be expected with a rookie (and I think having to change his mechanics due to Joe West has contributed to it).

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 14, 2014 at 12:53 PM

        Yes, the change to a more LOOGY role for Blevins has been long overdue and we all know Rizzo didn’t bring Blevins here for 1 batter, but it is what it is.

        I think Barrett has to go back to AAA and work on his mechanics. I would love to see Treinen back as a stopper reliever and Taylor Hill take his spot as the spot starter.

        This bullpen is missing that fireballer reliever and Treinen is it.

      • David Proctor - Jul 14, 2014 at 12:57 PM

        Treinan’s not really your typical fireballer though, because he doesn’t strike people out. Like at all.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 14, 2014 at 1:05 PM

        Wrong. As a reliever he has a K9 of 8.3 compared to only 4.1 as a starter.

      • David Proctor - Jul 14, 2014 at 1:11 PM

        There are sample size issues there, though.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 14, 2014 at 2:33 PM

        Small sample sizes generally work in Treinan’s favor as I think he is better suited as a reliever and will get better with more experience and a defined role.

        He’s been effective so far as a 5 inning starter but his velo drops off by 4 to 8 mph as the innings go in plus he needs to develop his secondary pitches to really become a more effective starter.

        I would open up the 2nd half of the season with Barrett working on his delivery off the stretch and bring Treinen in.

      • Hiram Hover - Jul 14, 2014 at 12:58 PM

        Good analysis, DP.

        I understand the frustration with Hairston, especially given what he costs. But he isn’t as bad as some folks seem to think–against lefties, at least. And I think a huge upgrade would probably be hard to find.

        Against RHP – McLouth been bad this year vs righties, but his career #s suggest he should get better. And I think given the contract they gave him, the Nats don’t have much choice but to be patient.

      • Hiram Hover - Jul 14, 2014 at 3:02 PM

        Ghost

        Have to agree with DP – Treinen had pitched of 8.2 innings in relief in the majors. Too few to draw any significant conclusions.

        While I see your point about his potential as a reliever, I don’t think that’s how management sees him right now. He is still getting used as a starter in the minors. Perhaps they are trying to help him develop the stamina to avoid the velo drop (which looks to be ~4mph on average on his 4 seamer, from 1st to 5th inning).

  3. NatsLady - Jul 14, 2014 at 12:26 PM

    Triple-A All-Star game (with Souza) will be on MLB TV Wednesday at 7:07 (I’m told by NatsJack).

    http://www.wral.com/thousands-travel-to-durham-ahead-of-all-star-game/13807591/

  4. Tim Harrison - Jul 14, 2014 at 1:23 PM

    I’d rather have virtually everybody home for the break. The season is a grind. They can be with family or pal around together with a chip on their shoulder about why no one from the team was selected.

    LaRoche is slumping badly and can benefit from several days off. On the other hand, Werth is red-hot. Harper can benefit from a few days off, too.

    Hopefully, we’ll come outta the break ready to do damage, clearly focused on the prize.

  5. micksback1 - Jul 14, 2014 at 1:54 PM

    Nats are #12 in XN sports power rankings on AOL. I am little surprised, thought they would be at 7 or 8, maybe a little higher

    Roark pitched very well and that was another positive going into the break. i am wondering if Rizzo still might try to pick up another starting pitcher, any thoughts?

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 14, 2014 at 2:37 PM

      Mick, you only need 4 for the post-season so probably not.

      • micksback1 - Jul 14, 2014 at 4:47 PM

        Ghost

        nio concern with post season pitchers, my question pertains to from the break through Sept in order to get to post season, need 5 starters.

        Roark has done fine, but there is always that chance he falls apart in August

  6. Theophilus T.S. - Jul 14, 2014 at 3:46 PM

    Part of Treinen’s velocity fall-off has to be that he throws pretty much FBs all the time. Very little off-speed stuff. A little variety would help, and I assume he’s working on that. And he’s an amped-up kid and everything feels like a “stress” pitch, as I believe Williams would describe it. I’m fine with the results so far, and he’s got the frame to be a starter so why not keep working on it? Right now, he’s the only pitcher at Syracuse that looks like a ML starter. Hill got really lit up yesterday (day before?) and Garcia’s gone.

  7. ehay2k - Jul 14, 2014 at 7:51 PM

    I really think that a few days off should really help the ballclub. Bryce can go home and his dad can get his head on straight, and toss batting practice balls from just off Bryce’s left side. Werth is hot, but a little time off never hurt a werewolf. Everyone else can benefit from a break from the grind, and heal from their nagging injuries.

    Clippard? The fix is in, I look for another vulch!

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
WASHINGTON 58 47 --
ATLANTA 58 49 1.0
MIAMI 53 54 6.0
NEW YORK 52 56 7.5
PHILADELPHIA 47 61 12.5
Through Wednesday's early games

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
THU: Phillies at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
FRI: Phillies at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
SAT: Phillies at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
SUN: Phillies at Nats, 1:35 p.m.
MON: Orioles at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
TUE: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
WED: Mets at Nats, 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.

*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.

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