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First-half report card

Jul 17, 2014, 6:00 AM EDT

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Yes, I fully understand the first half of the 2014 baseball season ended more than two weeks ago and that at this point the Nationals have played 57 percent of their regular-season schedule. To which I say: So what? There weren’t a bunch of days off following Game 81 that required creative blog post ideas to bridge the gap until the Nats take the field again.

It’s the All-Star break, so that means it’s time to hand out first-half grades to the entire roster, plus the manager and GM. I am quite certain nobody out there will agree 100 percent with these grades, but I did my best to hand them out in as fair and objective a manner as possible.

It was particularly difficult to judge several players who spent considerable time on the DL, but there are no Incompletes here. Everybody appeared in enough games to warrant an actual letter grade. So here goes…

WILSON RAMOS — B
Two stints on the DL kept him sidelined about 7 weeks, but when he has been on the field he has been rock solid.

JOSE LOBATON — D+
Acquired in February because he could take over if Ramos got hurt, he hasn’t proven much of a threat at or behind the plate.

ADAM LaROCHE — A-
He has cooled off just a bit the last few weeks but otherwise has been Mr. Reliability and was worthy of All-Star consideration.

ANTHONY RENDON — A
Has done anything the Nats have asked him do, and has done it all extraordinarily well for such a young player.

IAN DESMOND — B-
Remains one of this team’s best offensive threats, and has again overcome defensive woes. But strikeouts continue to haunt him.

RYAN ZIMMERMAN — B
It’s been a wild adventure for the Face of the Franchise, but he continues to produce on the field and lead in the clubhouse.

DANNY ESPINOSA — C-
A great April at the plate left you wondering if he finally turned a corner, but he’s back to his old self from the left side of the plate.

KEVIN FRANDSEN — C
Signed on the final day of spring training, he proved valuable right away when thrust into the lineup. Hasn’t done much since April, though.

BRYCE HARPER — C
Missed 9 weeks with a torn thumb ligament, and he’s still trying to find his swing two weeks after returning to the lineup.

DENARD SPAN — B
No, he doesn’t draw enough walks. But he’s among the league leaders in doubles and he has been elite in center field.

JAYSON WERTH — B+
The veteran right fielder has been streaky at the plate. But when he’s hot — like he is right now — he can carry this lineup.

NATE McLOUTH — D
Given a 2-year deal to serve as perhaps the best 4th outfielder in baseball, he struggled so much he was banished back to the bench even when Nats were banged-up bad.

SCOTT HAIRSTON — C
Eats up left-handed pitching. Does very little against right-handed pitching. And in left field … well, it ain’t pretty.

STEPHEN STRASBURG — B+
The good: Leads the league in strikeouts and has clamped down on baserunners. The bad: Still can’t consistently get through big innings late.

JORDAN ZIMMERMANN — A-
Aside from a brief spurt in May when things turned sour, he’s been downright dominant and earned his 2nd straight All-Star selection.

GIO GONZALEZ — B-
Some shaky starts early on, and then his first career DL stint with shoulder inflammation. But he has come back strong since.

DOUG FISTER — A
He missed the first month with a strained lat. Since then, he has been absolutely everything the Nats could have hoped he would be.

TANNER ROARK — B+
Has legitimately pitched like an ace at times. Has come back to earth a bit since, but he’s still far better than any other No. 5 starter out there.

RAFAEL SORIANO — A
22-for-24 in save opportunities. A sub-1.00 ERA. Fans and teammates have completely turned around on the enigmatic closer.

DREW STOREN — A
Since returning from Syracuse late last summer, he has made everyone forget Game 5 and his disastrous first half to 2013.

TYLER CLIPPARD — A-
Aside from some early meltdowns against the Braves, he has been his usual dominant self, often recording the biggest outs of a particular game.

AARON BARRETT — A-
An afterthought when spring training opened, he wound up making the club and impressing everyone with his stuff and his composure.

JERRY BLEVINS — C
Acquired to be the reliable lefty the Nats could count on against tough opposing hitters, he has been rather pedestrian so far.

CRAIG STAMMEN — B-
The versatile right-hander will do whatever is asked of him. A few too many times, though, he has melted down in key spots, including three times in extra innings.

ROSS DETWILER — C
Converted to reliever at the end of camp, he was misused early on and has yet to really find his place in the Nationals’ bullpen.

MATT WILLIAMS — B
The rookie manager has had to deal with plenty more than he bargained for. There were some early questionable decisions, but he seems to be growing with the job and figures to be a better manager at season’s end than he was at the outset.

MIKE RIZZO — B
The Fister trade looks brilliant. The McLouth, Lobaton and Blevins moves don’t. Above all else, though, he has done a very nice job assembling a roster that has been capable of making up for injuries and other unforeseen twists.

110 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 17, 2014 at 7:31 AM

    “SCOTT HAIRSTON — C Eats up left-handed pitching.”

    You consider this eating up LH pitching? 300/.333/.367/.700 He has ZERO home runs against LHPs this year.

    Here’s the real problem. 1 hit with RISP this season and it was a single .071/.118/.071/.189

    Scott has been doing well with nobody on base as we saw against Hamels. The 2 times he had RISP he did nothing. Is that really why he’s on this team? His job is primary pinch-hitter and he is generally getting that prime matchup against LHP relievers.

    Here’s his pinch-hitting stats: .158/.217/.316/.533

    If those numbers are a “C” rating to you than you have low expectations.

  2. rayvil01 - Jul 17, 2014 at 7:48 AM

    The grade on Lobaton may be a bit harsh. Hitting is bad. No question. But the Nats are doing extremely well in preventing stolen bases. Lobaton was in for a lot of the first half. Deserves some credit.

    • Doc - Jul 17, 2014 at 8:09 AM

      Agreed!

      Lobaton is a reserve catcher, who ‘behind the plate’ deserves a B+; hitting? while he’s a backup C, wad you expect??

      A few more A+’s in the pen teach! C’mon don’t be such a tight-ass on the grades!

      • therealjohnc - Jul 17, 2014 at 11:04 AM

        I had the same first thought about Lobaton’s grade. While he hasn’t hit much, to say he hasn’t been much behind the plate is simply inaccurate. While catching stats are not infallible, the striking thing about Lobaton is that he grades out well by Fangraphs, Baseball-Reference and DRS. His CS% is better than league average. And to the Mark I eyeball he has looked solid behind the plate as well. If every indicator is pointing towards him being a good defensive catcher, I’d say he brings something to his work behind the plate.

  3. laddieblahblah - Jul 17, 2014 at 7:55 AM

    The Nats had a good first half, but they are not a good team – they are a dominant team. Early on we saw comical misteps on the base paths that caused the Nats to run out of innings and out of rallies. We saw a pathetic display of incompetent defense from the left side of the infield, which repeatedly failed to make the easy play, let alone the routine play, turning many of them into game-changing disasters. From the start, they failed to hit in key game situations, and often failed to even put the ball in play when a routine grounder or sac fly could have scored a run.

    By the end of the first half, they had cured most of the running problems, and now have become adroit practitioners of Matt’s aggressive, but smart, running game. And except for Zim’s erratic throwing arm, the defense has been sterling over an extended period of time, especially when the Nats had Rendon at 3rd and Espinosa at 2nd.

    They have had, and continue to have, the best staff in baseball, despite the injuries. Even their harshest critics acknowledge the Nats staff to be no worse than 2nd or 3rd in all of MLB. Some of that has to be attributed to Matt’s adroit management of the pen. He manages to give them all enough work to remain sharp, and enough rest to remain strong. It’s a balancing act that he ha performed as well as any manager in my memory. Detwiler has been reborn as a top reliever. He deserves most of the credit for that, but Matt gave him an assist with his patient approach.

    Yet the Nats have had trouble winning the low scoring games. When scoring at least 4 runs, they are almost unbeatable because of that staff. They just have not produced enough runs to win more of those close, low-scoring games when given the opportunity, because of a continuing failure to hit with RISP.

    Now, Zim, Werth and Ramos are all raking. Rendon is the best hitter on the team, and just keeps getting better. If it were not for a miserable May when his average dropped by 60 points, all the way down to .250, he would have been hitting .320 – .330 all year long. Desi and Span are wild cards. Desi has shown how well he can hit when he takes the ball the other way, as he has been doing, again, lately. Span is streaky, but when he gets on base, he scores because of the guys who hit behind him. Harper started to crush the ball in Philly. If he, Zim, and Werth have the kind of 2nd half they all did last year, the Nats will score plenty.

    La Roche was victimized in Philly by the lefties on that staff. He looked tired then, but he has a history of hitting well in the 2nd half, too, especially in August.

    I expect the Nats to dominate the 2nd half, if they remain healthy. On paper, they are the best team in baseball. Time to show it. If some here are right, both Span and ALR will not return next year, and if Desmond and JZ opt for free agency, this team could look a lot different sooner than you can blink. And no one knows how long or how well Zim’s shoulder is going to hold up.

    This is the year to do it, so get on with it, gentlemen.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 17, 2014 at 8:21 AM

      Laddie, great summation. “Yet the Nats have had trouble winning the low scoring games.”

      The bench has been poor compared to the competition the Nats have faced. The late inning clutch though seems to have returned as RZim showed in Philly is that a single in extra innings works very well with RISP.

      If the Nats bench can step up, I think there will be a resurgence. McLouth isn’t going anywhere with his huge salary so the obvious bench change is either a large trade or something smaller like getting a Reed Johnson or Cody Ross to anchor the need which is pinch-hitting. Other than Frandsen, the pinch-hitting on this team has been awful. You need that in low scoring games.

      25th in the Majors won’t cut it on pinch-hitting. That has to be fixed.

      http://espn.go.com/mlb/stats/team/_/stat/batting/split/87/sort/avg/order/true

      • chaz11963 - Jul 17, 2014 at 8:50 AM

        Good stuff, and I totally concur. We continue to be haunted by a weak/poor clutch hitting bench, bringing back horrific memories of 2013. I don’t know how much you can fault Rizzo and Williams, they legitimately tried to beef up the bench. Frandsen has been the most serviceable, the Lobaton is ok for a back-up catcher (although I think Pierzynski might still be available out there), Espinsosa is ok as a defensive replacement and back-up SS, but something needs to give with McLouth and Hairston. I suspect you are right in that we are stuck with McLouth for the next 2 years. So, the only place to make a change would be Hairston. I wonder what is available though at a reasonable price?

        I still don’t understand why Rizzo traded away David Dejesus last year. I think he would be a great fit right now as bench guy and would have definitely helped us in May when everyone was hurt.

      • Doc - Jul 17, 2014 at 9:21 AM

        Thanks for the link, Ghost.

        Although some of the bottom feeders in PHing are AL teams, I still think that the AL has an advantage with PHing, given that guys that are pinch hitting in the AL are also DH’s.

        And for the most part, they are not coming off the bench as cold as in the NL.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 17, 2014 at 9:42 AM

        In interleague in a NL park you would think the AL bench has an advantage but the NL is a pinch-hitting league due to the pitcher.

        That has to improve. The approach has to improve from swinging for the fences to making contact. When the situation calls for a hit or a productive out, a K is not acceptable.

        McLouth was a good signing. His lack of prodction is in himself, not Rizzo, and the same for Lobaton.

    • Hiram Hover - Jul 17, 2014 at 9:21 AM

      Great analysis.

      You’re certainly right that the Nats dominate games where they score 4 or more runs. I would push back a little, tho, on this idea that they struggle inordinately in low scoring games.

      Nats have won ~19% of games where they scored 0-3 runs. NL average is 21.5%. If the Nats were winning those 0-3 run games at the average rate for NL teams, they would have only one more win.

      Of course, no one can win a game where they score no runs. Nats have 6 such games. The NL average is 8, which is also the # for the Braves. Dodgers have 3. Cards have 9. Giants have 10. Milwaukee has 7. Again, Nats not looking too shabby.

      • laddieblahblah - Jul 17, 2014 at 11:04 AM

        I can’t locate the stat, but my recollection is that the Nats are 43 – 3 when scoring more than 3 runs, and only 9 – 40 when scoring fewer than 4 runs. Honestly, 9 wins vs. 40 losses (or thereabouts)! That means they are losing more than 80 % of those games.

        JZ should be a 10-game winner, and Stras has pitched some great games, as well.

        “Nats have won ~19% of games where they scored 0-3 runs. NL average is 21.5%.”

        Yeah, but the Nats have had 49 such games, and only 46 where they scored more than 3 runs, i.e. more often than not, they can’t score more than 3 runs.

        The solution is to increase the number of games where they score more than 3 runs. They will do that when they start hitting with runners in scoring position, or, at least, move them over (make contact to the right side) and or get them in (grounder up the middle or sac fly). That is fundamental baseball, and they have not been not executing.

        Better pinch-hitting would help, but the regulars have not been much better than the subs with RISP, with way too many strike outs in key game situations.

        They are healthy now and most of the time their main bats are better in the 2nd half, and ALL of them are healthy, too, except, perhaps, for La Roche, who looks a little worn down to me.

        Let’s see if they can score at least 4 runs in 60% of their games instead of in less than 50% of them. I think they will, and that is one reason I think they will dominate, especially in the NL East, where the competition is weak, and where they will play a large percentage of their remaining games.

        As Matt said very early on in ST, many games, probably most games for most teams, are won at the margins, and we are seeing that with the Nats, with too many games lost for the lack of a hit in a key game situation, or the failure to move a runner up and get him in. Over a full season, that extra run every few games will make a big difference in the W-L stat, the only one that matters at the end of the season.

        If the offense can execute the little things a little better, the pitching and defense will take care of the rest.

    • Candide - Jul 17, 2014 at 9:23 AM

      I expect the Nats to dominate the 2nd half, if they remain healthy.

      Aye, there’s the rub. Someone ALWAYS gets injured. It’s not being a LoDer to say that; it’s a simple fact of life.

      Sure, if everything goes as you outline, the Nats will be the team to beat. But you leave out the likelihood that one or more guys are going to go down for a significant period.

      And the guys who are hot hitters now will cool off, even as the guys who are dragging will find their stroke again. But you won’t have eight guys hitting on all cylinders at the same time. You’ll always have one or two who are carrying the team, one or two who (at least temporarily) can’t hit their way out of a paper bag, and five or six who are hitting right around where they always have.

      I could paint another scenario where Ramos gets injured again, RZ’s shoulder becomes a serious liability, forcing Matt to put Espinosa in the lineup more often, Werth’s age suddenly catches up with him, a pitching stud has shoulder woes, Harper crashes into yet another inanimate object…

      • laddieblahblah - Jul 17, 2014 at 11:06 AM

        “But you leave out the likelihood that one or more guys are going to go down for a significant period.”

        No, I didn’t. As you accurately quoted from my own post I said “IF they remain healthy,” not “they WILL remain healthy.” That is a caveat that always applies.

    • tcostant - Jul 17, 2014 at 9:28 AM

      More strange is that we have such a poor record in extra innings, with our pen we should win 60% of those games.

      • laddieblahblah - Jul 17, 2014 at 11:08 AM

        And we have a habit of losing them at home, no less.

      • RPrecupjr - Jul 17, 2014 at 1:51 PM

        Not only that, the three games we lost when we DID score 4 or more runs were all extra inning games.

  4. tcostant - Jul 17, 2014 at 8:04 AM

    JOSE LOBATON — D+

    That is harsh. He was acquired to have a decent guy in case of an injury. He has done that.

    • stoatva - Jul 17, 2014 at 8:12 AM

      I have a hunch that grade is a result of seeing Norris and Suzuki in the All-Star Game.

      • karlkolchak - Jul 17, 2014 at 9:07 AM

        And Adrian Nieto holding his own after the ChiSox swiped him in the Rule 5 draft.

    • ArVAFan - Jul 17, 2014 at 8:15 AM

      How does Jose rank on game-calling and pitch framing? I would think he’d at least get some credit for being (to my non-professional eye) at least decent at those.

  5. natsguy - Jul 17, 2014 at 8:08 AM

    You’re being extremely nice to he who shall not be named by me. A “c” really should be a D- and only that because of his fielding in games that don’t matter. Otherwise he is still a “schmuck” and probably always will be. He needs to go at the first opportunity. The very first.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Jul 17, 2014 at 10:36 AM

      Wow, you really don’t like Kevin Frandsen, do you?

    • 6ID20 - Jul 17, 2014 at 11:00 AM

      I thought he was talking about Harper.

      • Hiram Hover - Jul 17, 2014 at 11:40 AM

        Yes, but did you think Eugene was being serious?

      • Eugene in Oregon - Jul 17, 2014 at 12:59 PM

        Thank you, HH.

  6. stoatva - Jul 17, 2014 at 8:14 AM

    Also think Detwiler deserves a + for his recent encouraging performances.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 17, 2014 at 8:39 AM

      I think this is strictly the 1st half analysis rating not a trending analysis.

  7. NatsLady - Jul 17, 2014 at 8:59 AM

    Watching Souza in the Triple-A All-Star Game (nice interview, by the way) made me think that if the Nats get as far as the World Series, this may be the last we see of JZimm, La Roche, Span, Soriano, and possibly Desi.

    If not, then I expect Rizzo to try and squeeze another year out of them before bringing in less expensive players (except probably LaRoche, there are just too many candidates for first base to keep him, unfortunately).

    • karlkolchak - Jul 17, 2014 at 9:14 AM

      Of the three guys the Nats offered huge contract extensions to this past offseason, Desi is looking like the guy who least deserves it. Right now he is getting by because he still has the bat speed to catch up with pitches out of the zone and hammer them. When that starts to go, as it often does with players over 30 (which Desi will be the first year of his next contract), his offensive game is likely to crater. Given that he could rapidly become another Danny Espinosa at the plate, I will not blame the Nats if they let some other team vastly overpay him in 2016.

      • NatsLady - Jul 17, 2014 at 10:13 AM

        Sadly, I agree. Even though shortstops with power are hard to find, and even though he’s a team leader, good with the press, funny, and all that, I’m not offering him five or seven years to take him into his mid-30’s. We did that with RZimm, and I was on board with it for “sentimental” and fan reasons. You do need some branding. But Desi doesn’t coincide with the Nats “brand,” he’s a good player, but he’s replaceable. Not easily replaceable, but replaceable.

      • Section 222 - Jul 17, 2014 at 11:27 AM

        You may be right, but who’s your Nats shortstop after 2015? Surely not Espi…

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jul 17, 2014 at 11:36 AM

        In that case, they’d have to go get somebody who’s not in the organization now.

    • Faraz Shaikh - Jul 17, 2014 at 10:24 AM

      Not too long ago nationals fans were dreaming of a speedy/power middle infield combo of Desi and Danny and all the double plays they would turn. :(

    • laddieblahblah - Jul 17, 2014 at 11:26 AM

      That is possible.

      The current team is really, really good, but ALR is 34 and this may be his last really good year, whether he comes back, or not, and Werth will be 36 next year. How long can Jayson be expected to perform at the same level he is now?

      Span is superfluous now, with Harper, Zim and Werth seeming to have the OF locked down. Even if they move Zim to 1b next year, Souza seems like an upgrade over Span’s bat, and he is a heckuva right fielder who could allow Werth to move to left, and is a better base runner, as well as being only 24 and a lot cheaper.

      Zim’s shoulder looks worse every time he tries to throw anything other than sidearm or underhanded. I would not be surprised to see that shoulder lock up, at any time.

      Desi seems to me to be playing for his FA year, trying to increase his marketability by becoming a power-hitting SS. He is one of those players who has struck out so many times in key game situations that he has become this year’s Danny Espinosa, and Desi is on pace to dwarf Danny’s league-leading strike out total from 2012. He reportedly turned down $90 mn from Rizzo, who reportedly will not go higher – I would not even go that high. If JZ has not signed by now, then I don’t expect him to sign before he hits free agency and tests the market. This winter would be a propitious time for Rizzo to get something of real value by dealing JZ before losing him later on and settling for a draft choice (a crap shoot). I think Rizzo would rather get a known quantity for his ace than settle for that down the road.

      This is the year for this team, IMO. I can see no good reason for them not to win it all. I have been really impressed with Matt. That they are 52 – 43 after failing to play good fundamental baseball for so much of the first half is pretty amazing to me, and I give him a lot of the credit.

      They look ready for a run to the NL East championship, and I expect them to win it. This year.

  8. natsbro - Jul 17, 2014 at 9:23 AM

    Looking over Jerry Blevins splits this morning for the first half of 2014:

    vs LHB (71 PA): .117/.185/.183 7 Hits, 5 Walks, 3 Runs

    vs RHB (66 PA): .322/.423/.441 19 Hits, 11 Walks, 12 Runs

    He is struggling mightily against right handers this year…which is certainly not like him. If you look back the previous 3 years righties averages against him were all under .220 I believe..which is quite a large difference! But somehow they figured him out…maybe it’s playing in a different league? I dont know..

    If I’m Matt Williams going into the second half, I see Blevins as a lefty-one-out-guy and that’s it. I think that’s how he can be most productive. He certainly shouldn’t stay in a whole inning anymore.

    • tcostant - Jul 17, 2014 at 9:26 AM

      I think we going to start seeing Det where Blevins got the call in the first half. At least until he gets rocked…

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 17, 2014 at 9:47 AM

      I think that LOOGY transformation happened already and Det has moved into Blevins old spot.

      In this case, the stats don’t lie, Blevins has been awful against RHBs.

      • therealjohnc - Jul 17, 2014 at 11:14 AM

        Stats don’t lie, but they can be manipulated and misunderstood. And the key question is whether they provide enough information to make reliable projections. Yes, Blevins has been awful against RHB so far this year, over 32 innings pitched. Yes, Blevins has been very effective against LHB so far this year. Oddly, for his career, his R/L splits are closer, and last season he was terrible against LHB (.253/.299/.452) and very good against RHB (.190/.267/.314).

        So which indicator is the right one for setting expectations going forward?

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 17, 2014 at 11:20 AM

        Rizzo made a trade based on the past but the new stats haven’t been encouraging. I’m sure he will get more opportunities in Low Lev large lead situations. Did Billy Beane know something?

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jul 17, 2014 at 11:39 AM

        Did Billy Beane know something?

        Or, does Curt Young know something that Steve McCatty doesn’t?

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 17, 2014 at 11:39 AM

        Well played Sec 3, well played.

  9. veejh - Jul 17, 2014 at 9:54 AM

    Fister deserves an A+. What a stud. Blevins, prolly a B+. A bit shaky in high lev situations.

    • veejh - Jul 17, 2014 at 9:56 AM

      Oh, and Soriano…give that man an A+. Not only has he been dominant, but those days of getting into jams are gone.

      • Doc - Jul 17, 2014 at 10:20 AM

        If Soriano isn’t an A+, then that grade shouldn’t be given.

        C’mon teach! a .97 ERA! Wad’s a guy gotta do!????

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jul 17, 2014 at 11:15 AM

        Gotta leave room at the top. If you give him an A+, what would you give him if he had no blown saves?

  10. Hiram Hover - Jul 17, 2014 at 10:05 AM

    I’d have no trouble giving Soriano a A+.

    I might knock Barrett down to a B+. He’s been good, really good considering he’s a rookie. But I don’t think he deserves the same grade as Clip (and only a minus away from Storen).

    Barrett’s WHIP is 1.370 and he’s let 39% of inherited runners score.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 17, 2014 at 10:16 AM

      Good points on the bullpen ratings.

      I am probably in the minority but I think Barrett needs to go back to AAA and work on mechanics especially from the stretch.

      I want to see Treinen back in the bullpen. I think he could solidify the middle of the bullpen and take pressure off of Stammen.

      • chaz11963 - Jul 17, 2014 at 10:28 AM

        I think Joe West’s balk call has gotten into his head a little bit as well as the necessary mechanical adjustments from that. I wonder if the Nats ever got an opinion from the league on Barrett’s wind-up motion?

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jul 17, 2014 at 11:16 AM

        chaz, that’s a good question about a ruling from the league. Terrible call by West, but if it’s going to keep happening, you have to adjust, regardless.

      • masterfishkeeper - Jul 17, 2014 at 1:02 PM

        I think Ladson wrote that the Nats did get a ruling, and it was unfavorable.

  11. rmoore446 - Jul 17, 2014 at 10:21 AM

    I agree with almost all of the grades. Detwiller’s grade of C is fair but he is definitely trending up. The biggest disappointment (not related to injuries) is McLouth. I expected great things and now and then he seems to be getting out of the slump but falls back again. The image in my head is of him taking called strike three. Maybe in Baltimore umpires gave him a bigger margin for error but a .190 hitter has a negative benefit of the doubt.

  12. Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 17, 2014 at 10:25 AM

    ” a back-up catcher (although I think Pierzynski might still be available out there),”

    Chaz, he’s available and paid for by the Bosox, but I don’t see him as a backup catcher. Interestingly he’s been decent as a pinch-hitter.

    The caution to the wind is if he’s been a problem in the clubhouse. The Bosox are out of it and paying him big bucks and the cut him loose. Why?

    • chaz11963 - Jul 17, 2014 at 10:31 AM

      Yes, agreed, didn’t make the clear in my post. We would need to carry 3 catchers if we picked up AJ. I don’t know if that’s such a bad idea given the Buffalo’s injury history. Good point about the reason why the Bosox DFA’s AJ- very odd. There must be more to that story.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 17, 2014 at 10:35 AM

        Yep,  both Pierzynski and Alfonso Soriano cut loose. Since they are both freebies, are either an upgrade over Hairston?

      • rayvil01 - Jul 17, 2014 at 10:49 AM

        I heard AJ was really a piss-ant in yhe Red Sox clubhouse. Probably not worth the hassle.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jul 17, 2014 at 11:21 AM

        I don’t know the man personally, but Pierzynski’s reputation as a dick is long-standing. From his Wikipedia page, for instance:

        Pierzynski is known for having a strong and colorful personality, a fact he acknowledges. During his turn at the microphone following the White Sox victory parade in 2005, he thanked team personnel “for putting up with me.” Former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen summed up the situation as, “If you play against him, you hate him. If you play with him, you hate him a little less.”

  13. Section 222 - Jul 17, 2014 at 10:26 AM

    I’m basically with Mark on this pitching grades. Sori probably deserves an A+, but he does have two blown saves. I think I’d give Det a C+ based on recent performance, and downgrade Barrett just a tad. Mark’s distinctions between the starters make a lot of sense.

    On the position players we diverge quite a bit. For me, the starting point is that the grade should be for the role the player was expected to play on the team. And a C is satisfactory. Keeping that in mind, I think you have to give Lobo a C. He’s been a satisfactory backup catcher. Nothing more, but certainly nothing less. Harper really doesn’t deserve a C. D+, maybe. And Espi has been worse than a C-. I’d give him a D. Hairston has not produced in the pinch hitting role. He’s not a satisfactory bench player. He’s a D+ and McLouth a D. Frandsen is satisfactory.

    Otherwise, I think the grades make the proper distinctions between the position players. Rendon (A) has been our best player, followed by ALR (A-), Werth (B+), Zim, Span, and Ramos (B), and Desi (B-). I might give Desi a C+ for all those Ks and errors.

    This is a fun exercise, and I enjoy reading my fellow Insiders’ assessments.

  14. Section 222 - Jul 17, 2014 at 10:30 AM

    Laddie, I like your summary. And particularly your now or maybe never attitude. Like lots of folks here, though, you seem to fall prey to hopeful expectations. “If the Nats can stay healthy.” Others along the way will say things like, “If Desi can cut down on his Ks,” or “If McLouth can regain the competence he had last year,” or “If Espi can hit .240.” Some of these might happen, but most won’t.

    I think we all agree that if the Nats stay healthy and play to their potential they will be hard to beat. I’m very pleased we’re in 1st place going into the 2nd half. We’re well positioned to make the playoffs for sure. But like you say, now’s the time to do it.

    • laddieblahblah - Jul 17, 2014 at 11:38 AM

      “(Y)ou seem to fall prey to hopeful expectations.”

      I expect them to perform up to their abilities. That is hopeful, of course, but it beats expecting them to perform below their abilities.

      Actually, I expect Desmond to perform below his abilities, just as he did in the first half. He knows how to hit, and should be a .300 hitter, or close to it, but he is trying to transform himself into a SS version of Mike Trout. Only my opinion, of course, but he seems to me to be playing to max out his value in free agency.

      I think the rest of the team, especially the senior leaders, like Zim, Werth and ALR to give it max effort. All of those guys have a history of better performance in the 2nd half, anyway. Harper has been ready to explode, and has also under-performed so far, this year. Ramos is a beast with the stick.

      And what can I say about Tony Rendon? He will just get better the more he sees of the NL pitchers, and this year has been kind of his apprenticeship. He had a terrible May, but has been on fire ever since.

      Really, this team is very, very good. I expect them to play that way.

  15. scnatsfan - Jul 17, 2014 at 11:12 AM

    Mark Zuckerman / Chase Hughes A+

    First half was what we have come to expect, maybe even don’t appreciate because of how well it is done. Great and plentiful stories, hards words when needed and human interest stories while policing a (virtually) troll free blog. Yet another All Star season from the journalists.

    • Section 222 - Jul 17, 2014 at 11:30 AM

      +1. Mark’s empire, with good and entertaining writers joining him here, is a pleasure to be a part of. Thanks for all the hard work you guys.

    • lowstrikes - Jul 17, 2014 at 11:40 AM

      Yes to your MZ/CH grade – a definite enhancement to following the team. Speaking of which, Washington Nationals 2014 team mid-term grade: A- a team with with enough dignity and humility to merit loyalty, engaging story lines, characters about whom we can care, and dramatic possibilities on which to hang hopes. I get the sense that these guys expect to earn everything they get, versus other “entitled” organizations (Atlanta), that the ownership/management is willing and able to put a great team on the field, versus other organizations (Philadelphia), and the media guys, radio, television, and print, bring a lot of expertise and insight to the games. What makes it an A+ in the final analysis? The kid wakes up/grows up, the under-appreciated guy continues to come through in the clutch, they exorcise their demons, they give us something to remember for a long time.

  16. NatsLady - Jul 17, 2014 at 11:24 AM

    I think pitchers “staying healthy” is more a matter of skill, whereas position players on the field is luck. Other than perhaps LaRoche (and Hairston), there have not been what I call age or conditioning DL stints for the position players. Two of the major injuries (Zim, Harper) were on-field, and Ramos was a combination of bad luck and the nature of hitting. You can’t do much about the “luck” injuries. Guys tear their thumbs sliding foot-first, too.

    The bullpen has been remarkably healthy (though Stammen is suspect). We lost Fister and Gio for a month each and survived.

    So.
    (1) Position players: conditioning and occasional off days. Be smart on the basepaths and don’t bang into walls.
    (2) Keep the bullpen rested and healthy. I like the idea of bringing up Treinen to help out Stammen, BUT we’ll need Treinen in case a starter goes down or for a double header. So I’d say Rizzo should hunt around our system or trade for a RH reliever, and put Stammen on the DL for a month if he needs it.
    (3) Starters– pray.

    We won’t get much relief in September. Non-contending teams will bring up all their youngsters, who will be rested and eager, while our boys will be in the stretch. Unless we have a big lead (or are, heaven forbid out of it), our call-ups won’t be getting much playing time.

    We have nine more games against the Barves. They have an 11-game homestand coming up (Phillies, Marlins, Padres) and we should not be discouraged if they get ahead of us by two or three games. Because after that their schedule really toughens up: West Coast trip (Dodgers, Padres, Mariners), homestand (Nats, Dodgers, A’s), then a road trip against the Pirates and Reds.

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jul 17, 2014 at 11:43 AM

      “I think pitchers “staying healthy” is more a matter of skill, whereas position players is luck.”

      Interesting; what makes you think that?

      • Section 222 - Jul 17, 2014 at 12:14 PM

        I think what she probably means by skill is conditioning, mechanics, and other things that are at least somewhat in control of the pitcher. Freak accidents happen (like Tim Hudson’s ankle or CMWang’s hamstring), but injuries to pitchers are less likely to be that kind of thing because they don’t run hard on the bases and fielding their position doesn’t demand alot of exertion (unless you are Fister and do a stretch at 1B.). Of course, you can get hit by a line drive in the head, but that kind of injury is relatively rare.

        Am I right that that’s what you’re getting at NL?

      • NatsLady - Jul 17, 2014 at 12:42 PM

        Yes, that’s what I’m getting at. For example, consider Gio’s situation when he was re-habbing. He’d never been on the DL before, and didn’t realize how out of shape you can get (especially your legs) in a short period of time.

        Now, our guys (except Barrett) are all experienced. They’ve been through the grind before, and except for Fister, they know what late-July and August and early September are like on the East Coast (heat and humidity day after day). They need to establish (or at this point keep) a conditioning regimen, be willing to come out of a game when they are over-heated or tired, and speak up to trainers if they are hurting.

        I think Span suffered from East-Coast fatigue in the first half of last season, but he adjusted after the All-Star Break and was back up to career norms. Rendon, also, has now been through just about a full season and can judge the stamina required. Ramos knows better than to run full-out, especially in “meaningless” situations. You want to minimize the muscle strains (quads, hammies, lats) as much as you can.

      • NatsLady - Jul 17, 2014 at 12:50 PM

        Also, LaRoche on his adjusted medication and keeping his weight up. Again, experience and motivation are the key. The Nats are a mature team. This is probably as good as it’s going to get for Span, LaRoche, Werth, Desi and Zimm–and it’s pretty darn good. For Rendon, Harper and Ramos there is room to grow, and this is the season to do it. No rookies (except Barrett) so let’s not make rookie mistakes. If you have a bad game, have a short memory.

  17. Another Tyler - Jul 17, 2014 at 12:00 PM

    Off topic weird Nats moment:

    I live in Bellingham, Washington, and have had this thing that happens where I see someone walking up to me on the street with a Nats hat on. I get excited and say, “Go Nats!” or something, and they give me a strange stare and keep on walking. I haven’t been able to figure it out.

    Until yesterday. I went into the Western Washington University bookstore to buy pens, only to find myself face to face with a rack of curly W hats in blue and white, the school colors. I realized that all those strangers I tried to share a transcontinental Nats moment with were, come to think of it, in blue and white Nats hats.

    I’d post a photo if I could.

    One minor reason the team needs to get to the world series. These dang other-Washington people need to learn that it’s not me that’s being weird: it’s them, for not knowing that they are wearing Nats hats.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 17, 2014 at 12:27 PM

      I’ve had those experiences also around the country and usually they figure it out if I have a Nats t-shirt.

    • scnatsfan - Jul 17, 2014 at 12:51 PM

      Try wearing it in Walgreen’s

      • adcwonk - Jul 17, 2014 at 1:05 PM

        Indeed — my Alabama relatives asked me if there was a sale on at Walgrens, when they saw me in my Nats t-shirt, and my son in his Nats hat.

        The worst part — they weren’t joking!! Really!

      • Hiram Hover - Jul 17, 2014 at 1:16 PM

        Had a related experience when I was in Alabama – saw all these stylized “A”s on bumper stickers, caps, etc., and thought, damn, the Braves have an impressive following here.

        Eventually figured out that I was seeing the Univ. of Ala logo, which has a serif or tail at the top.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Jul 17, 2014 at 1:04 PM

      Similar experiences here in Oregon, from both directions, i.e., saying ‘Go Nats!’ and getting a blank stare back, and also wearing a Nats cap and being asked ‘do you work at Walgreen’s?’

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jul 17, 2014 at 2:27 PM

        Or Wilson Sporting Goods.

        The old full block W is now Walmart.

    • Another Tyler - Jul 17, 2014 at 1:58 PM

      Thanks for all these stoires! It’s good to know I’m not alone in this. I haven’t gotten Walgreen’s yet, thankful for that!

  18. natsfan1a - Jul 17, 2014 at 12:20 PM

    Have been away since Friday and missed the pre-break series. Did see some of the home run derby and ASG (including Clip’s appearance and Jeter’s exit) on tv at our hotel. I was in Colorado, so the AS game show started at a decent hour, but I still fell asleep before it was over. :-)

    Way behind on posts and comments and will be catching up with household and work stuff today and tomorrow. That said, I’m looking forward to seeing some Nats baseball on the telly tomorrow and in person on Sunday. Not sure how much I’ll see of Saturday’s game because of other commitments.

  19. Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 17, 2014 at 12:30 PM

    MW has improved by leaps and bounds because he has learned his team. The Blevins role change has worked and he’s showing he can win when he is firing on all cylinders.

    The final tweaks he needs is small personnel changes and Mike Rizzo has to help him with that.

  20. David Proctor - Jul 17, 2014 at 1:09 PM

    Fangraphs has Rendon as the 13th most valuable player in baseball.

    “When the Nationals announced they were converting Anthony Rendon to second base, the public reaction was less than positive. His history of ankle problems didn’t seem to play well with a move up the defensive spectrum, especially to a position where he’d have to take a bunch of hard slides, and many were skeptical he’d even be adequate at the position, even ignoring perceived health risks.

    However, Rendon has managed to not only avoid injury, but become a pretty solid defender at second base in short order. He’s probably still going to play more games at third over the course of his career, but at least in the near term, there’s no real need to move him back to third as he’s currently one of the most valuable second baseman in baseball.

    Of course, Rendon’s calling card has always been his bat, and he’s developed into one of the best young hitters in the game. Even as a guy who is still more gap power than a big home run threat, he’s running a 132 wRC+, and there’s room for growth if some of those doubles and triples start clearing the wall with more regularity. Toss in five more years of team control, and Rendon looks like a true franchise cornerstone.”

    • RPrecupjr - Jul 17, 2014 at 2:05 PM

      Apparently, Mike Matheny missed this particular article

  21. tcostant - Jul 17, 2014 at 1:20 PM

    Rendon’s grade just went down for me, read this:

    http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/07/17/anthony-rendon-i-dont-watch-baseball-its-too-long-and-boring/

    • David Proctor - Jul 17, 2014 at 1:23 PM

      I bet most players feel similarly. Well, maybe not that it’s long and boring, but that they don’t watch on their off-days or anything.

      • NatsLady - Jul 17, 2014 at 1:31 PM

        Same reason I don’t listen to much music. When younger I did nothing but (not only practicing but listening to whatever I could stick in my ears). These guys spent their whole childhood and youth in batting cages and ball yards, time for some History channel…

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 17, 2014 at 2:15 PM

        David, it goes back to zippin the lips. Shouldn’t have been said because it can be a slap to the people that watch him and indirectly pay his salary to play that game.

      • David Proctor - Jul 17, 2014 at 2:33 PM

        It’s almost like Rendon isn’t perfect and Bryce isn’t Hitler.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 17, 2014 at 2:36 PM

        Great David, that’s a horrible analogy. Nobody is perfect and I’m sure knowing Tony he smirked and laughed when saying it and that’s the problem is context. He’s too good of a kid to say stuff like that.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jul 17, 2014 at 2:40 PM

        Well, either that, or people could just grow a sense of humor about the entertainment industry that is MLB.

      • NatsLady - Jul 17, 2014 at 2:46 PM

        Jeez, I hope they actually play some baseball soon. Off-days are making you guys crazy!

    • Hiram Hover - Jul 17, 2014 at 1:32 PM

      You’ve never thought the same thing?

      I, for one, am thankful for the FF button on my DVR remote.

      • Section 222 - Jul 17, 2014 at 3:02 PM

        +1. I like the rewind button too. That way I can do something else while I watch a game and look up and rewind if I hear something good happened. :-)

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jul 17, 2014 at 2:31 PM

      But if you’re used to playing it, it can be long and boring. Not nearly as much as golf, but still.

      How many people want to watch a runner for all 26+ miles of a marathon?

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jul 17, 2014 at 2:32 PM

        ooops. I think I forgot to close that tag.

        It shouldn’t oughta let me do that.

      • natsbro - Jul 17, 2014 at 2:35 PM

        Exactly, the pace seems a lot different playing than watching. (obvi)

    • natsbro - Jul 17, 2014 at 2:34 PM

      I think of course most of us on here love watching the game and the pace of it..but it’s not too surprising to me that someone who plays baseball full time as a profession wouldn’t necessarily want to watch it in their free time.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jul 17, 2014 at 2:38 PM

        I know plenty of priests who think Mass is way too long, and keep it as short as they can without offending the liturgists.

      • RPrecupjr - Jul 17, 2014 at 2:45 PM

        Funny you should mention that, Sofa. I cantored Mass last weekend for a priest who was just asssigned to the parish. It was his first time saying the 530pm Saturday service, so he introduced himself and gave a little background before the closing hymn. He said the rector at the seminary told his class before they were ordained, “When you get to your parish, 10% of the poeple are gonna love you, 10% are gonna hate you, and the other 80% don’t care who you are, as long as you start and end Mass on time”.

        After the closing hymn was over, it was 48 minutes since we started. Mass usually runs 60-70 minutes.

        I think I’m gonna like this guy :)

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 17, 2014 at 2:57 PM

        So true Sec3 which is why I tend to pray alone with just myself and the good Lord. I don’t time it but I know we are quick and if I must say so, not boring.

    • Section 222 - Jul 17, 2014 at 5:02 PM

      Thanks for continuing to post links to these. I always learn a lot from your previews.

  22. Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 17, 2014 at 2:54 PM

    Speaking of zippin the lips or in this case tying your fingers, David should never make a dissimilar comparison of Bryce to a psychopathic genocidal maniac. You win the d—-bag award David.

    “David Proctor on July 17, 2014 at 2:33 pm
    It’s almost like Rendon isn’t perfect and Bryce isn’t Hitler”

    • Hiram Hover - Jul 17, 2014 at 3:02 PM

      Ghost

      DP can obviously defend himself, but as a 3d party, I will say I think you’re missing his point, which was to satirize those who engage in hyperbolic criticisms of Bryce.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 17, 2014 at 3:07 PM

        I would not even compare to Charles Manson or Marilyn Manson.

      • nats128 - Jul 17, 2014 at 4:06 PM

        Where do people come up with these far flunged comparisons. I was on another blog where someone mentioned Trayvon Martin in a comparison to an innocent bystander and people went nuts. Just plain old stupid. I thought David was a journalist.

      • nats128 - Jul 17, 2014 at 4:12 PM

        Ghost, Marilyn Manson and Bryce have similar eye black.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 17, 2014 at 4:52 PM

        Nats128, whatever. There are some things to joke about and others that you don’t make comparisons to unless they were like-kind.

  23. Pete "Hit 'n Run" Wood - Jul 17, 2014 at 5:05 PM

    Someone on this asked why Rizzo let David DeJesus go last year. I too wonder about that. He can play this game pretty well.

  24. secretwasianman - Jul 17, 2014 at 8:45 PM

    Mclouth is an F. MW is A C.

  25. ehay2k - Jul 17, 2014 at 8:56 PM

    I think we got something in return for deJesus, so “letting him go” is not really apt. MPHRod was let go. Rizzo has not given quality players away, as far as I can recall.

Archives

FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
x-WASHINGTON 96 66 --
ATLANTA 79 83 17.0
NEW YORK 79 83 17.0
MIAMI 77 85 19.0
PHILADELPHIA 73 89 23.0

NL POSTSEASON SCHEDULE

NL WILD CARD GAME
WED: Giants at Pirates, 8:07 p.m. (ESPN)

NLDS
FRI: Game 1, Pirates at Nats, 12:07 p.m.,
OR Giants at Nats, 3:07 p.m. (FS1)
SAT: Game 2, PIT/SF at Nats, 5:37 p.m. (FS1)
MON: Game 3, Nats at PIT/SF, TBA (MLBN)
TUE: Game 4, Nats at PIT/SF, TBA (FS1)*
OCT. 9: Game 5, PIT/SF at Nats, TBA (FS1)*
*if necessary

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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)...

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