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State of the Nats: Road tripping

Jul 21, 2014, 12:45 PM EST

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

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On the road - The Nationals took their first series of the second half with a 5-4 win over the Brewers on Sunday, and now they head out of town. Nine road games await them beginning with the Colorado Rockies on Monday. They then go to Cincinnati for three games before going south to Miami.

Both the Rockies and Marlins have been among the league’s worst this month. Colorado is 4-11 in July and Troy Tulowitzki missed Sunday’s game with a leg cramp. The Marlins are 6-9 this month – worst in the NL East – and hold a -23 run differential in July.

Though the Reds are just 8-8 this month, they are 28-19 since May 28. They are 2 1/2 games out of first in the NL Central, but could provide a decent test for the Nats.

Not to look too far ahead, but the pitching matchups for Nats-Reds are pretty good:

Friday, July 25 – Tanner Roark (9-6, 2.91) vs. Alfredo Simon (12-4, 2.74)
Saturday, July 26 – Gio Gonzalez (6-5, 3.74) vs. Johnny Cueto (10-6, 2.18)
Sunday, July 27 – Doug Fister (8-2, 2.90) vs. Mat Latos (2-1, 2.79)

Zimmermann returns Tuesday - Jordan Zimmermann should be all set for Tuesday in Colorado after recovering from a right bicep strain. The two-time All-Star threw a bullpen session on Saturday and felt no discomfort in the muscle. The Nationals now believe it was just a cramp.

Though they seem to have avoided a scare on this one, the Nats are not certain Zimmermann is completely in the clear. Matt Williams said on Saturday that Zimmermann will be monitored from start to start. At this point there is no reason to believe he will not be fine moving forward, but it is still something to keep in mind as he takes the mound on Tuesday.

Zimmermann last pitched on July 11 and will start after 10 days of rest. The right-hander has well-documented struggles when he pitches after extra time off. On normal, four-day rest he has a 3.02 career ERA. But when he gets at least one extra day or more, Zimmermann’s career mark goes up to 3.72.

Nats offense blowing up - Though Bryce Harper has struggled overall since his return on June 30, his teammates have thrived around him in the lineup. Check out these stats for the Nats’ regulars in the month of July since Harper came back:

Denard Span – .351 BA, 11 R, 4 2B, 6 BB, .413 OBP, .834 OPS
Anthony Rendon – .267 BA, 8 2B, HR, 7 RBI, 16 R, .763 OPS
Jayson Werth – .385 BA, 6 HR, 20 RBI, .904 SLG, 1.388 OPS
Adam LaRoche – .140 BA, 4 R, 4 RBI, 6 BB, 12 SO, .417 OPS
Ryan Zimmerman – .392 BA, 2 HR, 15 RBI, .627 SLG, 1.068 OPS
Bryce Harper – .213 BA, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 6 R, 2 2B, .685 OPS
Ian Desmond – .294 BA, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 4 2B, .811 OPS
Wilson Ramos – .349 BA, HR, 6 RBI, 2B, .442 SLG, .805 OPS

Aside from LaRoche, just about everybody has been mashing so far this month. Even Harper is heating up with six hits in his last 14 ABs. Pick your poison.

NL East Standings

source:

Offensive game of the week: Ryan Zimmerman 7/20 vs. Brewers – 2-for-4, HR, 2 RBI, R, BB, HBP

Pitching game of the week: Tanner Roark 7/19 vs. Brewers – 7 IP, 6 H, ER, BB, 5 SO, 112 pitches, 76 strikes.

Quote of the week:

Ryan Zimmerman on Tanner Roark:

“One of the coolest things about baseball is the stories that you see develop. Tanner’s one of the best stories. It just shows you: keep working hard and keep doing what you’re supposed to do like he does and it will pay off. He’s been great. He’s fun to play behind, he goes right at the hitters. It’s been a lot of fun to watch.”

Tweet(s) of the week:

The Nats’ bullpen had two great tweets this week. This first one is a picture sent out by Craig Stammen of the gift he received by his teammates for finishing his college degree at the University of Dayton:

This second one is a funny picture from Ross Detwiler:

Road ahead

MON – 8:40 p.m. at Colorado Rockies (Fister)
TUE – 8:40 p.m. at Colorado Rockies (Zimmermann)
WED – 3:10 p.m. at Colorado Rockies (Strasburg)
THU – OFF
FRI – 7:10 p.m. at Cincinnati Reds (Roark)
SAT – 4:05 p.m. at Cincinnati Reds (Gonzalez)
SUN – 1:10 p.m. at Cincinnati Reds (Fister)

  1. Another Tyler - Jul 21, 2014 at 12:52 PM

    Whoa I sign my first name almost identically to Clippard. Is that Storen with the wild starburst one?

  2. adcwonk - Jul 21, 2014 at 1:11 PM

    … the pitching matchups for Nats-Reds are pretty good

    Huh?

    Perhaps you mean: all of the Reds pitchers are pretty good? All three of them have an ERA below 2.80!

    And the three pitchers the Nats have facing them all have an ERA above 2.80

    Just sayin’ — the Reds look tough from that point of view . . .

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 21, 2014 at 1:36 PM

      That’s a tough series with those matchups. Just makes these 1st 3 games all that more crucial.

    • Jeff G - Jul 21, 2014 at 5:15 PM

      I hate good pitching matchups. I like pitching mismatchups in our favor….like that time the Cubs traded Jeff Samardzija (yup had to look up the spelling) the day he was going to throw against us and we had 13 runs against them that day. I’d like that everyday.

  3. Section 222 - Jul 21, 2014 at 1:15 PM

    Though Harper is just starting to get his timing back, he may very well have been providing “protection” for Zim right from the start. In 26 games after his return on June 3, Zim hit .190/.268/.300/.568. In 15 games since Harper’s return on June 30, his slashline is .418/.460/.673/1.133. That’s scary good. I know that correlation does not equal causation, but if you were a pitcher, particuarly a RH pitcher, wouldn’t you be extra careful not to put Zim on base in front of Harper?

    • David Proctor - Jul 21, 2014 at 1:17 PM

      I think it’s far more likely Zim just refound his timing.

      • Section 222 - Jul 21, 2014 at 2:15 PM

        “Far” more likely? Why so dismissive DP? Just because it hadn’t occurred to you?

        In the seven games before Harper’s return, Zim’s slashline was .185/.313/.370/.683. In the seven games after, it was .462/.500/.654/1.154. Kind of incredible that he just happened to re-find his timing at the precise moment that Harper returned to the lineup.

        Maybe it has to do with his return to playing 3B. I’d say that’s more likely than pure chance that his timing returned when it did.

      • David Proctor - Jul 21, 2014 at 2:19 PM

        I wasn’t trying to be overly dismissive, but the idea of lineup protection has largely been proven false. So if there’s an instance like what you are describing, I start looking for other possible reasons.

      • Section 222 - Jul 21, 2014 at 2:35 PM

        I don’t want to get into a debate over whether lineup protection really exists. I did a quick search and didn’t find a definitive analysis “proving” it false, though there’s certainly a lot of references to the fact that their is an active debate. But if Joe Maddon thinks it’s real to some extent, that’s enough for me to think it might be at play in this case.

        http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20120503&content_id=30286114&vkey=news_mlb&c_id=mlb

        But I’m certainly willing to concede that it might be he just found his timing at that moment, or that returning to his more familiar position helped his confidence level, or coming home to DC for some time with his wife was a contributing factor.

        But having Harper behind him might have helped too.

  4. Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 21, 2014 at 1:45 PM

    Brian Kenney on his Good Job/Bad Job segment gave a Good Job to Matt Williams for yanking Gio Gonzalez in the 4th inning in a 2-1 ballgame.

    I think it’s a decent job. Gio had already thrown 78 pitches to get through 3 innings and could have given Stammen a clean inning to start the 4th. It was also the bottom of the order and Gio struggled in the 3rd inning.

    • Section 222 - Jul 21, 2014 at 2:18 PM

      So are you saying it’s just a decent job because it was kind of a no brainer, or because maybe he should have left Gio in in order to give Stammen a clean inning?

      I didn’t see the segment, but it does seems like lots of managers are very reluctant to yank a starter in the early innings before the game gets out of hand. MW resisted the temptation to see if he could get 4 or 5 innings before the 100th pitch and made the move when it wasn’t too late for the Nats to come back. I give him props for that.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 21, 2014 at 2:45 PM

        I believe like I wrote as the 3rd inning was ending that I hoped MW would pull Gio. That would give Stammen a clean inning. There was nothing to gain waiting as Stammen was warm and it was the #8 batter to leadoff who Gio gave a double to and the subsequent Sac Bunt to the pitcher.

        MW had good intentions like getting Gio through the 4th and then see about the 5th but he didn’t have it and luck only lasts so long. That 78 pitch count would doom him anyway with back to back 28 pitch innings.

        Kenney I don’t think saw the game and Gio did leave 2-1 with that runner standing on 3rd and 1 out and the top of the order up.

        Again, I don’t play the hindsight game. I called it on the spot. Luckily Stammen minimized the damage.

      • jd - Jul 21, 2014 at 3:13 PM

        Ghost,

        If you pull a starter early every time one struggles you will kill the bullpen. Part of managing is making sure you consider the next set of games as well as the one you are in. I think several of our starters have had many occasions where they struggled significantly in the early goings but still managed to give the team 5 or 6 innings, it didn’t work out yesterday but I have no problem with MW trying to get Gio through 5 innings.

        The cost of using Stammen for 3 innings yesterday is that he is likely unavailable for at least the 1st couple of games in the next series, we had to pay that cost yesterday but I have no problem with MW trying to avoid such a cost.

      • Section 222 - Jul 21, 2014 at 5:41 PM

        Well put jd. There’s always a tradeoff. The trick is to be able to tell when a guy can make it though and when he can’t. While we all like to play manager, there’s never any cost for being wrong sitting on your couch, one way or another.

  5. Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 21, 2014 at 1:45 PM

    Dan Uggla to the SF Giants.

    • veejh - Jul 21, 2014 at 2:18 PM

      They just got a little worse.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 21, 2014 at 2:45 PM

        Sabean is hoping for Scutaro Part Deux.

      • DaveB - Jul 21, 2014 at 4:05 PM

        It’s just a minor league deal right now, so low risk

  6. knoxvillenat - Jul 21, 2014 at 1:46 PM

    “Even Harper is heating up with six hits in his last 14 ABs.”

    As I said on the earlier post today:

    “One other encouraging note over the weekend IMO was that Harper came back from the break and looks like he might have regained his hitterish mode. If I have it correctly, 5 hits in 10 AB’s for the series with 2 walks, a double and a HR. Not too shabby.”

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 21, 2014 at 2:56 PM

      I thought the 4 pitch walk was impressive. Gallardo was trying to sucker him into swinging at junk and Bryce wouldn’t bite.

  7. masterfishkeeper - Jul 21, 2014 at 1:47 PM

    Maybe Matt Williams will give LaRoche a game or two off this series, with Colorado’s LHPs? Seems as good a time as any. Move Zim to 1B and put Danny at second? If not now, when?

    • knoxvillenat - Jul 21, 2014 at 1:54 PM

      Especially with Fister on the mound tonight.

      • adcwonk - Jul 21, 2014 at 1:58 PM

        Good point guys.

        One one hand, ALR’s splits against LHP look pretty good. OTOH, if there’s some slumping going on, and it’s a lefty, and it’s Fister — this is as good as time as any.

    • Section 222 - Jul 21, 2014 at 2:20 PM

      I agree now’s the time. If he does it tonight, a sportswriter will ask him why he didn’t do it for the series in DC, and he’ll say, “No difference.” Either that or, “That’s baseball dude.”

    • Steady Eddie - Jul 21, 2014 at 2:32 PM

      Tonight looks like as good a night as any. Mini-sample size, but ALR is 0 for 5 with 3 Ks vs. Franklin Morales.

  8. jd - Jul 21, 2014 at 2:41 PM

    I agree with you guys that tonight is a good night to rest ALR but I don’t think that this is the way MW manages. When everyone is healthy, everyone plays. I think that this is part of the reason our bench has such a hard time producing in pinch hit situations. I think that Mc.Louth and Espinosa and Frandsen and Hairston need to play a game or 2 a week in order to stay sharp. Pinch hitting is a tough job.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 21, 2014 at 2:48 PM

      You all are funny. I made this suggestion in the Rockies series in DC before the All Star break as he was slumping and got 3 responses that ALR has great splits against lefties.

      • adcwonk - Jul 21, 2014 at 3:10 PM

        But he wasn’t slumping as we came into Colorado.

        As the Nats arrived in Colorado, ALR was coming off a 4-game series where he was 5-for-15 with 2 HR’s. On the other hand in the 12 game *since* Colorado, ALR has been hitting .140

        The facts have changed, and that’s why my opinion has changed.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 21, 2014 at 4:41 PM

        It’s not about slumping as I could tell he was tiring and knew his back was bothering him. The over-use led to the slump.

        Not much different than Roenicke over-using Lucroy yesterday. He blew a few key plays probably based on playing the day game after a night game. The wild pitch that he didn’t block and then didn’t make the throw, the Stammen poor throw to 1st, and some poor pitch selectin, and Lucroy went 0-3.

        The Barves did the same with Gattis and he eventually ended up on the DL.

      • adcwonk - Jul 21, 2014 at 8:08 PM

        This thread should be mandatory reading for Mick — who couldn’t understand why Ramos was “sitting on the bench.”

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 21, 2014 at 8:16 PM

        Fans want to see their “rubber stamp” 8 guys out there every day. These guys need regular rest intervals and if you don’t sit them for their own good, they will start to breakdown.

        There aren’t enough scheduled days off and Kilgore talking about LaRoche’s work schedule should’ve been saying that before the All Star break because Adam just had 4 days off last week.

        I think MW isn’t sitting Harp for rest rather getting in his best defensive infield and saving Harp so he doesn’t have to face this tough lefty.

      • Hiram Hover - Jul 21, 2014 at 3:19 PM

        As I recall, a # of folks didn’t buy the point about his 2014 #s vs LHP. They’re too small a sample size. Over his career, ALR has the expected platoon splits.

      • masterfishkeeper - Jul 21, 2014 at 4:07 PM

        +1

        Also, although his average against LHP was pretty good this year, he didn’t have much power.

  9. Section 222 - Jul 21, 2014 at 2:57 PM

    Lots of people made the suggestion before the Rockies series in DC Ghost. Whether you were the first, I have no idea, but I’m sure I could find out if you’re interested. I’m not though. Enough of this “that was my idea” stuff. It’s boring.

    • jd - Jul 21, 2014 at 3:05 PM

      good luck with that deuces.

    • Smyrcok - Jul 21, 2014 at 3:12 PM

      If Ghost is to be believed, he invented the double switch and the question mark.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 21, 2014 at 4:23 PM

        Always a wisecrack from someone with a new “handle”. Classic.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 21, 2014 at 4:33 PM

      I don’t recall lots of people people the suggestion but if they did then we share in a similar thought. Nothing to do with “my idea”. I was very surprised that all of a sudden people are all in for ALR to sit when the replies were that ALR hits lefties well when this was brought up in the past.

      The point is guys need rest.

  10. Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 21, 2014 at 3:01 PM

    Span’s bat has heated up which gets him on the bases more and the scouting report on him is that he is a poor baserunner.

    He had been thrown out on the 2nd to 3rd play early in the series on a groundball in front of him then called out by an idiot ump on an obstruction call that doesnt exist them yesterday was nearly picked off once again.

    There is a hesitation in his move back to first which has to be corrected. Too hard to get on base to be taken off the basepaths. My suggestion is to cut down on your lead.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 21, 2014 at 4:37 PM

        Baserunning is a lot more than what Fangraphs puts together from the stat sheets. He’s a leadoff man so we already know he can go 1st to 3rd and 2nd to home and steal some bases. It’s more than that.

        The pickoffs, getting doubled off 2nd, and running into groundouts are poor baserunning when it’s done with poor judgment.

        No way that play at 1st should have been as close as it was yesterday.

      • David Proctor - Jul 21, 2014 at 4:52 PM

        Fangraphs factors in all of that, except I suppose certain pickoff plays being “too close.”

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 21, 2014 at 4:58 PM

        I use the eye test first and foremost. The severity of some of the bad baserunning goes to an extreme. I won’t say you will never see Werth make the same mistakes but you can see the difference.

        I didn’t even add making the 1st or 3rd out at 3rd base which Span also did on stretching a double to a triple and got thrown out by plenty.

        Those are cardinal sins of baseball. It’s not once, twice or 3 times. These aren’t plays where the Coach is telling you what to do.

        Werth, Rendon and RZim are excellent baserunners in my opinion.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 21, 2014 at 4:50 PM

        If the fangraphs BsR is as accurate as there UZR its garbage. Mumbo jumbo.

      • therealjohnc - Jul 21, 2014 at 5:04 PM

        Ghost, even if one assumes that baserunning “is a lot more than what Fangraphs puts together from the stat sheets” DP did a pretty good job of refuting the idea that Span is a poor baserunner. Even if you figure that he’s not very good at everything that FG isn’t measuring, that would merely bring him down to ordinary.

        Span has been picked off three times this season. But he’s only been caught stealing twice (16/18 SB/CS). An 88.9% success rate on the basepaths is excellent, so I’m not going to second guess him if he gets picked off once a month.

        I completely agree that getting thrown out at third on the grounder to SS was a bonehead play. Whether he misread the positioning of the SS or just had a brain bleem, it was a poor play. But as DP points out above there is a lot on the positive side of the ledger as well.

      • therealjohnc - Jul 21, 2014 at 5:08 PM

        The problem with the “eye test” is that it generally is not very accurate.* All of us are subject to confirmation bias – when we see something we tend to interpret it in light of our preconceived views/narratives. This is why it is so hard to shake people of their narratives (“Desmond is terrible in the clutch, I hate his approach!”) no matter how many stats you can cite to that refute that narrative. Studies show that a person presented with facts that contradict a deeply held belief will reject the facts rather than reconsider the belief.

        I fancy the principle may apply to sports in general, and baseball in particular, as well. :-)

        *Except, of course, for my eye test!

      • Steady Eddie - Jul 21, 2014 at 5:19 PM

        There you go, johnc, being all rational again.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 21, 2014 at 8:22 PM

        You all can’t have it both ways. Either UZR is right or it’s not and the same for BsR.

        There’s a big difference between being a good baserunner and a fast baserunner. McLouth is a good baserunner. I stand by all the recent issues with Span. Not sure how anyone can see all those blunders and consider him a good baserunner. I feel the same about Bryce as he’s still learning.

      • David Proctor - Jul 21, 2014 at 8:24 PM

        UZR and BsR are two different metrics. Baserunning is more easily quantifiable than defense. Just because Fangraphs came up with them both doesn’t mean they’re the same thing

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 21, 2014 at 8:30 PM

        Span’s steal % is excellent but his baserunning mistakes which include those flat-footed pickoffs, getting doubled off 2nd, unsuccessfully stretching a double into a triple, thrown out by the SS with no force play at 3rd when the play was in front of him are 7 examples of poor baserunning and taint any reasonable grading I would give him.

        He’s the best base stealer on the team but not in my top 5 of baserunners which goes:

        1. Rendon
        2. Werth
        3. RZim
        4. Desmond
        5. Espinosa

      • David Proctor - Jul 21, 2014 at 8:32 PM

        BsR goes well beyond just stealing-caught stealing. It includes all the plays you just mentioned and more. Here is a summary:

        http://www.fangraphs.com/library/offense/ubr/

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 21, 2014 at 8:37 PM

        I know what it includes. I didn’t even include McLouth as one of the team’s best baserunners because of the small sample size.

        The other big number that is what counts is Span has 58 runs scored and Rendon has 69. One bats #1 and one bats #2.

        Analyze that one. HRs are part of the difference. OBP another part.

  11. Section 222 - Jul 21, 2014 at 3:12 PM

    In the 3 game set against the Rockies in DC, against three LH pitchers, MW played what has become our standard lineup (including lefties Span, Harper, and ALR) every game, except that Lobaton caught the third game. The Nats won 7-3, 7-1, and 4-3 behind Znn, Stras, and Fister. Personally, I’d like to preserve Espi as a threat batting RH. So giving him at least one start to try to refresh his stroke seems to make sense. But if MW wants to keep riding the horses that’s done so well recently, I’m not going to argue with success. I do think Harper should play every day until he gets his timing back. He doesn’t need rest, he needs ABs.

  12. 6ID20 - Jul 21, 2014 at 3:56 PM

    It would appear Soriano did not participate in the bullpen gift to Stammen. Another blown save opportunity, this one for his reputation.

    • nats128 - Jul 21, 2014 at 4:49 PM

      May be he just didnt have time to sign the card. Even if he didnt participate doesnt mean its a hit to his reputation becuz you could be reading into something where there isnt a problem. They might not have even mentioned it to him as the other six gringos seem to be a tight group and sometimes you dont hit up fellow employees for money.

    • TimDz - Jul 21, 2014 at 4:49 PM

      Maybe he fancies Ping Putters?

    • David Proctor - Jul 21, 2014 at 4:55 PM

      Once again, someone talking about something we have no possible way of knowing

    • natsfan1a - Jul 21, 2014 at 5:01 PM

      Or perhaps he hadn’t yet returned from his trip home over the all-star break and wasn’t available to sign the card.

  13. David Proctor - Jul 21, 2014 at 5:02 PM

    Harper gets off, LaRoche stays in. I don’t get that. Harper’s been swinging it well

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 21, 2014 at 5:05 PM

      Think about what Matt Williams did and you will find his wisdom. Fairly obvious.

      • NatsLady - Jul 21, 2014 at 5:13 PM

        It is? DIdn’t you just say he should rest LaRoche, because that was obvious given a LHP?

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 21, 2014 at 5:18 PM

        Interesting comment. Nope. Not at all unless you want to read into things which you have a habit of doing. I just said I made the suggestion last series against Colo to rest ALR against one of the lefties.

        I was just surprised all those chiming in now that tonight would be a good idea. Just found the discussion interesting as to why now it was such a good idea.

        The good idea is going with your best infield with Fister on the mound and while Bryce has only faced Morales once, it wasn’t a pretty AB. 3 pitch strikeout swinging at 2 out of the zone.

        http://www.brooksbaseball.net/pfxVB/pfx.php?s_type=3&sp_type=1&year=2012&month=6&day=9&pitchSel=462985&game=gid_2012_06_09_wasmlb_bosmlb_1/&prevGame=gid_2012_06_09_wasmlb_bosmlb_1/&prevDate=69&batterX=58

      • David Proctor - Jul 21, 2014 at 5:16 PM

        What? he fixed the infield defense behind Fister. He could’ve done that while giving LaRoche the day off and moving Zim to 1B. Even if you think ALR over Zim at 1B is very important, Coors Field has a huge outfield. You’re hurting yourself out there for no real reason. Is there something more I am missing?

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 21, 2014 at 5:20 PM

        He wants his best infield and RZim has very good range as a LF so the only defense that will suffer his with RZim’s arm. I’m sure MW will insert Harp once Morales comes out and use Harp as a pinchhitter.

  14. Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 21, 2014 at 5:04 PM

    Harper doesn’t start tonight. Kilgore with a snarky tweet “No Harper just as he’s getting hot”.

    Kilgore does a lot of playing manager lately.

    I think just like the last time he sat he was valuable off the bench.

  15. natsfan1a - Jul 21, 2014 at 6:08 PM

    Are you referring to Harper or Kilgore? ;-)

    “I think just like the last time he sat he was valuable off the bench.”

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