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Span’s hard work paying off

Aug 4, 2014, 10:02 AM EDT

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

Cole Hamels wasn’t giving up much of anything on Sunday when Denard Span found space between Chase Utley and Ryan Howard for an RBI single in the bottom of the third inning.

It pushed the center fielder’s streak of reaching base to 29 games, the longest active streak in the majors. He would later add another single, a walk and two stolen bases in the Nats’ 4-0 win.

Span is now batting .294 with an on-base percentage of .352, two numbers that seem to go up by the game these days. Through 100 games he is enjoying perhaps the best season of his career.

Span explained his current approach after Sunday’s game, and how the pitch he hit off Hamels – a fastball inside – is a good indication of what is working for him right now.

“I looked at the replay, the pitch was way inside, but I was able to stay inside of it and get it to drop through for me,” he said

“That’s good. My approach right now is to stay up the middle no matter who is pitching. Keep my hands inside the ball. For me to be able to keep my hands inside of a pitch that was way inside, it’s definitely a good sign.”

The two stolen bases gave Span his 22nd and 23rd on the year, putting him just three away from the career-high of 26 he set in 2010. He has reached 23 another time before, way back in 2009. This season he is on pace to have 35.

Improving on the basepaths is something Span has been focusing on with first base coach Tony Tarasco all season long.

“It’s something that I’ve worked hard on,” he said. “Tony [Tarasco] has been in my ear since spring training started. Before every game he’s giving me something on that pitcher to get me ready. It’s just been a joy to see my hard work translate onto the field.”

Span is surprising himself a bit, however. Reaching 35 stolen bases would be by far the best season he’s had in that category, and it’s coming in his Age 30 season.

“You know what, this is something that I’ve been working on since the day I got drafted at 18. It’s funny you say that because I probably feel the slowest I’ve ever felt in my career, just as far as getting older,” he said.

Span wondered what his steal total would look like if he had his current knowledge combined with his speed at 18-years-old. It brought a smile to his face.

“I’m not going to say Billy Hamilton numbers or Dee Gordon numbers, but I’ll answer that at the end of the season. We’ll have to see how many I get this year.”

115 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. unterp - Aug 4, 2014 at 10:04 AM

    great to see perseverance pays off. Hope to see him in CF next season too, and go Nats…

    • Eric - Aug 4, 2014 at 10:19 AM

      +1

      If he keeps this up I might even be down with a 2-year contract. Big fan of the guy.

    • stoatva - Aug 4, 2014 at 10:19 AM

      Me, too. Love everything about the guy.

  2. knoxvillenat - Aug 4, 2014 at 10:07 AM

    I’d say that picking up his option for 2015 looks more and more likely to happen. Given this season, and the latter half of last year I’d be happy to have him back with the Nats.

  3. natsbro - Aug 4, 2014 at 10:10 AM

    Nationals lineup last 7 days:

    Span .348/.429/.348 4 Walks, 5 Runs, 3 RBI, 3 SB’s

    Rendon .308/.357/.538 1 HR, 3 Doubles, 2 Walks, 5 Runs, 5 RBI, 1 SB

    Werth .211/.238/.211 1 Walk, 2 Runs, 3 RBI

    LaRoche .190/.217/.238 1 Double, 1 Walk, 3 Runs, 2 RBI, 1 SB

    Desmond .263/.375/.316 1 Double, 4 Walks, 2 Runs, 4 RBI, 1 SB

    Harper .304/.360/.348 1 Double, 2 Walks, 3 Runs, 2 RBI

    Cabrera (Since joining Nats..small sample size) .222/.222/.444 1 Triple, 2 Runs, 1 RBI

    Ramos .158/.304/.158 4 Walks, 3 RBI

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 4, 2014 at 10:14 AM

      The 4 walks by Desi could be the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.

    • natsbro - Aug 4, 2014 at 10:29 AM

      Apparently these stats don’t include yesterdays game…(Damn Baseball Reference…)

      • NatsLady - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:21 AM

        BR hasn’t updated yet. Really slowing me up for the Weekly Stats. They usually update around 8 a.m.

    • Hiram Hover - Aug 4, 2014 at 10:52 AM

      Thank goodness for Span and Rendon, esp. given those #s for Werth and ALR.

  4. Joe Seamhead - Aug 4, 2014 at 10:18 AM

    Right now the Span & Rendon Show is if not carrying this team offensively, definitely setting the table the way many of us envisioned. Maybe even better than many envisioned. I’m thrilled for Denard. Such a class act.

    • Candide - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:00 AM

      #SPANDON is a thing on twitter. Every time Anthony drives in Denard, this picture gets posted:

      • Candide - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:01 AM

        Well, that didn’t work. Here’s the link:

        (Someone remind me how to post a picture directly here…)

      • Eric - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:19 AM

        That’s awesome!

      • Doc - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:36 AM

        Merci, Candide!

        I’m downloading that great photo, and putting it on my office door!

  5. water47 - Aug 4, 2014 at 10:21 AM

    Sometimes it is best just to admit you are wrong,. As the previous post had some discussion of BJ and Peric,

    I was one of those who supported acquiring/signing BJ. I was wrong. My thoughts were that Bourn or BJ would be a significant upgrade. Bourn had proven is worth and BJ at the time looked like a change of scenery guy with potential. But, I am glad Rizzo made the move for Span. Speaking of Span, I remember the discussions of whether to acquire Span or Revere. There were some serious discussions about the cost (Alex Meyer). I think it as been a good deal.

    In a further mea culpa, I must admit I promoted the idea of Kendrys Morales over ALR. Well, two strikes means I am not out but looking very foolish.

    • stoatva - Aug 4, 2014 at 10:27 AM

      Hey, I was a big Nyjer Norgan fan. That’s baseball, dude.

      • Eric - Aug 4, 2014 at 10:30 AM

        All you can do is keep grinding until you’re rooting for a guy who succeeds.

      • stoatva - Aug 4, 2014 at 10:34 AM

        I’ll just keep attacking the zone and looking for one to drive.

      • Candide - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:03 AM

        Try to square one up.

      • NatsLady - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:13 AM

        I bought a Nyjer Morgan tee. It’s in among my cleaning rags now.

    • Section 222 - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:42 AM

      Kudos to you. There are far too few mea culpas around here. Funny how no one remembered your promotion of BJ, but everyone remembered peric. That’s probably because you weren’t obnoxious about it. Kudos for that too.

  6. tcostant - Aug 4, 2014 at 10:25 AM

    His option next year is going to be picked up. No doubt about it.

  7. water47 - Aug 4, 2014 at 10:25 AM

    And since Peric’s name came up… This might be something he would post –

    Need to DFA Asdrubal Cabrera Now –

    BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
    .222 .222 .444 .667 80

    Send him away…. Oh, wait, he has only played 2 games.

    • Candide - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:04 AM

      So far, he doesn’t look to me like his glove gives anything away to Espinosa’s. And his bat is a lot better (yeay, yeah, small sample size…)

    • NatsLady - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:13 AM

      His grab and throw was the top play on MLB Quick Pitch.

  8. David Proctor - Aug 4, 2014 at 10:29 AM

    “Cole Hamels wasn’t giving up much of anything on Sunday when Denard Span found space between Chase Utley and Ryan Howard for an RBI single in the bottom of the third inning.”

    Huh? It was a sinking liner to the outfield, not a grounder in the hole.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 4, 2014 at 10:33 AM

      Chase must have been watching another game. Not a good 1st paragraph.

    • adcwonk - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:31 AM

      I wonder if the CF could have, or should have, dived on that play to try to get Span’s hit. FWIW . . . .

      • Joe Seamhead - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:39 AM

        I think if Span had been playing CF on that play he would have caught it. Span doesn’t play as deep as Ben Revere does.

  9. Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 4, 2014 at 10:31 AM

    Lets flashback to one of the lowpoints of Span’s season on May 19th: .239/.287/.329/.616

    Then on May 20th Span went 5 for 5 against the Reds. His stats shot up on that date and he hasn’t looked back.

    He’s now batting .294 with a .352 OBP and he has scored 69 runs.

    DSpan’s OBP which is one of the most important stats for a leadoff man along with getting into Scoring Position has Span now ranked #12 in the Majors. On May 19th Span was ranked 2nd to last.

    http://espn.go.com/mlb/stats/batting/_/split/109/sort/onBasePct/minpa/150

    • bowdenball - Aug 4, 2014 at 10:47 AM

      And Span has done it while leading off all year. A few of those guys shuffle in and out of the leadoff spot or are injury-prone. Bump the minimum PAs up to 300 and Span moves up to 8th.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:00 AM

        Those stats are strictly from the leadoff. I wanted to get BJ Upton in there so I lowered the PAs. ;)

    • bowdenball - Aug 4, 2014 at 10:50 AM

      And of course Span also brings excellence on the basepaths. He’s easily the best base-stealer in the Top 15 (Altuve has 5 more steals but 6 more CS).

      You always need a few unexpected surprises to make up for the inevitable slumps and injuries. Last year the Nats didn’t really have any until Roark’s year-end run. This year they have two, Span and Roark.

      • Eric - Aug 4, 2014 at 10:55 AM

        I think LaRoche’s first third of the season also qualifies as a surprise…that was amazing to behold.

      • bowdenball - Aug 4, 2014 at 10:56 AM

        That’s true, but he’s been so bad since that overall his numbers are gonna be pretty close to expectations by the end of the season. I don’t think that will be the case with Span and Roark.

      • Eric - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:00 AM

        Seems likely, but maybe his 3-8 start to August portends good things to come…fingers crossed.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:03 AM

        Span has turned into the best base stealer in baseball. I still think it’s the McLouth effect. Absolutely remarkable. I’ve never seen a player with a turnaround on the basepaths like this. He isn’t getting faster, he’s getting better jumps and picking his spots better including stealing on breaking pitches vs fastballs.

        If he can limit those other baserunning gaffes the rest of the way, it would make him complete as a baserunner.

      • Candide - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:06 AM

        You always need a few unexpected surprises…

        As opposed to the surprises you see coming a mile away…?

      • Doc - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:43 AM

        Beware of redundant and ‘unexpected’ adverbs! LOL

      • Eric - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:53 AM

        There’s no adverb in the cited redundancy, just an adjective.

        “Unexpectedly surprised” would have the adverb for which you’re looking ;)

  10. stoatva - Aug 4, 2014 at 10:32 AM

    I wonder if the experience of the Phillies, among others, will eventually lead teams to be more reluctant, or at least more selective in offering mega dollar long term veterans that extend through what figure to be their declining years.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 4, 2014 at 10:42 AM

      The Nats did the same with Ryan Zimmerman and luckily if they do it with others can stagger these long-term deals. There is a need sometimes to take care of your own players and give them the “lifetime” contracts.

      The problem with the Phillies is they did so many of these deals with aging players and the Howard deal is really the one that is performing so poorly. Rollins contract isn’t bad. Then you can add the $25 million Cliff Lee deal.

    • Hiram Hover - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:02 AM

      The Phils are certainly an egregious example because Howard has been such a complete and utter bust.

      The Phils have also signed a lot of aging vets (Utley, Rollins, Ruiz) to intermediate term contracts of 2-3 years. Those contracts don’t necessarily look so bad in terms of value returned, but they are a missed opportunity in that the Phils could have been rebuilding.

      People have been saying for years that the Phils should sell. This year, Amaro finally seemed to say, “OK, we’re ready to deal!” And then he didn’t.

      I don’t know whether to find that hilarious or sad. Ok, hilarious. But with just a tiny dusting of sad.

  11. Smyrcok - Aug 4, 2014 at 10:32 AM

    Credit to Span for driving in the first run yesterday against a very tough pitcher. Could have been a 1-0 victory. Great on the base paths too. On that note I also want to give credit to Strasburg for laying down the bunt and getting the runner into scoring position. Stras pitched a hell of a game but also helped himself out with the bat.

    • Eric - Aug 4, 2014 at 10:38 AM

      That whole sequence was absolutely fantastic. Run manufacturing executed exactly according to the script.

    • adcwonk - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:33 AM

      especially after that first bunt attempt with was a pop-up (that, luckily, wasn’t able to get caught)

  12. Section 222 - Aug 4, 2014 at 10:33 AM

    Span deserves all the accolades he’s been getting recently. In his last 18 games through Saturday night (just to pick a random sample size) he’s slashed .408/.494/.423/ .917, with 29 hits and 15 runs. He also has 7 stolen bases. His BABIP was .460. Extraordinary. When this guy gets on base, good things happen for the Nats.

    Saturday night, we finished the sixth of the nine 18-game sets in the season. We’re now 2/3 of the way through the season, with just 54 games to go. (How’s that for a segue to another 18-game post?)

    Just before the ASG, Nats went 12-6 in the last 18-game set, showing signs for the first time this year of being a championship team. Not surprisingly, much of that set coincided with Zim and Harper being in the lineup together for the first time since April. After 90 games, we were 49-41 and tied with the Braves atop the NL East. We had a reasonable near term schedule ahead, but the Braves had a pretty easy stretch. In my last wrap up post, I wrote that after the next set, the destination of the Nats season could be clear.

    http://natsinsider.com/2014/07/18/second-half-storylines-2/

    (See post at 11:02 am.)

    Even though Zim went down in the middle of this set, ending with the game Saturday night, the Nats again had a solid 18-gamer, going 10-8. So after starting the season slowly, going 10-8, 9-9, and 8-10 in the first 54 games, the Nats have picked up the pace significantly, going 10-8, 12-6, and 10-8 in the last 54. With just three sets to go, the Nats are 10 games over .500 (11 if you count yesterday’s win). And more importantly, they led the Braves after Saturday’s game by 2½ games even though the Braves had an easier schedule over the last 18.

    I hate to keep referencing last year, but our big collapse in 2013 was right after the ASG, leaving us 11 games out by the end of July. This year is definitely a different story, and the future looks bright after 108 games. Nonetheless, the real key to the season is shaping up to be the next 18-game set, highlighted by the 3-game showdown in Atlanta from Aug. 8-10.

    Can the Nats keep pace and maybe pick it up a bit to get over 90 wins? Having pushed the monkey off their back last time they played the Braves, can they win that series in Atlanta and put some real distance between themselves and their arch-rivals? The acquisition of Asdrubal Cabrera should help offset the loss of Ryan Zimmerman’s bat, and the starting rotation is firing on all cylinders. Maybe Stephen Souza will even provide some pop off the bench, something that’s been sorely lacking this year. At this point, you have to like our chances to win the East.

    Let’s put it this way: I’d rather be us than them.

    • stoatva - Aug 4, 2014 at 10:40 AM

      I figured at the All Star break that the Nats needed to play .600 ball the rest of the way to get to 92 wins. Basically that amounts to winning your home series and stay above .500 on the road. We had a little wobble there but a) we are still on track, and b) we may not absolutely need 92.

      • Eric - Aug 4, 2014 at 10:49 AM

        If we average 10 – 8 over the remaining three 18-game sets, we’ll end up with 90 wins. That means if we repeat the pace of last three 18-game sets (10-8, 12-6, 10-8), we’ll hit those 92 wins you’re looking for.

        I feel we have the potential to exceed the last three considering that all of our power hitters are under performing at the moment.

        Obviously nothing’s a given, but we’ve been pacing ourselves nicely and we have room to grow.

        Fingers crossed!

      • Eric - Aug 4, 2014 at 10:51 AM

        Oh, but I guess they weren’t under performing for the duration of the last three 18-game sets.

        Anyway, we’re in a good place…if we’re in as good or better shape after this weekend…that will be very nice indeed.

      • bowdenball - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:28 AM

        The Braves would have to go 34-16 the rest of the way to reach 92 wins. They may lose 16 more before the end of August.

      • adcwonk - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:36 AM

        b) we may not absolutely need 92.

        I’ll say!!

        Baseball prosepctus odds (as of yesterday, for some strange reason they didn’t update today) projects the Braves to get 83 wins — which would mean, obviously, we’d only need 84 wins to take the East.

        FWIW, they project the Nats to win 89, a full six games ahead of the Braves.

        And that’s without taking anything of yesterday into account.

    • Eric - Aug 4, 2014 at 10:42 AM

      Great wrap up. I really like these 18 game set reviews. It paces the season nicely.

      “Let’s put it this way: I’d rather be us than them.”

      Ain’t that the truh, at least for now! However, I think this reply I posted to bowdenball in the last thread is apt here, too:

      I’m definitely feeling more jittery than confident at the moment. The only thing that would set my nerves at ease to any meaningful extent is a series win or a sweep in Atlanta this weekend.

      If we can tack on half a game tonight and then one or two more through the rest of the week, all the better. The one thing I really don’t want is to enter Atlanta with a lead we can lose while we’re there.

    • 6ID20 - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:25 AM

      Turned on the TV at random on Saturday afternoon. It was still set to MASN from Friday night’s game. Orioles broadcaster Tom Davis was talking about how the best way to look at a season is to break it into 18 game sets. You steal his idea?

      • Section 222 - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:53 AM

        Yes. With attribution. I first started doing these posts after I heard him and those other MASN goofballs talking about the early part of the O’s season in 2012 that way.

        http://natsinsider.com/2012/06/26/game-72-nats-at-rockies/comment-page-1/

        see comment at 9:42 pm

        It made a lot of sense to me then. It’s an easy way to divide up the season in manageable chunks that are also bigger, and therefore more meaningful, than the last 10 games or the last two weeks. The 18-game stretches can be compared from year to year. And they show nicely that the difference between playoff season and a lousy season is the difference between 10-8 and 8-10 — just two winnable games that you lost. — every 18 games.

  13. stoatva - Aug 4, 2014 at 10:46 AM

    So, Zach Walters reported to Columbus and promptly went 3 for 6 with two home runs and 6 rbi’s.

    *sigh*

    • Candide - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:09 AM

      I don’t think Walters’ ability to hit AAA pitching was ever in doubt.

    • Section 222 - Aug 4, 2014 at 4:01 PM

      I could understand the sigh if he had done that for Cleveland. But in the minors? He did that regularly at the ‘Cuse. Not worth sighing over in the least. And it won’t be worth sighing over if he does it next year for the Indians. This was a rent free rental trade. Cabrera is here to help us win this year. If he does that, Zach can go on to have a great career in Cleveland and we can say, “good for you buddy, and thanks for helping us win the pennant in 2014.”

  14. Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 4, 2014 at 10:55 AM

    We’ve talked about the best 1-2 punch in baseball and if I neutralize Span’s and Rendon’s stats only in the 1-2 spots vs any other team’s players, the Nats lead the Majors for Span/Rendon scoring 138 runs vs. Calhoun/Trout with 129 runs scored. Rendon has a total of 78 runs scored but 69 from the 2-hole.

    Rendon of course has those 62 RBIs and Span has 25.

    Seasons are made with consistency and impact.

    • NatsLady - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:17 AM

      Thanks for that! Really confirms the eyeballs.

      • NatsLady - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:42 AM

        P.S., I would have guessed Jayson, especially earlier in the season. Seems like he strikes out a time or two to just check out the pitcher (and maybe deke the pitcher) and charges it up late.

    • Hiram Hover - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:28 AM

      Right now, Rendon leads the Nats batters in WAR–4.3 per fangraphs version, 3.9 per bbref.

      Span is 2d at 2.7/2.5.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:37 AM

        Rendon is the hidden weapon and likes to fly below the radar. I’m not a WAR fan because of the tangible and intangibles it misses on but I understand it’s a starting point to the conversation.

        Not all runs and RBIs are created the same. It’s the impact of how many put your team ahead, tie the game and ultimately are game winners.

        Look at who is #11 in the Majors in Runs Created from the 7th inning on:

        http://espn.go.com/mlb/stats/batting/_/split/48/sort/runsCreated/type/sabermetric/order/true/minpa/25

      • NatsLady - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:40 AM

        That’s fine, Ghost. But I’d rather have an early inning run than catch-up runs any day of the week. Granted, you win the game both ways, but a lot less stress on the pitchers with an early lead and the ability to keep it. Can affect other games.

      • Hiram Hover - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:51 AM

        One thing I like about Rendon is that his approach at the plate works well in high and low leverage situations–he has a good command of the strike zone, and can work a count and go with the pitch rather than swing for the fences.

        Interestingly, fangraphs says that this year Rendon has performed best in medium leverage situations, well in low leverage situations, but poorly in high leverage situations (.167/.271/.286). But that # is in all of about 40 PA and I think really doesn’t mean much.

      • Section 222 - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:55 AM

        Early runs are better than late runs. The only runs whose impact can be discounted are runs scored when your team is already out of the game. Willingham used to specialize in solo homers like that.

      • Hiram Hover - Aug 4, 2014 at 12:17 PM

        Agree about the value of early runs.

        I think by fangraphs system a chance to score a run early in a tied or close game would count as a “medium” leverage situation (while it’s clearly valuable, there is also still plenty of time for things to change).

      • Another Tyler - Aug 4, 2014 at 12:23 PM

        Rendon being under-the-radar, hard workin’, and quiet, I think his nickname “Ant” (per Charlie and Dave, Ant not Tony) suits him perfectly. Time for another animal-themed Nats nickname?

    • dcwx61 - Aug 4, 2014 at 7:15 PM

      that, of course, means span and rendon each have 69 runs scored batting 1/2

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 4, 2014 at 9:46 PM

        Yes and Rendon has more batting in other spots in the lineup

  15. adcwonk - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:40 AM

    The sign of a good and balanced team: when some guys are scuffling, other guys are picking them up.

    In the beginning of the year, with lots of injuries, Werth and ALR carried the team. Lately, Werth and ALR are scuffling, and Span/Rendon are sparking the team.

    Well done, gents!

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:50 AM

      I owe you a virtual drink. Look at my post below.

      • adcwonk - Aug 4, 2014 at 10:52 PM

        Indeed you do — put it up in the spreadsheet, my friend!

  16. Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:48 AM

    “Section 222 – Aug 4, 2014 at 10:33 AM
    Span deserves all the accolades he’s been getting recently. In his last 18 games through Saturday night (just to pick a random sample size) he’s slashed .408/.494/.423/ .917, with 29 hits and 15 runs. He also has 7 stolen bases. His BABIP was .460. Extraordinary. When this guy gets on base, good things happen for the Nats”

    He certainly deserves all the accolades because he’s been terrific since May 20th. Before that he was awful.

    This is how championship teams do it. No player can sustain an entire season without some lows to go with the highs. It was Adam LaRoche carrying the team for most of April and May. Numerous players in June. Werth and Span in July.

    • Section 222 - Aug 4, 2014 at 12:05 PM

      You’ve mentioned May 20 a number of time and I’ve wondered why. It’s right in the middle of the month. Finally, since I had his B-R page still up, I checked. May 20 was the game that he went 5 for 5 with 2 doubles, raising his batting average from .239 to .263 and his SLG from .616 to .671. (By the way, his numbers through May 19 were bad, but they weren’t awful. He had only played 37 games up till then, and he’d missed a week because of a concussion. He had 37 hits and 5 SBs. It was obviously too early to evaluate his season at that point, though that didn’t stop his critics here.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 4, 2014 at 12:19 PM

        Good, bad, awful is all relative. I’m saying awful because on May 19th he was the 2nd worse leadoff man in baseball.

        Since that time I don’t have the rankings but I’m sure he’s in the top 3.

        The difference is he has stopped with the incessant popups and flyouts that were always cans of corn.

        When he’s hitting them on the ground and line drives he has a great chance.

        The other difference is pitch selection. He has stopped fouling off many obvious “balls” which were foul “strikes” which has given him many more walks. FP once joked that Span should just start the game with a 3-2 count. The punchline of that joke was the 3-2 count was turning into outs. Now the 3-1 counts are turning into hits and walks. He’s now turned 16 of his 35 PAs with 3-1 counts into walks which is a great margin. That’s a total of 16 of 49 walks overall.

    • dcwx61 - Aug 4, 2014 at 7:19 PM

      What’s amazing is how hot span has been since his slow start. Not a usual ALR slow start, but still a major reason for the balanced approach.

  17. adcwonk - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:49 AM

    Sentences you don’t expect to read:

    (From an MLB summary of yesterdays Pads-Braves game)

    “San Diego, which leads the majors in runs scored since the All-Star break . . . “

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:51 AM

      Knoxville absolutely nailed it. His research on the Pads and their ownage of the Barves in Petco is crazy. 8-1 now over the last 3 season.

      • Eric - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:56 AM

        That was exceptionally astute, I must say.

  18. sjm308 - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:53 AM

    Not much to add to the discussion this afternoon/morning, but I also am wary of the long term deals. I can support what we did with Werth for so many reasons already stated, and I understand that you want Ryan Zimmerman to start and finish his career with this team. That leads us to several decisions to be made either this year or next. I am all for the one year extension to Span but nothing more. I still think he will play extremely well, especially since it will be for a long term contract with someone. We have great depth and youth on the way and I am ok with one more year for Taylor/Goodwin/Souza in a bench role or in the minors, so I resign Span and I believe he has no option but to take the extension. I let LaRoche leave, as much as I enjoy his work. Keeping them both leaves no place for Zimm and I think you need his bat in the lineup. We will need to sign a backup first baseman (can Souza learn to play first over the winter?? ha,ha) unless Skole proves his worth in the next few months. I am not sure what to do with Tyler Moore but its way on the backburner.

    Now, for the two tough choices. With what has been written about the Phillies and their disasters with long term contracts, and looking at how Hamilton, Pujols, Fielder and many others have not worked out. I am just a little leary about extending Desmond. He has already turned down a very nice offer from us so I am guessing he wants 100 million or more for 6 years or more. I realize we have nothing in the pipeline right now but do we want to be looking at Ian in a couple years like they are looking at Rollins now? I understand that winning right now is important and worrying about how someone is performing in his 30s is not productive but the reality is, we do have two SS on the 25 man roster in Cabera & Espinosa. We can probably afford one weak bat but not two. The reasoning on signing Desmond over Zimmnn to a long term deal would be that we have nothing to replace him while we have a bunch of young arms. I might counter that Zimmnn is like that bird in the hand in that he has proven to be reliable. I see many more pitchers doing well as they get older than I do Shortstops. If Lerner can come up with the money to sign both, I am overjoyed, but if I had to extend one, it would be Zimmnn. Now the other side to that is after next year both can decide what their future is and we might end up losing both just because of better offers by other teams. Hope that doesn’t happen but the reality is, that baseball is a business and you have to deal with it.

    On a totally separate note to a very long post. In my usual idiotic thinking, I have once again scheduled a trip in Sept/Oct. without really thinking things out. I guess I really do not want my life revolving around my baseball team but the reality is, I will probably be listening to the first few playoff games in Ireland while my son enjoys both our playoff seats. Just renewed for next year and have section 306 for the playoffs and 310 for the World Series.
    What HAS TO HAPPEN is that we win that first series (I get back Oct. 3rd and can honestly see a scenario of me rushing from Dulles at 3:35 to make that game if its in DC) I have no idea how the games will shape up but if we are one of the top teams I believe it is 2 home 2 away and 1 home in that first series. I think the playoffs start with a one game wild card game on Sept 30 and then Oct 1 would start the 5 game series. Its really silly to be thinking that far in advance but its what I do. Hope no one is offended.

    Go Nats!!

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 4, 2014 at 12:09 PM

      “I am all for the one year extension to Span but nothing more. I still think he will play extremely well, especially since it will be for a long term contract with someone. We have great depth and youth on the way and I am ok with one more year for Taylor/Goodwin/Souza in a bench role or in the minors, so I resign Span and I believe he has no option but to take the extension”

      I think you’re correct. The team owns the $9 million option which now they will almost certainly do if Span finishes strong.

      With the 2 year deal on McLouth it muddies the water a bit on what the bench will look like but consider ALR no matter how well he does is gone with Skole as RZim’s backup.

      Bench looks to be Lobaton, McLouth, Skole, Souza (or Taylor) and Espinosa (or another MI).

      Taylor was the player they were considering bringing up this week instead of Souza and Taylor if he doesn’t make it up soon will certainly be up in September in a spot role.

      • Joe Seamhead - Aug 4, 2014 at 1:10 PM

        After watching Skole in person I came away unimpressed. That guy is not just slow, he isn’t quick either. If we don’t get a veteran bench 1st baseman next year to backup Zim as the supposedly main first baseman then [gasp!] give me Tyler Moore. I say supposedly because I still don’t concede that Ryan is unequivocally the 2015 first baseman because he hasn’t shown that he can play the position full time, and also that he will be healthy enough to play it. I thought it odd that he wasn’t given any real time in 2014 ST at first base.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 4, 2014 at 1:29 PM

        Joe, I am 90% sure RZim is the 1st baseman of the future. The problem is Rizzo needs a LH bat to compliment RZim on the bench. Skole in the last 30 days is raking. It took him much longer to recover from the elbow surgery.

        He may not work out at all as baseball is never a given but for now I’m penciling him in as a possible fit.

        I’d much rather see if ALR would accept a bench role but doubtful he would accept that.

    • Section 222 - Aug 4, 2014 at 12:15 PM

      We only get three home games in the first playoff series if we have the best or second best record in the NL, right? (And the series goes to 5 games, of course…)

    • laddieblahblah - Aug 4, 2014 at 12:26 PM

      ” We will need to sign a backup first baseman (can Souza learn to play first over the winter?? ha,ha) ”

      Souza has already played a full year at 1b in the minors. His call-up is not just to bolster the Nats bench for the run to the division title, IMO, but is auditioning for next year at 1b as well as RF. Werth will be 36 next year, and is already well past the age when most have already seen a precipitous decline in their abilities. The same goes for ALR.

      Even if Zim goes to 1b next year, is there anyone who really expects him to make it all the way through without another injury?

      Souza can be the back-up to both Werth and Zim, next year. He is likely to get plenty of reps at 1b and/or RF. Right now, Harper needs reps against lefties to improve his approach at the plate, but that can wait until next year.The priority for the next 2 months will be on maximizing the Nats chances of the division, league, and world championships. If Matt sees the need to sit Harper against a lefty, he no longer has to rely on Hairston, who was not doing the job, anyway.

      Souza may be Werth’s successor in RF, long-term, and could possibly be ALR’s successor at 1b, if Zim heads to the DL next year for an extended stay, next year.

      The Nats have some real talent in CF to replace Span when he departs, but not for another 2 years, at least. They have 2 real comers in the low minors, Isaac Ballou and Rafael Bautista, who are coming on strong. Both Ballou and Bautista are proficient base stealers, as is Michael Taylor, currently in AA.

      Span figures to be extended, IMO, as he is finally providing the Nats with the kind of lead-off performance that Mike anticipated when he originally signed him.

      Finally, Souza has stolen more bases than Denard this year. I think McClouth has taught Rendon how to steal, and Ghost credits McClouth with improving Span’s numbers, too. Souza already has good numbers, and McClouth figures to be around next year to tutor Souza.

    • Hiram Hover - Aug 4, 2014 at 12:28 PM

      Interesting you mention Rollins as a comparable.

      His last six seasons have been his age 30-35 seasons, the same that would be covered for Desi by a 6 year deal starting 2016 (his first FA year).

      Over those 6 years, Rollins has had his ups and downs but returned about 3 WAR per year and played in an average of about 140 games per season (figuring he plays another 40 of the Phils 50 remaining games).

      If Desi does exactly the same, he would more than earn his $100M over 6 years at prevailing FA rates, and anything more than that would be gravy.

      • sjm308 - Aug 4, 2014 at 12:51 PM

        Good thoughts on both Souza and the Rollins/Desmond comparison. Thanks to you both.

        Dueces – you are correct. If the series goes 5 its 2 home/2 away and the final game at home. Home field goes to the top two teams. Remember in 2012 we got stuck with playing those first two games on the road and that has since been fixed.

  19. Doc - Aug 4, 2014 at 11:53 AM

    Let’s give some credit for Den’s SB’s to Tony T. Sounds like he’s been dong this part of his job since ST.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 4, 2014 at 12:01 PM

      I have to believe McLouth figures into this success somehow.

    • Section 222 - Aug 4, 2014 at 12:08 PM

      Span gives a lot of credit to Tony T. He did it after the game yesterday too. He never mentions McLouth though. I think having Rendon behind him helps too. Rendon really knows the strike zone and takes a lot of pitches. He’s also not afraid of hitting with two strikes, which means he can take a pitch when Denard is running even if it’s in the strike zone. I’m starting to feel like when you look up “professional hitter” in the baseball dictionary, you’ll see a picture of his smiling face.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 4, 2014 at 12:23 PM

        I’ve heard him give credit to Tony T. also but they were also together in 2013 and Span wasn’t lighting up the basepaths in 2013 which is why I think McLouth has influenced both of them.

        Great point on Rendon hitting behind them. It’s also what kind of threw me for a spin when Matty said Asdrubal is a good #2 hitter and he might bat him there. Say what? Rendon has been the best #2 RunsCreated hitter in baseball only trailing a guy named Mike Trout.

      • Doc - Aug 4, 2014 at 12:27 PM

        Good points on Rendon’s contributions to Den’s SB’s, Section 222.

        The SOB is a professional fielder too!

        Rendy is my favorite Nats’ player to watch, in the box and in the field.

      • laddieblahblah - Aug 4, 2014 at 12:39 PM

        “Rendon has been the best #2 RunsCreated hitter in baseball only trailing a guy named Mike Trout.”

        He could be even more productive in the 5-hole, where he would be coming to bat more frequently with RISP. He has impressive run-productioin numbers out of the 2-hole, as it is. The Nats are still not scoring runs, especially now that Zim is on the sidelines, and is no longer manning the 5-slot in the order. They are getting little in the way of run production from Desmond in what should be a major run producing slot. Rendon is the best candidate to solve that problem, and my guess is that is also what Matt is looking at by suggesting he may put Cabrera in the 2-slot. Good move, IMO, if Cabrera can hold his own at that spot in the order.

        Desi’s production would go up, as well, if he were back in his familiar 7th slot in the order. In the 8th, yesterday, Rendon came up with a runner on 1b and drove him in. Later that same inning the Phils walked ALR (who is not exactly tearing the cover off the ball recently) to bring Desmond to the plate with runners on 2nd and 3rd. They knew what they were doing, as Desmond struck out, once again, failing to advance either runner, let alone bringing one of them in.

        If they are going to score more runs, they need more production out of the heart of the order. Of late, neither Werth, La Roche, or Desmond has been giving them all that much. Rendon is actually their most reliable run producer. Put him in the best position to catalyze on his ability.

        Cabrera is the key to making that work, IMO.

      • laddieblahblah - Aug 4, 2014 at 12:55 PM

        Ooops. The runners were on 1st and 2nd when Desi came to bat in the 8th, with no one out, when he stuck out, not 2nd and 3rd. The Nats failed to score any more runs that inning.

      • Eric - Aug 4, 2014 at 1:02 PM

        True, but I believe you were still somewhat correct, as iirc, a double steal was executed a pitch or a few before he whiffed.

      • Eric - Aug 4, 2014 at 1:04 PM

        Haha, nope, nevermind…not sure what I’m thinking of…

  20. mrnat7 - Aug 4, 2014 at 12:11 PM

    Everyone will think I’m crazy but I would play Steven Souza in LF for an extended time (to see what he can do in the big show) and send Bryce to Syracuse to try and get himself straightened out. Bryce is fighting himself and is getting missed up in the head. Bryce needs to relax and I feel it won’t happen in Washington. Bryce is the type of player who wants to lead and it won’t happen batting in the 7th hole. For Bryce a 21 year old I feel MW has him very confused. MW shows no confidence in Bryce by moving hims from LF – RF and should have him hitting 3rd. It does effect some players where they hit in the line-up. Bryce needs to be in the center of everything! If they don’t want to try and build his confidence, send him down where he can work things out himself. When he was rehabbing I bet he was hitting a lot higher. Also, in 2012 and 20113 he hit mostly 2nd and did well.

    • scnatsfan - Aug 4, 2014 at 12:22 PM

      That might cause a serious breakdown for the kid but he does appear lost

      • bowdenball - Aug 4, 2014 at 12:31 PM

        Harper’s on-base percentage since the all star break: .407.

        We should all be so lost.

    • Section 222 - Aug 4, 2014 at 12:23 PM

      You make a strong case, but yes, you are crazy. :-) Bryce was raking on his rehab. I’d say that the pitching is just not good enough in the minors for him to “get straightened out.” (The pitching is not good enough to be a challenge for Souza either.)

      A demotion to AAA would probably hurt his psyche more than batting 6th does too. (I agree with you that putting him at the bottom of order is not helping him.)

      Of course the Syracuse fans would love it. They must be mourning the promotion of Souza. That video Ghost posted yesterday was awesome.

    • Eric - Aug 4, 2014 at 12:26 PM

      From wonk’s post above:
      Nationals lineup last 7 days:


      Harper .304/.360/.348 1 Double, 2 Walks, 3 Runs, 2 RBI

      Best way to respond to that is to punish him with a demotion؟

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 4, 2014 at 12:27 PM

      It will never happen and if you listened to Chase and Tim Murray’s podcast and heard Jim Callis’s prediction he has Souza as a .250 to .255 hitter.

      That’s not bad but that won’t be good enough on this team nor can they afford to take the chance. This is the Major Leagues. Bryce could bat .450 in AAA and eat those guys alive.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 4, 2014 at 12:30 PM

        Here’s what you would hope is more probably is moving Bryce to CF and RF to give Span and Werth some days off and putting Souza in LF for some spot starts. In the short-term I think you get that adrenaline surge and the fact the other team lacks a scouting report.

      • Section 222 - Aug 4, 2014 at 12:40 PM

        Isn’t Souza a plus fielder with alot of speed? Can he play CF as well as Bryce?

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 4, 2014 at 1:04 PM

        Possibly better 222. It’s MWs call and I think nobody wants to upset Bryce. Bryce would feel slighted I think if he chose Souza over him for CF.

      • laddieblahblah - Aug 4, 2014 at 12:51 PM

        Forget about those predictions. Mike could have traded Souza at the deadline for an established bench bat or a reliever, if he really thought Souza could not hit any better than Hairston. Instead of doing that, Souza to the majors and McClouth to the DL was his post-deadline move – probably one that he had been holding off on until he could gauge how much he could get for Souza.

        He is a better analytical take on that move:

        http://www.federalbaseball.com/2014/8/4/5963925/the-case-for-nationals-outfielder-steven-souza-jr

        Souza figures to be much more than a .250 hitter for the next several years. And Rizzo wants him to be hitting for the Nats during that time. Otherwise he would have moved Souza last week.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 4, 2014 at 1:30 PM

        laddie, excellent analysis and you are probably 100% correct that Rizzo wanted to wait for the trade deadline dust to clear.

        We will never know how close he was to pulling the trigger on a trade.

  21. Doc - Aug 4, 2014 at 12:32 PM

    Let’s hope that MW actually does, not just says, give Souza a real number of AB’s.

    Otherwise, we’ll see Souza’s stats mimic the other forgotten bench crew.

    Hitting once or twice a week ain’t gonna do it for Souza, or anybody else.

  22. Joe Seamhead - Aug 4, 2014 at 1:28 PM

    I still wish that they would bite the bullet and DFA Hairston. With Nate McLouth down the Nats could really use a speedy pinc hrunner. I guess that will be Espy’s role, but I wish come Sept 1 especially that we had a Burns type for the bench, and sorry, but Danny isn’t who, or what, I have in mind.

    • Joe Seamhead - Aug 4, 2014 at 1:29 PM

      Edit: pinch runner

      • nats128 - Aug 4, 2014 at 1:56 PM

        Thy name is Eury Perez and he will be your Sept 1 pinch runner. Is Michael Taylor fast

  23. Joe Seamhead - Aug 4, 2014 at 2:20 PM

    Michael Taylor might now be the fastest guy in the Nats system. He is still very raw.

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB MN
x-WASHINGTON 87 64 -- 0
ATLANTA 76 76 11.5
MIAMI 74 77 13.0
NEW YORK 73 80 15.0
PHILADELPHIA 70 82 17.5
Through Wednesday's games
x-Clinched division title

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
THU: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
FRI: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
SAT: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
SUN: Nats at Marlins, 1:10 p.m.
MON: OFF
TUE: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
WED: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
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