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Nationals Stock Watch: Fister the ace

Aug 13, 2014, 1:01 PM EDT

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

We take a look at the Nationals’ past week, at a glance:

Record: 4-2
Team slash: .257/.313/.462
Team ERA:  2.82
Runs per game:  5

STOCK UP

Doug Fister, SP: 2-0/ 14.1 IP/ 0.00 ERA

As he has for most of this season, Fister continues to be the rock of the Nationals’ rotation. In fact, it might be time to start calling him the staff ace, because all he does is string together quality outing after quality outing. He did so again this week, posting 14.1 shutout innings in two wins against the Mets, raising his record to 12-3 on the season with a 2.76 ERA.
It’s been mentioned before about how Fister’s quick-paced, ground ball-inducing style has worked to near perfection for most of the season. But what might be underrated in all of that is his control, especially among Nats starters: He’s walked just 13 batters in 111 1/3 innings of work. By comparison, Gio Gonzalez has walked 45 in 108 innings. Fister’s now gone seven innings or more in six of his last seven starts, including four straight. With the way he’s going these days, there’s no reason to think that streak will end any time soon.

Adam LaRoche, 1B: 3 HR/ 4 RBI/ .720 SLG

LaRoche cooled off quite a bit in July, hitting .159 while notching only one homer. But if August is any indication, it looks like he might be back in his early season form. So far this month he has a .310 average to go along with an OPS of 1.015. Like a number of Nats hitters, he’s found his home run swing again in the last week, giving hope that this offense can survive without Ryan Zimmerman.

Tyler Clippard, RP: 3 GP/ 1-0/ 0.00 ERA

Even though other members of the Nats bullpen have had a few struggles over the last month, Clippard has been Mr. Reliable, showing no signs of wear and tear. He’s allowed just three baserunners (two hits, one walk) in his last ten outings and hasn’t allowed a run since July 12th. After earning the win in Saturday night’s 13-inning victory over the Braves, Clippard is now 7-2 with a 1.62 ERA and is tied for fourth in the majors in holds with 25.

Bryce Harper, LF: .292 AVG/ 2 HR/ .912 OPS

The past week had what was probably one of Harper’s most cathartic moments of his young career. A day after Matt Williams had to passionately squash talk of Bryce getting sent back down the minors because to his recent struggles, the 21-year old responded by delivering a walk-off two-run bomb to give the Nationals a 5-3 win and a series victory over the Mets.
Make no mistake, Harper was definitely slumping prior to that, and it’s something we noted here on Stock Watch. But the idea of demoting him to the minor leagues? That’s preposterous. Whatever funk he is/was going through, the only way for him to get better is at the major league level. He still has his ups-and-downs, but that comes with the territory when you’re a young hitter. He may not be Mike Trout — there’s only one —  but he doesn’t have to be at this point of his career.

STOCK DOWN

Stephen Strasburg, SP: 0-1/ 5.0 IP/ 12.60 ERA

Here we go again. Just when it looked like Strasburg showed signs of his dominant form against the Phillies, he turns in one of the more perplexing performances of the season. He allowed a career-high four home runs to a struggling Braves team Friday night, putting the Nats in a seven-run hole they nearly climbed out of, eventually losing 7-6. Unfortunately for Strasburg, all of his familiar shortcomings came to bear yet again in Atlanta. He allowed runs early (six in the first two innings) in a road start and his fastball command continues to be an issue. It’s just been that kind of year for Strasburg, who now has ten losses — the most he’s ever had in a single season.

 

  1. karlkolchak - Aug 13, 2014 at 1:18 PM

    Fister’s ERA is actually 2.34, not 2.76. He’d be tied for 3rd in the N.L. and 5th overall if he had a six more innings pitched. He’ll likely get onto the leader board in his next start or two.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 13, 2014 at 1:32 PM

      Exactly. 2 to 3 more long outings.

    • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 13, 2014 at 1:56 PM

      Actually, if he did have 117 IP (one for every game his team has played), with the same ERs (29), his ERA would be 2.23.

      He can’t reach qualifying in his next start (he’d need 10-1/3 IP), but if he averages ~7 innings over his next three starts (20-1/3 IP, exactly), he’ll get there in the Aug. 27 start at Philly. (And because I know you’re wondering, if he doesn’t give up any earned runs in that time, his ERA drops to 1.98.)

      • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 13, 2014 at 2:07 PM

        Or 15-1/3 IP combined in his next two starts …

      • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 13, 2014 at 2:14 PM

        Which, while I’m at it, I notice that, if he takes his regular turns, he’ll miss Seattle, and a homecoming of sorts. They drafted him in 2006, 7th round.

      • scmargenau - Aug 13, 2014 at 6:26 PM

        Wow. Good stuff soul!

  2. sjberke - Aug 13, 2014 at 1:20 PM

    Of course, if Trout had had the injuries that Harper has had the past two seasons, he wouldn’t be Mike Trout either. Quite a few people seem to think that, because Trout has far outpaced Harper this year and last year, that Harper will never equal Trout, and that it was foolish ever to speak of them in the same sentence. I think it is far too early to make that judgment.

    • tcostant - Aug 13, 2014 at 3:15 PM

      I think that.. Trout is the best player in baseball, right now and for the foreseeable future. It is was foolish ever to even speak Trout and any player same sentence right now.

      • scmargenau - Aug 13, 2014 at 6:28 PM

        I agree. And Bryce hasn’t shown us much when he is healthy other than breaking teenager records. When he hits 300 or so with 30 hr and 100 RBIs I’ll declare in elite. (Or 2-3 of those)

  3. Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 13, 2014 at 1:31 PM

    Impressive. I hope he goes back to the Red Sox.

    “@EyeOnBaseball: Jon Lester on upcoming free agency: ‘I’m not going to the highest bidder’ http://t.co/Oemx901P13 via @cbssports”

  4. philipd763 - Aug 13, 2014 at 1:43 PM

    1) Fister
    2) Roark
    3) Zimmerman
    4) Strasburg
    5) Gonzalez

    The former big three have folded!….especially the last two!

  5. nats2005 - Aug 13, 2014 at 1:59 PM

    If the playoffs started tomorrow, it would be hard to argue that rotation.

    I’d still probably move Jordan ahead of Roark.

    If that Nats started a series at home, I’d move Stras up to 1 or 2..

    • masterfishkeeper - Aug 13, 2014 at 2:07 PM

      The Nats will have to think about whether to use Roark as a starter if they get to the postseason. He’s never pitched as many innings as he will this year. Might be better to limit his innings and use him out of the pen. I know, I know, he’s been great and we’d love him to start in the playoffs, but . . .

  6. npb99 - Aug 13, 2014 at 2:01 PM

    Nice piece on that one-sided Fister trade in SI.

    http://www.si.com/mlb/2014/08/13/doug-fister-washington-nationals-detroit-tigers

    Dig this quote by Gio:

    “It just goes to show it’s not all about power,” said Gonzalez, who can throw 95 but who has uncharacteristically struggled at times this season, and has an ERA of 4.00. “I need to start using that brain like he does.”

    • natsguy - Aug 13, 2014 at 2:27 PM

      “Out of the mouths of babes” . It is about time he started using that brain. His emotions get in the way of his ability and he just doesn’t think.

      • coop202 - Aug 13, 2014 at 3:09 PM

        That’s complete nonsense. He went 21 innings scoreless in a row from the end of may to early June and heada near 3 era then.

      • coop202 - Aug 13, 2014 at 3:11 PM

        Correction June into July and then followed that up with 3 er in 7 v Baltimore, 3 er vs mil, and 1 v cinn in a duel with cueto.

      • coop202 - Aug 13, 2014 at 3:12 PM

        Hmm that was meant for nats128’s comment below

      • ArVAFan - Aug 13, 2014 at 4:06 PM

        Right, and the Nats go out and have an ad campaign for Gio “Nothing but Emotion.” Maybe they should rethink that idea.

    • natsguy - Aug 13, 2014 at 2:57 PM

      coop202,

      Gio has been having a rough patch for quite awhile longer than the last few starts. Very little of the problem has to do with his stuff. Covering first and focusing in the 3rd thru 5th innings would go a long way to curing the “rough patch”. Maybe he needs to sit with Fister and Roark during games.

      • tcostant - Aug 13, 2014 at 3:17 PM

        I just like to know where all that zen went that Gio learned from Greg Maddux during the World Baseball Classic.

      • coop202 - Aug 13, 2014 at 4:25 PM

        See response above…

  7. Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 13, 2014 at 2:10 PM

    “I need to start using that brain like he does.”

    I don’t dis agree with Gio, but I think it’s more than a matter of just using his brain; I get the distinct impression Fister’s brain has stuff in it that Gio’s doesn’t. A lot of stuff.

    • natsfan1a - Aug 13, 2014 at 2:20 PM

      Good G*d, man, are you suggesting a brain transplant? hmmm…it’s just crazy enough to work. No, wait! Fister might need to use it. I know! Doug has brain cells to spare, how about we just borrow a few of them? Nah. Could get messy. Okay, back to the drawing board… Just think harder. Yeah, that’s the ticket…

      • masterfishkeeper - Aug 13, 2014 at 2:38 PM

        Vulcan mind meld?

      • coop202 - Aug 13, 2014 at 2:42 PM

        Gio will be just fine. Rough patch of starts, same with stras

      • natsfan1a - Aug 13, 2014 at 2:47 PM

        Excellent…

        “Vulcan mind meld?”

    • knoxvillenat - Aug 13, 2014 at 2:54 PM

      +1000

  8. masterfishkeeper - Aug 13, 2014 at 2:15 PM

    Fangraphs article about how the Barves are fading away:

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/the-braves-are-handing-the-nl-east-to-the-nationals/

  9. Smyrcok - Aug 13, 2014 at 2:16 PM

    Doug Fister has won our hearts and minds

    • natsfan1a - Aug 13, 2014 at 2:21 PM

      True that.

    • npb99 - Aug 13, 2014 at 2:25 PM

      I’d put him at the top of the list of players to extend for multiple years. Ahead of JZ and Desi. Not only is he good, but he seems to inspire his teammates – not only prodding Gio to use his noggin’ but it seems his infielders and others love playing with him.

      • coop202 - Aug 13, 2014 at 2:39 PM

        I imagine he does top the list at the moment, but the issue is he wants back west to his roots. I don’t think any negotiations really begin until after the masn deal settles one way or the other.

        And to an earlier comment – roark is not a standard cat given his path here and I think he’d be fantastic in the playoffs, but I’m fairly certain that our club still does a lot by the mojo and just means we won’t add a very large number of innings to his arm beyond what he’s done in a season, which would be the case if we stuck with him as a starter every 5 days into the playoffs

      • coop202 - Aug 13, 2014 at 2:40 PM

        Really autocorrect? You change bool to mojo. And not book…. Come on

      • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 13, 2014 at 2:51 PM

        I am totally adopting “doing it by the mojo” as a new saying.

      • masterfishkeeper - Aug 13, 2014 at 2:59 PM

        We could all do worse than doing it by the mojo.

  10. lowstrikes - Aug 13, 2014 at 2:36 PM

    Reflecting on Fister’s first season with the Nats thus far: it is a rare gift from that baseball gods that our worst fears coming out of ST were unfounded, and our most ardent hope are being exceeded. I’m enjoying it all the more because those baseball gods haven’t proven to be shy about the reverse whammy…that is: hopes unfounded, fears exceeded.

  11. bowdenball - Aug 13, 2014 at 2:42 PM

    I dream of a day when a Nationals beat writer or columnist will be able to write the name “Stephen Strasburg” without triggering many comments about where he ranks in relation to the other starting pitchers on the Nationals at any given time and/or in a hypothetical playoff rotation.

    • coop202 - Aug 13, 2014 at 2:50 PM

      +1

    • npb99 - Aug 13, 2014 at 2:51 PM

      When you go to a Nats game and you see that a very high percentage of jerseys is either SS or Harp, it’s a reminder of the enormous attention/hype/celebration/expectation around their arrival on the club. And SS’s debut, the 14-strikeout wondergame, just raised the stakes even higher. It’s hard to get used to the idea that maybe he’s just a good pitcher (another B-plus player, which the Nats have lots of), and not much more.

      • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 13, 2014 at 2:56 PM

        Boswell went on at some length before that draft about the risk of taking a pitcher 1/1. He made the point (not necessarily a fair point IMO) that no top-ten drafted pitcher has ever made the Hall of Fame.

        That right there should have been warning enough about the expectations on a kid just coming out of college.

      • npb99 - Aug 13, 2014 at 3:04 PM

        Yes, and 1-1s aren’t a lock in any sport, anyway. Kwame Brown… Freddy Adu..

      • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 13, 2014 at 3:14 PM

        And the cautionary counter-example of Todd Van Poppel…

        But in fairness, the 2nd pick was Dustin Ackley to Seattle. Trout went 25th, so he was hardly the consensus alternative.

      • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 13, 2014 at 3:17 PM

        Heck, even the Angels passed once on Trout before they drafted him.

      • bowdenball - Aug 13, 2014 at 3:22 PM

        He’s having a down year, but he was their most effective starter in 2013, their second most-effective starter in 2012 only because Gio had a Cy Young-type season, their most effective starter for his brief 5 game cameo in 2011, and their most effective starter for his 12 starts in 2010.

        What’s hard to get used to isn’t the idea that he’s just another good B+ pitcher who the Nats can easily replace, because that’s simply not true. What’s hard to get used to is the idea that your perception of him is unfairly tainted by recency bias. In the 2015 preseason every pundit will correctly tag him as the Nationals’ top starter, and this will probably be the case in 2016 as well.

      • npb99 - Aug 13, 2014 at 3:23 PM

        Sofa, yes, Trout is a great example of how inaccurate scouting can be. Two-thirds of the teams in baseball did not think he was worth picking in the first round (and who knows what the teams who picked lower than the Angels would have done). Tom Brady (6th round pick) is course one of the best examples from any sport at how scouting and drafting comes up short in evaluating a player’s true potential.
        The real answer is not that SS is failing because he was a 1-1 and isn’t winning 20 every year, but that he probably shouldn’t have been picked that high – and he’s not to blame for that.

      • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 13, 2014 at 3:25 PM

        It’s like beer goggles, but for a mean drunk. Makes things look worse than they are, and to someone who reacts badly to not getting his way.

      • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 13, 2014 at 3:30 PM

        The “beer goggles” was in response and agreement to bb’s expectations post, btw.

        But nnpb99, no, that was precisely NOT my point–I’m saying, Strasburg was the consensus obvious 1-1 pick, but if they hadn’t taken him, there was no obvious alternative, and except for Trout, who nobody expected to be this good, I don’t see anybody I’d take, even in hindsight, over Strasburg.

      • bowdenball - Aug 13, 2014 at 3:33 PM

        FWIW Strasburg is better than every player taken in the first round of the 2009 draft other than Trout by a country mile. He’s better than every supplemental first round pick too. Better than every second-round player, too. In fact you have to go to the 8th round before you find a player in that draft other than Trout who has had a more productive major league career to date than Strasburg (Paul Goldschmidt).

        He was absolutely deserving of being picked 1-1, and he has met or exceeded expectations for a typical 1-1. He’s been better than the 2011, 2010 (Harper), 2008, 2006, arguably 2005 (Justin Upton), 2004 and 2003 1-1 picks. The only clearly superior 1-1 over the last decade is David Price.

      • npb99 - Aug 13, 2014 at 4:01 PM

        BB, my comparison to 1-1 busts wasn’t meant to trash SS, and my B+ grade shows I’m a stricter grader than many. My observations were in response to your original comment of why every mention of SS inevitably led to endless evaluations of him. A 1-1 with a debut game like that creates enormous expectations and you shouldn’t be surprised when people can’t help speculating on how good he is and is going to be.

      • npb99 - Aug 13, 2014 at 4:08 PM

        Also, gents, I’m not saying the Nats shouldn’t have chosen SS 1-1. The “evidence” suggested he was the top pick in the draft. What I’m saying is that the quality of the “evidence” in any given draft is suspect, because nobody knows if there is a Trout or Tom Brady lurking somewhere. There’s just no way to tell.

      • natszee - Aug 13, 2014 at 6:47 PM

        Boudenball –

        In 2010 he was impressive in his debut … 5-3
        In 2011 he looked good in his recovery … 1-1
        In 2012 he was pitch limited but was very good … No where near Gio but very good … 15-6
        In 2013 he was so-so but note even close to Zimmermann. He threw 183 innings with a 8-9 record. J Zim threw
        213 innings with a 19-9 record.
        2014 … Well, you know

        These data do not support your thesis that he was the best pitcher in each of these years save 2012. In fact, not even close.

        He is an an above average pitcher … Perhaps if he did not blow his arm out it would be different. We need pitchers to go deep and win games … Something Stephen has struggled with.

      • lphboston - Aug 15, 2014 at 8:40 AM

        SS was throwing 97-98 then and didn’t have to think. Different story at 93-94

    • tcostant - Aug 13, 2014 at 3:22 PM

      Kershaw might change that top 10 HoF stuff, but even pitchers Luke Hochevar, Gregory Reynolds, Brad Lincoln, Brandon Morrow, and Andrew Miller were drafted BEFORE him.

      http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/events/draft/y2006/tracker/search.jsp

      • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 13, 2014 at 3:36 PM

        Was Kershaw the Dodgers comp pick for not signing Hochevar the year before? That’s a bullet-dodger, that is.

  12. Doc - Aug 13, 2014 at 2:45 PM

    We should have learned our lesson about ‘power pitching’ from Maddux.

    But if we didn’t, we have Fister to show us how it’s done!

    He might be doing better here, than in Detroit, because of no DH, and better infield support with the Nats.

    • jd - Aug 13, 2014 at 3:09 PM

      There have been some reasonably successful power pitchers in baseball. no?

      Seaver, Gibson, Ryan, Verlander?

      There’s nothing wrong with power. There are many ways to skin a cat.

  13. Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 13, 2014 at 2:52 PM

    From the other post, about Taylor:

    davebinmd – Aug 13, 2014 at 11:26 AM
    I know his father Tony

    Do you happen to know whether his dad was at the game? I hope he was.

    • natsjackinfl - Aug 13, 2014 at 3:11 PM

      According to the paper, his Dad was home in Ft . Lauderdale telephoning and texting any and all family and friends.

  14. npb99 - Aug 13, 2014 at 3:02 PM

    Lots of references these days to the MASN issues. I understand the gist of it (the big concession to Angelos to let the Expos relocate to DC and the paltry revenue sharing with the Lerners), but does anybody have a link to more comprehensive discussion, including the Nats best arguments and strategies, and likely outcomes?

  15. jd - Aug 13, 2014 at 3:11 PM

    BTW,

    back to the previous thread. I think Kershaw is a pretty good candidate for both the Cy Young and MVP.

  16. coollikelivo - Aug 13, 2014 at 3:34 PM

    Very interesting to watch the close up of Fister’s face on the mound last night. In one sequence he brings his glove to his face, shakes of 4 signs, doesn’t even nod ‘yes’ but just pitches the ball, all within less than 2 seconds. It is just machine-gun rapid fire and really must contribute to his rhythm, pacing and effectiveness. Other pitchers you watch shake off a sign, pause, shake off a sign, pause, nod, pause, roll into a slow windup and throw. I just love his intense efficiency!

    • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 13, 2014 at 3:41 PM

      Sometimes a pitcher will shake all the way back around, just to mess with the hitter, get him thinking.

    • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 13, 2014 at 3:43 PM

      It wouldn’t surprise me, with a pitcher that works as fast as Fister, if Ramos is giving him a series of options in the signs, and Fister is shaking to the one he wants. They get pretty tricky at the top.

    • Smyrcok - Aug 13, 2014 at 3:45 PM

      Fister also said he does decoy shakes. He’s shaking his head after he already knows what pitch he’s throwing to mess with the batter.

  17. rabbit433 - Aug 13, 2014 at 4:27 PM

    If the series started today, Fister definitely has to start. If SS wins a game, we will hear one big sigh of relief. He is a real scary pitcher. Figure our top three pitchers for a win and hopefully one for Gonzo or SS.

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB MN
x-WASHINGTON 87 63 -- 0
ATLANTA 75 76 12.5
MIAMI 73 77 14.0
NEW YORK 73 79 15.0
PHILADELPHIA 69 81 18.0
Through Tuesday's early games
x-Clinched division title
UPCOMING SCHEDULE
WED: Nats at Braves, 7:10 p.m.
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.
Full season schedule

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

ON THE RADIO

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

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

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