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Soriano’s blown save raises questions

Aug 18, 2014, 10:00 AM EST

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

The Nationals came through with their sixth consecutive victory in extra innings on Sunday, their second walk-off win in less than 24 hours. This one, though, never should have made it that far.

Nationals closer Rafael Soriano had a 4-2 lead in the ninth inning before surrendering three runs for his fifth blown save of the season. That’s just one off the career-high he set in 2013 and there are six weeks left to go.

The matter of which Soriano blew this one was especially ugly. His outing began with a hit-by-pitch and included a wild pitch to score a run before the big blow, a two-RBI double by Gregory Polanco to give the Pirates a 5-4 lead.

Soriano was then replaced by Matt Thornton as the fans at Nationals Park rained boos down on the veteran closer. Soriano understands the reaction from Nationals fans, as it comes with the job.

“I no do my job. What I have to say? Nothing,” Soriano said. “I know I not do my job because I’m supposed to do it. Come back tomorrow and forget everything that happened today. I want to do my job and come back tomorrow and see what happens.”

Soriano’s teammate, Ian Desmond, took to Twitter after the win to defend his closer. Desmond called the boos “ridiculous.”

Soriano compared the fan reaction to boos he heard when playing for the Yankees. New York fans are quick to let a player hear it if they don’t like the results.

“I think the fans here not be the same fans in New York because I play two years in New York and it be more loud than that,” he said.

Sunday was Soriano’s fourth appearance in five games and the third time in his last four he’s given up earned runs. The other two ended in saves, this one of course did not.

There’s no question Soriano has been struggling lately and it has both the closer and his manager searching for answers.

“Every pitch that I throw, it be unbelievable. Never happen before like that,” Soriano said. “I don’t think it be too good. The last three or four games I don’t be comfortable. It not be too easy for me. It happens sometimes.”

“It’s just balls up in the strike zone over his last three or four, and over the middle of the plate. He hasn’t been able to command his slider either,” Matt Williams added.

Williams, in fact, may reshuffle his bullpen a bit to get Soriano going again. That could mean using Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard or Matt Thornton to close on a given night to give Soriano some rest. He may also consider bringing Soriano in to pitch lower leverage situations, when allowed the opportunity.

The Nationals winning six games in a row – the most recent three by one run – is both good and bad for Soriano. On the one hand, it presents save opportunities. On the other hand, it does not afford him a chance to work through a slump without the game being on the line.

“The problem is with a bullpen guy, it’s difficult for him to work on it in the bullpen, because he’s going to be forced into action potentially the next day or that night,” Williams said.

The Nats skipper later issued a vote of confidence for his closer.

“He’s been our closer all year, and I don’t see that changing as of right now,” Williams said. “He’s been up a lot recently, pitching a lot of games, and hopefully the games don’t present themselves like that and we can give him some rest and give him a chance to cool down a little bit and kick back. It’s just been a little off, that’s all.”

  1. stoatva - Aug 18, 2014 at 10:05 AM

    I thought it was a tiny bit of progress when Williams got Thornton up throwing in spite of “the message it sends.” But he couldn’t bring himself to pull the trigger when he had the batter he wanted at the plate. Maybe he’s getting to that point.

  2. stoatva - Aug 18, 2014 at 10:07 AM

    hopefully the games don’t present themselves like that and we can give him some rest

    How passive an attitude is that. I hope those are just words he’s throwing out there to the media and not his real decision making process.

    • npb99 - Aug 18, 2014 at 10:43 AM

      There is no benefit for MW or the Nats for MW to be candid.

  3. MicheleS - Aug 18, 2014 at 10:12 AM

    I wonder if Sori is hurt? He doesn’t seem like himself after the All Star break. And I am glad they are reshuffling, MW handled it exactly the way he should have, don’t throw Sori under the bus, but couch it, etc. No need to blow up a guy in the press. The talking heads will do that for him

    • Mrsb loves the Nats - Aug 18, 2014 at 10:25 AM

      I don’t think Sori is hurt… I think its simply over use.. 4 times in the last 5 days is kinda hard on him… Remember when he was used 3 of 4 (and I want to say it was 3 days in a row) when he blew the save against the Fish a few weeks ago… I suspect he will be unavailable for the next 3 days, at least…

      Keep in mind, Sori also had a ‘down’ (or up?) July/August 2013 and came back and had a very solid September 2013….

      • Hiram Hover - Aug 18, 2014 at 10:52 AM

        Well, he was pitching on 3 days rest when he gave up 3 hits (including 1 HR) last Wednesday.

        I don’t think recent overuse explains the problem–not all of it, anyway.

        In truth, he’s been struggling since the AS break–3 BS in less than a month (after 2 in the first half) and a batting average against of .333, and a WHIP of 1.80.

      • Mrsb loves the Nats - Aug 18, 2014 at 10:57 AM

        I posted the numbers on the last thread…

        Sori’s babip is like .366 since the AS break… Pre AS is 205

        Soriano:
        1st Half: 37 IP, 0.97 ERA, .158 AVG, 19 H, 11 BB, 0.81 WHIP
        2nd Half: 11.1 IP 5.56 ERA, .313 AVG, 15 H 3 BB, 1.59 WHIP

        If I remember last Wednesday’s game (they start to mesh together after a while) I think he was babip’d.. Course if Adam catches that ball, none of this would even be discussed… But maybe this falls in the history part since Sori seems to not pitch well in July/August… and has a better September…

      • Hiram Hover - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:10 AM

        Thanks – I’ve been out of town and didn’t see that earlier post. (I think those #s didn’t include yesterday’s game, which explains why the ones I gave are even higher).

        As to history – over his career, I don’t think there’s a strong pattern for him having mid-summer slumps. It’s true he struggled in July and August of last year, but in 2012 (with the Yanks) those were his best months by some measures.

        It may well just be a a short term funk or luck of the draw in BABIP. Hope so!

      • bowdenball - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:05 PM

        Most closers are able to avoid being BABIPed to some degree by striking out hitters. Soriano’s strikeout rate has plummeted from 26.7% pre- ASB, which is a respectable number for a closer, to 15.8% post-ASB, which is mop up guy/5th starter By way of comparison- 26.7% is higher than everyone on the team except Clippard and Strasburg. 15.7% is lower than everyone on the team except Detwiler and Fister (who compensates for the low K rate in other obvious ways). He also doesn’t have a single strikeout in his last four outings. And although I can’t find the numbers, I personally can’t remember the last time he got a hitter to swing and miss.

        This isn’t simply bad luck. His stuff is gone. Maybe it will come back, and a 6 game lead gives the Nats cushion to see if it does, but if he doesn’t start missing bats soon he needs to be removed.

  4. scnatsfan - Aug 18, 2014 at 10:15 AM

    Is it me or does anyone else not remember McCatty ever go to the mound to talk to him, much less his teammates.

    What is clear is some nights he doesn’t have it and those nights MW can’t ride him and hope it gets better, not as long as there are better options in the bullpen.

    • MNatF - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:17 PM

      What is clear is that Nats fans are overreactive and impulsive and only see negative results. Even when he gets a save there’s a mainly negative reaction here. So glad no one here has actual input beyond the endless fan whining. And now booing. Long time season (well, partial season) tix holder, but -hey, stay classy Nats fans. Have we learned nothing from those Philly Phan a-wipes? Go Soriano.GYFNG.

  5. thomaswell - Aug 18, 2014 at 10:24 AM

    how much does Soriano stand to lose if he is not in x number of games? i forget.

    • scnatsfan - Aug 18, 2014 at 10:26 AM

      I believe he has a vesting option for another season if he finishes a certain amount of games.

    • pburm9qp - Aug 18, 2014 at 10:29 AM

      $14 million team option becomes guaranteed if he finishes 22 more games.

      • npb99 - Aug 18, 2014 at 10:44 AM

        Just regular season? He’s unlikely to make that number if playoffs are excluded.

      • 6ID20 - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:03 AM

        Just regular season.

  6. David Proctor - Aug 18, 2014 at 10:26 AM

    Soriano should keep closing if for no other reason than often times the heart of the order comes up before the 9th and he has the easier inning. He’s not going to suddenly start pitching mopup, so bumping him from the closer’s role is unproductive. So he struggles in the 7th or 8th instead of 9th. What does that accomplish?

    Having said that, MW HAS to start being quicker with the hook. It is usually clear after one or two batters if Soriano has it or not. Matt even, wisely, had Thornton up at the start of the inning. Yet, with Polanco up (a guy hitting under .200 against lefties) and the inning unraveling, Matt stuck with Soriano. That doesn’t surprise me at all, but the thought process is still baffling.

    • scmargenau - Aug 18, 2014 at 10:49 AM

      I agree. I’m glad under this.

  7. NatsLady - Aug 18, 2014 at 10:27 AM

    Don’t expect to hear a lot about our FIRST PLACE Nats and the exciting win last night on the radio. Coverage for a pre-season football game begins at noon.

    • npb99 - Aug 18, 2014 at 10:46 AM

      And I’m sick of hearing the endless pre-season football blather on ESPN.

    • adcwonk - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:41 AM

      Let’s see . . .

      First place team, best record in the NL, won another walk-off thriller

      vs

      pre-season football involving the last place team.

      The choice is obvious.

      Sigh . . . .

  8. Doc - Aug 18, 2014 at 10:28 AM

    The guy needs some rest.

    Managers like MW need to stop looking at the closer role as an automatic one-man show. It’s one of MLB’s goofiest strategies.

    • laddieblahblah - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:02 PM

      “It’s one of MLB’s goofiest strategies.”

      I look upon it as a cult, with its own prescribed rituals and taboos: e.g. the ritual of automatically going with your Annointed One if you are up by 3 runs, or less, and going with someone less exalted if you are up by 4 runs, or more, regardless of any other consideration. What is that – a commandment from a Supreme, Omnipotent Power? And it is taboo to take the Annointed One out until and unless he completely blows the save. OK. Tell me the strategic game rationale for that?

      I don’t blame Soriano, at all, and I do not agree with those who booed him last night. IMO, it is up to the pitching coaches and the field manager to know their personnel, both their strengths and their weaknesses, and to put their guy and their team in the best position to win, while minimizing the chances of losing. Excuse me, but that is the purpose of playing the game ( winning vs. losing), not the robot-like observance of a cult-like procedure with no known relation to winning, or losing, the game.

      Would a manager always use a similarly annointed pinch hitter in all key game situations against any and all pitchers, or would he go with the best bat bench he had, with match ups and other game considerations in mind. To me, you go with the best guy you have, either as a pinch hitter or as a pitcher to close out a game, as the circumstances dictate, without regard for the cultist rituals and taboos.

      Even a casual fan could see that Soriano was lucky to make it through the 9th inning of the 3rd straight game of his previous appearance as closer (the one where Gio only lasted 5 and Stammen pitched through the 8th). MW actually used Matt Thornton in the 9th inning of that game after Soriano struggled in the previous one. Thornton closed out the 9th in what was then a tied game and the Nats won it with Ramos’ walk-off double in the bottom half, so Thornton got the win instead of Soriano.

      And neither the baseball gods, nor I, were in the least offended.

      Well, they won the game, anyway. It’s become habit-forming, and I have become spoiled enough to demand that they keep on winning, even if Matt has to manage his team with winning the game as his new categorical imperative.

  9. Doc - Aug 18, 2014 at 10:28 AM

    The guy needs some rest.

    Managers like MW need to stop looking at the closer role as an automatic one-man show. It’s one of MLB’s goofiest strategies.

    • philipd763 - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:07 AM

      Agree, this anointing of closers by managers to the point where they are left in a game when they are clearly doing lots a damage has got to stop.

  10. Mrsb loves the Nats - Aug 18, 2014 at 10:29 AM

    I remember (I think Im correct in this) that DJ used to have 2 closers and 2 set up men… Personally, I liked that idea given that it seemed to keep everyone well rested. And would alternate to avoid over usage…

    I understand MW leaving Sori out there last night, although I didn’t agree with it seeing as how he had pitched Friday and had threw a lof pitches…

    Hopefully we will be blowing the DBack out that we wont need him for a couple of days…

    • ratiocinational - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:26 AM

      If I remember correctly, Mrs. B., this was only the case in theory. DJ claimed he was going to have an ‘A’ team and a ‘B’ team, but I don’t think that ever materialized. Once H-Rod flamed out as a closer, Clippard saved almost every game until near the end of the season, when Storen took over.

  11. Eric - Aug 18, 2014 at 10:38 AM

    I had this all typed up to post in the last thread, but it’s more apt here, even though it addresses themes in the last comments section.

    re: the “cult of the closer,” I think there are two threads here. The first thread is with regard letting the closer pitch out of trouble. I think that’s as much about the logistics of managing arms in the ‘pen as anything else. Unless you happen to have someone warm for other reasons (like last night), I think there’s little choice. You simply can’t be warming an extra arm for the 9th inning of every close game, and you will burn everyone out if you warm another arm every time your closer (or any other reliever) gets in trouble. Part of every pitcher’s job is to get out of self-made jams. If you don’t trust a pitcher to do it, the culture isn’t the problem, the pitcher is. Usually I trust Sori to get out of it, although I agree he’s seemed gassed lately.

    The second thread is more general. Just about every team in the league has a 9th-inning specialist, and to me that’s more purely a baseball culture sort of thing. Whether or not it’s a wise go-to strategy for all teams, I don’t know. I suppose an argument could be made that teams without a lights-out guy in the pen should consider going with match ups for save situations and/or rely more on long relievers, but I have no idea what that would mean in terms of managing arms for a full season.

    Re: booing, there’s a big difference between saying, “I think it’s uncalled for” and saying, “people aren’t entitled to do it.” People are, without question, entitled to act however they want within the bounds of venue rules and legal guidelines. Saying, “booing your own team is uncalled for” is not in conflict with that reality, it’s just an expression of displeasure. Another way to phrase it might be:

    “Booing your own team? Booooooooooooooooo!”

    • Hiram Hover - Aug 18, 2014 at 10:45 AM

      Well said.

      Some commenters here seem more bothered by it than Soriano.

      • Eric - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:16 AM

        Heh. He’s paid to take it ;)

      • Hiram Hover - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:43 PM

        Yeah, and not getting paid, I am perfectly happy to ignore it. ;)

    • Mrsb loves the Nats - Aug 18, 2014 at 10:46 AM

      What is the difference? To say it is uncalled for is to lament it… Which is what some people are doing…

      But just as you are entitled to your opinion, others whether they choose to boo or not are entitled to theirs and to do what they want to do…

      • Eric - Aug 18, 2014 at 10:53 AM

        I think the difference between the following two statements is entirely self evident:
        “I don’t like when people boo their own team” and “people aren’t entitled to boo their own team.”

        I don’t think I’ve seen one person say the latter.

      • Mrsb loves the Nats - Aug 18, 2014 at 10:59 AM

        It’s not as I am reading people questioning why others are booing… like they cant boo… If people want to boo, that is on them.. This shouldn’t be a big deal. If you don’t get down with it, okay… but if others do… its okay too…

        People can do what they want… Given they paid their money to see a better product..

      • Eric - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:04 AM

        As I said above: “People are, without question, entitled to act however they want within the bounds of venue rules and legal guidelines.” That absolutely covers booing.

        I have yet to see a post implying anyone “can’t boo.” Even if someone *did* say that, so what? It’s just an opinion until the rules or the laws say otherwise. If that were to happen, I’d come out in strong defense of the booers, even though I personally find it rather distasteful (with the possible exception of blatant lack of effort).

      • Eric - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:06 AM

        Oh, but as far as “a better product,” imo we pay to see a team give it their all. If they give it their all and fail, that doesn’t mean you’re getting less than you paid for. Disappointment is always a possible outcome no matter how hard the team tries.

        JMO, though.

  12. npb99 - Aug 18, 2014 at 10:50 AM

    With all this anguish about Soriano, let’s remember that in the beginning of the season the guy who is currently the Nats’ best reliever – Clip – struggled a lot. MW kept trotting him out and eventually Clip got his groove back.

    • Eric - Aug 18, 2014 at 10:55 AM

      +1

  13. 6ID20 - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:00 AM

    Yesterday was a celebration of the two superfluous additions the Nats made after the playoff debacle of 2012. Soriano and Racing President Bill. Soriano rewarded fans with his ugliest blown save yet, and Bill gave us a mysteriously shrunken bobblehead. Thanks but no thanks.

  14. philipd763 - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:01 AM

    The big question isn’t about Soriano faltering; it’s about why Matt Williams didn’t have anybody warming up in the bullpen when he was clearly struggling. He had four or five very shaky relief appearance in a row previous to the game yesterday. Frank Robinson would have pulled Soriano after the first two batters.

    • Mrsb loves the Nats - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:05 AM

      He did… He had Thornton up and ready to face Polasco…

      • philipd763 - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:08 AM

        I was at the game. Thornton did not get up to warm up until 95% of the damage was done!

      • NatsLady - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:12 AM

        Thornton was already close to ready when the 9th started. He was up with Clip when the score was 4-2 in case the Nats didn’t get the lead. It didn’t take him long to get warm and he was just watching the proceedings. I was also at the game.

      • Eric - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:15 AM

        I was not at the game, but FP and Carp commented on a MASN feed showing Clip and Thornton warming side-by-side during the bottom of the 7th.

      • Section 222 - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:41 AM

        Mrsb (and others) are correct. There was even a point when both Soriano and Thornton were throwing in the BP before the 9th. Thornton was ready.

        As to the statement that Frank Robinson would have pulled him after the first two batters, I challenge you to find any game where he pulled Chad Cordero after two batters.

        I’m pretty sure Randy Knorr would have pulled him before the game was tied though.

      • philipd763 - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:13 PM

        I never mentioned Cordero, in fact Robingson burned Cordero out by overuse. Frank did pulled other relievers after five or six pitches when they couldn’t get the ball over the plate. I never recall Cordero having control problems. Actually, he was a awesome reliever until his shoulder blew up from over-work.

    • natsjackinfl - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:09 AM

      Funny but I remember sweating bullets when Chad Cordero would put 2 guys on and Frank would be watching nervously with the rest of us.

      • Candide - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:15 AM

        Yeah, but The Chief didn’t have a habitual sullen glower that made him look like a latter-day Sonny Liston. If Soriano was a cheerful-looking guy like, say, Anthony Rendon, people would like him a lot better, IMHO.

  15. Candide - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:02 AM

    This:

    ***************************************************************************************************
    Apropos of nothing…

    Before I put him out on eBay, anyone want to swap for a Taft bobblehead? Cunegonde and I don’t need both of them. Will swap for any other president other than Abe (we already have him); if not another president, let me know who you have available for swap.

    I’ll be at a few games the next couple of days – both weekend Giants games, plus probably the Thursday DBacks game – so should be able to easily arrange the handoff.

    • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:56 PM

      So, is Desmond saying Storen shouldn’t be the closer? Why doesn’t he trust Clippard?? #ManufacturedControversy

  16. nats1924 - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:06 AM

    Im a DC fan –NYC is my second home– across the board, and for years I’ve somewhat felt Nats fans were a little timid when it came to being baseball fans. Which is understandable given it’s been since ’71 we had something to follow.

    with that being said, i loved the fact we boo’d yesterday. to me it shows we’re truly beginning to really care about DC baseball and want to win badly.

    Get’em next time raffy!

    • 6ID20 - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:47 AM

      I’ll take booing our own players over doing the wave every day and twice on Sunday. At least the boo birds are watching the game. And as O’s fans show us every time they’re here, Nats fans are just way too polite.

      • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:21 PM

        It reminds me of an old Bobcat Goldtwaite routine about his mom saying her bullying siblings tossed her into the deep end of the pool “to teach her to swim.”

        “Right! And they were shooting at you to teach you how to duck bullets.”

      • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:02 PM

        But, we COMPLAIN about the O’s (and Philly and Mets) fans every time they’re there, for their being rude.

        And doing the Wave is kinda rude, when your own team is in the field. “Not watching the game” isn’t being polite, it’s just … well, OK, it annoys me, too, but it’s just a matter of taste, I guess.

    • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:19 PM

      Yeah, sure. Kick ‘em while they’re down for not being perfect. That’s showing we care.

      In Philadelphia.

  17. Mrsb loves the Nats - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:06 AM

    In other news… thanks for nothing Oakland…

    • nats1924 - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:08 AM

      lol, fact

    • Eric - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:08 AM

      Seriously. The Pirates (Unlike the As, even after losing sole possession of first place) are fighting for their playoff lives, so hopefully they’ll bring it. They’re currently exactly tied with the Braves, so it could be a helluva series…

      • masterfishkeeper - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:38 AM

        Well, the As are fighting for the division title, which is very important, but that didn’t help. Maybe the As aren’t as good as everyone thought.

        Go Bucs!

      • adcwonk - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:45 AM

        Well, the As are fighting for the division title, which is very important, but that didn’t help. Maybe the As aren’t as good as everyone thought.

        I think I read somewhere a headline that seemed to imply that their hitting, collectively, has gotten fairly cold recently.

      • Eric - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:00 PM

        Yeah I don’t mean to imply that fighting for the pennant is meaningless, just the prospect of being shut out of the post season entirely is possibly even more of an incentive.

  18. David Proctor - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:09 AM

    Dan Kolko ‏@masnKolko 1m
    Worth noting: Last August 14th-20th, Rafael Soriano allowed 7 runs & blew 2 saves in a 4-game stretch. Then went unscored upon in September.

    • scmargenau - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:34 AM

      Turn on 106.7

    • Candide - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:38 AM

      So the obvious answer is, keep Sori on ice until Thursday…

    • adcwonk - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:46 AM

      Sorry, DP, but I liked it so much I wanted to repeat it and highlight it:’

      Worth noting: Last August 14th-20th, Rafael Soriano allowed 7 runs & blew 2 saves in a 4-game stretch. Then went unscored upon in September.

      The point: all players — hitters and pitchers — go through rough patches. The ones with proven ability get back on track.

  19. karlkolchak - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:23 AM

    I wasn’t there last night, but I’ll admit that had I been, I likely would have booed Soriano. He is by far my least favorite Nat. Though I wasn’t as bothered by his signing as some were (hey, it’s only Uncle Teddy’s money, after all), I’ve always hated the shirt untuck thing, which has struck me as showboating. And he has always come off to me as a guy who’d rather be on a 4th place team and save 50 games than a 1st place team and have to share the wealth.

    Most irritating, though, is that he was brought in because of Clippard and Storen’s supposed shortcomings as closer. But if the playoffs started today and the Nats had a one run lead headed into the bottom of the ninth he’d be my third if not fourth choice to try and close it out. Here’s to seeing more of Clip and Store in the 9th inning before this gets out of hand.

    • adcwonk - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:48 AM

      But if the playoffs started today and the Nats had a one run lead headed into the bottom of the ninth

      This was said about both Storen and Clip earlier this year.

      But the bottom line is: the playoffs aren’t starting today. We have to wait to see who’s in a slump and who isn’t at the end of September.

  20. Section 222 - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:38 AM

    We can all hope that Soriano will get his groove back after a few down weeks like he did last year. I, for one, won’t be surprised if he does. Still, I am pleased that the “cult of the closer” attitude may be waning, here and perhaps in the Nats dugout. MW’s only answer to why he didn’t bring Thornton in to face Polanco was something like “not gonna do that until the game is tied.” In other words, the closer gets to stay in until he blows the save. That’s the “cult of the closer” mentality. Yet maybe he’s questioning that approach after yesterday’s game.

    My view is that especially in games where we lead by more than a run, it’s often possible to get another reliever ready when the closer is having trouble. Obviously, you can’t pull a closer at the first sign of trouble. But yesterday there were multiple signs — a hit by pitch, a wild pitch (and by the way, Soriano did not race towards home to try to cover, though it made no difference). By the time Polanco came up, Thornton was ready. He should have been used.

    I’m all for making sure Soriano is rested by using Drew and Clip to close in selected games. Both are more than capable. But neither is infallible, and they shouldn’t be left in to blow a save if it can be salvaged.

    • 6ID20 - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:51 AM

      So you’re advocating a net for the high wire act.

      • Section 222 - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:54 AM

        Haha. Touche. It’s not a high wire act, but yes, a net would be a good thing. Welcome back Feel.

    • philipd763 - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:05 PM

      Agree. You nailed it!

  21. David Proctor - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:09 PM

    Interesting comment from Boz on Zim.

    “I don’t think anybody knows whether he will be back at all. Maybe his hamstring knows. I asked Rizzo about it yesterday. He said what was obvious (and true): “You can’t know until you test it.” In other words, think that it’s improved enough so you can test it. Then stress it a little more the next time. Bit by bit, you find out.

    Z’man DID come on the field for the walk-off celebration on Saturday night. After everybody was done with the crazy stuff, he did a little mini-chest bump with Ramos. But he DIDN’T jump. So, can’t feel too bad if he comes on the field. Can’t be too great if he doesn’t jump one inch.

    My gut is pessimistic on this __based on absolutely nothing. I suspect the Astrubal Cabrera trade will prove to be very important because it allows the nats to field an entire credible team without Z’amn. Rizzo called the injury “a big blow” yesterday and said the whole team __veteran players and coaches__ had consciously tried to raise the vibe of the team internally so they wouldn’t go flat because the lose of Z’man is so central to them. It took a while but seems to have worked. “I had to do my part, too,” said Rizzo who got Cabrera and Thornton. I found it interesting that the Indians picked up the rest of Astrubal’s contract for ’14 __which allowed them to demand a better player in return (Walters). I assume any team/GM would prefer to pay a fraction of a year’s contract and KEEP the better prospect. So the Nats payroll really does seemed pretty maxed out, as I believe Mark Lerner mentioned months ago. They picked up Thornton (on waivers) but his remaining pay was much smaller, so not a problem, I guess.

    Talking to Kevin Frandsen yesterday he volunteered that the team gets a boost from having Zimemrman with them for home games but “we miss his personality” on the road. (He has to stay back to get proper treatment. Said he was one of the game’s outstanding (and unselfish) clubhouse personalities and he knew it when he was a Phil and only had it reinforced as a Nat.”

    I find the part about the coaches and veterans going out of their way to raise the vibe of the team after Zim went down.

    • David Proctor - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:13 PM

      So that I am coherent, I should say I find that part very interesting

    • Eric - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:18 PM

      I had a bad feeling when Zim got hurt and suddenly the team played like it was half awake. I mostly attributed this to projection on my part (i.e., I was having a hard time feeling unmitigated joy about the post season potential when it became clear Zim might not be able to participate), but Boz essentially confirms that this was actively an issue.

      Lately, it feels like they’ve mourned it and moved on. Asdrubal’s recent surge most definitely helps (speaking for myself, but I imagine it doesn’t hurt the team’s spirit, too). It’s great to see. Love Frandsen’s comments about what Zim means to the team and about his reputation in general.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:23 PM

      I disagree with the whole “better player” in return. We all saw what Walters did when he came up and had the adrenaline boost and the other team didn’t know him.

      Rizzo didn’t see a future with Walters in the Nats infield. He sold high on him and got a player who clearly can play like an All Star because he was an All Star and it just ran the course in Cleveland. It is also a short-term rental. It’s not a bad move by Rizzo because the team clearly needed to upgrade.

      All in all AC vs RZ you get better defense, lower SLG, less clutch. It’s a tradeoff. Unless you got Beltre or Starlin Castro who both would have cost a ton, it wasn’t going to happen, and Daniel Murphy wasn’t going to happen. This was probably best option #4 or #5.

      In 61 ABs Zach is now .197/.269/.459/.728 Not a large sample size but I just don’t see much more than a bench player for him. Maybe he will turn out to be great. Some think so. I think he is an all or nothing swinger and that’s a problem with me. Time will tell how this trade works out.

      I like it and it freed up money to get Thornton.

      • Section 222 - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:34 PM

        I view the “how the trade works out” question almost completely as “how do the player(s) we got do”. Walters was not going to be a starter on this team. Neither was Robbie Ray (not anytime soon anyway) or Nate Karns. If Cabrera, Fister, and Lobaton do what we got them to do in the time period we got them to do it, the trades were winners.

        That’s why the Willingham trade was a bust — not because Willingham has proven to be a dependable and sometimes excellent hitter for years, but because H-Rod and Corey Brown flamed out.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:51 PM

        Agree with every part of it. That’s the best way to value it.

    • Hiram Hover - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:32 PM

      Thanks, David. That’s good stuff re: Zim.

      As to Walters and Cabrera–I don’t think the point is that Walters is such a great prospect, but that the Indians would have gotten even less if they hadn’t picked up all of Cabrera’s salary.

      Anyway, I don’t think it necessarily proves the Nats are tapped out, as Boz seems to conclude. If they can save some money by dealing a player they know well and don’t rate very highly, why not?

  22. destcl - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:12 PM

    It’s fine to say that Soriano needs to pitch in lower-leverage situations, but I recall from last year that he doesn’t like doing that and isn’t afraid to show it. None of his little rituals, he changes his delivery, and he doesn’t (this is a mercy) “untuck” when he doesn’t record a save. Will he be a better sport this year if he’s put in that role? We’ll see.

    • scnatsfan - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:34 PM

      well he has had a propensity of turning low leverage situations into high leverage situations

  23. David Proctor - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:29 PM

    Ace of MLB Stats ‏@AceballStats 26s
    Denard Span is batting .304/.352/.406 with 101 R, 203 H, 39 2B, 10 3B, 3 HR, 42 RBI, & 35 SB over his last 162 games; #Nationals are 97-65.

  24. David Proctor - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:31 PM

    Washington Nationals ‏@Nationals now
    The #Nats have agreed to terms with OF Nate Schierholtz on a Minor League contract. Schierholtz will be assigned to Triple-A Syracuse.

    • David Proctor - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:32 PM

      I suspect this means McLouth is done and after getting Schierholtz some ABs at AAA, they call him up to replace Taylor. Unclear what this means for Souza upon getting healthy though.

    • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:42 PM

      Cue Ghost. I believe he was advocating for getting Shierholtz last season.

    • Eric - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:56 PM

      So…Schierholtz is looking less than scary this season…not a far cry from McClouth, really

      McClouth in 162 PAs: .173/.280/.237/.517
      Shierholtz in 341 PAs: .192/.240/.300/.541

      So, he hits a bit more under Mendoza and has a bit more pop, but walks a lot less…am I reading that right? I don’t really get this move…

      • David Proctor - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:58 PM

        McLouth is hurt and last reports had him getting a second opinion on his shoulder. Schierholtz has great numbers as a PH whereas Nate has always struggled at that. But otherwise, you’re correct they’re fairly similar. But it is a minor league deal.

      • Eric - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:59 PM

        Good to know re: PH…that makes it make a bit more sense.

  25. exposedindc - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:39 PM

    How many saves does he have to blow before a change is made…. That’s the issue. 1…3…5. I love all the confidence fans and MW seems to have in him, most people also realize there are other options.

    • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:44 PM

      Pretty sure it’s more than one a month. Maybe Matty knows.

    • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:51 PM

      I love all the confidence fans and MW seems to have in him, most people also realize there are other options.

      You do hit on the overlooked crux of the problem: there are other options, but are there other alternatives? They might be better off using Storen or Clippard to close some of the games heretofore going to Soriano, and maybe –maybe– that would result in fewer blown saves overall. But it almost certainly won’t result in ZERO blown saves.

      Everybody wants Time Machine 2008 Brad Lidge, who never blew a save. It’s OK to want it. It’s just unreasonable to insist on it, and think you’re entitled to see mortals be perfect because you paid to get into a ballgame.

      • Eric - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:57 PM

        I have confidence in Sori today like I did in Clip early on. And, I like that we have a 6-game lead to let it play out.

        Stay hot, bats.

  26. philipd763 - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:41 PM

    Nationals Sign Nate Schierholtz
    By Jeff Todd [August 18, 2014 at 11:34am CDT]
    The Nationals have inked outfielder Nate Schierholtz to a minor league deal, the club announced on Twitter.

  27. letswin3 - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:40 PM

    Two thoughts about previous comments in this thread. First, I can see no reason whatever to “let a closer work out of trouble” as an etched in stone commitment. If he’s in trouble due to errors by his teammates or a lucky bounce off a bag, sure …. but if he’s getting his ass handed to him (like Soriano’s hit batsman, grooved strikes and wild pitch), hook him before irreparable damage has been done. He knows he’s in trouble, the manager knows he’s in trouble and yanking him is doing everyone a favor.

    Second thought: there is BABIP, and then there is BABIP …. by this I mean that Pitcher number one is a groundball pitcher who pitches with control to contact and looks just fine because hitters rarely blister anything, the infielders get timid little two-hoppers and the world is all rainbows … then there is pitcher number two, who is a fireballer, with little control, who either gets K’s (no BABIP) or something that is crushed, thereby decreasing the likelihood of the ball being cleanly fielded before reaching that short green stuff known as outfield. I’m sort of new to the entire BABIP thought process, but this is my early analysis of how it can be misread when using it to compare all pitchers.

    • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 18, 2014 at 2:00 PM

      I’d be interested in seeing you finish that thought. Are you saying that for a pitcher one type or the other, it’s easier to tell he “doesn’t have it tonight” before the blown save happens?

      • letswin3 - Aug 18, 2014 at 2:34 PM

        Sorry, I wasn’t trying to link those two thoughts together. I was trying to consider two separate and distinct things.

  28. Rick Norris - Aug 18, 2014 at 5:57 PM

    I can live with a blown save or two but his standing on the mound just watching runners circling the bases and NOT backing up 3rd or home is driving me nuts. The pitcher has assignments and RS is completely ignoring then. Bad form!

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