The 2018 #Nats roster and the free agents, options, and projections

“One thing I’d like to read would be your expanded take on possible off-season moves for FA and players with options. Particularly Lind, Kintzler and Howie. The team was so strong most of this 2017 season, especially after Rizzo built the bullpen up with KMD.” — NavyYardNats 

That was a great suggestion from NavyYardNats for an off-season analysis.  Here is a look at player statuses with projected 2018 salaries (below). You will note we have input Matt Wieters in the projections as he will almost certainly take his player option, and Nationals fans can hope he chooses free agency which seems very unlikely. There is a mutual option for Adam Lind meaning both the team and player have to pick up his $5 million option, and you can expect the Nationals will want him back however common sense says Adam Lind will want to test free agency after having a very good season and seek a multi-year contract. Continue reading

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111 questions for the 111 days to Spring Training

111 days, 111 questions.  In no order whatsoever. (Minus Winterfest and the GM meetings, it’s about 111 days to Pitchers and Catchers report).

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Grading the 2017 Washington Nationals: Pitchers

The term has ended, and now the report card is due.

How did the Washington Nationals fare in 2017? Some excelled. Some disappointed. While we lick our wounds from another first-round loss in the playoffs, let’s take a look back at the men who contributed to another Nats season.

In this round, we’ll look at pitchers.

You know, I thought about splitting this category into starting pitchers and relief pitchers, but then I remembered that no fewer than four Nats — Tanner Roark, A.J. Cole, Matt Grace, and Jacob Turner — actually did both this season. (And one more did in the postseason. Let’s not talk about it.) Continue reading

Posted in Analysis, Bullpen, Bullpen, Doolittle, Gio, Gott, JRoss, Kelley, Koda, OliverPerez, Roark, Roster, Scherzer, Starters, Strasburg | Leave a comment

Baseball games should not be decided on non-baseball plays

Confession – I don’t handle October baseball very well. Every pitch being do-or-die is both exhilarating and exhausting. The highs are oh-so-high, but the lows. Man. The lows. And the crushing finality of that last out in an elimination game. It’s like we were all on that train that Bryce Harper said was coming after Game 3, but instead of going to LA, we just slammed into an ivy-covered brick wall. And that’s it. We’re just supposed to pick up the pieces of our shattered souls and wait for next season (167 days, for anyone counting).

I wish I had some magical words to say to make everyone feel better, but I don’t. I’m sitting in a Starbucks wrapped in my Jayson Werth t-shirt and yoga pants, because I couldn’t bring myself to put real pants on today, crying into my hot chocolate. Luckily, everyone here has their face stuck in their phones, so I don’t think anyone is noticing my tears. In times like these, I often think of a Psalm – though we may weep tonight, joy cometh in the morning. It’s gonna be a long, dark night, y’all.

A lot can be said about how or why this NLDS loss happened. The bats were anemic through most of the series, and there were defensive lapses throughout. In Game 5, it seemed like everything that could go wrong, did. Jayson lost a ball in the lights at the worst possible time. Max was very un-Max in his relief appearance after getting the first two outs with relative ease. Matt Wieters couldn’t seem to stop a ball from getting past him, and he managed to get called for catcher interference. The umps apparently were unfamiliar with the entirety of the baseball rulebook, and they ignored the fact that Javy Baez’s passed-ball strikeout should have been a dead ball, as he nailed Wieters in the head with his backswing. (Fun fact – baseball reference said that in the in the 2.73 million half innings in their database, never has an intentional walk, passed-ball strikeout, catcher’s interference, and hit by pitch happened in the same one. Only 22 innings have included 3 of those, and only 5 games have had all four happen. Don’t we feel special now??) Both the umpires on the field and the review team in New York didn’t seem to want to enforce the Utley slide rule, which prevented an inning-ending double play from being turned. Oh, and the Nats managed to strand approximately 2035702349 baserunners in the game.

All of this could give armchair managers an entire offseason worth of fodder. However, I want to talk about something different. Backup catcher Jose Lobaton was double-switched into the game when Ryan Madson came in to relieve Sammy Solis after he gave up 2 hits with just one out in the 7th. In the 8th, the Nats were putting together a bit of a rally. Daniel Murphy led off the inning with a walk, and went to 2nd when Cubs closer Wade Davis walked Anthony Rendon behind him. Adam Lind pinch-hit for Madson, and unfortunately grounded into a double play, however Murphy went to 3rd. Michael A. Taylor continued his awesome streak, and brought him home on an RBI single. Lobi, who has at best struggled at the plate this season, came through with a single to put MAT into scoring position. The Nats were now within 1 run of the Cubs, and had the top of their order coming to the plate. Cubs catcher Wilson Contreras noticed Lobi was a touch far from the bag, and rifled a throw to first baseman and feeler of disrespect Anthony Rizzo. Lobi managed to beat the throw back to the base, however the Cubs chose to challenge the call. New York called him out because his foot lost contact with the bag by about an inch for a fraction of a second, which was only visible on super slow-motion replay. The call on the field was overturned, and the inning ended with the tying run stranded at 2nd base. Continue reading

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Analysis: Scherzer vs. Zobrist; The at-bat that changed Game #5

The smallest details lead to impactful results. Max Scherzer entered the NLDS elimination game #5 finale as a relief pitcher in the 5th innings with a Nats 4-to-3 lead and would face the meat of the Cubs order: Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras. Scherzer carved up Bryant and Rizzo for two quick outs throwing 6 pitches. Willson Contreras got an infield hit. Then the pesky Ben Zobrist who was a  .232 batter this season would face Scherzer with Contreras on 1st base. This is the at-bat we will analyze pitch-by-pitch.

The key is what Max Scherzer does best — strike batters out! You want to strikeout Zobrist because you do not want to deal with the luck factor of a Zobrist ball-in-play (.251 BABIP) and Zobrist rarely strikes out in 2-strike counts this season against a 4-seam fastball. Your best chance to get him is with the changeup as this chart (below) shows Zobrist batting left-handed in a 2-strike count.

Here is how Scherzer and Matt Wieters pitched Ben Zobrist getting him into a 1-and-2 count.  They wisely threw the changeup in the 1-2 count. Then they went to a poorly located cutter to make the count 2-2. They did not want to get to a 3-2 count so they went for a challenge fastball right down the chute and it was dead red — Scherzer got away with it and Zobrist fouled it off. You are thinking “changeup” — you now have him on the “changeup” — throw the changeup — but no — they doubled-up on another challenge fastball and it again went down the middle and Zobrist had to protect against the off-speed and fought it off and blooped it into leftfield only Jayson Werth could not reach it as the ball landed within 10 feet of him. Continue reading

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The NLDS stats could shock you that Nats topped the Cubs in almost every category — except the win column which counts the most.

In the Cubs/Nats series, the Nationals scored 20 runs — the Cubs scored 17 runs. Of the 17 runs scored by the Cubs, only 13 runs were earned runs. The Nationals had the better batting slash at .186/ .302/ .335/ .637 versus the Cubs more-than-awful .180/ .285/ .280/ .565. The Nationals had the lower pitching ERA. The Nats statistically beat the Cubs in almost all statistical categories except the most important one which is the standings. The Cubs won the series 3-games-to-2.

The series was a pitcher’s duel for 4-games and then both teams faltered last night as 17 total runs were scored. Through it all, Stephen Strasburg threw 14.0 innings with a 0.00 ERA.

The Cubs offensive charts shows how well the Nats shutdown the Cubs offense except Anthony Rizzo who came through when runners-were-in-scoring-position (RISP).

The Nats pitching was just spectacular as a group and even though Gio Gonzalez was not good and Sammy Solis didn’t do the job; Brandon Kintzler seemed to be the victim of a fielder who lost a ball in the lights and other strange defensive mishaps. “The Firm” was excellent and in the facets of the game they were what the Nats have needed in the post-season.  As far as the 11 pitchers who made the post-season roster, Enny Romero and Tanner Roark never threw a pitch in any of the 5 games. Max Scherzer was BABIP’d in his relief appearance, but also couldn’t get the job done in relief to minimize the damage and part of the issue was a bizarre missed batter’s interference rule that was not called. Continue reading

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Unfortunately more Game #5 Deja Vu as the Nats 2017 ends.

The Nationals lost this game #5 by a final score of 9-to-8 and at times this was as sloppy of a game as we have seen the Washington Nationals play. The Nationals led early by a score of 4-to-1 and then were staring at a 8-to-4 deficit. The Nationals clawed back into the game to get within a run in the 8th inning, but could not plate the final run to tie it.

There were so many poor and bizarre plays like a wild pitch strikeout that turned into a throwing error followed by a catcher’s interference then a ball Jayson Werth couldn’t catch (ruled a double) and an Adam Lind first pitch doubleplay ball and then the back-breaker in the 8th inning with 2 men on-base and Lobaton was picked-off of first base by the catcher to end the 8th inning.

Max Scherzer came in to relieve Matt Albers, and Max got 2 quick outs and then was victimized by 2 bloops followed by a hard groundball that eluded Anthony Rendon for a 2-run double followed by the 2 unearned runs. Scherzer entered with a 4-to-3 lead and exited with a 7-to-4 deficit.

The Nationals had big offense tonight with 14-hits and 9 walks but Ryan Zimmerman ended 3 innings with his 0-for-4 night with 3 strikeouts and he left 7 men on-base. The Nationals had many rallies snuffed out like the first inning Bryce Harper groundout with Trea Turner on 3rd thrown out at the plate, and the Adam Lind pinch-hit doubleplay with no outs and 2-men on-base and of course the Jose Lobaton pick-off. Every Nats position player got on base at least twice except for Zimmerman. Michael Taylor had a 3-run home run in the game, and was the offensive star of this series. Continue reading

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Game #5 NLDS; One team will fly to LA after this game; One team will go home!

Photo by Marlene Koenig for TalkNats

First pitch of this crucial game #5 is the finale of the NLDS between the Nationals and Cubs scheduled at 8:08 pm at Nationals Park. The stakes are high as this is a one-game win-or-go-home scenario for both teams.

The Cubs will start Kyle Hendricks and the Nationals have yet to publicly announced their starting pitcher. The Nationals have Gio Gonzalez available on regular rest as he last pitched on Saturday, and Tanner Roark who was scheduled to start yesterday is available on extra rest while Max Scherzer can pitch on short-rest.

Weather shouldn’t delay the game according to the Capital Weather Gang, but there could be some precipitation with temperatures hovering around 62ºF with a slight wind chill. Dress warm; dress in red; dress for success. Continue reading

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First things first, who starts Game #5 tonight? Many choices and strategies!

These are the good problems to have when you are contemplating in reality who will be your game #5 starter.

“I’m not trying to be coy at all, because that was the theme of the day with [Stephen Strasburg],” Nationals’ manager Dusty Baker said. “Whoever it is, I hope they pitch like Stras did [in game #4].”

Once the Nationals won the exciting game #4 last night it automatically made game #5 tonight a reality. We know Stephen Strasburg won’t be starting or pitching tonight and if all goes well the next time you will see him on a mound will be next week in game #3. That is part of Dusty Baker’s debacle as well as the Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon’s. You can pitch everybody and then have nobody for Saturday and Sunday night in the NLCS as one of these two teams will be moving forward.

Dusty Baker has Gio Gonzalez on regular rest available and Tanner Roark with extra rest. Max Scherzer is certainly available for at least 1 inning. The only pitchers that Dusty Baker would like to rest is Strasburg and Ryan Madson who threw 27 high-stress pitches last night, but because this is an elimination game (for both teams) you can expect that everyone really is available if needed.

Photo by Marlene Koenig for TalkNats

The strategy would be to go with Tanner Roark to start tonight’s game to get Joe Maddon to commit to his “lefty” platoon line-up with his lefty outfield and then in the second or third inning bring in the left-handed Gio Gonzalez to take advantage of that lefty line-up and go as far as he can go. Continue reading

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Stephen Strasburg makes Game #5 possible with a shutout for the ages! Trea scores; MAT slams; Nats win 5-0

Photo by Michael Daalder for TalkNats

The Nationals have now forced a game #5 with this win tonight! The Hollywood scriptwriters out-did themselves with portraying the sick and frail Stephen Strasburg as the hero of this post-season. Strasburg has now thrown 14.0 innings with a 0.00 ERA and for anyone who does not know the story — Strasburg was very ill with the flu and was not supposed to pitch. Not only did he pitch, he pitched a gem that rivals the greatest pitching performances in post-season history.

And what a time for Trea Turner to get his first hit of this NLDS with a 3rd inning double and he scored on a fielding error for the game winning run as that 1-to-0 score held up the whole game and Michael Taylor added a grand slam for insurance off of closer Wade Davis in the 8th inning to seal the deal. With the winds blowing in, it did not look like any ball would go into the bleachers tonight making Taylor’s home run that more impressive. Continue reading

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