The “B” word reared it’s ugly head last night.

Photo by Sol Tucker for TalkNats

The “B” word is defined as “losing a game by five or more runs”, and more commonly known as a BLOWOUT. For shortstop CJ Abrams, he had not been a part of one of those games until last night with the Washington Nationals. A simple drop of a tailor-made doubleplay throw opened up the floodgates. If Joey Meneses makes the catch, it is simply a 4-run loss and not a blowout loss. Four unearned runs would score after that.

Whether you believe Abrams is the change that the Nats needed or not, the fact is that in the previous 9-games before he arrived, his new team had FOUR blowout losses in that short span. The team was in a bad spiral. The defense was horrific (last in MLB), and it was impacting the pitching. It wasn’t just errors — it was plays that just weren’t made. In fact, in the 116 games prior to Abrams arriving, the Nats were averaging a staggering blowout loss once every 3.5 games. Yes, 33 blowouts before Abrams arrival. Again, if you think it’s coincidental that is fine. But last night was the carbon copy of what it was like before Abrams arrival — sloppy uninspired baseball.

“I think [Abrams] has been terrific,” general manager Mike Rizzo said on 106.7 radio a couple of weeks ago. “You look at the numbers, since he’s taken over at shortstop, the ERA of our pitching staff has been really good, and you can see the athleticism just oozes out of him, and I like the energy level he gives, he gives us a speed component on the field, a terrifically range-y shortstop that covers a lot of the infield, and has got a good arm. He’s learning the ropes. He’s the same age as a college junior in the draft this year, and he’s in the big leagues.”

Facts back it up that before Abrams arrival — the staff ERA was an horrific 5.30 and since then dropped to 3.87 which happens to be really good. A 3.87 ERA for a full season would be 12th best in the Majors. By the way, There are two potential playoff teams with ERAs in the 3.90’s. The Nats are doing this with the same rotation they had before Abrams arrived on the scene. This is where the hope for the future comes.

The team defense was last in MLB before Abrams, and since his arrival and in that span, the team ranks seventh in MLB. Of course some of the blame for that 5.30 ERA could fall on Rizzo and his choice to put Luis Garcia at shortstop. He only started 58 games at shortstop for the Nats, but was so bad that he still leads all shortstops with the worst defense this season with a -13 OAA. Extrapolated to a full season that would be a -36 OAA and the worst in baseball history. But let’s try to accentuate the positives that Abrams has now taken over the position and should be the shortstop of the future for many years to come.

“I love everything he’s doing right now,” manager Dave Martinez said last week. “I’m watching him making plays that I haven’t seen made in quite a while.”

The Nats’ manager is right. We have not seen sparkling defense like that in several years. We can say it over and over again that defense matters.

“I take pride in my defense, getting outs,” Abrams said last week. “Anything to help a pitcher, and help him get W’s.”

The error charged to Meneses at first base was the first for him in his 23 games started there. Statistically speaking, Luke Voit is the better fielder as SteveR20 pointed out in a tweet.  That play last night was one of those strange plays when you saw it in slow motion. Ryan Zimmerman was in the MASN booth last night, and he immediately saw the culprit and blamed it on Joey’s fielding glove. An equipment failure of sorts.

“That’s just a flimsy glove,” Zimmerman said watching the replay as you saw the glove move as it made impact with the ground.

Maybe it was just bad luck and that game of inches. While Abrams throw was low, Meneses had it caught, and the ball just fell out. Kind of like the Nats, they just fell out, and earned their 100th loss of the season in the process.


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