Defense Matters cannot be said enough

Defense Matters. We cannot say it enough. This Washington Nationals team has to rely on getting the best pitching they can which is enhanced and maximized by the best defense the team can put in place. Today’s defensive assignments did not meet that standard with the team’s worst defensive game of the season to lead to four unearned runs, and a soaring pitch count on starter Jake Irvin. He deserved better just like previous starts.

Remember, not all errors are recorded as such in the box score because the rules allow, not only the judgment of an official scorer, — but also rules like you cannot assume a double play. The Nats lost by a final score of 6-3. That does not tell the whole story. Do the math and the Nats win 3-2 if the errors never happened. But you also have to figure that Irvin would have been able to pitcher deeper into the game past the 5th inning, and manager Dave Martinez probably would have pitched his “A” bullpen.

While Nick Senzel got charged with two throwing errors, the first one happened in the first at-bat of the game when he threw a bouncing throw on-line to first base. Then two tailor-made double plays were botched. But it was also bad decisions that have to start with Martinez in his decision to put Trey Lipscomb back at first base. He tried this experiment last week, and it was costly in that game as Lipscomb could not scoop a room service bounce, and also could not field a grounder hit down the line or a grounder to his backhand. Maybe it goes back to the Moneyball movie:

Billy Beane : We want you to play 1st base for the Oakland A’s.

Scott Hatteberg : OK, well, I’ve only ever played catcher.

Billy Beane : Scott, you’re not a catcher any more. If you were, our call wouldn’t be the only one you got when your contract expired.

Scott Hatteberg : But the thing, thing is is that…

Billy Beane : You don’t know how to play 1st base. Scott…

Scott Hatteberg : That’s right.

Billy Beane : It’s not that hard, Scott. Tell him Wash.

Ron Washington : It’s incredibly hard.

Yes, maybe Lipscomb one day could be an excellent first baseman, but the time isn’t now to make a move like that. You know what Dusty Baker would say.

“Right now, Trea has to fit in where he get in. Right now, there’s no real place for Trea to take. This isn’t a tryout camp. This is try to play the best team overall to win the game, and win the pennant. Hopefully, Trea will be a part of that while he’s here.”

— Baker said in 2016 about Trea Turner

Baker was not going to play Turner at shortstop where Danny Espinosa was playing, or at second base where Daniel Murphy was playing. Baker also wasn’t going to play Turner in the outfield until he showed he could handle the position. That is how Turner eventually got the bulk of his playing time in the latter part of the 2016 season as a center fielder. But first, the Nats sent Turner back to the minors to learn to play the position. Of course after that 2016 season, Baker dissed Espinosa in an interview during the NLDS, and general manager Mike Rizzo was essentially forced to trade Espinosa. Not to digress, but that is the backstory of how Turner got back to his natural position of shortstop.

We all know that Lipscomb is a Gold Glove caliber third baseman, the spot he actually won the Gold Glove in the minor leagues where they only award it to one person in all of the minor leagues. So why not stick with Lipscomb at third base, Joey Meneses at first base, and if you want to play Senzel, use him at DH.

The infield was an absolute mess sans CJ Abrams. Even Luis Garcia Jr. made a poor decision on a tailor-made double play in a situation where he did not flip the ball the 10 feet to Abrams, rather Garcia ran to the base and tried to jump throw the ball to first base. It did not work and no error was assessed because Garcia retired the lead runner. Lipscomb fielded a tailor-made double play ball and threw the ball into center field for another error. It was unfortunate. All of this was in that first inning.

“I feel really comfortable over there [at first base]. Feel good over there, getting a lot of early work in. It’s only so much you can do in the pre-work and the pregame. Until you get into the game situation, things change a little bit, but trust your instincts and you’re good.”

— Lipscomb said about his issues at first base

You don’t try to play chess by thinking your pawns are knights, bishops or rooks. It just does not work that way. While Lipscomb is more than a pawn, you hopefully understand the analogy. Basically don’t try to force a square peg into a round hole. This has been one of the criticisms of Martinez’s tenure as a manager. Sure, often it works out, but many it backfires it is usually ugly. The first time it didn’t work with Lipscomb. There should not have been a second time until he returned to the minors and learned the first base position by getting many games of reps. That is what the minor leagues are for.

“It was bad. First inning was not good. We couldn’t throw the ball to first base. So just one of those days, right? The weather was not good, but we should have made those plays. Jake threw the ball really well. We should have had a couple of double plays there. Just couldn’t capitalize on that. … Just one of those days. We’ve been playing really good defense and I harp on it all the time. Today just wasn’t that day.”

— Martinez said after the game

Giving away games should not sit well with anyone.

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