Friday Roundup: Late Sunday #Nats Edition

Thank you for accepting my delayed round up. In appreciation of that, here is a Bryce Harper Home Run.

#NatsClubHouseSocial: Tuesday night, the Washington Nationals social media team invited a handful of highly visible, highly social, highly interactive Nationals fans for a presentation regarding the new bells, whistles, and giveaways at the park this year. It was preceded by a free happy hour with appetizers, and personalized jerseys custom made for the invited fans featuring their surname, the #15 (for 2015) and the exclusive 10 year DC patch.

If you don’t know already, I was one of those lucky, unworthy, happy people. I instantly felt nervous about my Matt Williams post from that morning, but too late to go back! (Also, no one asked me to write anything about this event or anything else, just so you know.)

Yes, I got to go, it was super fun, and I’m sure that’s a little braggy sounding – but really, don’t we want our ball club to participate this way? I mean, once you get past the bravado of “we just want them to field a good team, harrumph” don’t we want them engaging the most vocal and active part of the fan base? Don’t we want them doing fun things like buying people lunch and coffee? Isn’t it much more fun that they engage with the artists and writers and fanatics of this city than to simply be a tone-deaf machine throwing out whatever some suit in a board meeting comes up with?

And, myself excluded, the Nats picked the right people for this event. You can tell because  once the core group started tweeting about it, everyone started tweeting about it (excited, jealous, angry, sarcastic or otherwise). And they aren’t just “Big Tweeters,” either. These are the people who create fun dress up nights, given honest and helpful feedback in emails to the Nats front office, and who write about the club– not always glowingly either. But I think the actions of each of these people can be categorized as sincere, generally happy about baseball, and not unnecessarily aggressive or angst ridden.

Which is where I will close: There are obviously many more people who fit the above description than were in attendance on Tuesday night. I can vouch (if you’ll trust me) that the room was already packed and a little hard to keep focused as it was, any more people would have made it that much less pleasant. Combine that with how successful the night was and their suggestion they wanted to do more of these in the future, and I think a lot more (and different) people will be in the mix for future events.

I like to live in a world where a baseball club might do this, even if I never got invited, than one in which they wouldn’t.

More Ephemera!: Behold our new train scoreboard a la the old days. It is in the club level, so you’ll have to have a ticket to see it, but it certainly brings to mind this old type of game tracker scoreboard. Games happened during the day, a lot, and not everyone had a radio at their work desk (and no one had a walk-man or MLB AT BAT streaming audio). So you during a big road game (say, when the Senators were on the road for the World Series in Pittsburgh) you could park yourself outside the WaPo, who’d get updates via telegraph or radio, and then update the board accordingly.

The Nats are also going to mark, in red seats, the site of historic home runs at Nats Park.

Some people don’t like the definition of “historic:”

First, marking Home Runs though is not really about wins or losses, it’s about remembering “holy cow, do you remember that time when…?” It’s a singular event that everyone enjoys and truly smashed bombs are a sight to see.

Second, given the Nationals record since 2005 is 772 – 846, I think a .500 record in any small sample size is better than what we ought to expect. Indeed, if we can’t enjoy some HRs that came in losses that smells a bit bandwagony to me.

Lastly, Frank Howard’s 500 foot blast that was the painted white seat at RFK came in a loss, and no one seems to have ever minded that it was painted as such. So let it go, already. Home runs are fun, and big home runs (distance or importance-wise) are funner. The funnest, even.

 

Of Slights and Starters: There is some bit of majesty being the Opening Day starter for a team, particularly one with the rotation that the Washington Nationals boast. You want to put your best foot forward. Said pitcher is meant to usher in the new season, full of optimism and hope for the future. For the Nationals, that man is Max Scherzer, who embodies the both the Nationals best foot (or arm, I suppose) forward and the top pitcher for the foreseeable future. Every statistical measure of the last years puts Scherzer ahead of everyone currently on the Nationals staff, and you don’t invest $240 million in a guy who isn’t going to be your best pitcher no matter how good everyone else on the team is.

So there is some understandable slight felt on behalf of one Jordan Zimmermann, who despite being as good (if not slightly better, maybe slightly not as good) as Stephen Strasburg, has never pitched Opening Day for a Nationals season. He’s never been listed as “an ace” in the great annals of…whoever cares about who is an “ace” or not. But if he stays healthy he’s going to pitch as many games as anyone else on the staff, and at the end of the year someone is going to give him lots and lots of money.

In a five man rotation that stays healthy, the first two pitchers start 33 games, and the last 3 start 32 games. That also requires there are no rainouts, double headers, injuries, a manager doesn’t decide to change the rotation around after the All-Star Game and a division race that is competitive the whole season not tempting a manager to rest or reset a rotation at the end of the year. Further, any “ace vs. ace” match-ups pretty much go out after the first week because different teams have different days off. Indeed, with the Mets starting Bartolo Colon for Opening Day in DC, it isn’t as if the Nats are even going to get the first best vs. best match-up to begin with!

Opening Day starter is slightly more important than being name the “Nat of the Game.” It makes the difference of between 0 and 1 starts over the year. So if you’re fuming about this, we have advice:

LetItGo

Bryce Harper is OverratedSo What. If you need evidence that Bryce Harper is an excellent player, I refer you to our outfielders post. If you think he gets too much attention, blame the people paying him attention.

This is the only overrated type post I would ever pay attention to: If Fangraphs took all of their projections from 2014, and compared them to actual results, controlled for players with sustained injuries and determined which people they over and underrated the most. That would be kind of cool.

And even then, overrated doesn’t mean bad. It just means rated to highly-which is done by the raters, not the people being rated. Raters gonna rate tho, so blame them not the players.

Injury Update: Let’s get caught up with the single biggest threat to the Nationals NL East run.

Jayson Werth is progressing, doing some light hitting etc., but Opening Day is a stretch. If that’s a stretch, then I think that sounds like Werth might only miss the first series or two. Denard Span is still definitely out for a while, but I haven’t heard anything that sounds like he’s behind schedule etc. Side note: In this week’s podcast with Noah Frank, Noah highlights that some folks inside Nats Park thought that his replacement Michael Taylor was already a better defender than Span. So listen to our show, and wrap your head around that.

Danny Espinosa playing third base this spring is a certain sign that Anthony Rendon won’t be ready by Opening Day. He’s only just running from side to side, no baseball activities. So, again, on the podcast, we talked about it and think that by the time he plays some minor league games, we’re talking missing a month of the season.

Ryan Zimmerman left the game early after a diving play at first, expected to miss just a few days. He may even play tomorrow. But how many times have I heard that before? Stephen Strasburg pitched after a small injury, and didn’t look great, but he didn’t look hurt which is the bigger deal. Yunel Escobar is adjusting to second base, but playing. Oh, also, Drew Storen finally pitched after his surgery, so that’s good!

So, by my count I expect the Nats to be without three starters for the first week, two starters for the first month, and Span for as long as maybe six weeks. Knock on the closest wood for luck that it stays that way.

Crunch time folks! With a little over a week until opening day left, look for our final spring training question, our bullpen post, and once who the bench is clears up, we’ll do that post too.

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