Cliff Notes: Angsty April Edition

anthony-rendon-sidebar

Anthony Rendon called up on Sunday is now 2-15 with 5 strikeouts.

No Review-Preview this time around gang I’m not sure I can bring myself to do one.  Okay, the Nats got swept by the Cardinals, but strangely looked better (on the pitching and defense anyway) doing it.  The Cards have great pitchers and great bats.  The Reds are coming into town and they have good pitching and great bats.  The Nats could have all, or none, of any of those at any given time because it’s only April and no one knows what the heck is going on.

Okay that’s your review-preview.  On to the Cliff Notes:

  • Dave Huzzard knows a ton about baseball.  When he writes up stuff for MASN as a guest blogger, it’s top notch stuff.  This week he put in crystal clear terms why you the Espinosa/Lombardozzi debate at second base isn’t even a debate.  Basically, I’m with Dave the right thinking people can’t honestly compare the two.  (Also, I need to figure out how to get one of these guest blogging gigs).
  • Matt’s Bats watched BP from the field, and basically everyone you’d want to come say hi came and said hi.  I do not wear my jealousy well, particularly when it is directed at an 8 year old.
  • From the Sports Bog: Henry Rodriguez throws a ball into the President’s Club.  To be fair it took the long way round, and he’s actually been a much better pitcher so far this year.  Also “Full Monkey-Tilt” might be the early candidate  for this year’s “Clown Question Bro.”
  • Lastly, Nationals Prospects is a blog I’ve been reading more of lately.  This weekend they ran a story about the call up of Anthony Rendon which included some skepticism regarding the timing of the call-up. Being a high level top prospect is a tough job on a call up, especially when a chunk of the fan base expects you to fix things as soon as you get to the show.  Couple that with the fact he’s following two “once in a decade” type of players like Harper and Strasburg, and well…expectations can be outsized very quickly.  (and yeah, lying to reporters-while part of the gig-is still cruddy).

Review-Preview: Fish-Sandwhich, Har-Vey’s Bet-Ter and The Return of PeteF@*!!Kozma

@Natsaholic sends a sneaky photo of how close he is to @WashingNats

@Natsaholic went to the Mets series this weekend.  He tweeted  a sneaky photo of how close he is to MLB Beat writer, Bill Ladson aka @WashingNats

There are a million places to go get a recap and preview of every game, but here at Nationals 101 we prefer to take a slightly bigger slice of the pie.  The Review-Preview will take place between series and give a quick recap of the previous series (including anything we think you can learn from the series) and what you can look forward to in the next series coming up.

Normally a 3-3 road trip is a cause to celebrate.  When expectations are high (and the talent you play allegedly low) it comes away feeling a little flat.  Still, in the span the Nats split their 6 games, the Braves managed only two wins, which gives them a game up…in April, with 140+ games left to play.  So while all games are weighted equal, it is still the case that the overwhelming majority of games haven’t been counted yet. 

The Nats took the first series from the Marlins two games to one.  They blew out the Fish in the opener 10-2, dropped the second game with three starters missing 8-2, but bounced back in the finale to take the series with a 6-1 score.

The Nats dropped their opener against the Mets as Matt Harvey out-pitched Stephen Strasburg (and just about everyone else I’ve seen this year), losing 7-1.  The second day also featured seriously shaky starting pitching, with Gio Gonzalez having a meltdown in the fourth inning to lose a three run lead.  Still, the bats were alive with four home runs (two from Bryce Harper) and they won a game on offense 7-6.  Sunday’s game featured the debut of top prospect Anthony Rendon much to the delight of many a fan looking forward to his debut.  Unfortunately and 0-4 and error later for Rendon seemed like piling on after the Nats dropped the finale in a sloppy 2-0 loss.

So What Happened?  For the most part, the same thing that’s been happening all Month.  The Nationals have been winning games handily, or losing them because of sloppy play.  Dan Haren has yet to do anything to convince anyone he’s going to be a good pitcher, and Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez seem to be taking too many pitches to get anyone out at all.  Even when three errors don’t directly cost runs (as on Sunday) that makes Jordan Zimmermann throw more pitches than he needs to.  Letting the Mets of the hook by swinging at a 3-0 pitch with the bases loaded and no outs (ahem Jayson Werth) also cuts a huge break to a guy like Dillon Gee who had been averaging more than 8 runs a game before the start Sunday.

Our constant refrain of “It’s Only April” isn’t actually meant to excuse the sloppy play of the Nationals, or some how make you feel like a lunatic for thinking the Nats are playing poorly.  The Nats are indeed playing very poorly at times so far this month.  The reason to keep in mind that it is April is to remind you they have plenty of time to play well (and they will play well). 

It’s a trick of the mind:  When the Nats have played less than 20 games, those 7 or 8 bad games are a big percentage of the pie.  It’s important to remember that the pie isn’t 20 games big though-it’s 162 games big.  What’s 20 bad games out 162?  or 30? or 40?  or even 50?  Not a lot, that’s what.

I think a lot of fans who are the most worried tuned into the team sometime after the Capitals bounced out of the playoffs, or even later.  August maybe?  July?  It’s easier to stomach losses when you are already watching an established winner-particularly with no serious expectations on them (externally, anyway).  It’s much tougher to come into the season at the begnning season with triple the expectations and have to learn, from the start, just what a winning season looks like top to bottom.

“It’s Only April” doesn’t make you feel better in the moment, it only illuminates that it is only one moment in many.  In July, April will not matter nearly as much as you thought it did.

Lost In The Shuffle

  • The Nats haven’t had to do a lot of “over coming” so far this year.  They won games they were tied late in the game for, they’ve held on to leads despite furious comebacks-but the 7-6 Mets win on Saturday was the first time they actually battled back to win a game from behind.  (Note: I’m not counting the two times they were down 1-0 to the White Sox after the first inning).  I’m likely adding narrative to where there isn’t actually one, but it looked like the Nats had some fight in them for the first time this year.  Last year, I didn’t count them out of any game-up until Saturday, I had been a few times.
  • Bryce Harper had the flu and went 3-4 in Miami.  Seriously.
  • Miami beat the Reds, and took them to 14 innings the next day. Also the Braves lost twice to the Pirates.  Hopefully fans can stop worrying about who loses to who and who beats who in April and taking it as a harbinger of the whole season…soon.  My head would appreciate it.
  • Ryan Zimmerman had a tender calf in game one of the Marlins series before being pulled.  Thanks to how rules work, you can retroactively put someone on DL so long as they haven’t played since they were pulled and his 15 day stint started Thursday instead of Sunday when they announced it.  Wilson Ramos also is on the DL, though he’s a week in already.
  • Steve Lombardozzi filled in admirably this week, going 7 for 21 in 6 starts against the Braves, Marlins and Mets.  He did get owned by Matt Harvey going 0-4, just like most everyone else did on the Nats Friday night.
  • 0-4 and an error for Anthony Rendon.  Not an auspicious start, and it might be something Davey has stuck in his craw when it’s time to decide if he stays up or goes down.  That said, just as if he went 4-4 and helped turn two double plays-it would still only be one game out of about 12 he’ll play before the Nats have to figure that out.  Plenty of time for him to make his case either way.

St. Louis Cardinals

Let go of your anger and don’t expect and easy revenge match for the Nationals.  The Cardinals are a no joke team.  They post the same 10-8 record as the Washington Nationals, and also look up at division rivals they know they can catch and beat.  The Cards have also beaten teams handily when they win, and lost games inexplicably when they haven’t.  

Many fans will be familiar with the virtues the Cards boast:  Yadier Molina is a hitter nearly impossibly to strike out, and Carlos Beltran is a 30+ HR guy.

The Nats will send Dan Haren to the mound Monday night.  He might need to seriously get a good game in if he doesn’t want everyone in DC to completely hate him.  The Cardinals will send Shelby Miller to the mound for his first apperance against the Nationals ever.  He’s more or less a three pitch pitcher (Fastball, Curveball Change-up) but he has thrown a few cut fastballs this year as well.  He’ll be a riddle the Nats will want to solve quickly given the limited data they will have on the newcomer.

The Nats then send their best pitcher thus far, Ross Detwiler to face former Cy Young candidate Adam Wainwright.  The Nats have done well against Wainwright, particularly at Nats Park (1-2, 7.24 ERA and 2.2ish WHIP), but he’s still a dangerous pitcher when he’s on.  Given the uncertainty around him on the mound, the Nats need to get after Wainwright and make the most of Detwiler if he has another great start.

The Wed afternoon finale will feature Stephen Strasburg  and  Jamie Garcia.  Garcia is a solid pitcher, averaging about 3.5 runs given up per game and 1.3 hits per inning pitched.  The Nats clobbered him last year for 6 runs on 9 hits in 5.1 innings pitched.  

What To Hope For

Not to look ahead, but the NL Central leading Reds come in after the Cards for a four game tilt over the long “revenge” week this seems to have shaped up to be.  The Nats will likely be looking to show they can beat good teams and get some of these error/pitching monkeys off their back.  Over 7 games, 5 wins at home seems to be what the Nationals should feel like they should get.  Four is acceptable, 6 or 7 would be special.  With the Reds being just as tough ast the Cardinals (maybe tougher) the Nats would do well to get 2 of 3 from the Redbirds, heading into the extended weekend series looking to win 3 out of 4.

Review-Preview: Seeing Reds and the return of the Dunn-key (White Sox)

Return of the Dunn-Key.

Return of the Dunn-Key.

There are a million places to go get a recap and preview of every game, but here at Nationals 101 we prefer to take a slightly bigger slice of the pie.  The Review-Preview will take place between series and give a quick recap of the previous series (including anything we think you can learn from the series) and what you can look forward to in the next series coming up.

REVIEW Cincinnati Reds Series

It might have slipped the notice of Nationals fans in the fervor of this offseason, but the Cincinnati Reds were also an excellent team in 2012.  They also got better this year.  In fact, the Reds might have a more mature lineup, not quite the starting pitching, and maybe (probably) a better bullpen than the Nationals.  They too added a killer lead-off CF in Shin Choo-Shoo and have a pretty awesome second year player in Todd Frazier.  The Nats took 6 of 8 games against the Reds last year, so perhaps we all glossed over the fact that they finished with 97 wins last year-just behind the Nationals.

 

Well the Reds made sure the Nationals sat up and noticed this week.  In what was the drubbing of their short life time, the Nationals got destroyed by the Reds 15-0 on Friday night.  They did come back to win a nail-biter on Saturday 7-6, but dropped the battle of Aces on Sunday 6-3

Continue reading

Nationals 101 Podcast S2E5: Opening Day Double Switcheroo Holy Cow What Was That?

 

Season 2 Episode 5

It’s our first podcast of the actual, for reals, 2013 Season!  Opening Day and sweeping the Marlins, putting the Reds series into perspective, what’s a double switch (and why do it?) and what to expect from the White Sox/Braves series.  All that and much, much more with Frank and Susan as we get this party started right!

Sweater Vest Night is coming up!  Get gussied up and come on out!

The Panic Button: Historically Bad Losses By Historically Good Teams

images

Finding it too hard to take our advice about taking the long view of things when it comes to baseball? Recent Nationals games have you on edge?  Don’t worry-you’ve hit The Panic Button – and we’ve got you covered.

Credit:  Thanks to @CBJinDC for helping me find most of these.

Let’s face it; there wasn’t anything good about the Nationals 15-0 loss Friday night to the Cincinnati Reds.  Despite the Nationals official twitter trying to polish said turd:

This was still the most lopsided loss in modern Nats history.

Despite multiple renditions of “don’t panic” and “it’s one game” from a healthy portion of Nats fans, much of Natstown just couldn’t get over how ugly it was last night.  Many seemed to be ready to pack in the season (and quite a few more are ready to send Dan Haren packing after just one start).

Still, there is every reason to expect that the Nationals can “overcome” their first loss of the season despite it hitting every branch (and Reds bat) on the ugly tree.  Why?  We turn to the only thing we have in baseball-History.  Let’s look at some really great teams and some really awful losses:

Continue reading

Review-Preview: Nats Obliterate Marlins, Move on To Cincy to play Reds

Smoooooooth Gio2

This is from @Section138. Please visit Gavin’s blog often and follow him on Twitter. He also has been making cool Nats shirts since before making cool Nats shirts was cool.

 

There are a million places to go get a recap and preview of every game, but here at Nationals 101 we prefer to take a slightly bigger slice of the pie.  The Review-Preview will take place between series and give a quick recap of the previous series (including anything we think you can learn from the series) and what you can look forward to in the next series coming up.

NOTE:  Due to some awful car trouble that ate up all of Friday, I didn’t finish the Preview part.  Given last night’s debacle it’s probably best to skip this editions “preview” section and just do a review.  Next week we will review the Reds series and Preview the White Sox series.  

REVIEW Miami Marlins Series

Quick Take:  The Nationals came into Opening Day with the reputation as one of the best teams in the league, and the Marlins came into the series as possibly a AAA team playing in the big leagues.  Nothing either team did changed anyone’s mind as to either of those mindsets.

The Nationals swept the Marlins and remain the only unbeaten team in baseball (a dubious distinction, but a distinction none the less) by beating the Marlins 2-0, 3-0, and 6-1.

So What Happened?  Simply put, the Nationals pitching over powered the Marlins in every contest, holding the lowly Fish to just one run over three games.  That’s the first time that’s happened since the late 70’s over an opening series by the way.  How good was the Nationals pitching?  Let’s look at the starters combined and bullpen combined stat lines:

Starters:  3-0, .47 ERA 19IP, 13H, 1R, 1ER, 4BB, 9K

Bullpen: 0.00 ERA, 8IP, 0R, 0ER, 2BB, 9K, 2 Saves

The numbers are slightly more impressive for the Gio and Strasburg given that Jordan Zimmermann gave up the sole run and 8 hits.  Only 3 of the hits went for extra bases (2 doubles and a Home Run) and the defense was stellar (committing just one error)  in keeping these guys out of the run column.

The bats started a little quiet over all, but got louder as the series went on.  Scoring the first two games was more about timely hitting-Bryce Harper stole the show in game one with two Home Runs in his first two at bats.  Gio hit a solo homer, followed by two more insurance runs later in the game.  The Nats finally took the top off in game three, gettings 6 runs-scoring two in the first and adding four more between a Werthquake and Harper’s third bomb in three games.

Lost In the Shuffle:

Adam LaRoche and Danny Espinosa are struggling at the plate right now, but it’s only three games in (and Danny isn’t striking out as much).

The only really feared player for the Marlins, Giancarlo Stanton, was held to 1 for 9 with 2 walks and 4 strikeouts.  He also did not put in a very good effort into getting to first base on a play, and just turned around and stomped off to the dugout after his strikeouts.  He’s the lone star on an awful team and rumor is that he’s not happy about the fire sale the Marlins put on this year.  He could be quitting on this team as early as game 3 of the season, which bodes even better for the Nationals

Rafael Soriano is very impressive in person.  His delivery is insanely smooth, he never looked troubled on the mound, and he just threw strike after strike.  Also, for the #haters, Henry Rodriguez found the strike zone no problem in his one outting, and Drew Storen also looked just fine in his first appearance this year.  Indeed, the bullpen could be lights out this year-as predicted by many.

Conclusion:  Exactly what was supposed to happen between these two teams happened. You don’t want to overrate beating up the Marlins, but the point is they did beat up the Marlins.  Houston won this weekend against a much better team, so don’t downplay getting the job done.  Often the Marlins have been awful and played the Nationals tough. This time, the Nats put the foot to the pedal and really didn’t let up.