Podcast! 2015 Nats Season Preview with @NoahFrankWTOP

EDIT: I fixed the audio so it is properly mixed.

Noah Frank joins our show to talk about where the Nats are right now and how they look for 2015. On the show: the 25 man roster, the rash of injuries suffered by the team, how good is the Nationals rotation, is this bullpen sustainable, Strasburg, Harper, a little Matt Williams, an NL East preview, a rest of the MLB preview, and plenty more. Enjoy!

Get To Know Some Nats: Starting Pitchers

Every year, we put together player profiles for the Nationals players likely to make the 25 man roster. This way you’ll have a better idea of just who is taking the field. Except for a few notable exceptions, the Washington Nationals of 2015 will be the same team you’ve been watching for a few years. So we’re going to forego lengthy profiles of stuff you already know, and focus on capsules for a few players at a time. A quicker, more forward focused view for the savvy fan.

Note: If you’re here to read about Tanner Roark, I’ve moved him to the bullpen post later this spring. You can read why (and about him), here.

You can also read our outfielder preview here.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Washington Nationals

Stephen Strasburg, RHP

2014 Profile | Fangraphs

In a pack of bums who are underachieving bums, Stephen Strasburg takes the cake. We should just trade him for some prospects or make him a reliever. Or so MASNCommenter would have you believe. To wit:

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Thanks for sending me the screen cap MASNCommenter.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The truth is that the Strasburg is an exceptional pitcher doing exceptional things, but hasn’t lived up to the hype that followed him into the league. I heard the phrase “Prospect Fatigue” the other day, and I think that applies perfectly. Strasburg’s debut was an instant classic. He entered Nationals Park like Zeus come down from Mt. Olympus to pitch. Fan disappointment stems from this night and the subsequent seasons in which Strasburg has proved to be “only” an Apollo or Ares on the mound.

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Nats 2014 Mid-Season Review Part I: The Standings and Pitching Are Better Than You Think

The Washington Nationals have played precisely half of the games they are scheduled to play in the 2014 campaign. Since we, as a species, tend to like the easily divisible, I present unto you the longstanding tradition of a “mid season” review of the Washington Nationals – 2014 edition.

Standings: The Washington Nationals (43-38) are currently tied atop the NL East with a half game behind the Atlanta Braves (44-38) 5 games above .500. (They were tied after 81 game each, Atlanta’s just played one more already). This is certainly a step up from last year when Washington (41-40) trailed Atlanta (47-34) by 6 games. It also isn’t nearly as good as Washington (48-33) leading Atlanta (42-39) by 6 games.

Indeed, while both teams are maybe playing not quite as well as they had expected, it might be the first time Nats and Braves fans are seeing the “race” they were supposed to the last few years. There is no doubt that the 2013 Nats stumbled out of the gate and the Braves managed to stay hot (enough) all year, much the way the 2012 Nats blew it out of the box and never looked back. This year, neither team has run away with the division.

Atlanta owns the season series thus far (3-7), which only highlights their struggles against teams in the other 71 games. The problem for the Braves is that the Nationals are getting healthier (about to, finally, field their Opening Day line up since the middle of the game on Opening Day), and the Braves, really, are not.  Nine of those last 80 games for the Braves are against Washington, The other 71 are not.

The Marlins (4.0 GB), Mets (6.0 GB) and Phillies (7.0 GB) don’t appear to be in this race for the long haul.

Starting Pitching: Continue reading

Get To Know A Series: Philadelphia Phillies

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Washington Nationals (16-12) vs. Philadelphia Phillies (13-13)

2014 Head to Head Record: (0 – 0)
2013 Head to Head Record: 11-8 (Washington)

Friday, May 2, 7:05 p.m.

Stephen Strasburg (4.24 ERA, 2.31 FIP, 14.03) vs. Cliff Lee (3.29 ERA, 2.11 FIP, 8.78 K/9)

Saturday, May 3, 7:05 p.m.

Tanner Roark (2.76 ERA, 3.44 FIP, 7.16 K/9) vs. AJ Burnett (2.15 ERA, 3.58 FIP, 6.69 K/9)

Sunday, May 4, 3:05 p.m.

Gio Gonzalez (3.25 ERA, 2.91 FIP, 9.5 K/9) vs. Cole Hamels (6.75 ERA, 3.60 FIP, 6.75 K/9)

Of the unholy trinity of teams Nats fans might believe are rivals, the Braves and Cardinals came after original sinners: the Phillies. It wasn’t just watching them win a World Series in 2008, or getting back to the World Series in 2009. It wasn’t that they routinely handed it to Washington (which they did. 27-9 over those two seasons). It wasn’t frustrating game after game of not getting hits against the likes of Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee.

It was the phans. It was the legion of Phillies fans that seemed to have come from nowhere and begin to throw everything they could in the face of a struggling and still very small fan base. It was April 5, 2010. The single worst Opening Day of my life. 35,000 Phillies fans in Washington making it impossible to remotely enjoy what is our most sacred of days in the baseball calendar. Beer tossing, finger flipping, loud cursing party busses full of Philadelphians taking every opportunity to pretty much take a dump over the 10,000 of us who bothered to come to the game.

It was the nadir of Natstown, hands down. Kids who get bullied sometimes start walking home a different way from school, and so to did lots of Nats fans start avoiding the Phillies series. It is both a bit of genius, and entirely mortifying, that the Nats PR group had to have a “Take Back our Park” series to convince Nats fans to show up to these games. By the time you are invoking Take Back the Night you know you have a fan problem.
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Tipping the Pitch: The Fastball. Two-seamers and Four-Seamers

Fastball.  Off-speed. Slider. Pitchers come with more than a handful of different types of pitches, and whether on TV or in the stands it can be hard to identify which is which and what is what.  “Tipping the Pitch” will profile different pitches from time to time so that you’ll know your change-up from your cutter in no time!  

All baseball pitching starts, and ends, with the fastball.  For as long as boys and girls have been throwing  balls at sticks, they were throwing them as hard as they could to get it by the bat.  Throw it hard.  Throw it fast. Throw it faster than the batter can get the bat around to the ball. Whiff – strike 3, you’re out.

What’s more, if you throw a good fastball it can make all your other pitches better.  If batters have to think about your fastball coming right down the pipe, it makes the batter less prepared for pitches that are slower or break in/out from the plate as seen in other pitches.  But first things first – like all good pitchers, we have to establish our fastball before we can get to the other stuff.  There are many types fastballs, actually – two of which  will be on display in Sunday’s finale with the Braves.  So let’s get started.

So How Fast is a Fastball anyway?

A fastball doesn’t actually have to be a particular speed. Some folks throw their fastball in the high 80MPH range. Stephen Strasburg throws his in the mid to high 90MPH range. Most things I’ve found indicate the average speed is about 88-90MPH.

But Aren’t There Different Types of Fastballs?

Yeah, there are.  Today, though, we are going to stick with the basic fastball (also known as the Four-Seam fastball) and the Two-Seam fastball (just to give you something to compare it to).

Okay, Tell me About the Four Seamer.  

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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.

A Collection of Unscientific Nationals Prediction Like Things

We Kid Because We...Love?

We Kid Because We…Love?

All week we’ve been talking about how predictions work and how you can, pretty accurately, take a stab at just how well a team might do (if, of course, you can figure out how many runs they’ll score/give up).

What follows flies completely in the face of al of that.  While I don’t think I can get away with talking about predictions all week and not stick my own neck out there, I can forewarn you that this is a totally unscientific, gut-checking style of prediction.  There are no stone-cold lead pipe locks, bold predictions when we get back from commercial.  These really are just a bunch of thoughts I have for the season this year.

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