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 A Series: Cincinnati Reds

20080614093925!NLC-CIN-Logo

Washington Nationals (23-20) vs. Cincinnati Reds (19-23)

2014 Head to Head Record: 0-0
2013 Head to Head Record: 4-3 Washington

Monday May 19, 7:05p ($1 Hot Dog Night Y’all!) 

Stephen Strasburg (3.48 ERA, 2.34 FIP, 11.6 K/9) v. Mike Leake (3.09 ERA, 4.02 FIP, 5.25 K/9)

Tuesday May 20, 7:05p

Doug Fister (4.76 ERA 6.51 FIP 6.35 K/9) v. Johnny Cueto (1.25 ERA, 2.98 FIP, 9.5 K/9)

Wednesday May 21, 4:05p

Tanner Roark (3.65 ERA, 3.68 FIP, 7.30 K/9) v. Alfredo Simon (2.45 ERA, 4.61 FIP 5.26 K/9)

The Nats and Reds have been similar ships sailing a similar course over the last three years. The two teams were outs away from meeting each other in the NLCS in 2012, took steps back in 2013 (although the Reds made a wild card spot) and are currently floating around injured early in the year. The Reds and Nats are currently down a star pitcher (Mat Latos and Gio Gonzalez) and several bats at least for this series. No Jay Bruce or Joey Votto, just like there will be no Bryce, Ryan and Adam.

The Reds however have had the worse end of it, 4 game back of the Nats and under .500. They were outscored 20-4 this Saturday and Sunday in Philadelphia, and are prone to giving up chunks of runs when they lose. a 6-1 loss to San Diego las week, as well as an 11-2 loss last Saturday to Colorado. The series presents a key opportunity for the Nats to beat a middling, not awful, team and establish they can muddle through these injuries better than other teams can.

Continue reading

New Podcast! S2E8 Andy Feffer is the Dan Haren of the Front Office

Season 2 Episode 8

Frank does an episode with Jared (@SCviaDC) and Stu (@TClippardsSpecs) discussing the Nationals at large in a slightly modified format.  We answer your Twitter questions, talk about what went wrong and right with the Nats so far, Danny Espinosa, whether Andy Feffer was a good thing or bad, as well as a hodge podge of other things.  It’s a near-end of the season primer on what things look like with 6 games left to go, and you’ll want to say you were in on the ground floor!  Give a listen!

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.

Cliff Notes: The “I’m a Sci Fi Fantasy Sweater Vest Minor Leaguer” Edition

563235_10101874800311994_1074133529_n

Cliff Notes is a bi-weekly-ish post featuring links to some of our favorite stories from other parts of Natstown over the past couple of days.  We want to make sure you’re reading the best of what Natstown has to offer!

Don’t forget, tonight is SWEATER VEST NIGHT at Nationals Park (Unofficial).  It’s in honor of color analyst F.P. Santangelo, who we all think is awesome.  Also, it will be fun to stand out at the park.  Come on out/look for us on the TV! (Presented by the Half Street Irregulars).

  • In other Non-Direct-Baseball News, @FakeFP’s STOP THE WAVE pamphlet (since turned into a back of an Anti-Wave T-shirt) got picked up by Yahoo and is making the National rounds.  This is a good thing.
  • See!  I didn’t Tweet-Lie when I said Werth was using Game of Thrones (and The Walking Dead) as his walk up music!  Now he really just needs to get the Dr. Who theme (preferably Seasons 2-3, or Season 5  of the rebooted seasons.  Season 1, and the Original Series are probably too quiet to be heard properly. You need that full BBC London Philharmonic Orchestra!)
  • How Do I Baseball wrote a story about Drew Storen’s evil, evil change-up against the White Sox Dewayne Wise.  It’s a pitch worthy of its own story. 
  • It’s similar to the Adam Kilgore piece about Strasburg’s change up against Joey Votto of the Reds.   Between these two posts, I’m pretty sure we’ll be doing a series showing what different pitches are and how they move. 
  • Natstradameus expresses my thoughts on Anthony Rendon nearly perfectly in this post explaining why, despite a serious case of the Error-Hiccups, the team won’t be calling up Rendon anytime soon.
  • Mark Zuckerman did profile who is playing well in the Minors so far.  In fact, the tone of his post seems to indicate that you might see Micah Owings or Zach Walters before you see Anthony Rendon this year.
  • Still don’t think the Nationals aren’t preparing Rendon for a possible move.  The last article today is from Byron Kerr, reporting that Rendon is playing both 3rd and 2nd base in Harrisburg so far.  This gives the Nationals a little more flexible with how they bring him up, when the bring him up (which still might not be soon).

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