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!

Spring Training Question #2: Can Matt Williams Grow As A Manager?

Matt Williams managing the NLDS.

Look, I get it. Managing is tough. When the team wins, most folks usually congratulate the players and when they lose, most folks usually blame the manager- and that’s usually the fair thing to do. Players can streak or slump, but managers always have the ability to move those players around accordingly. Imagine if for every decision you made at work there were 40,000 people in your office silently (and not so silently) deciding how they would have done your job better. Worse are the hundreds of thousands more at home doing the same thing, and by tomorrow every hack with a Macbook is going to write up how they you screwed up even if the team did win and why you should be fired.*

(*I am one of those hacks).

I say this so that you know that when I do pick at Matt Williams managing in this post, I am fully aware that this is the easy thing to do. That I would not be a good manager myself, that I know I don’t know better than he does, and that I am fully aware that my opinion here does not reflect the opinion of the majority, or maybe even plurality, of other Nats fans. But these are things I am compelled to write because I believe them to be true. So, here we go…

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Friday Round Up: #DCisReady

The 1895 Washington Senators 43-85 in the National League. via Cool Old Photos (Click for link) but H/T to @GhostsofDC

The 1895 Washington Senators 43-85 in the National League. via Cool Old Photos (Click for link) but H/T to @GhostsofDC

The Walking Dread: With any luck, this tweet from Chelsea Janes bodes well for the Nationals walking wounded:

-or, lightly running, as the case may be. But too bad, I wrote all of this out before I saw this tweet, so I’m going to continue with my “how ugly could this get?” post.
The worst news first: Anthony Rendon went from sitting out for a few days to having no timetable. That’s really scary.  CL strains (of any kind) can get ugly quick, even if they are mild. As HarperGordeck from Natsbaseball blog points out, the prospect of Kevin Frandsen at third for a month, or longer, is laughably scary.

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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

New Podcast: S3E2: Tanner Roark: MacGyver of Pitching

Frank is joined by Stuart Wallace (@TClippardsSpecs) of District Sports Page to discuss the current state of the Nationals, including Denard Span’s resurgance, Doug Fister’s dominance, the hills of Las Vegas, Why injuries happen to pitchers, Belgian vs. IPA beers and just how the hell does Tanner Roark do what he does!?!

Get To Know A Nat 2014: Jerry Blevins

JB in a homemade Nats uni, posted to his Twitter account.

JB in a homemade Nats uni, posted to his Twitter account.

Name:  Jerry Richard Blevins
Nickname(s): Houdini
DOB: September 6, 1983
Twitter?: @JerryBlevins_13
From: Johnson City, Tennessee
Position: Relief Pitcher Bullpen Role: All-Around Lefty-Reliever
Hand: Lefty
With the Nats Since: Dec. 11, 2013 (acquired via trade with Oakland Athletics)

Just Who Is This Guy?: Jerry Blevins is a tall, left-handed reliever who, up until the December trade, had spent the past seven seasons with the Oakland Athletics. Blevins made his major league debut on Sept. 16, 2007, when he pitched a scoreless inning in relief during an 11-9 loss against the Texas Rangers. He has a career record of 13-6 with a 3.30 ERA in 281 games at the Major League level.

Blevins pitching repertoire features a sinker, curveball, cutter and a changeup – all of which he can throw anywhere in the zone for strikes. Not known for having blazing fast pitches, Blevins tends to work hitters down in the zone in order to induce more ground ball outs. His best season came in 2012 where he went 5-1 with a 2.48 ERA in 63 games. Blevins struck out 54 and limited lefties to a .182 batting average against him.

One fun fact about Blevins is that he and fellow bullpen pitcher, Craig Stammen, were college classmates and teammates at the University of Dayton.

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Holding Court: 5 Extensions I’d do before Desmond and Zimmermann

The two two-year deals the Nats handed out to Ian Desmond and Jordan Zimmermann effectively ended the negotiations for a longer term deal – at least for this offseason. Neither of those deals was really an extension because both players are under team control for 2015, nor were they “backloaded”. They simply settled next year’s arbitration cases early, thus the salary escalates in the second year because that’s what was going to happen anyway. However, both deals did save the Nats $3.4M compared to MLBTR’s predictions for the 2014 season. I think both of these guys are worth extending into their free agent years but they are not without risks.

Desmond will turn 29 by the end of the season so extending him past his current contract would cover his 30’s – and the beginning of a player’s typical decline. Zimmermann turns 28 in May, so like Desi, is wrapping up his ‘prime’ years. Plus both players have checkered injury historys to boot. Extending players before they hit free agency is done to save the club some money in exchange for the player’s security with guaranteed money. Thus, if you can’t get a discount and will have to pay market value, then there’s little reason for the club to take the risk of guaranteeing year.

With that in mind, here are 5 other players that I would extend this spring while waiting another offseason to revisit Zimmermann and Desmond.

5. Wilson Ramos (age 26)

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