Tag Archives: Adam LaRoche

1st baseman for the Washington Nationals in 2011 before an injury ended his season.

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2014 Washington Nationals: Denouement

Last month, the Washington Nationals of 2014 completed the 4th best season in DC baseball history, but a second division title — they ran away with the National League East still yielded a first round exit. In the NLDS, they faced the San Francisco Giants, winners of the play-in game and lowest seeded team in NL, but eventual world champions. Four games later, the Nats were eliminated, despite strong pitching. Some strange mental errors and an opportunistic Giants squad overtook the Nats for two reasons:

The Nats bats with four days off did not hit. Anthony Rendon and Bryce Harper, the two youngest hitters on the team, were able to handle being pitched to low and a way. The rest of the lineup was largely helpless and the manager of the Nats, Matt Williams made no adjustments to the lineup, leaving Harper at 6th throughout the whole series. Questions about that decision-making as well as hitting coach Rick Shu are there to be asked.

Williams decision making has been fairly scrutinized. I don’t mind that he pulled Jordan Zimmermann in Game 2 with two outs in the ninth after yielding a walk. Facing Buster Posey for a fourth time with a tired arm wasn’t ideal. It just didn’t work out that Drew Storen did not get it done.

Game 4 proved to be much more baffling as Williams inserted Aaron Barrett into the 7th inning of an elimination game on the road instead of Tyler Clippard or Drew Storen. Stephen Strasburg, who had a decent Game 1 start, was also available, but my view is the best relievers available were the best choice. Williams never called for them and the Nats fell.

Was Williams management of the NLDS a fireable offense? Probably not, but I’m not saying I’d be disappointed; I could get used to spelling “Weird Wuss” with curly Ws, I think. His peers voted him NL Manager of the Year, perhaps in the way that I would suggest Hunter Strickland needs a larger stage, like closer on an NL East team. The Nats were not ready for playoff baseball, likely in part due to their success in the last month of season where the dominated weak NL East teams in the New York Mets and Miami Marlins. That schedule can’t be helped – it’s just the way it worked out. However, sticking to a lineup that wasn’t producing and sticking to bullpen roles rather than game situations is hardly unique to Williams.

Or maybe it was the red jerseys.

Now, let’s review the roster:

THE LINEUP

Denard Span‘s NLDS was a microcosm of the Nats year — when he hit, they tended to win. When he didn’t, they lost. 2014 was his most productive season, setting a modern DC hits record. Unfortunately, he only hit in game 3.

Anthony Rendon put up superstar numbers, led the NL in runs and played third base well. He also hit in the NLDS, going 7 for 20.

Adam LaRoche had a typical streaky season, but still played 140 games, had a .362 OBP, hit 26 homers and drove in 92 runs. He also hit a walk-off against the Arizona Diamonbacks in extra innings. He is done in D.C. as there will be no spot for him with Ryan Zimmerman headed to 1st.

Jayson Werth had another strong season at the plate (.292/.394/.455), but was useless in the NLDS. Really useless. His defense is starting to slip, so perhaps a move to left is in order. He also drives too fast.

Bryce Harper garnered more controversy than he deserved and miss significant chunks of time, but after he returned he was pretty much the same outstanding player he’s been his whole career. He also hit three homers in the NLDS. When he’s healthy he’s awesome.

Ryan Zimmerman
couldn’t stay healthy, first injuring his thumb and then tearing his hamstring. He’s done playing third base on a regular basis due to his arthritic shoulder and will probably move to first next season. He’s still a great hitter and not playing third may keep him in the lineup, though he got injured on the basepaths. He continues to be a consummate professional.

Ian Desmond strikes out a ton and tends to make more errors than he should, especially early in the season. He’s in a contract year and with no viable second baseman on the roster, he’ll probably be resigned and continue to put up 20-20 numbers for a few more seasons, but strike out a ton.

Wilson Ramos stared the season batting cleanup, couldn’t make it out of the first game without a trip the DL. He only played 88 games and runs very slowly. Aside from the WILLLLLL-SSSSSSON chant, a forgettable year in several respects. It’s still worth mentioning that the Nats traded Matt Capps for him.

Asdrubal Cabrera was solid at second base for the most part after being acquired from Cleveland for the stretch run and even had a decent NLDS compared to other Nats hitters (ejection notwithstanding) but is probably on his way out. A decent acquisition though, if only to keep Danny Espinosa out of the lineup.

THE ROTATION

Stephen Strasburg tried to hard to make a slider work, but in an up and down season still tied for the NL lead in strikeouts, pitched 30 more innings and walked fewer. He gave up more hits, but locked in during the stretch. His postseason debut was okay, but poor defense helped lead to an early departure.

Doug Fister
got traded for Robbie Ray and hero to fans of a certain age Steve Lombardozi. Fister went 16-6 in 25 starts with only 24 walks and no stolen bases. He also won Game 3. Good trade Mike Rizzo.

Jordan Zimmermann had a very strong 2014, earning an All-Star bid, being arguably the Nats best pitcher and throwing the first no-hitter in D.C. since the Hoover administration. He had an unflappable demeanor and came within one out of a complete game shutout in Game 2, but he walked Joe Panik when umpire ___ squeezed the zone a bit and got lifted. So close…2015 will likely be his final year in D.C. as he is a free agent after the season and indications are he’s ready for a change of scenary.

Gio Gonzalez can be an outstanding pitcher when he’s trusting his curve ball. When he isn’t, he runs into trouble. Always known for a high pitch count, Gonzalez has had trouble in three starts over two postseasons and is prone to brutal fielding lapses. He’s signed the longest of anyone in the rotation.

Tanner Roark was the player the Nats got for the Cristain Guzman rental. If he never pitches another game, it was robbery. Thirty-one starts, 2.85 ERA, 15 wins. That’s after going 7-1 in 2013.

THE BULLPEN

Tyler Clippard, while pigeon-holed into the 8th inning with a lead spot, continued to be a reliable, durable reliever. He did not fare well when sent into close, but overall remained the most consistent fireman on the team AND WHY WOULDN’T YOU USE HIM IN AN ELIMINATION GAME, MATT WILLIAMS?

Drew Storen had a bounceback regular season that had him return to closing late, but that is overshadowed by his giving up the tying run in Game 1 and even giving up a run in Game 3. Seemingly, he’s next year’s closer though Clippard should get a shot.

Rafael Soriano had a strong first half as closer, but fell off the table and almost off the roster in the playoffs. He’s not coming back.

Aaron Barret – Joe West broke him. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. He shouldn’t have been brought in late in an elimination game.

Jerry Blevins was great against lefties. And only lefties. Why do I know this and #9 doesn’t?

Craig Stammen had some big long relief appearances and continiued to be solid.

Ross Detwiler did not make the playoff roster and did not have the faith of the management. It’s a far cry from 2012 when he made the best start of the playoffs that year. He’s headed out of town.

There is some discussion that next year will be a last shot with the current core as Zimmermann and Desmond are in the final years of their contracts. I expect Desmond will be signed and Zimmermann will follow the money to a city not too far from a rural area. Span’s option has got to be picked up because he provides value on the field or as a trade piece. Who plays second base is undetermined. Werth is showing his age in right and will be hard pressed to match those numbers again. Maybe switch him and Harper in the outfield. An extension for Fister wouldn’t upset me and I’m okay with dangling Gio out to other teams. THe NL East should be more challenging as the Marlins and Mets are showing signs of ascendency. The Phillies are not a factor and the Braves stayed in it longer than they really should have in 2014. More divisional competition may help the Nats out and keep them sharp too.

It’s been over two weeks since the season ended and I still miss it. We’ve got the hot stove, winter meetings and of course the court figths with the Baltimore Orioles ahead, but that’s just not the same being able to turn on Charlie & Dave and listen to a game 5 nights a week.

It’s 152 days until Opening Day.

HIGHLIGHTS

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Game 2: NATS 1 SF Giants 2

The Washington Nationals 18-inning loss to the San Francisco Giants on Saturday night has their season on the brink. Win the next game or go home. In the best case scenario, that happens at least three times.

The Nats were one out away from a 1-0 victory, but Jordan Zimmermann walked Joe Panik on some questionable balls. Matt Williams replaced Zimmermann with closer Drew Storen. It wasn’t a bad decision, it just did not work. Storen gave up two hits, a single to Buster Posey and a double to Pablo Sandoval, not exactly scrubs Posey was thrown out trying to score, setting up the longest game in MLB postseason history. Not wanting a tired Zimmermann to face Posey a fourth time is a reasonable position.

It became fashionable to dump on Nats fans for leaving their seats during the 6:23 long game. Some surely went home, while others went to the concourse. Apparently, in the eyes of some out-of-market baseball scribes, this was a moral failing. The temperatures dropped at least 20 degrees since the beginning of the game and the wind picked up. By 10:00 it was quite cold, even more so if you were in the exposed upper deck dealing with the heavy winds.

The game was literally longer than a flight from San Francisco to D.C.:

Maybe the older writers just miss their annual treks to rue Sainte-Catherine in Montreal. I hear it isn’t what it was though.

The Nats primary problem, having given up 5 runs (4 earned) over 27 innings pretty clear — they aren’t hitting. Bryce Harper had two hits in game 1. Anthony Redon had 5 hits in game 2. That’s about it. Nothing from the leadoff hitter Denard Span and little from either Jayson Werth or Adam LaRoche. When you don’t get baserunners, the ump show that grants the opposition more strikes on pitches out of the zone is magnified. Not hitting is the problem. That’s why the Nats are on the brink of elimination.

Game 3 is at 5:07 p.m. Doug Fister vs. Madison Bumgarner on MLB Network as well 106.7 FM/1500 AM and MLB Audio.

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Nats still a lock to miss even play-in game

That .700 streak was fun, but season died in July

The Washington Nationals, losers of 3 out of 4, are not making the playoffs or even the play-in game (officially the Wild Card, but let’s be realistic here, it’s a play-in game and should occur in Dayton, Ohio, just like college basketball) despite that recent 14-5 run. They stand 7 ½ back of the Cincinnati Reds for the second spot. There just isn’t time. Nor, it seems, is there enough hitting or health.

Bryce Harper’s playing on a bad hip. Davey Johnson doesn’t know what’s going on (Federal Baseball). Adam LaRoche is terrible. Dan Haren is Dan Haren again. Thomas Boswell is moving on.

Last week, implausible scenarios were abound in the Natmosphere and the MSM. The “easy” schedule ahead isn’t that easy with so little hitting.

The season was over a month ago. There is no way to climb out.

Like I said a few weeks ago, enjoy what you can out of this lost season. Jayson Werth is playing better than ever in D.C. (The Post). It isn’t in vain, but it isn’t in pursuit of something bigger and that’s unfortunate.

Ten home games remain — four on weekends, two on Fridays. Go out and take one in. You’ll miss them when they are gone for the winter.

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Nats split D.C. portion of the Battle of the Beltway, RIP Lewis Yocum

The D.C. portion of the Battle of the Beltways has concluded with a split. The Washington Nationals lost game 1, badly, and then rocked the Baltimore Orioles last night 9-3. In other words, the Nats are playing about the same as they always do this season.

GAME 1

Bad Gio. Bad hitting. VIDEO RECAP

GAME 2

Nate Karns debuts, can’t go 5 for a win, but shows promise. 4 home runs, 2 from Adam LaRoche and back-to-back by Tyler Moore and Roger Bernadina. Is Moore finally hitting? Seems like it. VIDEO RECAP

I did not bother with my annual “why rooting for the Orioles is like rooting for Iran” or something along those lines post. How many times can I write the same thing? If not for the ridiculous “compensation for Peter Angelos” the Nats being kept off most D.C. area cable systems for most of 2 seasons and the awful coverage we’re forced to endure on MASN, I’d be pretty ambivalent about Baltimore’s baseball team. Their fans on the other hand, will not be missed. Enrico Pallazzo pays the national anthem more respect than they do.

There have been annoyances during the series, like the combination of both team’s broadcasters (does anybody like it?) and MASN incompetence (Nats Enquirer). You get the feeling for a lot of D.C. sports media the previous two games were their favorite of the year, because they get to see their team visit D.C.?

Oh and Bryce Harper is probably still out, so don’t count on him hitting the warehouse at Oriole Park tonight or tomorrow. One columnist, whose paper cuts sports in about 2 days, was hyping that up.
Reluctant superstar Jordan Zimmermann is on the mound tonight.

I’ll pay Bob Carpenter’s remarks about Nats fans as much attention as I pay him in the booth. Nice guy, mediocre play-by-play man at best, completely replaceable. It certainly does feel “fashionable” to get down on the Nats this week.

Lastly, RIP Lewis Yocum, who performed Tommy John surgery on Stephen Strasburg, Zimmermann and prospects Lucas Giolito and Sammy Solis. The Hall of Fame really needs to start a “doctor wing” to honor Yocum, Frank Jobe, James Andrews, etc.

Lastly, taking 2 of 3 from the Phillies over the weekend was nice.

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LaRoche finally realizes he’s not getting better than a 2 year deal, signs with Nats; Morse now tradebait

I go out to get my wife a birthday present and find out that Adam LaRoche has signed a 2 year deal to remain with the Washington Nationals. The first baseman had a strong 2012 after an injury-filled, shortened 2011 season.

Hey, a local Nats beat writer even broke the news!

Here’s Adam Kilgore’s first take for The Post: Adam LaRoche, Nationals agree to terms

The final contract details are not yet known. The original offer LaRoche was weighing was believed to be roughly $25 million.

LaRoche wanted a 3-year deal, but there wasn’t one out there. His consolation is playing on the reigning NL East champions and not having to relocated. Oh and $25 million.

Good signing by the Nats.

The LaRoche signing likely ends the tenure of OF/1B Michael Morse whose best defensive position is DH. Morse still has a year left on his contract and should bring something valuable back in a trade. However, the Nats would be unwise to unload him any time soon since they don’t run out of a place to play him until April 1. The outfield is set with Bryce Harper, newly acquired Denard Span and Jayson Werth, but I think GM Mike Rizzo and manager Davey Johnson will keep Morse around through a good chunk of spring training. Any injury to LaRoche or the three outfielders makes Morse pretty valuable. Morse will probably find a new home around March 25 or so.

Speaking of Harper, I had to unfollow him on Twitter. Following a pro athlete is kind of silly since half the tweets end with “ha ha ha” or “LOL” but especially so when he’s asking everybody to pump up his chance to be on a video game cover.

83 days until Opening Day

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After game 2 loss, Nats need to move on

Isn’t it something how a blogger isn’t motivated to jump out of bed and write after a loss?

The Washington Nationals lost game 2 of the NLDS to the St. Louis Cardinals, 12-4. That and the fact that tomorrow’s game 3, the first playoff game in D.C. since the 1933 World Series is at 1 p.m. and on MLB Network which is not as widely available as other channels has certainly made the Natmosphere cranky.

As for yesterday’s game, the Nats started off well with 2 walks in the top of the first. They didn’t convert those runners into runs though. Jordan Zimmermann then went 1-2-3 in the bottom frame. Things were looking good. In the top of the second, the Nats got more baserunners and Zimermmann pulled up from a bunt and went the other way to knock in a run. Things looked really good, but getting only one run out of those innings seemed like the same scenario that went the other way the day before.

Zimmermann then came undone in the bottom of the inning and the Cardinals had 4 runs. He gave up another in the third and was pulled. The bullpen threw gasoline on the fire with Craig Stammen, Michael Gonzalez and Sean Burnett gave up 7 runs to eliminate the chance of the comeback.

Back to back home runs by Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche were nice though. They only got the Nats within four though and St. Louis expanded their lead. Just a tough ugly game.

The challenge ahead is getting the Nats to put it aside, but more so for strong starting pitching. Edwin Jackson starts tomorrow and needs to pitch a strong outing. His last outing against the Redbirds was brutal. The top of the order needs to step up too, Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper need to get going.

OR MAYBE THE BERGEN RECORD JINXED THEM

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Another 6 homer game for the Nats clinches Cubs series

Remember on Tuesday night when the Washington Nationals hit six home runs off the Chicago Cubs?

It took over 110 years and almost 80 seasons to reach that mark and the Nats did it again less than 24 hours later. Wow.

Bryce Harper hit two of those homers, earning the coveted “Must C” embeddable video on MLB.com:

You know what would be funny? Finding a Cubs pitcher in the offseason and playing the “rapid ascent” submarine horn for him. He’d probably collapse into the fetal position.

Sorry, I probably just jinxed the Nats to being shutout tonight.

Roger Bernadina hit a homer before Harper’s first, then Adam LaRoche hit one two batters later in the 3rd. Three out of four batters homered in one inning! Then in the 7th, Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa went back to back. Harper’s second homer came in the sixth.

Gio Gonzalez pitched 7 shutout innings for his 18th win.

The Nats clinched another series last night. There isn’t a better story in baseball than this Nats team.

Hard Times Cafe is going to go broke on giving out wings.

More fun:

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Nats set D.C. record for homers in 11-5 rout over Cubs

History, it seems, is being made daily by the 2012 Washington Nationals.

It got better as Adam LaRoche hit his second homer in the eighth for the Nats sixth of the night. Ian Desmond, Jesus Flores, Tyler Moore and Ryan Zimmerman also contributed with the long ball. In nearly 80 seasons of D.C. baseball, this has never happened. The story just keeps getting better. This is the best story in baseball.

The Nats had 11 extra base hits out of 19 overall, so scoring 11 runs is actually kind of a disappointment; nine runners were left on base.

Edwin Jackson struck out 7 over 5 2/3, but faltered late and gave up four Chicago Cubs runs. He did have two hits though.

The crowd was low — under 18,000 on the first day of school for Northern Virginia. Low crowds were common across the league though:

School started, Bos, school started.

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