Tag Archives: Denard Span

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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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I remembered to submit my DC-IBWA 2014 Nats predictions

Every year, the DC Internet Baseball Writers Association sends out questionaires for the Natmosphere about the state of the Washington Nationals. Some years I get to them, some years I don’t. This year, I got to it. Fire away:

1) Who will lead the Nats in home runs in 2014? – Bryce Harper
2) Who will lead the Nats in RBI? – Bryce Harper
3) Who will lead the Nats in stolen bases? – Denard Span
4) Who will lead the staff in wins? – Stephen Strasburg
5) How many games will Ryan Zimmerman play first base? – 11
6) Who starts more games: Ross Detwiler, Taylor Jordan, Tanner Roark, Ross Ohlendorf? – Taylor Roark
7) Who will get more at bats for the Nats this season: Danny Espinosa or Jamey Carroll? – Danny Espinosa
8) Which minor leaguer are you most interested in keeping tabs on this season? – Lucas Giolito
9) Who will reach majors first: Sammy Solis, A.J. Cole, Lucas Giolito or Matt Purke? – Matt Purke
10) How many all-stars will the Nats have? Who? – 3 – Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, Wilson Ramos
11) Total wins and what place in the division? 92, 1st

Essay: What should be the single most important development for the Nats this season?

The Nationals single biggest development should be playing smarter. The talent is there, as we saw in 2012, but last season they had a tendency towards defensive lapses that extended innings and wore down pitchers. Another part of playing smarter is not playing with serious injuries. Harper played hurt for the bulk of the season and Espinosa played his way out of the majors. In the outfield at least, an improved bench should make it easier for manager Matt Williams to give Jayson Werth, Span and Harper some days off with Nate McLouth as the fourth outfielder, so nagging injuries may bee mitigated somewhat. In the infield, Espinosa is a big question mark as the utility man coming off of injuries to both arms.

Strasburg also faces a big year at the top of the rotation after an “off” year in 2013. A recent Post article suggests he had an epiphany about his approach. Strasburg has always come off as intelligent, but very sensitive at the same time. If he has overcome his perfectionist tendencies and self-flagellation, he could dominate with more regularity. Simply put, a focused Strasburg, more comfortable with being an ace and all that entails could be devastating to NL hitters.

Lastly, I believe that Williams approach to defense and hiring of a “defensive coordinator” could help address defensive lapses. Not necessarily because shifts in and of themselves can anticipate where batted balls are going, but also keeping the fielders a little more focused. The question will be whether this will help overcome the learning curve that Williams will face as a rookie manager. Thus far, the tone he is setting for the team is refreshing after Davey Johnson’s casual approach in 2013.

I’ll be surprised if the Nats win 98 games like they did in 2012 — I think that was the peak year in the regular season at least, but I don’t see the Braves winning 96 again either. I believe the Braves will challenge to for the NL East title and probably make the play-in game. After that, it’s all about matchups in the playoffs, so, who knows?

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MEDIOCRITY CLINCHED: Nats sweep doubleheader, win 81st game

A big day for the resurgent Washington Nationals — they won twice today over the first place Atlanta Braves and for the 27th time in 37 games. Denard Span extended is hitting streak to 28 games. Ryan Zimmerman hit his 10th home run in 15 games. Tanner Roark went to 7-0 since being called up. The Nats kept pace in the second play-in game spot at race 4½ games back of the Cincinnati Reds.

GAME 1

NATS! SNATCHING VICTORY FROM THE JAWS OF DEFEAT FROM THE JAWS OF VICTORY

— William F. Yurasko (@doubleuefwhy) September 17, 2013

A 3-0 lead turns into a 5-3 defecit, but the Nats get to Craig Kimbrel in the 9th with a walk, single, walk, sacrifice and two-run error by Andrelton Simmons. D-SPAN wins it.

GAME 2

Roark throws seven scoreless. Nats overcome Trent Jewitt letting D-Span go for home. Rafael Soriano overcomes two leadoff baserunners in non-save situation. Nats pile on late, win 4-0. Braves can’t clinch NL East in D.C.

So, which was more important to you?

What Washington Nationals ACHIEVEMENT are you more excited about?
  
pollcode.com free polls 

Oh and here are playoff scenarios: If The Nats Do This And Reds Do That Then Playoffs Here We Come

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Gio Gonzalez pitches one-hitter against Mets; Nats hit five homers in 9-0 win

Wait, a one-hitter but no embedable MLB.com video? Your embedding policy is arbitrary and capricious, MLB.

In the most highly anticipated D.C. sports event of the night, Gio Gonzalez led the Washington Nationals to a 9-0 win over the New York Mets. All the hype that Washingtonians have been experiencing for last night – totally on point and worth it.

Gonzalez had one of the best starts ever by a D.C. pitcher.

                       IP H R ER BB SO HR
Gonzalez (W, 10-6)	9 1 0 0 2  8  0

ESPN’s boxscore gives Gonazlez a 91 game score. Jordan Zimmermann’s April 26 win over the Cincinnati Reds, perhaps the finest start by a D.C. pitcher since 1931 had a game score of 88. Here is an explanation of Bill James’ game score stat:

Start with 50 points. Add 1 point for each out recorded, (or 3 points per inning). Add 2 points for each inning completed after the 4th. Add 1 point for each strikeout. Subtract 2 points for each hit allowed. Subtract 4 points for each earned run allowed. Subtract 2 points for each unearned run allowed. Subtract 1 point for each walk.

So, is that better than Zimmermann’s April gem? Looking back, Zimmermann only had 4 strikeouts, but allowed one fewer baserunner. He also did it against the Reds, a team the Nats have been seemingly 7 games back of for the last month and a half. The Mets on the other hand, are nine under. Zimmermann also pitched that game with only one run of support, while Gonzalez had nine runs of support last night.

I’ll give the nod to Zimmermann for the best pitched game in modern Nats history.

Those nine runs I just mentioned came off of five home runs. Denard Span and Ryan Zimmerman hit solo shots back-to-back in the 1st. Zimmerman has been on fire this last week, hitting homers in each of his last three games (4 overall) and 6 since September 2. Span and Zimmermann scored on Jayson Werth’s third inning home run. Werth is first in the NL in SLG and OPS. Tyler Moore hit a solo homer and Wilson Ramos hit a 3-run homer.

The Nats continued their winning ways, winning their 20th in 29 tries. The playoffs are long out of reach, but the team is playing up to it’s capabilities at last. That and an easier schedule.

Gio Gonzalez throws one-hitter as Nationals clobber 5 home runs in 9-0 win over MetsThe Post

So, what were you watching last night? Oh, that.

Get well, Bryce Harper.

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Nats take Tigers series with 5-4 win; untucking is so dumb I only want to see it about 85 more times

The Washington Nationals won their weird two game interleague series with the Detroit Tigers with a 5-4 win yesterday (Boxscore). Since it started at 4:05 p.m. I listened to it during the last part of work. I then had a 3-hour commute to get home (with several stops), so having Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler calling the win was really good.

The Nats jumped all over Detroit starter Doug Fister, scoring five runs off of him in the first two innings. They knocked him out after 3 innings, surely limiting television viewers from many terrible Fister jokes. Charlie & Dave had their share and delivered them well — they had to, otherwise the writers get offended.

Those five D.C. runs came off of only one extra-base hit, a leadoff double by Denard Span to open the game. Singles, walks and a hit-by-pitch led the way for the rest of the runs. The bats went cold after the 2nd though as the Tigers bullpen shut the door.

Dan Haren pitched decently through 5 innings, giving up only one run on a RBI single by Fister. However, a walk and a bunt single in the 6th set the table for PH Matt Tuiasosopo to homer and bring the game within one. Ryan Mattheus, Drew Storen held the Tigers scoreless in the 7th and 8th.

The Nats bullpen held on and everybody untucked their jerseys after Rafael Soriano‘s 12th save. The untucking trend (DC Sports Bog, The Post) is kind of stupid, but if they do it 11 times in October, I won’t complain.

The Tigers haven’t beaten the Nats since 2009. To my friend J.J. in Michigan, I reminded him of this:

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Nats undefeated and unscored upon after two games; Gio homers

Gio Gonzalez threw seven scoreless innings and homered to start the scoring for the Washington Nationals:

I had just “liked’ a tumblr post by Tom Bridge about his conversion to the light side of the force with regards to pitchers batting.

Gonzalez didn’t have his sharpest stuff, but facing the Miami Marlins he can get away with it. Asked how he felt about throwing this evening:

Um, Gio?

The second run came in the 7th with two-men on and Denard Span at the plate. Span grounded towards the second baseman, nearly hitting pinch runner Roger Bernadina who came to an aburpt stop and collided with the second baseman. A throw to first nearly got Span, but he was safe and the second run was in.

The third run was Bryce Harper scoring from second on Ryan Zimmerman single. Harper’s double was a few feet short of his third homer of the year on the right field wall.

MORE INTERESTING TWEETS

Bad faith, bad effort, bad channel, bad deal.

IN SCORES OF OTHER GAMES

Good night!

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D-Span: Nats get Denard Span from Twins for prospect Alex Meyer

Since time immemorial, Washington Nationals general managers have craved a centerfielder who could lead off. Why GMs Jim Bowden and Mike Rizzo were so insistent for those two skillsets combined is a mystery that may never be fully understood. That led to experiments with the likes of Nook Logan, Lastings Milledge and Nyjer Morgan. Now, Rizzo believes he has acquired the player once thought to be an impossible dream. Denard Span (Baseball Reference) is coming to D.C.

Span, previously with the Minnesota Twins, was actually born in the nation’s capital(Nationals Journal, The Post) when his mother went labor earlier than expected. Speaking his mother, he hit her with a foul ball in spring training once (Nats Enquirer). She was fine (twinsbaseball.com).

Naturally, the newest Nat will be known as D-SPAN. It is probably only a matter of time before Brian Lamb is asked to comment.

Denard Span - D-SPAN

Back to the field, the ramifications of Span’s arrival are many and let’s just say, if you were looking forward to Michael Morse and Adam LaRoche playing together again, you will probably be disappointed. Morse won’t be a starting outfielder with Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper manning the corners and Span in center. That means he has to supplant LaRoche at first or be sent elsewhere. LaRaoche is unsigned at this point, but the Nats still want him. This, and what losing another pitching prospect in Alex Meyer, means is explained well here: Ripple effects from the Alex Meyer-Denard Span trade (Nationals Journal, The Post). It seems like a solid trade that screams the Nats are in “WIN NOW” mode which is a pretty good sign.


Rizzo: Span will “come into his own” in WashingtonCSN Washington

TWITTER REACTIONS

HOW TWITTER WAS WON TONIGHT

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