Tag Archives: Gio Gonzalez

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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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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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Will we still be happy that the All-Star Break is over during/after Nats game tonight?

A co-worker asked me this morning about the Washington Nationals. He’s a casual fan going to the Sunday game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, whom he expected to be a better opponent. I suggested that the Dodgers were better than their record now that Yasiel Puig was on the team. I also suggested that the Nats were less than the sum of their parts thus far this season. The lineup, incomplete for so long, is finally healthy so perhaps the players can start hitting around their statistical norms. Even Bryce Harper is slumping a little bit, but who knows, maybe finishing 2nd in the Home Run Derby will get him going. The lack of situational hitting is the biggest problem, a relapse to the 2005-2011 Nats that seemed to lead the NL in runners left on base annually. Well, maybe not in 2008 and 2009.

We are also really overdue for a Ryan Zimmerman walk-off.

On the pitching front, Stephen Strasburg is having an “off year” while sporting an ERA of 2.99. Gio Gonzalez has settled into a groove after a mediocre start while Jordan Zimmermann is an All-Star (and rural American!) who hasn’t been quite as good of late, but clearly the leader on the staff. The backend hasn’t been good with Ross Detwiler on the DL twice and having trouble getting through the order a third time. Dan Haren, on the other hand, has had trouble getting through the order once, though has shown signs of improvement.

The Nats are six games back of the Atlanta Braves and catching them over the next 67 games is certainly possible, some even say probable. But it probably won’t happen all at once if it does — read Nats Pennant Push for more as you watch games while breathing into a paper bab. and September scheduling favors the Braves.

They can win the NL East, but it will likely be a slog. I thought that some of the preseason predictions of greater than 98 wins was wishful thinking, but 48-47 at the break was not something I anticipated. On Opening Day, I predicted 94 wins and I think that’s optimistic at this point.

Of course, if the Nats just wear their red caps and the Braves don’t wear their alternate jerseys, it’ll all work out!

MSM PREVIEWS

Washington Nationals have their work cut out for themThe Post

Washington Nationals storylines to watch in second halfThe Wash. Times

2nd half storylinesCSN Washington

FIRST HALF HIGHLIGHTS

They found a few!

It starts up again at 7:05 tonight — 11 game homestand. Time to get going.

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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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