Tag Archives: Rafael Soriano

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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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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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That time Rafael Soriano ruined my son’s first Nats game

Good turnout
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Washington Nationals were on a five game winning streak going into yesterday’s series finale against the San Francisco Giants. Dan Haren continued his solid pitching, giving up a mere solo home run over six innings. The Nats scored 3 runs off of Ryan Vogelsong in the 3rd, but only managed 2 hits after ending Vogelsong’s day in the 4th. Fernando Abad and Tyler Clippard kept the 7th and 8th scoreless. Then Rafael Soriano came in, gave up a hit and a walk. Then it got really ugly.

With two outs and a full count, PH Hector Sanchez pulled the ball towards the foul pole, but not far enough for DC fans. Sanchez hit his fourth career homer in 297 at bats over three seasons. Soriano blew the save and cost the Nats a six-game winning streak, series sweep and a most importantly, a win in my son’s first ever game.

Now, the blame isn’t all on Soriano, outgoing manager Davey Johnson put him for the third day in a row ahead of a seemingly important series in Atlanta tonight. Still, Soriano’s the goat here because he walked Roger Kieschnick, a rookie hitting .250 too.

Then again, Haren did strand six runners in his first two at-bats…

I’d be more upset if the playoffs were still a factor and if it weren’t such a perfect day for baseball and time spent with my family. My son, who followed the lead of the Nats bats and napped for the 6th through 8th innings, was disappointed to see the Giants pull ahead after he woke up. I consoled him with the knowledge that the first time I went to a baseball game, my team lost (Royals over Yankees on Old Timers Day) and at my first Nats game they lost too (Opening Day 2005 in Philadelphia). However, if he decides not to become a baseball fan, I’ll forever blame Soriano.

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Nats lose Reds series; 1-2 record against MLB teams so far, 4-2 overall

The Washington Nationals could only win one out of three against the Cincinnati Reds this weekend. The overall record is 4-2, but only 1-2 against MLB teams.

FRIDAY

A 15-0 loss. Dan Haren’s Nats debut was simply Harendous! – (Nats Enquirer)

I’m glad I feel asleep on the couch as it was getting out of hand. Oof.

SATURDAY

A 7-6 extra inning win that didn’t need to be in extras. SS Ian Desmond (he’s got about 4 on the season — we’re a week into it) made two errors. Bryce Harper made one:

Mike Wise wrote about Harper too: Mike Wise: At 20, Bryce Harper has already earned the respect of baseball greatsThe Post

Ross Detwiler pitched well, but the bullpen coughed up his 5-1 lead. Drew Storen gave up two runs (one earned, the other on account of Desmond) and Rafael Soriano blew the save. The Nats were saved by homers – lots of them, including a solo shot in the 11th by Desmond (some redemption) the game-winner by Wilson Ramos (his second of the day, 3 RBI), Harper (two-run shot) and Jayson Werth (solo shot). Werth’s was caught barehanded by a guy holding his toddler in the other arm.


Oh and there was a little bit of an issue with the Channel 9 (WUSA) broadcast… (Sportsrantz)

SUNDAY

Aside from this amazing change up (Nationals Journal, The Post), Stephen Strasburg didn’t have it. He gave up 3 in the first and 3 in the sixth. He only went 5 1/3 innings. The bright spot – another homer from the 8th spot, C Kurt Suzuki hit a 3-run shot in the 2nd to tie it up. That was the only Nats scoring of the day off of Johhny Cueto or any other Reds pitcher. Final score 6-3.

I only listened on and off on the radio on account of fatherhood. Gravelly Point was awfully crowded yesterday.

THOMAS BOSWELL CHAT

Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports The Post

OFF DAY

No game on this Monday. That’s okay, sit outside and enjoy a refreshing beverage instead.

IN SCORES OF OTHER GAMES

Alex Ovechkin had 5 goals over two nights. The Caps are in first place in the SouthLeast division.

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Nats sign Rafael Soriano, last year’s Yankees closer

Washington Nationals owner Ted Lerner is 87 years old and it isn’t unreasonable to assume he wants to win and soon.. The Nats are coming off of the best record in MLB, but had a first round playoff exit largely because the tired bullpen couldn’t hold a lead.

Superagent Scott Boras is well aware of Lerner’s wants and is the agents of several Nats players, some that were drafted by the team (Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Danny Espinosa), others than were picked up in free agency like Jayson Werth and the departed Rick Ankiel. Add to this Rafael Soriano, last year’s New York Yankees closer, who just signed with the Nats yesterday. So, did Boras find a sugar daddy in Lerner? Probably, but it isn’t the first time he’s done this and I think it has worked out for the Detroit Tigers (2 pennants in six years).

Two years, $28 million (though some of it is apparently deferred). This looks like a great signing, regardless of money, because who cares about the money. Here’s the Post story (
Rafael Soriano and Washington Nationals agree to terms on two-year contract worth $28 million) from Adam Kilgore who also speculated on signing Soriano on January 6 (What about Rafael Soriano?)

Thomas Boswell notes they are ALL IN.

OTHER THOUGHTS

Drew Storen wasn’t the only reliever to break down in Game 5, both Edwin Jackson (why was he in there?) and Tyler Clippard gave up runs. Storen blew it, but he had help and got squeezed on strike calls. I think he’s been scapegoated too much. He probably just got a jolt and wont’ get as many save opportunities, but will still get some in Davey Johnson’s A/B bullpen strategy.

Clippard’s arm is going to fall off sometime soon — he’s been so overworked the last few years. Bullpen depth is going to be critical.

Persumably, a full season of Strasburg and other starters being more seasoned means longer outings and the bullpen not getting worn out. That proved to be a problem in October.

This should be fun.

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