Tag Archives: Stephen Strasburg

Stephen Strasburg was the #1 pick of the 2009 MLB draft. He debuted for the Washington Nationals on June 8, 2010 before a sold-out crowd and set the team’s strikeout record. Later in 2010, he needed Tommy John surgery. He returned to the mound in September 2011.

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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 1 NLDS: SF Giants 3 Nats 2

San Francisco Giants 3 WASHINGTON NATIONALS 2

I blame the red jerseys. It’s the playoff opener, wear the home whites!

A few mental mistakes too, like trying to get the lead runner on Jake Peavy’s bunt. Peavy pitched better than Stephen Strasburg, who wasn’t lights out, but didn’t lose the game for the Nats either.

There isn’t an embedded video of the game recap, so we’ll just have to post the highlight:



Bryce Harper
hit that home run farther than any other in his career. Sadly, it wasn’t one batter earlier in the previous inning when the bases were loaded. Ian Desmond struck out. He did it again in the 8th.

Harper also had the Nats first hit.

I listened most of the game and watched the last few innings after I got home from work.

Adam Kilgore had a good gamer in The Post:

Thomas Boswell’s column wasn’t good.

I said Nats in 4 and that’s already the best case scenario. Game 2 is at 5:37 p.m. on FOX Sports 1 or 106.7 FM/1500 AM. Jordan Zimmermann vs. Nats-biller, Tim Hudson.

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NLDS: Nats vs. SF Giants prediction

The afterglow of Jordan Zimmermann‘s no hitter last a few days and gave a brief respite for the anxiety of postseason baseball. Thanks J-Zimm. Another welcome distraction from all of this is the discovery of 1924 World Series footage – Watch rare footage of the Senators beating the Giants in the 1924 World Series (DC Sports Bog) | Film of the Washington Senators Winning the 1924 World Series Found! (Library of Congress)

That’s just outstanding stuff. Walter Johnson, the winning run in the only World Series title to date.

There has also been more wonderful Nats coverage than I can keep up with of late.

Today, at 3:07 p.m. on FOX Sport 1 or in my case, MLB Audio, the Washington Nationals host the San
Francisco Giants, who whipped the Pittsburgh Pirates in the play-in game on Wednesday night. The Nats have Stephen Strasburg starting his first playoff game while Jake Peavy starts for the Giants.

I was hoping for the Giants and told my friend David in San Francisco as much which might be hubris. I think it’s the best possible matchup in the playoffs for DC. David offered this in an email:

It is amazing what a big win will do to your attitude. I still believe that the Nationals and the Dodgers are the two best teams in the National League. But I also will note that the Giants played great last night and a 5 game series is short enough for randomness to trump averages. I suspect the Giants will use Bumgarner for Game 3, which means they will get him only once. Although you speak highly of Hudson, he has been lousy over the past month. At 38, end-of-season fatigue is a real thing. His pitches are elevating on him (typical sign of fatigue) and he’s been crushed for it. The best I’m hoping for from him is that he puts in 5 solid innings, gives up less than 2 runs and then Bochy goes to the bullpen. That will be taxing meaning that Peavy and the other likely starter (maybe Petit, maybe Vogelsong) will need to give a solid performance. But it means we get a travel day after going to the bullpen early.

In our favor, I like that Matt Williams has no post-season coaching experience and the Nationals’ last trip to the postseason ended in humiliating disaster. That is something that might creep into the minds of players that remember it. An ESPN analyst last night had a nice quip. He said the Pirates came into the game last night full of excitement and emotion and the Giants came in workmen-like fashion and the result showed. I thought in the 5th inning when McCutchen was stranded at second to end the inning his body language said he (the best player on their team) was a defeated player. I typically discount all the bluster of “playoff experience.” For instance, the most important players in the Giants 2010 championship, such as Posey, Lincecum, Bumgarner, Romo and Brian Wilson had zero playoff experience combined. Juan Uribe, Aaron Rowand and Edgar Renteria were the only players that had significant playoff experience and their contributions were mixed. Renteria was amazing and a vital component of their success, Uribe played well and Rowand was a total non-factor. But I really do like the fact that so many players on this team have experience winning elimination games–particularly multiple elimination game scenarios. They have the moxie to lose two games in Washington and come home and play their best ball and force a game 5. Some teams don’t have that–the A’s for instance.

Some other things to put in the doom category: Matt Williams (former San Francisco Giants star) quoted “we have miles to go before we sleep.” You know who else says that a lot? Ted Leonsis, who has never owned a team that advanced past the second round.

There is also the concern that the cowardly, subsidized Baltimore Orioles will exceed the Nats this and any season. And then we’ll have to hear about it from the fanboys in the DC media who uncritically cover a Baltimore team as if it were in DC. Even the ones who aren’t openly in the tank for Baltimore are apologists who ignore that the Orioles and their owner Peter Angelos are currently in default to the Nats. It’s a bad situation made worse.

Memories of the 2012 Nats collapse aren’t far away either. They had the Cardinals down 6-0 and lost 9-7, a bitter defeat as any in DC sports history. At least in my lifetime.

I had a bit of an epiphany this morning though. Back in 2004, I decided to ignore my cynicism and get emotionally attached to the idea that baseball would finally return to The District. Then it did.

Nats in 4.

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nats-onesies

Nats: MASN, Werth, Harper, the dearly departed centerfield bat

No, I don’t blog much about the Washington Nationals anymore. I will let you figure out why.

When I last checked in on the MASN dispute, I noted that “I am uncharacteristically happy about this news, I’m so used to it being bad for the Nats. However, it could still blow up because Selig’s track record is coddling Angelos and to a lesser extent the Orioles.”

According to the most recent report from The Post the Orioles owe Nationals $55 million-$60 million in fees from MASN, MLB panel ruled. The Nats “big victory” over the forces of evil was about half of what they had sought out, so the of course Peter Angelos and the Baltimore Orioles are still refusing to pay up, hence the dispute. In the end this whole saga will probably end with a whimper and not a bang. The hopes of the Nats being released from the corrupt bargain of outgoing MLB commissioner Bud Selig’s coddling of his friend Angelos seems to be a false one, a figurative towering fly ball caught just before the warning track.

By the way, since the Nats and Orioles are entitled to the same amount of money, Angelos want to keep it low so he can pocket more for himself. He’s even hurting the Orioles with this bargain. Also, the MASN camp is leaking more stuff to DC media. The Nats tend to keep tight-lipped which is letting others set the agenda.

Over at The Fingerman, Eric Fingerhut wonders why The Post, the most serious outlet left (cough, The Wash. Times, CSN) hasn’t dedicated more resources to this issue. I wonder too, particularly in light of some topics that are covered ad nausem. Not enough interest? Fear of offending Baltimore fan? Lack of interest in Nats fans? Are they Orioles fans themselves? It’s no secret that several people in the DC sports MCM are Baltimore fanboys. It isn’t even necessarily that they are covering for their favorite baseball team, just that they don’t recognize the problems that were foisted upon Nats fans by the cowardice and villainy of Angelos and the Orioles with Bud Selig’s support.

The biggest winner of course in all of this is probably Ted Leonsis whose Capitals and Wizards won’t be on CSN Mid-Atlantic forever. Without his teams, there is little point to having CSN Mid-Atlantic, so that channel’s willingness to make a sweet offer is high. MASN may also want to get Leonsis on board too as it could crush CSN Mid-Atlantic and monopolize all . For all of Leonsis talk of Monumental Network, getting a favorable deal with an existing RSN may be his ultimate goal.


Elsewhere in the world of Nats baseball, Jayson Werth was driving way too fast and is a danger to himself and others. We know this because natsenquirer.com scooped everybody else on it. It seems like the next story the MSM breaks on the Nats will be the first.


Matt Williams hasn’t upset me lately with a acute bad decision, but batting Bryce Harper sixth remains to be baffling. Speaking of Harper, good job by DC Sports Bog pointing out that the Braves reaction to walking through a letter in the dirt is…hypocritical. Oh and because it was awesome and I don’t tire of it, here’s Harper’s walkoff last week:

Oh and former Montreal writer — he’s not a bust, he’s recovering from thumb surgery.


Michael Taylor’s debut was what’s wonderful about baseball. Maybe the Nats will be okay when Werth is suspended for few games next year for reckless driving.


Theory on Stephen Strasburg: he felt he was getting squeezed on the strikezone by the umps, so he starting throwing his fastball over the plate more. Decreased velocity made it more hittable.


miss you bat

The windows-less building behind centerfield that was torn down had few months of glory, specifically, the mural of a bat. It’s going if not gone by now

The mural made the backdrop of Nationals Park much more interesting and let’s face it, a good backdrop is 50% of what makes a ballpark.

More later, maybe even a Nats vs. Pirates Q&A.

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