Man coming after my last post this one means I’m real stupid at least once.
Believe it or not, this (mostly) isn’t an angry rage post, it’s resignation setting in. Thursday-Saturday were awesome, rallying from 9 runs down was great, so was walking off on Friday, but make no mistake, the 2018 Washington Nationals are a lost team and it’s probably not getting better. I thought they were showing the spark that would start a rally. I was wrong. So very wrong.
So why am I saying this ? A few reasons, but one big one.
The Rotation is on Fire, it’s Destroying the Bullpen, and the Problem is Compounding
Getting Stephen Strasburg back should be a benefit, especially if he can get close to his “get through 6-7 innings” form , but it’s not enough to cover up the problems of this rotation as tonight’s game. The fact Jeffrey Rodriguez was even allowed to start tonight (3 days after throwing in relief, 2 days after warming up in the bullpen) highlights the teams complete lack of viable options. You can have one of those “short appearance only” types on staff , but unfortunately for the Nats, they’ll have three even when Strasburg gets back given that Gio and Roark have apparently lost all ability go get batters out efficiently. This could partially be mitigated by adding an eighth reliever and keeping starters on a short hook, but even then, you need your starters to put up 0s for 4-5 innings and this group can’t, meaning the pen is constantly stretched to the breaking point and it’s taking options away. Here’s how the past week has brought them to the breaking point:
Wednesday: Nats use every reliever but Sean Doolittle, including 4 innings from Matt Grace, who then becomes unavailable for at least 3 days as a result.
Thursday: Nat’s empty available pen to complete rally, including using Jeffrey Rodriguez, monday’s starter,
Friday: Nats walk off (YAY) but Monday’s Rodriguez had to warm up with the game tied in the 9th as no other relievers were available by then . Kintzler pitches for the 5th time in 6 days just to get them there.
Saturday: Actually things go well, Scherzer throws 7 innings and Kelley eats the last 2 of garbage time but then,,,,
Sunday: In spite of the pen essentially getting the previous of a day off , Tanner Roark’s continued inability to pitch competently undoes all the benefits of Saturday as Grace throws multiple innings and tired relievers(Madson, Kintzler) that needed another day off are pressed into garbage time action until Mark Reynolds saves the day with what we will generously call a curveball.
Monday: With a wide variety of relievers unavailable and no real pitcher on hand, the Nats turn to Jeffrey Rodriguez (last seen warming in the pen on Friday) meaning that depending on how you count it, he started on either 3 days rest (not great) or 2 days rest (very not great). The results were predictably bad with a huge early deficit and an already spent Matt Grace (2 innings sunday) being unable to go deep, the Nats are forced to let Rodriguez hit for himself and eat innings after he shits the bed early and often.
Tuesday: With relievers burned out (Grace, Kelley) and others borderline unusable (Kintzler, Madson) and Jeremy “short start” Hellickson on the line I’m not optimistic.
That’s 28 innings of relief work in less than a week, that’s a lot.
This isn’ to say the Nats aren’t sending out the best team they possibly can, that’s the frustrating as hell part, they are. The farm system has some promising pitching arms but with the exception of Seth Romero (who can maybe make the team late next year if he stops being a dumbass), most of these are several years out, there are no reinforcements coming. While there will be available pitchers at the trade deadline, none of them are inspiring and all would require trading future assets away for a marginal gain right now.
I love Daniel’s production the past two years but the surgery on his knee has effectively killed his ability to contribute to the nats. Don’t let the 2 for 4 fool you (the final one was bad fielding, not good hitting). On Monday, Murphy ran into yet another 1st to 3rd out. In the 3 innings Thursday Murphy did the following:
-Allow a runner to reach by failing to field a soft ground ball directly at him
-Create a baserunner by being unable to get at an infield grounder , also directly at him
-Ground into a double play
-Fail to turn a double play because he literally couldn’t turn around quickly enough, which is kind of a basic expectation for a 2B
It’s a shame that someone who was so important to the team can be so bad but Murphy isn’t getting better. His batting average is floating around .200 and he can’t seem to drive the ball with any authority since putting his knees down was a big part of his game. Perhaps Murphy can improve but it shouldn’t be at the expense of the major league roster. Maybe they can bullshit a DL stint reason (and thus get him on a 3 week AAA rehab assignment) or, he can move to pinch hit duties, I don’t know. But right now he’s not helping himself and he’s hurting the team by taking the field.
Bryce is Too Damn Proud to Bunt
THis one is a pretty minor quibble but it comes down to this: Most teams shift their infield to the extreme against Bryce Harper. During the Marlins series, the fish wouldn’t even bother to cover 3B when he got to 2 strikes. There’s a pretty devastating solution to this: bunt towards 3B , it doesn’t look pretty but it disincentivizes shifting.
I’m too burnt out on this team to write it up in detail, but the same general inability to field cleanly or make reads on batted balls is creating outs on the basepaths for the offense and adding runners that the already underperforming pitching can’t handle. I know Davey is supposed to be all about aggressive base running but this ain’t working.
So What Next?
If Rizzo was thinking of making trades for pitchers we need to make them ASAP because the chances of being able to catch up fall further every day we lay a dud against what should be a beatable opponent like the Pirates.