See other templatesSee other templates

Jun
05

Who Starts on Sunday, Sans Strasburg, For Nationals?

For the first time since Stephen Strasburg was placed back on the IL, the Nationals must turn to their No. 5 starting pitcher.

There’s just one problem: They don’t currently have a fifth starter on their active roster.

They’ll be forced to trot someone out to start Sunday’s game in Philadelphia, but who it will be remains a mystery. There was a thought that it could be Erick Fedde, who’s currently on the IL, but is in the midst of a rehab assignment. He was slated to start on Thursday and Friday for Wilmington (High-A), but both games were postponed due to rain. Rather than forgoing the rehab appearance, the Nationals chose to let him pitch today in the minor leagues, opting to allow someone else to get the Sunday big league start.

This won’t be an easy decision. There aren’t any great options, and it’s difficult to even narrow the field down to two or three pitchers. There are men on the big league roster who have starting experience and could each pitch multiple innings, there are arms – albeit uninspiring ones – in AAA who could be recalled in a pinch, or the Nats could call up someone lower in the minor league system that’s been pitching better this season.

Here’s who Dave Martinez and the Nationals will be choosing between ahead of Sunday’s 1:05 p.m. game in Philadelphia:

Continue reading
1
Tags:
Jun
03

With End Comes Potential New Beginning For Wizards

The Wizards fell rather helplessly to the Philadelphia 76ers Wednesday night, 129-112, thus commencing what could be their most make-or-break offseason in quite some time. There are a handful of extremely important decisions they must make – not only in order to progress entering next season, but also to address the long-term state of the franchise.

The status quo clearly only gets the Wizards so far. At best, it’s led to them fighting to squeeze their way into the playoffs. At worst, over the last two or three years, they’ve often looked like one of the least competitive teams in the Eastern Conference – even in spite of their top-end talent.

The Wizards had an end-of-season press conference – more like a post mortem– this morning, and they said a lot of the right things. However, there was no clarity in terms of which lane they want to ride in. They supposedly don’t want to stand pat, but their actions will speak louder than their words.

The decisions that lie on the horizon are quite clear, but the ways in which they are addressed will likely lead the team in two very different directions.

Continue reading
1
Tags:
May
30

Martinez Showing More Flexibility In Roster; Is It Working?

Aside from moving a few players up and down his lineup, manager Dave Martinez had kept his roster and everyday players rather consistent throughout this season.

But that’s changed recently.

In fairness, his hand has been partially forced due to Victor Robles’ injury. But he’s also shown more flexibility with his catchers over the last handful of games, so let's take a look at where the roster stands after today's sweep by Milwaukee. 

The Defense

Aside from an occasional day off for rest, Robles has been Martinez’s everyday centerfielder for the last three seasons, and he’s never wavered from that belief. Aside from aging veterans like Howie Kendrick and Ryan Zimmerman, that’s been Davey’s mentality with all of his starters throughout his tenure in Washington.

With Robles on the IL due to a sprained ankle, however, Davey has been forced to adjust. He only has one other player on his roster with any legitimate capability of playing centerfield, no outfielders (aside from Robles) who hit right-handed, and no true outfield depth in the minor leagues.

Continue reading
1
Tags:
May
22

Wizards Survive the Play-In Round, Prepare for the 76ers

Usually when you win the No. 1 seed, your opening-round opponent should be an easy matchup.

That may not be the case for the Philadelphia 76ers Sunday when they face Washington, as the Wizards have some pieces that could make this series more interesting than most No. 1 vs. No. 8 matchups. Sure, the Wizards lost convincingly to the Boston Celtics Tuesday night, and the Philadelphia 76ers are better than the Celtics. However, they also blew out the Indiana Pacers on Thursday to advance to this round.

Recap of Previous Action

Neither of those outcomes should’ve been incredibly surprising. Three-level scoring forwards who can also create their own shots and move their feet always give the Wizards trouble. They had no answer on defense for Jayson Tatum, which resulted in him scoring 50 points against them. They also don’t have anyone who’s particularly equipped to contain as dynamic of a point guard as Kemba Walker, who knocked down six three-point shots and scored 29 points.

Continue reading
2
Tags:
May
20

Strasburg Re-Enters Rotation, Fedde Exits – Or Does He?

Stephen Strasburg will finally return from the IL tomorrow.

We’ve long assumed that once that happened, Erick Fedde would be removed from the rotation, and at the moment he will be, since he was placed on the IL Wednesday.

But does that mean his role in the starting rotation is gone?

Fedde has seemingly been destined for the bullpen for the last two years, but there’s always been something – usually an injury to someone above him – that’s kept him in the rotation. He’s been viewed as a sufficient Band-Aid, but one who had a 50-50 chance to pan out long term, despite being a former first-round draft selection.

This year has been different, though. Sure, an injury and an illness are what’s given him the initial opportunity, but he’s done something with it this time.

His ERA, which sits at 4.35 through eight starts, is very similar to where it’s been for the past few seasons. The difference, however, is his dominance from hitter to hitter. The batting average he has surrendered (.217) is 52 points lower than his career average, and his strikeout rate has nearly doubled compared to 2019 and 2020.

Fedde has generally been decent in terms of run prevention, but he often left everyone sitting on the edge of their seats, waiting for an implosion. That fear for the worst has virtually disappeared this season.

Continue reading
2
Tags:
May
16

It Wasn't Just A Good Weekend. It Was A Great Weekend.

As sports weekends go in the Nation's Capital, local teams may have just finished a rare great one.

Think about it. The Capitals won an opening-round Stanley Cup playoff game. The Wizards rallied to win and clinch an 8th-seed in the NBA playoffs. The Nationals won a series on the road. Plus the Mystics opened their season, DC United took to the pitch, and even the Washington Football Team and Hokies down in Blacksburg had an eventful last few days.

Not  bad. Not bad at all. Here are the details:

Capitals Win A Postseason Thriller

Caps fans had their hearts in their throats early when starting goaltender Vitek Vanecek left in the first quarter due to injury, leaving the game in Craig Anderson’s hands. Anderson only had two starts this season, his last win was in May of 2017, and while they said he was 39, it was just barely. He'll be 40 this week. So on top of concerns for injuries to TJ Oshie and the return of Alexander Ovechkin from injury, Caps fans had plenty to worry about.

But soon after realizing Anderson was even on the team, Caps fans realized they were seeing a calm, experienced goaltender who kept the Boston Bruins in check. Tom Wilson scored the game’s opening goal, showing he can score AND fight, then Jake DeBrusk responded – which was also the play on which Vanecek left with an injury. The call-and-respond action continued in the second period, when Brendan Dillon and Nick Ritchie traded goals, and the teams held each other scoreless throughout the rest of regulation.

Continue reading
0
May
14

Nats Questions Have Been Answered, But Not Favorably

It’s time to face reality.

The season is a long way from being complete, but at this point in time, the Nationals don’t look as good this year as we hoped they would. Entering the season, their roster seemed to have an NL East championship ceiling with plenty of talent spread across the team, including players who had succeeded in high-intensity moments in the past.

But the pieces have not fit together so far this year. Sluggers have not hit well, the batting order continues to not make sense on a day-to-day basis, and the team has repeatedly struggled at the beginning of games and faltered in key situations.

One great way to assess how this year has gone thus far, relative to expectations, is by looking back at many of the questions people – myself included – had about the Nationals entering the regular season. 

Why Sign Both Bell and Schwarber?

This lineup needed to add some power. Anthony Rendon had left a glaring void that wasn’t filled following the World Series, players like Howie Kendrick and Asdrubal Cabrera were also gone, and Victor Robles regressed in 2020. None of that was arguable, but the way the team addressed it was strange.

Continue reading
2
May
10

Late-Inning Doozies Against Yanks Raise Concerns For Nats

When they write the book on this past week for the Nationals, it will probably be titled "long fly balls and bullpen calls."

Weaknesses in those areas proved to be the undoing of the Nationals, as a stellar outing by Max Scherzer and improvements from the likes of Victor Robles and Patrick Corbin were wasted. Both teams – particularly the Yankees – are built upon those two topics, and the Nats were unable to match them.

The bullpen wasn’t all bad, except for two pitchers. However, that duo, along with the offense, was largely responsible for Washington’s 1-5 week.

The Bats Have Been Flat

The offense remained quiet for most of the week, which has been consistent all season. The Nationals have only scored more than three runs in one of their last seven games – and even in their 11-run outburst on Friday, they only had three runs through the first seven innings.

This really stems from a larger issue. While Washington is No. 6 in baseball – and first in the NL – in batting average, the Nationals are also No. 19 in slugging percentage, No. 23 in at bats per home run, and subsequently fourth from the bottom in runs scored per game. 

Continue reading
1
May
08

The Nationals Are Positioned To Add Some New Blood

Washington’s roster construction has often been criticized this season, as they don’t have a proven left-handed specialist out of the bullpen, they only have one true backup infielder (aside from Ryan Zimmerman, who can only play one spot), and four of their five outfielders are left-handed. Few of them, it should be noted, are hitting well.

They recently designated for assignment Hernan Perez - who checked off two of the boxes above - but he was unproductive in the batter’s box in his short time with the Nats. His pitching appearances, however, were entertaining.

In cutting ties with Perez, the Nationals opened up a spot on their 40-man roster. They aren’t required to fill it, but it does present them with an interesting opportunity to fill one of their glaring voids.

The option to promote someone from within is always available, but truthfully, there isn’t a worthy candidate. The few players they could recall from the minor leagues are already on the 40-man roster, anyway.

Strictly in terms of offense, Jonathan Lucroy is still available and could provide some value. However, as a third catcher, he doesn’t fix any of the larger roster conundrums.

Albert Pujols was also recently designated for assignment by the Angels, but the last thing the Nationals need is another first baseman. There are some other players in “DFA limbo” that present some intrigue, though. Left-handed reliever Brandon Waddell was chiefly among them as recently as early Saturday afternoon, but the Orioles beat the Nationals to the punch, claiming him from the Twins and optioning him to AAA Norfolk.

Continue reading
2
May
06

The Curious Case of Kyle Schwarber in D.C.

Kyle Schwarber has two of the Nationals’ most memorable hits this season. Yet, the totality of his play has fallen well below the team’s expectations.

Once signed shortly after Josh Bell – who has also seen his fair share of tough times in Washington – to serve as the thump in the middle of the batting order, Schwarber finds himself hitting in the No. 7 spot in Thursday’s lineup.

Sure, it’s against a lefty, and Washington seemed to recognize all along that Schwarber was less potent against same-sided pitching. I’m pretty sure they never thought he’d ever be the second-lowest non-pitcher in the lineup, though.

Schwarber enters Thursday’s game batting a smidge over .180 with an OPS+ of 58, compared to a career mark of 111. However, there are two tendencies that should make fans fairly optimistic that a turnaround could be on the way.

Continue reading
2
May
04

Nats Minor League Affiliates Kick Off Their 2021 Seasons

At last, minor league baseball is returning tonight!

The junior circuit cancelled its season last year due to COVID-19 restrictions and loss of revenue, and this season was delayed by a month for similar reasons. Nonetheless, it’s back now.

Many teams had already unveiled the rosters of each of their affiliates, but like they often are on this subject, the Nationals were laggards.

On Monday, the Nationals’ affiliates in Rochester (Triple-A), Harrisburg (Double-A), Wilmington (High-A) and Fredericksburg (Low-A) unveiled their Opening Day rosters.

If some of those locations look unfamiliar to you, it’s because they are new to the organization. Harrisburg has remained Washington’s Double-A affiliate, but Rochester and Wilmington were added from other organizations during a far-reaching minor league realignment this offseason, and Potomac (affectionately known as the P-Nats) recently relocated to Fredericksburg.

Continue reading
2
Go to top