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Offense has Nats standing out in NL East

May 18, 2015, 6:00 AM EDT

May 17, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) and third baseman Yunel Escobar (5) celebrates with second baseman Danny Espinosa (8) after they scored during the sixth inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

With the Nationals returning home having gone 5-2 on their West Coast road trip with just a half-game deficit in the NL East to make up, it seems like a good time to take stock of where they stand in the division heading into an off-day with the New York Yankees up next.

Some may say it’s too early after just 39 games to make overarching judgements. Somebody tell that to the Marlins, who fired manager Mike Redmond minutes after their loss to the Braves on Sunday.

Remember when people were freaking out about the Nats? What’s happening in Miami is what real panic looks like.

The Nationals have now won 15 of their last 19 games and sit five games over .500 at 22-17. They’ve won six consecutive series, four of them against NL East teams.

With 10 runs in Sunday’s series-closing win against the Padres, the Nationals’ offense exploded once again. Bryce Harper hit a three-run homer and so did Danny Espinosa. The Nats now rank second in Major League Baseball with 194 runs scored. Through 39 games, they are averaging 4.97 runs per contest.

For a comparison, none of the Nats’ division counterparts rank in the top 12 in baseball in runs scored. The Nationals are also fifth in team OPS (.742), while no one else in the NL East places higher than 17th.

This is all without Anthony Rendon, one of their most complete offensive players. It is also without Jayson Werth for total 12 games and Denard Span for the first three weeks of the season. Ian Desmond has also struggled mightily with just two homers and nine RBI so far this year after three consecutive Silver Slugger campaigns. Those were their top four hits leaders in 2014.

A large part of the Nationals’ ability to score runs despite those factors has been the play of Harper. The 22-year-old outfielder went 12-for-23 (.522) with three home runs and nine RBI on their road trip. He’s now batting an unreal .338 with 14 homers, 37 RBI and a 1.206 OPS. Nobody has carried an OPS that high across a full season since Barry Bonds in 2004.

We’re just nearing the quarter-mark of the 2015 schedule, but so far Harper has been playing at an MVP level. Many of us thought he would lead the league in homers someday and it’s exactly what he’s doing right now.

I wrote yesterday about how Max Scherzer is off to the best start of his MLB career and how important he has been so far for the Nationals. But Doug Fister aside, the rest of the Nats’ rotation has shown positive signs in recent games.

Gio Gonzalez has a 3.32 ERA in his last three outings. Jordan Zimmermann has thrown a quality start in six straight appearances with a 2.58 ERA during that stretch. Stephen Strasburg wasn’t great against the Padres, but his three earned runs in five innings was a turn in the right direction considering his 6.06 ERA to begin the day.

The Nationals’ pitching staff is still a work in progress. They hold a 3.85 team ERA, which ranks 13th in baseball. That’s not terrible, but far from the 3.00 mark the Mets currently have, which is second in MLB.

The Nats rank third in starters ERA in the division at 3.91 and 11th in baseball. The Mets are tops in the majors at 3.16 and the Braves are also barely ahead of the Nats. The Marlins are not far behind Washington.

The Mets could very well have the best pitching staff in baseball, a distinction many predicted for the Nationals. But their offense – ranked 22nd in runs scored – is not even close to what the Nationals have produced so far. And again, that’s without Rendon, who is arguably one of the best hitters in the NL.

New York currently holds a half-game lead over the Nats entering the week, but up next for them is the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cards have the NL’s best record and a remarkable 2.87 ERA as a team so far.

The Nats will play the Yankees on Tuesday and Wednesday with a day off before and after. Then they host the Phillies, who despite somehow winning five straight are still in last place.

The Mets have surprised many by leading the division through the first month-and-a-half of 2015. But with the way things are going, it doesn’t look like it will last very long.

125 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. nats1924 - May 18, 2015 at 6:35 AM

    Great article the other day on Max.

    Now we must see one on Yunel and how nice of a pick he has been. Just think of how much money we saved in NOT giving Desi a long term deal.

    ..go Nats

    • ehay2k - May 18, 2015 at 7:21 AM

      +1 (but I can wait until we get deeper into the season with more data on Esco)

      • Greg - May 18, 2015 at 10:14 AM

        The approach at the plate for Escobar is the most impressive thing to me. He is hitting it where he wants to instead of just getting his pitch and taking a good hack. Espinosa is having a great year but is just taking good hacks right now. I love how strong the infield is this year even without Rendon.

  2. Candide - May 18, 2015 at 6:43 AM

    He’s now batting an unreal .338 with 14 homers, 37 RBI and a 1.206 OPS. Nobody has carried an OPS that high across a full season since Barry Bonds in 2004.

    And Barry had… help.

  3. Joe Seamhead - May 18, 2015 at 6:44 AM

    Harper keeps this pace up and they’ll be writing songs about him. The kid has become the phenom that was forecasted when he was drafted. As mentioned in today’s WaPo piece, he is also growing into his own in right field,too. And I truly believe that he is only now just really getting started. If I was writing the song I would start with the title,”Overrated” and work from there.

    • dcwx61 - May 18, 2015 at 11:22 AM

      He’s the real thing (like Coke)

  4. rabbit433 - May 18, 2015 at 6:57 AM

    Wow, that’s right. I forgot all about Anthony Rendon!!!!

  5. Eric - May 18, 2015 at 7:05 AM

    17-12? You mean 22-17?

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 18, 2015 at 7:48 AM

      “he Nationals have now won 15 of their last 19 games and sit five games over .500 at 17-12.”

      Thinking huh? Yes, 22-17.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 18, 2015 at 9:25 AM

      Oh, you and your “facts” and “arithmetic” and “journalism”!

  6. laddieblahblah - May 18, 2015 at 7:08 AM

    “Some may say it’s too early after just 39 games to make overarching judgements.”

    They are mistaken. Many predicted a breakout year for Harper this year, and there was one commenter on this blog who predicted it could be an MVP year for Harper. If the vote were held right now, Harper would win, hands down. He is only going to get better, if he stays healthy. He is dominating ML pitching almost as thoroughly as he dominated HS pitching when he was just a kid. Just as those high schoolers routinely walked him for fear of what might happen if they actually tried to get him out, ML pitchers are now doing the same thing. Harper is only 22 years old. Good grief.

    The Nats are dominating even without dominant starting pitching, because of their potent offense. Besides Harper, Escobar has added a great situational hitter at the top of the order to complement Denard Span. Werth’s struggles have not yet taken full advantage of those 2 high OBP guys, but Harper is making up for that, and RZ outs the ball in play, bringing them home from 3rd on a regular basis with what amounts to routine outs. And how much better will they be when they add Rendon to that mix.

    Espinosa in the 8-hole gives the Nats one of the best offensive bats at that position in baseball, and his new approach at the plate has revived his career. The bench has been lethal for the bad guys, with timely hitting, power, and even game-winning clutch ABs. Now, the bench may not perform like that all year long, but it appears to me that Danny, Uggla, Lobaton, Moore, MAT (as long as he remains in the bigs) and Robinson will produce at a much higher level than last year’s, or any prior year’s, bunch. They can all hit.

    The starting pitching has not lived up to expectations, but there is still a long way to go. SS was better yesterday, but nowhere near his capability. His mechanics are off, IMO, for whatever reason, and his command was better yesterday, but not up to his former standards. I don’t think he is a head case, at all. He is long, and guys who are long have any flaws in their delivery amplified by their length – like a tall, long-armed golfer with a flaw in his swing. Mechanical flaws can be corrected, especially if they are related to a physical impairment, such as a sore ankle, as has been reported to be the case with SS. He was still pulling his curve ball to his left yesterday -e.g. the wild pitch in the first. I gave Lobaton a pass on that one – it was clearly very wide of where he expected that pitch to be.

    Nats fans have to hope that Fister is just 2 weeks away from coming back as strong as ever. But if he can’t, Rizzo has Roark, or, perhaps, Cole, to step in. We may have already seen the worst of this team’s starting rotation. Their performances are more likely to trend up, as a group, than down, from here.

    The pen, other than Storen, continues to work itself out. Roark is this year’s Stammen, only better, but he could end up back in the rotation if either Fister or SS can’t get it back together. The pen continues to be their only real weakness, but Rizzo has the rest of the year to work that out. If he thinks they need help in the pen, he will get it.

    This is the year. This is the team. Those are the players. And Rendon will be back, eventually.

    MW is not getting the credit he deserves, if, as Bryce has said, it was MW who advised him to adopt that new disciplined, patient, selective approach at the plate. MW was probably the guy who coached Danny, as well, into becoming an effective hitter. If he does nothing else all year, MW gets a substantial portion of the credit for remaking the team’s offense.

    I liked the way he pulled SS yesterday. It was time. He is getting better at reading his pitchers and doing the right thing by the team, even if he gets dirty looks from his guys. That’s OK. You want guys who want to stay in and fight, as SS clearly wanted to, yesterday. But MW’s job is to get the “W,” and Roark gave them the best chance to do that, at that time.

    They look like the team to beat, to me.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 18, 2015 at 8:05 AM

      Nice writeup. I had often written that Bryce needed to change his approach to reach the next level and “take what the game gives you”. He too often was helping pitchers out by swinging out of the zone and not taking the walks, and you get the reputation that they don’t need to throw you a strike to get you out. The other issue Bryce had to work on was his contact rate vs the lefty slider. He’s done all of that and more.

      He’s now doing what Bonds did in 2001 albeit at a slightly lower HR/AB pace but that’s expected when you’re not rubbing the “clear”. In fact Bryce didn’t bulk up so much this off-season and that is paying dividends as he is playing free & easy both at the plate and the outfield.

      I’m enjoying watching Bryce as this is as special as it gets. He’s winning games for this team and that’s what he cares about.

      • adcwonk - May 18, 2015 at 8:55 AM

        Interesting, however — I noticed, distinctly, that on each (most?) of the at bats that Harper got hits yesterday, he had a bad swing and miss on a high fastball (for strike two, each time?) (Can someone find the Brooks data on that?)

        But he settled down each time.

        (Meaning: even during this hot streak he can even still improve???)

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 18, 2015 at 8:59 AM

        Yes, he will still make some occassional bad swings but if he gets on top of that high heat then we are all saying look what Bryce just did. He isn’t as locked in as last weekend with the 7 HRs in 3 games but he also has to be exhausted. A much needed off-day today for Bryce.

      • adcwonk - May 18, 2015 at 9:17 AM

        Frankly, I’m just amazed he can make such a bad swing for strike two, and then, on the next same pitch, lay off of it, and then on the next pitch, hit a triple or homer. (As opposed to some other well known folks who will swing at a high heater, and keep doing it for the K). It’s like he’s learning in the middle of an at bat. (As opposed to some…. 😉 )

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 18, 2015 at 9:22 AM

        Great point actually and if you make a mistake he will crush it. I love Bryce’s 2 strike approach. He’s not expanding.

      • adcwonk - May 18, 2015 at 9:28 AM

        So, then . . . let’s take a look at the leader board (for the NL!). And what do we see:

        Harper is 1st in WAR (pitchers or hitters)

        And: 8th in BA, 2nd on OBP, 1st in SLG, 1st in OPS, 1st in runs scored, 2d in total bases, 1st in HR, 2d in RBIs, 1st in BB, (5th in K’s), 3rd in XBH, 1st in AB/HR

        Not bad for the 5th youngest kid in the league!

      • Serious Jammage - May 18, 2015 at 9:01 AM

        I would love to think Bryce is just enjoying clean living and hitting the weights hard, but he has definitely put on some muscle:

        http://www.sbnation.com/lookit/2015/3/24/8284587/bryce-harper-forearms-sports-illustrated-cover-dear-god

        He flicked that homer into left like it was nothing.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 18, 2015 at 9:26 AM

        He’s still lighter than 2014 by a lot.

      • adcwonk - May 18, 2015 at 9:36 AM

        Harper is 1st in WAR (pitchers or hitters)

        And: 8th in BA, 2nd on OBP, 1st in SLG, 1st in OPS, 1st in runs scored, 2d in total bases, 1st in HR, 2d in RBIs, 1st in BB, (5th in K’s), 3rd in XBH, 1st in AB/HR

        I took all that from B-R, and I just realized that yesterday’s games are still not included.

        So, all of the above was as of yesterday morning !!

    • Section 222 - May 18, 2015 at 11:32 AM

      There were people who predicted an MVP year for Bryce last year. And in 2013 for that matter. Predicting it for this year isn’t that impressive.

      What is impressive is the way he his playing — at the plate, in the field, and even on the basepaths. I especially liked his patience when he got to third with nobody out yesterday. 2012 Bryce might have tried to dash home on the either of the next two plays. But he avoided a TOOTBLAN and strolled home on Espi’s dinger.

      He is so quiet at the plate now. It must be a truly terrifying sight for pitchers looking in and seeing him completely motionless, ready to uncoil and blast their next offering to kingdom come.

      Last night, the guys calling the Cards-Tigers game were overflowing with Miggy love. Well deserved in my opinion, but he’s not even close to as hot as Harper is now. I didn’t watch the whole game but didn’t hear them mention him once.

  7. TimDz - May 18, 2015 at 7:09 AM

    While the hitting will most likely regress (I’d love to see Bryce continue at this pace, but I can’t see it), the pitching will definitely improve. Will be nice to get Tony Two Bags back, too…

  8. natsjackinfl - May 18, 2015 at 7:29 AM

    So now the Marlins are going to name Dan Jennings, their current GM as their new manager. Bizarre. That’s the only word I can come up with.

    I guess Loria’s rationale is “you talked me into putting this together, you fix it NOW!”.

    I mean a season or two of managing high school baseball doesn’t sound like the kind of resume that leads to instant Major League success. But what do I know?

    • Joe Seamhead - May 18, 2015 at 7:36 AM

      I agree with the adjective, “bizarre.”

      It won’t surprise me if two more heads roll soon: Weiss in Colorado and Melvin in Oakland. Though Beene created a lot of the mess that Melvin is dealing with. Fans in Oakland are justifiably in an uproar over the A’s.

    • ehay2k - May 18, 2015 at 7:42 AM

      Makes total sense to me, if I look at it form Loria’s perspective. By making the GM the manager, he does not increase his payroll. That is goal #1 : money in his pocket. The season fix have been sold, thanks to the Stanton signing, so let’s start cutting where we can! No way is he going to pay 2 managers through the end of the year when he just make the GM do 2 jobs.

      That might also force the GM to resign, which would be further sayings because I’m betting their equipment manager would make a cheap and good GM : he probably has some Draft Kings experience!
      /snark

      Glad we have reasonable owners. Makes such a difference.

      • virginiascopist - May 18, 2015 at 7:59 AM

        “No way is he going to pay 2 managers through the end of the year…”

        Actually, I think even if he goes with Jennings, he still is paying two. Doesn’t Guillen get paid through this year?

      • ehay2k - May 18, 2015 at 8:08 AM

        I beleive you are correct. So, I should have written: No way is Loria going to pay 3

      • Candide - May 18, 2015 at 8:02 AM

        😅

  9. rayvil01 - May 18, 2015 at 7:32 AM

    I remember after MW pulled Harper from that game last year that Keith Law went off that MW couldn’t manage Harper. Now Harper is coming into bloom. Surprise, surprise, he credits MW.

    Hard to imagine this team rolling with so many key players out/off/healing up. Really speaks well for the organization.

    • natsjackinfl - May 18, 2015 at 7:41 AM

      I’ve found Keith Law to be an over rated buffoon that has a very difficult time understanding what he’s looking at, especially if it deals with stuff at the Major League level.

      • ehay2k - May 18, 2015 at 7:43 AM

        Keith probably credits his earlier criticism of MW as the reason MW can now handle Harper.

      • Joe Seamhead - May 18, 2015 at 7:56 AM

        I couldn’t agree more about Law, though the buffoons of the world might take your statement as an insult.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 18, 2015 at 8:10 AM

        Keith Law is a click baiter. Write outrageous stuff and get the clicks. Not worth anyone’s time.

      • NatsLady - May 18, 2015 at 10:08 AM

        I don’t read Keith Law any more. He’s hopeless on anything to do with the major leagues. He may be OK on prospect scouting, but unfortunately I can’t cross-check his work. Fortunately, there are several other scouting types out there to read.

  10. ehay2k - May 18, 2015 at 8:12 AM

    In other news, CSN appears to have given Mark Z. a day off Sunday, so with the team’s off day today, Mark will get 2 days to rest his “cranky fingers.”

  11. unkyd59 - May 18, 2015 at 8:27 AM

    FIRE MATT WILLIAMS NOW!!! That Marine will never get a handle on this clubhouse…. Get that Desi-for-Kimbrel trade done, too, while you’re at it… Rizzo’s really on the hot seat, now, boy….

    • nats128 - May 18, 2015 at 8:53 AM

      I read Wonk’s comments from last night. Hes right about some of the Anonymous Oreo trolls that created names on here just to post when the Nats were mired in that funk. Thats who he was mostly referring to. There were also a few longtimers here calling for a immediate public beheading of Matt Williams and that was just plain dumb as the Lerners are not the Lorias. You dont panic in April. The Nats ownership and brass didnt and gave the team time to execute and do what we all know they can do.

      Great western road trip!

      • adcwonk - May 18, 2015 at 8:59 AM

        Thanks for the shout-out, 128!

        One of my immediate thought regarding Chase’s article above leads to the following observation:

        What’s the difference between the folks (that were) panicking in DC about the Nats, and the folks that were/are panicking in Miami?

        The folks panicking in Miami include those running the team, the folk panicking in DC weren’t anywhere near in charge!

      • nats128 - May 18, 2015 at 9:49 AM

        Any time. I new exactly what you meant. I keep hearing Forest Gump coming up with a new line “Panick is what panick does. Life is a box of chocolates”.

  12. Doc - May 18, 2015 at 8:34 AM

    Looks like our favorite utility infielder is out-performing our favorite SS. Better offensive and defensive stats for Espi.

    It’s OK for Desi to take his $100mm mega contract somewhere else. The Nats are about to save some big bucks and do better for it.

  13. micksback1 - May 18, 2015 at 8:37 AM

    2 major keys I observe so far:

    1) Escobar had been a GREAT pick up
    2) Espi batting over 270

    these things are little things but they have helped the Nats considerably

    Bryce is playing super human ball!!

    I hear everyone about Trea Turner and you all are correct. I was only thinking about the Rockies SS short term for 2 reasons, keeping the Mets from getting him and unloading Desi, which I think should be done during the season

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 18, 2015 at 8:41 AM

      Chemistry is so important that you don’t want to screw that up in-season.

      I said the same below on Espi and I’ve felt the whole season that Esco has stepped up when the Nats were missing their MVP in Rendon.

    • natsjackinfl - May 18, 2015 at 9:10 AM

      The problem with that thinking is that Tulo has $118 million dollar albatross he lugs around.

      Hard to think in terms of a short fix withat that price.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 18, 2015 at 9:36 AM

      I don’t care what uniform Tulo is not wearing on the DL. And they won’t bail on Desmond.

      • nats128 - May 18, 2015 at 9:52 AM

        Sec 3, My Sofa,

        I think your right. Rizzo could stay in a Tulo discussion to drive up the price.

  14. Ghost of Steve M. - May 18, 2015 at 8:37 AM

    Baseball is a funny game. Around game 20 when the Nats were making multiple errors, didn’t get the bounces, didn’t get the close calls from the umps and didn’t look happy and people were calling for MW to be fired I made that familiar quote “You’re not as bad as you look when you’re losing and as good as you look when you’re winning”. There was 140+ games to go in the season at that point and not near the point you panic.

    Now the bounces are even-ing out and the defense is tightening up and some of the close calls have gone the Nats way and the most unlikely player contributing is Danny Espinosa.

    On Friday and Saturday we finally saw what happens when the Nats get great starting pitching, with great defense, timely hitting, and a Manager making moves that are coming up roses.

    Sometimes a Manager makes the right move and the players don’t execute and make the move look wrong, but now players are executing more often after Manager moves and even non-moves but that will never be 100%, they never are. MW brings in pinch-hitter Tyler Moore when some thought he needed Clint Robinson and Tyler Moore hits the game tying 2-run HR. A few games before he put in Clint Robinson as a pinch-hitter to face a lefty pitcher and CRob didn’t come through and many of us thought, what is MW thinking? So much of managing is getting a feel for the game like quickly pulling Stras yesterday while leaving a struggling Scherzer in to finish the 7th on Saturday.

    • nats128 - May 18, 2015 at 8:49 AM

      Also dont get to high or to low. I like what I see in Espi but Im not going to get to high. Hes playing well and came up big yesterday. Im also not going to get to low on Desi like many are doing. He came up big this weekend but still is the weak link in the infield but Im not going to sell low on the guy. Did you see his baserunning this weekend and his range at shortstop and those RISP hits.

    • adcwonk - May 18, 2015 at 9:02 AM

      You’re not as bad as you look when you’re losing and as good as you look when you’re winning”

      I hate to say it, but, um, that includes now, too, if y’all know what I mean

      Nevertheless, as many of us were writing: the Nats, even just performing at historical norms, would be quite formidable. And we are. Period.

      (BTW, remember when we were counting the days until the Nats team BA would get to over .200?)

      • Eugene in Oregon - May 18, 2015 at 9:12 AM

        +1

      • nats128 - May 18, 2015 at 9:59 AM

        I think that was GOSM point that the bounces are just evening out. Bryce gets a swinging bunt and was not struck out on that 1-2 pitch. RZ is safe at 1st and then Tyler Moore and Lobaton both hit popups which could have been the 3rd out if RZ was out at 1st then Espi hits the 3 run HR to put the Nats ahead.

        At some point you get back to what this team was assembled on which is great starting pitching and your getting that from Scherzer and JZ. Gio is coming around albeit still inconsistent (4.25 ERA).

        When you have great starting pitching its the equalizer as you win those 1-0 games and 2-1 games and 3-2 games.

      • Eric - May 18, 2015 at 11:26 AM

        What blows my mind is that even during this hot streak we haven’t been firing on all cylinders. Can you imagine the last 19 games without the scattered pitching implosions?

  15. natsjackinfl - May 18, 2015 at 9:05 AM

    One thing about Bryce that I feel is a prime reason his career is finally starting to head for the stratosphere is the addition of Max Scherzer and to a lesser degree, Yunel Escobar.

    Up until their arrival Bryce’s enthusiasm was somewhat held in check by veterans like Ryan Z, Ian Desmond, Jayson Werth and even Matt Williams.

    Yes, he was probably the most demonstrative among the 25 man roster but you got the feeling that his actions were found upon by the so called “leaders” of the clubhouse.

    Not so with Max. Watching him explode with enthusiasm after Espinosa’s home run was by far the most enthusiasm seen in the dugout since Jordans no hitter and Werth’s game 4 walk off and this is a regular season game in the second month of a marathon.

    I think having senior members of th clubhouse more in line with young Bryce’s baseball demeanor has gone a long way in freeing him up to become the player we have expected.

    And again, it’s hat’s off to Mike Rizzo for putting together this clubhouse.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 18, 2015 at 9:16 AM

      Yep, when Scherzer went nuts I commented the same. You need some of that in your dugout. Not to the point of some teams doing that car wash in their dugout or a line dance, just some real enthusiasm!

    • dcwx61 - May 18, 2015 at 6:48 PM

      +1
      bridled enthusiasm, rational exhuberence makes the locker a looser place….this isn’t a war, it’s a freakin game

  16. adcwonk - May 18, 2015 at 9:06 AM

    Chase (and Mark and etc.) — a pet peave of mine:

    What’s the point of comparing the Nats to “the xth best in MLB” when the AL plays a different game?

    E.g., They hold a 3.85 team ERA, which ranks 13th in baseball.. That doesn’t really tell me anything, because ERA’s are going to be higher in the AL (uggh, DH!)

    But telling me that the Nats are 6th in the NL tells me a lot (that they are a bit better than the average NL team).

    • adcwonk - May 18, 2015 at 9:07 AM

      (It’s also a pet peeve of mine)

      • masterfishkeeper - May 18, 2015 at 9:09 AM

        +1. Like saying Strasburg has the 13th best ERA in baseball since whatever date. NL pitchers have a big advantage in that comparison.

    • Eugene in Oregon - May 18, 2015 at 9:21 AM

      Yes, exactly. Compare NL with NL, AL with AL particularly when it comes to individual pitching, team pitching, team offense, and team defense (at least in the sense of total runs allowed). Individual offense compares a bit better across leagues, but even there it probably makes sense to keep it within the same league.

  17. Ghost of Steve M. - May 18, 2015 at 9:11 AM

    Off day folder:

    “Today, both sides in MASN case will present final arguments in NY Supreme Court. Unclear, however, if Judge Lawrence Marks will rule today.” per James Wagner.

    • Eugene in Oregon - May 18, 2015 at 9:15 AM

      Worth remembering that in New York, the ‘Supreme Court’ is the state’s initial-level trial court, not the final appeals court.

      • adcwonk - May 18, 2015 at 9:21 AM

        Good call. I had forgotten that.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 18, 2015 at 9:25 AM

        Let Wagner know. Thanks.

  18. Theophilus T.S. - May 18, 2015 at 9:23 AM

    I think the Nats have to live with whatever Desmond gives them through the rest of the season. Including the possibility he doesn’t improve and his drag on the team is exposed in the playoffs. (I think the weak condition of the NL East more or less guarantees a slot in the playoffs. No one in that bunch is going to beat the Nats over 162 games. What happens after in games 163-plus is the real question.) There are at least three reasons Desmond won’t/can’t be dealt or his role significantly reduced. First, Desmond’s performance — based on his history — is likely to improve substantially. I could be wrong, and his decline could be permanent, but I doubt it. Second, the return on a three-month rental of a swooning player would be negligible. Really negligible. Third, trading Desmond for marbles — or, especially, benching him — would probably sour the clubhouse immediately. I believe that, even if the team has confidence in Espinosa, Desmond’s teammates are very loyal to him and will react poorly if they believe he is being scape-goated or singled-out for poor performance. Plus I would fear how Desmond would react — pouting being the least of it — if sent to the pines. (And, of course, couldn’t be dealt for the reasons aforesaid.)

    If he hits .235 for the rest of the season — which I really, really doubt — he’ll still be in the lineup virtually every day.

    (Maybe a sidebar but has anybody else seen that the home-run helmet-lifting celebration has been less enthusiastic recently?)

    • TimDz - May 18, 2015 at 9:33 AM

      I would say that #3 is the most prominent reason….For better or worse, Desi has been the team leader for the past years, ESPECIALLY during the playoff runs…I think if he is benched, the clubhouse will take a hit for sure. Being the streak hitter he is, Desi will most assuredly go on a ten game tear once or twice this season and will be the reason the Nats win a few games during that time. After the season, he is clearly not coming back and I will wish him nothing but the best. But for now, he will ride out the season and we, as fans, will continue to root for him….

    • adcwonk - May 18, 2015 at 9:35 AM

      All good points, TS.

      The other fact of the matter is — on a really really good team, it’s OK to have one batter who’s not performing all that well (when seven other guys are hitting well).

      Further, if you make a mistake with Desmond, he will (sometimes) make you pay for it. He’s 7th in the NL (and 1st on the Nats) in doubles.

      More importantly — I think — speaking to one of your points: he’s streaky. Right now, he’s on a four game hitting streak. So, perhaps things are headed up (in the short run)?

      • nats128 - May 18, 2015 at 10:12 AM

        “Second, the return on a three-month rental of a swooning player would be negligible. Really negligible. Third, trading Desmond for marbles — or, especially, benching him — would probably sour the clubhouse immediately.”

        Nothing has to change or should change until Rendon comes back. At that point I think Theo is correct that you dont mess with clubhouse continuity aka team chemsitry.

        At some point Desi should do what we expect from RZ and rise to career norms.

  19. Eugene in Oregon - May 18, 2015 at 9:28 AM

    On the Dan Jennings as Marlins Manager question, if the this turns into a fiasco — as I suspect it might — what happens next? Yes, there’s always the possibility that he (or the team, at least) turns things around; they’ve got some solid talent, as many of us acknowledged before the season started. But if they continue to flounder, does Jeffrey Loria hold yet another fire sale at the end of the season? At the ASB? Is Giancarlo Stanton tradeable with that contract he signed? There’s still some good, young players in Miami, but it’s hard to see them being given the continuity they need to develop into a productive team.

    • TimDz - May 18, 2015 at 9:40 AM

      I have read some pieces that note Loria can sell the team at one point and keep the profits (if he were to sell today, he would have to give a piece back to the State, to help pay off the bonds/notes etc).

      This guy is a sleaze of Angelosian proportions….

      • nats128 - May 18, 2015 at 10:23 AM

        “a sleaze of Angelosian proportions”

        That sets the bar as low as you go. Thats the difference in fanbases between Miami and Bal’more. The Miami fans kno that Loria is scum. The Oreo fans who defected knew the sleaze factor running the Oreos and had a choice and the ones that stayed deserve the slight of hand they still get and even now you cant even trust there PR machine running there team as the “nicer” John Angelos has inserted himself in as a moral compass but while the napoleonic Peter is running it, its still business as usual in cry poor and pocket the riches.

    • adcwonk - May 18, 2015 at 9:40 AM

      Somebody posted a link to an article that had an amazing assertion in it.

      The article said that thanks to low payroll and revenue sharing, that the Marlins are still one of MLB’s most profitable teams.

      So, perhaps he’s just laughing all the way to the bank, as the old saying goes?

      • Theophilus T.S. - May 18, 2015 at 9:56 AM

        Thanks to revenue-sharing Tampa is also profitable, which undercuts any urgency to replacing that haunted house of a stadium. Ownership’s claims that they are doing everything possible to get a new stadium are undercut. Like welfare reform, MLB ought to cut teams off, or reduce their benefits, after certain amount of time. Being that MLB is a mutual back-scratching society that won’t happen. Plus, the money would just flow back to NYY and LAD, which would be morally objectionable. Solution: baseball needs better owners. Candidates: Mets, Orioles, Rays, Marlins, As.

      • Eugene in Oregon - May 18, 2015 at 10:39 AM

        I don’t think there’s much to be gained by comparing baseball’s revenue sharing with ‘welfare’ reform, but I agree that MLB’s system is seriously flawed. And owners like Jeffrey Loria are abusing that system in multiple ways (not least in holding cities hostage to threats to move their franchises).

      • adcwonk - May 18, 2015 at 10:49 AM

        I have a vague recollection of some accusations against Angelos in this area.

        The theory went like this: that Angelos, while trying to stop DC baseball, was trying to “prove” that the Balty-DC area could only support one team — and so decided to run his team for profit (with help from revenue sharing) than for wins. If attendance went down, revenue sharing made up the difference, and he could say: “see? we don’t have enough attendance as it is, and if we lose DC, we can’t afford, etc.!”

        I’m usually pretty skeptical about conspiracy theories. OTOH, Angelos is wickedly smart (perhaps not about baseball, but, still). So, I don’t know if there was anything to that rumor.

        I strongly believe in revenue sharing — how else can teams like Pittsburgh, e.g., compete with NY & LA. OTOH, it backfires when teams abuse it. Pittsburgh is clearly trying to have a good team. Miami? Hard to see it.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 18, 2015 at 9:48 AM

      I don’t think Stanton’s contract would slow down a trade in the least. It’s mostly backloaded, with a player (?) option, so he can bail on Miami if he wants in a couple of years anyway. It’s what the Marlins would insist on getting back (and rightly so, the guy’s a beast) that would limit the possible partners. As Bill Veeck said, it’s not the cost of stars that’s expensive, it’s the cost of mediocrity.

      • Eugene in Oregon - May 18, 2015 at 9:57 AM

        It’s not so much a player option as an opt-out clause after the 2020 season. If he’s doing well, he can exercise that option and have a run at free agency as a 30-year-old. But if he’s not doing so well, the team that owns the contract is obligated to pay him for another eight years at roughly $30m/year.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 18, 2015 at 10:00 AM

        Thanks for the clarification, Mr. inOregon. ; )

      • adcwonk - May 18, 2015 at 10:02 AM

        another eight years at roughly $30m/year.

        Zoinks! Wow! At first glance, it seems like Stanton’s in Miami for the rest of his baseball life.

        Poor guy . . . (well, except monetarily)

  20. adcwonk - May 18, 2015 at 10:25 AM

    Yowza. Y’all get a load of this new pitcher on the Mets (their #1 prospect) Noah Syndergaard? He’s about Bryce’s age (2 months older). 6’6″ 240# power pitcher. (nicknamed “Thor”?). Made his second start over the weekend (filling in for Gee).

    The Mets, as they did in their other two periods of “glory years”, seem to have a near infinite supply of top-notch pitchers. (To have Syndergaard (if he fulfills potential) along with Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler in the same rotation (for next year) sounds scary. Then either Niese or Gee for the 5th spot.

    It’s a good thing for the NL East that the Mets are such a poor hitting team (third from the bottom in NL)

    • adcwonk - May 18, 2015 at 10:27 AM

      (Oh — and deGrom accomplished was I’m assuming is a fairly rare feat over the weekend: getting two hits in an inning. OK, not so rare for a position player, but for a pitcher…?)

      • ehay2k - May 18, 2015 at 10:31 AM

        This year, it’s certainly rare for a Met!

    • Eugene in Oregon - May 18, 2015 at 10:34 AM

      And he’s got great hair…although not as good as Mr. deGrom’s…wrote the poster who once upon a time had hair himself.

      • nats128 - May 18, 2015 at 10:51 AM

        Syndergaard is solid no doubt. Lets just see what adjustments teams make to him.

    • Bruxtun - May 18, 2015 at 11:11 AM

      Syndergaard looked amazing, until he hit CarGo in the head with a 97MPH fastball.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 18, 2015 at 10:42 AM

      CRob unfortunately not making any impact with the bat. Not sure who gets sent packing when Rendon returns but I think it could be CRob before Taylor. These bench guys have limited opportunities and MW went eighty/righty with TyMo yesterday over the lefty CRob.

      • nats128 - May 18, 2015 at 11:01 AM

        Just a long line of failures on the bench in forever to get a impact lefty bat.

        The Clint Robinson story is a feel good story and you want him to succeed. He certainly seems to be living on borrowed time now.

        Taylor coming off the bench to replace Bryce and hitting that grand slam sure was nice. Probaly not the best idea to start Taylor on a day where you have a righty finesse pitcher who can throw both a slider and a curveball. Taylor was schooled hard by Kennedy in those 2 K’s.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 18, 2015 at 10:48 AM

      I also think that Espinosa could further get more playing time by getting an outfielders glove and becoming the full Zobrist.

      They always say if you’re hitting they will find a spot for you and Danny is now hitting consistently to try to get creative to get him a spot and creatively you can do starts be it at 3rd, SS, 2nd and even LF.

      I know some Managers believe in lineup continuity but stay with the hot hand while giving rest days.

      • masterfishkeeper - May 18, 2015 at 10:50 AM

        Yes, I think Espinosa could be a good outfielder. Would give the team a lot of flexibility, too.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 18, 2015 at 11:12 AM

        Has to be better on defense over CRob and TyMo, right? Werth has been so poor on defense that he only ranks above Gomes, Byrd and Hanley in poor defense.

        FP blamed it on that LF is claustrophobic. That’s a new one.

      • nats128 - May 18, 2015 at 10:56 AM

        The Full Zobrist! Wouldnt suprize me at all. People keep talking about Strasburg and Desi being the weak link on the team and if you take the small sample sizes, Werth has been the “weak link” due to taking a while to get going and his poor defense.

      • Theophilus T.S. - May 18, 2015 at 11:10 AM

        So long as Werth is injured/fragile/not up to snuff, I think Nats would prefer Taylor in the OF over Espinosa. I don’t think it is fair to Espinosa, and of dubious value to the team, to give him starts in the OF just to get his bat in the lineup. So I’m curious how/whether Werth’s return, and his condition, parallels Rendon’s return. Can’t see Rendon returning for at least another week (more time in Viera, 4-5 games — at least — in Potomac/Harrisburg). Nats are currently under-staffed in the IF (my opinion), Rendon’s return only brings them back to what in my mind is a full complement. If Werth is close to full health, and hitting, I still favor sending Taylor back to Syracuse. Right now he still has strike zone and breaking ball issues and, most of all, needs to work on his base-running. For all of his speed he is still not an asset on the bases. Batting a couple of days a week at the bottom of the order is not the way to improve either his batting eye or his ability to take advantage of his speed.

        While they wait for Rendon, they should let Taylor spell Span a couple more times, which — together with the off days — should help Span conserve his strength for the rest of the season.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 18, 2015 at 11:20 AM

        I think Taylor has been way overrated in the outfield. He took charge yesterday and that was a welcoming sight. Supposedly veering tutelage from DSpan.

        Danny I think would be above average if given time. It doesn’t mean anything permanent. Just the first guy off the bench to give Werth some rest days. Nothing permanent.

      • Doc - May 18, 2015 at 11:19 AM

        Sounds like a plan Stan, er’ Ghost, for Espi.

        Hate to see his bat deteriorate on the bench when Tony Two-Bags returns. With Danny’s arm, he could play CF.

        Think that MAT heads to Syracuse. Be back up at a moment’s notice. CRob still has some ABs to give from the bench.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 18, 2015 at 11:23 AM

        CRob has a little time left but if you can’t hit in a lefty vs righty matchup, you’re no use to the team. It’s the RH version of Scott Hairston all over again. I hope he turns it around because he’s dealing with SSS and getting a few hits would be great.

      • manassasnatsfan - May 18, 2015 at 12:39 PM

        I was thinking some left field play for Espi when Rendon comes back is a possibility. As we call it rpthe Full Zobrist.

      • therealjohnc - May 18, 2015 at 12:48 PM

        I would be all in favor of Espi getting some OF work … in Spring Training. I’ve seen too many middle infielders butcher the OF (Ian Desmond; Cristian Guzman) to assume that it works. For the 2010 Nats? Sure! For a contending team? No, thanks.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 18, 2015 at 1:31 PM

        Cristian Guzman in RF in Houston. Who could forget

        Espi would be better than RZim was last year as his arm is better.

        It’s disingenuous IMHO to just dismiss it based on 1 game in the life of Cristian Guzman.

      • virginiascopist - May 18, 2015 at 1:03 PM

        Include me in with wanting to see how Espinosa can handle an outfield role. I’ve been thinking about this for quite some time. Versatility is a wonderful thing. And assuming there are no more injuries, when Rendon comes back, I vote for Taylor going back to Syracuse. Nothing against him and his contributions, but it will be better for his long-term development to play every day.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 18, 2015 at 1:35 PM

        Glad you are also open-minded. If Alfonso Soriano could do it and Ryan Zimmerman could do it, Espi would look really good. You get some people that are opposed and use Guzman as the ridiculous reason.

        Who would you rather have in LF, TyMo or Espi? I rest my case.

    • Hiram Hover - May 18, 2015 at 12:54 PM

      Honestly, they don’t look that whacked to me–bearing in mind that WAR is not really designed to mean much after the decimal place.

      Clint Robinson is included on each list (position player and pitcher) because he has appeared as each. You may question the classification, but it’s not a problem with the WAR calculations themselves.

      And Jayson Werth has indeed performed poorly. WAR is a counting stat, so if you’re performing at below replacement levels, the more you play, the more negative your WAR. Werth has logged 3x more PA and 5x more innings in the field than Clint Robinson.

      • nats128 - May 18, 2015 at 4:31 PM

        They use 2 different criteria for the same thing called WAR. The pitcher’s WAR doesnt make alot of sense to me.

  21. adcwonk - May 18, 2015 at 11:10 AM

    BR just updated, so I’m updating my post to include yesterday’s stats:

    Harper is 1st in WAR (pitchers or hitters)

    And: 5th in BA, 1st on OBP, 1st in SLG, 1st in OPS, 1st in runs scored, 1st in total bases, 1st in HR, 1st in RBIs, 1st in BB, (6th in K’s), 3rd in XBH, 1st in AB/HR

    “If stats maintain” — that’s a slam dunk MVP season.

    5th youngest kid in the league!

    • Theophilus T.S. - May 18, 2015 at 11:12 AM

      Curious and too lazy to look it up: Where did Harper rank in Ks three weeks ago?

    • Joe Seamhead - May 18, 2015 at 11:24 AM

      Add in one other feather in his cap: 1st in IBB

    • Doc - May 18, 2015 at 11:27 AM

      Forget last week’s projections, Harper’s new projected season total HRs has now increased—-it’s now at 58.153846, inching towards the magic 60. Reject all other steroid numbers.

      Still wonderin’ about the chaw in his cheeks. Is it tobacco, or Grinds—the coffee grounds substitute?? This is a guy who reportedly eschews (pardon the pun) all substances foreign to the body.

      • Eric - May 18, 2015 at 11:34 AM

        “This is a guy who reportedly eschews (pardon the pun) all substances foreign to the body.”

        He does no such thing

        “He will drink black coffee if he needs a jolt during the season.”

      • jd - May 18, 2015 at 11:42 AM

        Doc,

        Rejecting and accepting numbers based on one’s opinion on who used and who didn’t is a dangerous game to play, don’t kid yourself, while you know some of the ones who used you don’t know everything or close to everything.

      • Doc - May 18, 2015 at 11:57 AM

        Thanks for the link, Eric. I had read it previously, and I’m still wondering. I had never noticed the chaw in his cheek until this year. Hope it’s not tobacco.

    • Eric - May 18, 2015 at 11:29 AM

      That is just unbelievable. Go Harper!

    • Section 222 - May 18, 2015 at 11:58 AM

      Those rankings are just sick.

      • Eric - May 18, 2015 at 12:06 PM

        Seriously…and then there’s this, too:

        What a treat to be able to follow someone doing these things…sweetened heavily by the fact that he plays for the team we root for! I know there’s a lot of season left, but what a run he’s having.

  22. Section 222 - May 18, 2015 at 11:37 AM

    Really key to Bryce’s success is the top of the order getting on base in front of him. That makes it tougher to pitch around him. It’s better protection than Zim behind him in a way. Span and Esco deserve a lot of credit. They are the guys boosting Bryce’s RBI totals.

  23. jd - May 18, 2015 at 11:38 AM

    Espinosa is seriously outperforming Desmond over the 1st quarter of the season to the point where putting him on the bench might be a serious mistake. I am well aware that the trend may not continue throughout the year but the decision on how to move forward is clearly not as straight forward as was 1st considered.

    Another interesting comparison is Espi vs. Esco. Espi is winning that argument as well but not as decisively. I also anticipate that Esco will regress to more normal career levels, he has only hit .300 once in 2007 for the Braves and that was over 95 games. He’s not likely to maintain a .364 BABIP or a .326 batting average.

    Also, keeping in mind that Turner and Diffo are the middle infielders of the future (in all likelyhood) there are certainly some interesting times ahead. I do know that I don’t like the concept of Rendon at 2nd.

    • Section 222 - May 18, 2015 at 11:56 AM

      Rendon’s defense is so superior at 3B that I would move others around to keep him there. Esco has shown great versatility. I’m sure he can keep that up.

      I’d be fine with rotating Desi, Esco, and Espi around until we find out who is going to regress (or improve) to career norms. And of course Rendon should get some occassional days off too. But that doesn’t seem like it’s MW’s MO.

  24. manassasnatsfan - May 18, 2015 at 12:42 PM

    One game at a time, one series at a time.

  25. manassasnatsfan - May 18, 2015 at 12:43 PM

    Peter Gammons has gone crazy. Says Anthony Rizzo easily MVP over Harper.

    Am I missing something?

    • virginiascopist - May 18, 2015 at 1:06 PM

      Yes, you’re missing the fact that Gammons apparently has been drinking the same thing as Loria.

    • adcwonk - May 18, 2015 at 1:28 PM

      Perhaps he was talking about last year? 😉

      • manassasnatsfan - May 18, 2015 at 1:32 PM

        No he wasn’t. Said Rizzo is leading young players like Solar Bryant and Russell. That is this year.

    • Hiram Hover - May 18, 2015 at 1:59 PM

      Do you have a link?

      I don’t see where Gammons said that in his writeup on Rizzo at Gammons Daily,

      • manassasnatsfan - May 18, 2015 at 2:35 PM

        He said it on High Heat when talking to Christopher Russo.

      • Hiram Hover - May 18, 2015 at 2:39 PM

        Thanks, The online piece said he would be an MVP some day, and compared him to other Cubs. It certainly didn’t say he was on track to be more worthy of the MVP this year than Harper.

        People do say crazy and careless things on the air, though.

      • manassasnatsfan - May 18, 2015 at 2:58 PM

        I suspect what he meant the fact that there are so many young players, he is very important to his team.

  26. manassasnatsfan - May 18, 2015 at 2:33 PM

    The manager nonsense with the Marlins could blow up. Having the manager and general manager being the same person could easily put the perception that the front office feels it has to spy on the players (no proof just a thought as I never trusted upper management ever during 40 years of working)

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