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The Baseball Show: What’s wrong with the Nats?

Aug 17, 2015, 7:06 AM EDT

The Nationals were dominated by Madison Bumgarner on Sunday, as the San Francisco Giants completed a four-game sweep. Now the Nats move on to play the Colorado Rockies in Denver to continue what has been a road trip to forget.

On last night’s episode of The Baseball Show, Mark broke down the Nats’ recent struggles with Joe Orsulak and host Chris Miller. There are a lot of things that aren’t working for the Nationals right now, and they did their best to make sense of what is going on.

What is wrong with the Nationals?

Nats’ pitching is letting them down

Analyzing Max Scherzer’s recent struggles

Despite recent skid, Nats still in playoff race

Vin Scully does it again with story about Matt Williams

  1. Doc - Aug 17, 2015 at 9:00 AM

    I’m commentless!

  2. jd - Aug 17, 2015 at 9:08 AM

    Michael Taylor – .284
    Ryan Zimmerman – .276
    Ian Desmond – .275
    Jason Werth – .270
    Wilson Ramos – .265

    When you add the pitcher that’s 6 players in the lineup with an OBP well under .300. It’s not about small ball or smart ball or whatever you wanna call it. It’s about the fact that so many players in the regular lineup simply aren’t getting on base.

  3. Guapo - Aug 17, 2015 at 9:14 AM

    It’s the pitching, folks. Not the offense. Here’s why.

    NL Standings
    1. StL
    2. Pitt
    3. Cubs
    4. LAD
    5. SF
    6. NYM
    7. Nats – out

    NL Team ERA leaders
    1. StL
    2. Pitt
    3. NYM
    4. Cubs
    5. LAD
    6. SF
    7. Nats

    Notice anything? Except for the Mets, the placement in the standings if almost identical to the Team ERA rankings. Defense is king in baseball.

    For contrast, here are NL teams ranked by Runs scored.

    1. AZ – 10 games out of Wild Card
    2. Colorado – 19 back
    3. SF – 3.5 back
    4. LAD
    5. Pitt
    6. Nats – 9.5 back
    7. SD
    8. StL
    9. Mil
    10. Cubs
    11. Reds
    12. Mets

    The Cardinals are a BELOW AVERAGE offensive team, yet have 5 game lead on the next closest team in the NL. 3 of the top 5 scoring teams in the NL are out of the playoffs as of now, while ALL 5 of the top ERA leaders are in.

    The Nationals were World Series favorites, not because their offense was so scary, but because they were supposed to have a dominant rotation and good enough bullpen. Both the starters and pen have under performed this year. That’s why the team is sub .500 and will be watching the playoffs from home.

    • jd - Aug 17, 2015 at 9:22 AM


      Good arguments to be sure, pitching has been less than stellar but when you have 6 players in the every day lineup who don’t get on base 3 out of 10 times you are mostly only scoring via the HR. And the Nats position in runs scored is a bit of a mirage because they were close to the top when they led the division and have really fallen off lately.

      • Guapo - Aug 17, 2015 at 9:44 AM

        Agreed that the offense could be better. This is never a organization that’s valued OBP. I mean, there was a time in the not too recent past when Ian Desmond spent time in the leadoff spot.

        During the current 2-8 skid, the Nats have scored 34 runs. Not great. They’ve been shut out three times by MadBum, Greinke, and Kershaw – which will bad isn’t unheard of. They are the three best pitchers in the NL.

        If you take out the three shutouts, the Nats offense is averaging almost 5 runs per game over the remaining games during that stretch. Their record in those seven games is 2-5. If the Nats at a .400 team when the score 5 runs…’s the pitching staff. McCatty seems like a great guy, but and and MW need to take the fall for this team’s lack of performance.

    • bowdenball - Aug 17, 2015 at 9:36 AM

      This is misleading, though. For one thing it ignores park factor- STL, SF and CHI (this year, changes a lot based on winds) are all near the bottom of the league, while places like COL, CIN and ARI are always scoring havens, even when those teams are winning.

      It also ignores that the opposite trend seems to be the case in the AL, where the highest scoring teams are the current playoff teams.

      Finally, it ignores the contribution (or in the Nats case lack of contribution) from the defense. ERA also doesn’t really do justice to defense because errors doesn’t really tell the story. The Nats have terrible defense at almost every position. I would say that Sunday’s lineup was well below average at 5 or 6 of the 8 positions in the field depending on what you think of Ramos, and there’s no defensive replacements on the bench to help them if they do get a lead to protect, either.

      I think it’s more accurate to say that the Nats struggle with run prevention, not just pitching. In fact the pitching has been pretty solid in terms of Ks and BBs, it’s what happens when the ball is put in play and the job of preventing runs is turned over to the defense that’s the problem on that side of things.

      Ultimately there’s lots of ways to skin a cat. You can be a scoring machine like the Blue Jays or masters of run prevention like the Cardinals, but all you have to do is outscore the opponent. The Nats aren’t doing that due to problems with hitting and defense and to a lesser extent pitching. It’s not just one or the other.

      • Guapo - Aug 17, 2015 at 10:17 AM

        Agree with you on some points, have to disagree on others.

        Totally understand that parks factor into the equation to a point. I’m sure somewhere there is a park adjusted measurement of teams’ ability to score runs. If you could point me to it, I’d be very interested in seeing it.

        I also agree on the defensive aspect. I think defense has a bigger impact than can be accurately measured in stats. For instance, I think the approach of Nats starters is negatively impacted each season when Ian Desmond is kicking baseballs all over the diamond each April. The tangible runs/games he gives away hurt some, but the real impact is what hid defense does to the starters’ approach. They fear pitching to contact. They feel pressure to strike more people out. It’s not good and has a long term impact on the team, especially once other team’s collect data on pitch selection//location/sequences. That’s a likely reason our pitchers have become less and less dominant throughout the 2015 campaign.

        All that said, even if you factor in Unearned Runs as a team, the Runs Allowed rankings and ERA rankings in the NL remain unchanged. And the teams that allow the fewest amounts of runs in the league are in the playoffs, and those who allow more are not – regardless of their offensive output. The AL is a very different story, and I’m not surprised that high scoring teams dominate in a league where the Mariners and Red Sox put up a combined 50 runs in two games over the weekend. It’s like beer league softball over there.

        I guess the summary of my argument is that this offense wasn’t expected to be a juggernaut. Slightly above average is about where I expected them to be. The offense is good enough to win, especially with the staff the Nats were supposed to have out there.

    • unterp - Aug 17, 2015 at 11:49 AM

      I agree here. By far the SP has been the major fail of failures…

    • Section 222 - Aug 18, 2015 at 9:46 AM

      Guapo/jd/bb, I really enjoyed this discussion. Strong and differing views based on the numbers and the big picture, well expressed, without rancor or personal attacks. NI at its best.

  4. jd - Aug 17, 2015 at 9:18 AM

    I am normally not one to advocate rash decisions but when the entire team with the exception of 1 player is under performing through long stretches something has got to give. I think we are beyond blaming injuries and players returning from injuries, most of the injured players have been back for several weeks now. There are a bunch of things I have seen recently which makes me think that this is symptomatic and not co incidental.

    If I were Mike Rizzo I would think long and hard about allowing this to continue any longer because if he does he will eventually put his own position in jeopardy. What I am saying is that this season is not beyond repair but as a necessary 1st step Rizzo must admit that his hand picked choice to manage this very expensive win now team was a mistake and correct that mistake immediately. Matt Williams may eventually grow to be a good manager but it’s not now and it likely won’t be with the Nationals.

    I would also try to answer the question: why are so many of our ultra talented pitchers under performing? Mc.Catty seems like a very decent guy but the results over the years tell me that he’s not great at his job.

    I think Mike Rizzo needs to take bold action today before he is instructed to do so by Mark Lerner or worse before he is shown the door.

    • scnatsfan - Aug 17, 2015 at 9:33 AM

      jd I’ve been saying that for months now. Doesn’t matter of MW is a good manager or not – he clearly isn’t the right person to manage this group of guys. Maybe no one is, maybe these guys just have no heart, but for Rizzo to just give up on the season and back a guy because he feels he cant make a mistake might cost him his own job.

  5. jd - Aug 17, 2015 at 10:02 AM

    I read an article about Dave Dombrowski who by the way is a very good GM, One of the points made was that when he signed Fielder, after one year Dombrowski concluded that it was probably a mistake and subsequently shipped him off to Texas in return for Kinsler.

    The point is that Dombrowski who has been a GM for a long time has learned that no one is perfect and the real trick is that when you identify that you made a mistake you should try to make the best of your new situation and not stick your head in the sand in order to try and prove that you were right in the 1st place.

    I don’t know if admitting mistakes is Rizzo’s best quality.

    • Section 222 - Aug 18, 2015 at 9:56 AM

      Admitting mistakes is definitely not Rizzo’s best quality. It’s not even in the top 50. In this case, however, he doesn’t have to admit a mistake, he just has to dispassionately evaluate the current situation. No one expected Werth to be an all-star for the entire contract. It doesn’t require admitting a mistake to downgrade his role in his twilight years. And what is Fister doing on the roster at this point. We’re not going to re-sign him. We’re not going to make him a Q.O. So why is he still here exactly? To have an extra guy for garbarge time? See if you can trade him for a middling prospect and move on.

      Another example, Wilson Ramos. Getting him for a half season of Matt Capps was a great deal. A steal. An example of what Rizzo does best. That doesn’t mean that he has to be the Nats’ catcher until he retires. He hasn’t turned out as well as hoped, to put it mildly. I’ll be very disappointed if he is our starting catcher next year.

      You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned MW. I’m very conflicted there. I don’t like the way he manages, and I don’t like his after-game attitude. I have no idea, and neither do any of his critics, what he’s like in the clubhouse. I’d be surprised if he is fired before the season ends. I just think Rizzo will give him the rest of the season to turn things around. If we make the playoffs, he’ll return. If not, I expect he’ll be gone. Again, Rizzo doesn’t have to admit that hiring him was a mistake. He just has to be prepared to go another direction if the facts on the ground warrant it.

  6. texnat1 - Aug 17, 2015 at 10:40 AM

    Rizzo has been great with building the roster and poor with selecting managers. in 2012 or whenever that was, the Nats were on the verge of going on a long run with a young talented team. Rizzo reacts to this not by hiring a proven manager that could guide them through that window, but by hiring a short-termer, Davey Johnson.

    Then, when Johnson is brushed aside, you still have a job that is extremely attractive. Arguably the best in baseball. Rizzo reacts by hiring a guy with no experience managing whatsoever.

    One thing that Johnson and Williams have in common is that they both had preexisting relationships with Rizzo. It appears that Rizzo wants his guys, and that he also wants a manager that won’t rock the boat.

    Well, it should now be clear that this is a team that needs a manager with his own opinions and who will actually provide leadership.

    Rizzo needs to ditch MW either now or at the end of the season and replace him with a seasoned pro whom the players will have to respect as a manger.

  7. micksback1 - Aug 17, 2015 at 10:56 AM

    In all seriousness…any objective fan can not be optimistic about a turn around at this point. There is something structurally wrong within the team and I have a good source who works for the Nats that says that there has been serious division among the players verse other players that has existed even before the team’s collapse. Whether that is MW’s fault or not, who knows? My source has been with the Nats since 2008 so I trust this person.

    I have two questions for the team:

    1) Will there be a players only meeting? If not, WHY??

    2) Will there be a pow wow with MW and players to hammer out what everyone’s personal gripes are, if not, WHY?

    Also, after reading over the weekend that Ted Lerner lost a 31 million dollar law suit, it reminded me of two things:

    1) Bad karma always comes back on bad people.

    2) I like Mark Lerner, he is a good man, but, Mr. Ted is not such a good guy. He is the antithesis of Abe Pollin. Abe was a great man, a loyal man, a fair man. In fact too fair. In the late 60’s and through the 1970’s he had a great basketball team that went to 4 NBA finals and won a World Championship. He stuck with his GM too long and yes, there is plenty to criticize Abe on as an owner but he tried and was decent and he has one more world championship and 4 more conference finals than Ted. Ted, not so nice, lawsuit after lawsuit, breaking agreements with leases, etc. The St Alban vs Wilson HS incident in 2008, etc. Mark needs to run the team and Ted needs to sit back and stay the hell out of the team’s dealings!

    maybe bad karma has caught up and as another poster said last week, maybe the team’s way of treating good players, who were playing well in a classless way and other players not playing well with a longer rope, all caught up.

    • Satan - Aug 18, 2015 at 8:39 AM

      No such thing as karma. Let’s deal in reality please.





As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...

MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.

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