Archives for posts with tag: Juan Soto

The calendar reads “2019”…but for many the first weekend of this season felt like last year’s 82-80 journey to nowhere.  From stranding runners to bad baserunning to questionable bullpen use to wasting a solid Max Scherzer start, the season opener had it all. Saturday’s loss doubled down on all of that with a subpar Stephen Strasburg start followed by a bad bullpen outing.  Thank goodness Trea Turner hit a walkoff home run in Sunday’s win, otherwise we’d have a winless last place team facing first place Philadelphia.  Along with a familiar face.  Please tell me it’s only April…

Dissecting the Division- yes, the Phillies are in first place after one weekend at 3-0. Is it too early to spotlight the standings?  Of course.  Does that mean cooler heads will prevail this week and next when these two teams tangle five times?  Of course not.  At least the Nats aren’t in last…at this time.  Thank you, defending division champion Atlanta.

O’s Pose- a 3-1 start means the Birds are already 6% of their way towards last year’s win total.  Just think, they’re two games over .500 for the first time Since September of 2017.  It’s an exciting new world…although last year they were 1-1 in March.

Last Week’s Heroes- Max Scherzer strikes out 12 while allowing two hits over 7.2 innings while Sean Doolittle K’s a pair while tossing 1.2 scoreless in Sunday’s sweep-averting win.  Trea Turner bats .385 with two homers while Victor Robles hits .455.

Last Week’s Humbled- Robles also had an error in Saturday’s loss and his baserunning blunder helped keep the Nats off of the board in the season opener.  But at least he’s hitting- Brian Dozier began the year 0-for-10 while Juan Soto has seven strikeouts in his 12 at bats.  Trevor Rosenthal has allowed five runs while not recording an out over two appearances.

Game to Watch- Tuesday evening former face of the franchise Bryce Harper returns to DC, and it’s not enough that Philadelphia leads the NL East after sweeping Atlanta.  Max Scherzer-the man many feel was the alpha dog in the clubhouse the last few years-starts for the Nats.

Game to Miss- Saturday the Nats visit the New York Mets for a 1:10 p.m. first pitch.  Take a break from the early-season baseball grind to gear up for the Final Four.  Yes, I know that bluebloods Duke (and the Zion Williamson who comes with it), North Carolina and Kentucky are absent. Even new-money Gonzaga (the ultimate favored underdog) isn’t around.  But it’s the final Saturday of college hoops until next season starts way too early in early November.

 

 

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After a winter of wondering, the Harper has landed.  Free agent Bryce Harper agres to a 13-year contract with Philadelphia worth a record-$330 million.  Instead of an amicable split where the one-time face of the franchise heads west to play for San Francisco or the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Nats poster boy is headed to the team’s NL East neighbor to the north.  Instead of dealing with thoughts of what could have been for one or two series a summer, Nationals fans get to face Harper 19 times over the next decade-plus.  He’ll be wearing a different shade of red…with a curly P on his cap.  Phreaking Phantastic.

It’s never ideal to lose a six-time All Star and former league MVP, but the Nationals have constructed their club in a manner to minimize Harper’s departure.  The emergence of Juan Soto last year provided unexpected depth-and the 20-year old will be the team’s leftfielder of the present and future.  Taking over in right will be veteran Adam Eaton, now two years removed from a knee injury that hijacked his 2017 season.  Prime prospect Victor Robles is the future in centerfield, with Michael A. Taylor being able to provide defensive depth at all three positions.

While the absence of Harper in the lineup is not ideal, not having him on the payroll will benefit the long-term sculpting of the roster under General Manager Mike Rizzo.  Anthony Rendon is due to become a free agent next year, and all things being equal an offensive third baseman with sharp defensive skills is much harder to find and develop than an outfielder.  Moving forward, having Rendon on this team for the remainder of their playoff-contending window is more important than having Harper on this team in 2026.

The Phillies get the free agent boost they were looking for this offseason;  last year’s team won 80 games but faded down the stretch.  They also ranked 22nd in the majors in runs scored.  Harper will bat third in a revamped lineup along with offseason acquisitions J.T. Realmuto and Andrew McCutchen. After a few years of building and retooling, the Phillies are ready to win now.  Just like the Washington Nationals have been doing this decade.  The balance of  NL East power began to shift in 2011 when the Nats signed Jayson Werth away from the Phillies; after winning 102 games that year and losing in the NLDS the Phils have not posted a winning record–while the Nats posted a winning mark every year since going 80-81 in 2011.

Oh, and by the way…for those curious Bryce Harper and his new team come to Nationals Park for the first time this season April second.  Who’s ready for a reunion?

 

 

 

 

 

The Nationals wrapped up their long journey into nowhere Sunday in Colorado.  The 12-0 loss was the perfect whimper to a season that had shown plenty of promise and problems.  It was fitting that the team finished 82-80 during a season where we saw a ton of potential (a pythagorean record of 90-72) but fail to execute when it mattered (18-24 in one-run games and 4-10 in extra innings).  With the exception of the team’s dominant play in May, it was two steps forward and two steps  back.  Instead of seeing if they can get further in October…the Nats head into winter wondering if they have what it takes to get back to the playoffs.

Clutch Metrics- combining the one-run games record with the Nats extra-inning results is an interesting exercise:  their 22-24 mark is the worst in the NL East–10.5 games behind Atlanta’s 29-20 record in such games.  They finished eight games out.  I know, some extra-inning games are one run affairs, but an extra inning victory or loss should count double towards the “clutch factor”.

Last Week’s Heroes- stars past, present and future reigned as Bryce Harper hit .348 in what could be his final week as a Washington National.  Anthony Rendon actually finished with a higher WAR this year and hit .348 with 2 homers and 9 RBI.  The future is bright with prime prospect Victor Robles batting .467 with a homer and 5 RBI…and Juan Soto hitting a pair of HR while driving in five en route to six and 20 in September (and Rookie of the Month honors).  Max Scherzer struck out 10 in his final start of the season, finishing with 300 on the season.

Last Week’s Humbled- Austen Williams, Tim Collins and Jefry Rodriguez each had ERA’s in the double digits, but Sammy Solis wrapped up a rough 2018 with an infinity week- no outs recorded and a home run surrendered in his only outing.  The first base tandem of Ryan Zimmerman and Matt Reynolds combined to hit 3-for-21.  Wilmer Difo hit .143 to wrap up a .191 September.  Upon further review- Difo had the fifth most at-bats on the Nats this year.  That is just one reason why the Nats are home in October.

Who could be Gone:  Bryce Harper isn’t the only National with an expiring contract.  Matt Wieters, Greg Holland, Kelvin Herrera, Jeremy Hellickson and Joaquin Benoit all come off the books this winter.  One would think that Wieters might be the only one to come back out of that pack.  The crowded outfield of Robles, Soto and a presumably healthy Adam Eaton could give cause for the trading of Michael A. Taylor-especially if Harper re-signs.

 

Opening Day Lineup for 2019?  If Bryce Harper departs…

RF- Adam Eaton- hopefully Mighty Mouse will be healthy…as he was limited to 95 games this year and even when he played seem a gear or two shy of what he showed in April 2017.

SS- Trea Turner- one needs his speed close to the top of the order…although I’m tempted to put Victor Robles in this spot.

3B- Anthony Rendon- the best overall hitter in this lineup the last two seasons…this is where you put that guy.

LF- Juan Soto- the 19-year old performed beyond expectations…can he duplicate a season for the ages?  Or at least avoid a sophomore slump?

1B- Ryan Zimmerman with Mark Reynolds- Zim when healthy is still a dangerous player–but the veteran’s been limited to fewer than 120 games in four of the last five seasons.

CF- Victor Robles with Michael A. Taylor- if Soto’s 116 games is a small sample size, then what to make of the prime prospect’s 59 at-bats?  And can Taylor’s bat (.176 after the All Star Break) catch up to his glove?

C- Matt Wieters…and Spencer Kieboom?- is this the duo the Nats want, the tandem they need or the combination they’ll have to settle for?  And if Wieters walks, who comes to DC?

2B- Wilmer Difo/Adrian Sanchez/Howie Kendrick- can the veteran come back from his torn Achilles?  If so, he switches spots with Robles.  If not, this position bats eighth and tries to outhit Max Scherzer.

NL East and Wildcard contention officially ended this past weekend for the Washington Nationals.  It’s mop-up time on South Capitol Street–and the team with a ton of talent but just enough shortcomings prepares to watch October from their couches.  Now the focus is finishing above .500 for a seventh straight season…and award season.

Dissecting the Division- the Nats can still finish second…because flailing Philadelphia proved that they were actually a year away down the stretch.  Four straight losses drops the Phils one half game ahead of the Nationals.  The Nationals can still finish fourth…if they lose out and the Mets win the remainder of their games.  Meanwhile, the NL East becomes the Braves’ new world.

O’s Woes- it’s one thing to finish last. Another to post 100+ wins.  But the Birds blew by the team record of 107 losses and will likely break the St. Louis Browns’ franchise record 111 set in 1939.

Last Week’s Heroes- Anthony Rendon hit .435 with 8 RBI while Trea Turner bats .429 with 8 runs scored.  Prime prospect Victor Robles hit .292 with 2 homers.  Max Scherzer struck out 13 in his lone start while Stephen Strasburg continues his strong second half-(3-0 with a 2.64 ERA over his last five starts).

Last Week’s Humbled- two less than ideal starts for Eric Fedde: 5 runs allowed over 7.2 innings.  Jimmy Cordero, Koda Glover and Wander Suero posted ERA’s of 8+.  Wilmer Difo hit .125 while Juan Soto turned into a 19-year old rookie, batting .087 with 5 strikeouts.

Games to Watch- Monday night Stephen Strasburg makes his final home start of the season while Max Scherzer takes his turn Tuesday.  Wednesday in the home finale we could be witnessing the last time Bryce Harper dons the Nats’ #34.  It’s been quite a ride if this is the end.

Game to Miss- Saturday they visit Colorado and play at 8:10 p.m…right around the time I’m flipping between Stanford-Notre Dame and Ohio State-Penn State.

 

 

The Washington Nationals’ long September road isn’t even halfway complete, but this month already feels too long with rain delays, postponements, doubleheaders and makeup games.  What is certain is that the Nats remain on the cusp of contention…not being good enough to make a move and not being bad enough to fall out of the race just yet.  I’m already into the NFL and college football season.  But the games continue.

Dissecting the Division- Atlanta owns a four and a half game lead over Philadelphia;  the Nats’ tragic number is now 12.  The Marlins were eliminated over the weekend despite being out of it since April, while the Mets have won seven of ten to remain alive-but just barely.

Last Week’s Heroes- Bryce Harper hit .438 with seven RBI and six runs scored, taking NL Player of the Week honors.  Anthony Rendon hit .370 while driving in five.  Max Scherzer struck out 22 over 16 innings and tossed a complete game last Saturday.

Last Week’s Humbled- Austen Williams, Sammy Solis and Jimmy Cordero each posted ERA’s over 10.  Juan Soto had a rough week during an otherwise sensational season, hitting .211 with eight strikeouts in 19 at bats.

Game to Watch- Friday Max Scherzer pitches against Kevin Gausman in Atlanta.  Max has been must-see TV anytime he goes to the mound.  That’s not going to change in the final month of the season.

Game to Miss- Wednesday Stephen Strasburg pitches, but the Washington Mystics will host their first-ever WNBA Finals game at George Mason University’s EagleBank Arena.  Can they climb out of a two games to none deficit?

On the surface the Nationals dropped four of seven to fellow playoff contenders Atlanta and the Chicago Cubs.  The way they got there is a microcosm of how frustrating this season has been for a team that appears to be less than the sum of its parts.  In three of the seven games the Nats’ bats produced six or more runs–and they won all three.  Three of those games were decided by two runs or fewer–and the Nats lost all three.  Including Sunday night’s come-from-ahead defeat at Wrigley Field.  While Ryan Madson hitting a pair of batters before giving up a grand slam was not ideal (especially with one of the base-runners reaching on an error), Friday’s loss was even more frustrating. Nine left on base after going 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position. Jeremy Hellickson walking the bases loaded in the sixth to secure a shower despite having a no-hitter going.  Greg Holland walking in what would be the decisive run in the seventh.  And Juan Soto getting picked twice off of first base in a one-run game.  These are the Nationals- a team that is 11-20 in one-run games.  As they trail Atlanta and Philadelphia plus five other teams in the Wild Card race, the little things become big over the final 44 games.  Can the team that has been admittedly sloppy for four-plus months finally turn the corner? 

Dissecting the Division- Atlanta takes a half game lead after blasting Miami 9-1 Monday afternoon. The Braves and Philadelphia are both within striking distance of the Nats in the standings, but the five to six game cushion has existed for some time.  And the longer the cushion stays in place the quicker it hardens.

O’s Woes- well, at long last the Birds have been officially eliminated from AL East contention and are assured of a losing record.  Their chances at avoiding a 100-loss campaign are dwindling (they need a 28-15 finish) by the day and the worst mark in team history (54-107 from 1988) isn’t too far away (they need to finish 20-23 to avoid that distinction).

Last Week’s Heroes- Ryan Zimmerman captured NL Player of the Week honors after hitting .476 with three homers and 12 RBI. Matt Wieters hit .353 while Trea Turner batted .345.  Max Scherzer struck out 17 while walking a pair over 14 innings and the Nats also got solid starts from Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark.

Last Week’s Humbled- let the record show that the bullpen is shorthanded, but Matt Grace, Wander Suero and Ryan Madson each posted ERA’s over six.  Same case with Kelvin Herrera who’s on the disabled list.  Adam Eaton hit .200 with eight strikeouts and no walks while Juan Soto batted .182 and got picked off first base twice Friday in a one run game.

Game to Watch- Friday the Nats begin a series with Miami, and while Max Scherzer takes to the mound in search for his 16th win of the year it’s also Hawaiian Shirt night at the ballpark.  Very, very tough to pass this one up.

Game to Miss- Saturday Tommy Milone pitches against Wei-Yin Chen in a duel of starters with ERA’s over five. Pool time is slowly but surely shrinking with Labor Day looming. Get a full day in the water if you can.

So much for a sweep of the last-place Marlins.  And then so much for a series win over the cellar dwellers.  After dropping two of three to NL Wildcard-leading Milwaukee, the Nationals once again missed out on an opportunity to pull closer to floundering Philadelphia and eroding Atlanta.  Once again this club wins its blowouts but botches nailbiters:  they’re now 10-18 in one-run games, third-worst in the National League.  Instead of breathing down the Phillies’ necks the Nats are assured of a third sub-500 month (the 20-7 May looking more like an isolated incident).  And not only are they chasing the Phils and Braves, there are also five teams between the Nats and the final playoff spot in the NL.  It was expected they’d be buyers (especially with the pre-emptive move to bring Kelvin Herrera aboard), but could the preseason World Series favorites possibly be in the process of shedding salaries?  Relievers Ryan Madson and Herrera are in the final years of their contracts, as are Gio Gonzalez, Daniel Murphy and-GULP-Bryce Harper.  Do the Nats dare try to get prospects/players for the Home Run Derby champ?  Tune in Tuesday at 4:15 to 103.5 FM in Washington.

Dissecting the Division- what’s frustrating about the Nats’ middling season has been the fact that the NL East is still theirs to win.  Neither Philadelphia (14-11 this month) nor Atlanta (9-13) are running away with this thing.  And both are under .500 since the All Star break.  Ten of the Nats’ 29 games next month will be against those two clubs…and one has the feeling that by this time in August we’ll know if they’re a contender or a pretender.

O’s Woes- back to back to back wins for the Birds?  Scoring 11+ runs in each game?  When did Don Buford and Boog Powell return to Camden Yards?  While there’s no more Zach Britton to not bring into extra innings at Toronto (sorry) nor Brad Brach to eat up late innings, there is Adam Jones who refused a trade.  As mentioned there’s also a three game winning streak, meaning the Orioles are over half way towards not posting a 100-loss campaign this year.  Can they go 31-25 the rest of the way?  They are 4-5 since the All Star break.  Compared to the rest of the season, they’re skyrocketing.

Hall Swing and a Miss- all eyes were on Cooperstown Sunday when Baseball’s Hall of Fame added six…and because there was a full plate of games it felt like an afterthought.  Unlike the Pro Football HOF–which inducts its new class in mid-summer and the Basketball HOF which adds its newest class the week after Labor Day, baseball honors its best in midseason.  Making one wonder why they don’t move the ceremony to the All Star Break…you know, when there are no other games going on and there’s a major news vacuum.

Last Week’s Heroes- Tanner Roark dug deep and struck out 11 over 8 innings to notch his first win since early June–one will be paying attention to see if this is something that will be sustained.  Max Scherzer merely struck out 11 while winning his MLB-best 14th of the season…while going 1-2 at the plate with a run scored.  Juan Soto led the team with 3 homers and 6 runs scored while Bryce Harper paced the club with 6 RBI.

Last Week’s Humbled- Mark Reynolds hit .077 (for the record Matt Reynolds got a hit in his lone at-bat last week).  Meanwhile, Wilmer Difo, Matt Wieters and Michael A. Taylor each hit under .200.  A lineup can survive one crater, but not three or four.  Jeremy Hellickson had a rough start Sunday, but even if he pitched well it’s rather difficult to allow fewer than the zero runs the Nats put on the board that day.

Game to Watch- Thursday Max Scherzer goes for his 15th win of the season by pitching against Cincinnati.  Remember the Reds and how woeful they looked opening weekend when the Nats blasted them to bits?  Since the end of May, the Reds are 28-21 while the Nationals are 19-30.

Game to Miss- Sunday Tanner Roark starts against the Reds in the series finale…but the Citi Open Tennis Finals are slated to start at 12:30 p.m. (weather permitting).  Not to mention the season four premiere of “Better Call Saul” in the evening.  Keep your sunroof closed–just in case.