Sunday, April 29, 2012

Harper's Debut

With phenom part 2 making his major league debut last night, the show seemed to be stolen by the phenom part 1, Steven Strasburg. Strasburg went 7 innings allowing one run, whether it was earned or not will be debated all year, and striking out 9. Also, he had a good day at the dish, with a double and almost a three run run homer that just stayed foul. Stras had superstar Matt Kemp of the Dodgers on the ropes and out matched all game with a ground out double play and a two strikeouts. Kemp however had the last laugh as he blasted a walk-off home run in the 10th. Bryce Harper had a pretty solid debut. With one hit, a double, and one RBI, a sac fly, and an almost outfield assist, Ramos had the ball knocked away by Dodger Jerry Hairston. Through out the game, Harper never seemed to let the moment get too big for him. In his first at bat, a ground to the pitcher, he booked it down the line and almost beat it out. His hair on fire type of play is refreshing to see, and he very well should live up to all the hype.

Friday, April 27, 2012

2 injuries and a Call-up

This past week as the Nats have been on a road trip on the west coast, we learned of a couple injuries. Ryan Zimmerman has suffered a shoulder injury and reliever Brad Lidge is headed to the disabled list as well. These two will hit the Nationals pretty hard as depth is already mildly thin in the 'pen and Zimmerman's defense and bat have been very good so far as some of the other players in the lineup struggle. But with the bad news, a bit of a silver lining has been found in the call up of ├╝ber prospect Bryce Harper. Harper figures to stabilize an otherwise uneasy position so far this year at left field. His production at AAA wasn't very eye opening, but he must have done enough in spring training to earn himself the to the show. Regardless, a very warm welcome and congratulations go out to him as I'm sure he'll be a fixture in DC for many years to come.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sunday Sum-Up

With Nats getting rained out today, along with most of the eastern seaboard, it seems as good a time as any to start a new weekly ritual by summing up the week that was. Obviously, the big topic is how well this team is doing, 12-4, and first place in the NL East. This has been mainly on shoulders of a major league best starting rotation. These guys lead the Majors in almost every major pitching statistical category. Both Ross Detwiler and Steven Strasburg are among the top five in the majors in ERA, Detwiler 2 and Stras at 4. However, when the starters can't get it done, which is exceptionally rare, the bats have been able to battle back and win the game late. This never say die attitude or natitude,(forgive me for that) has been a great addition to an already very good club. Also, with Rick Ankiel's return to center, an added bonus of runner's anxiety has come with it. Ankiel's killer arm, the best in baseball in my opinion, has already accounted for at least 3 runs saved just by his presence in the outfield. Runners know who's out there and just refuse to test his arm. As long as there is production from the LF position, there is no doubt in my mind this club will shock the pants of a lot of experts in the playoffs.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

First 10 win team

Last night the Nationals battled back against the Astros to become the National League's first ten win team for the year. Jordan Zimmerman pitched a gem, but was unable to secure the victory as the Nats' bats have yet to wake up and give him run support. With the bases loaded in the 8th, Jayson Werth drew a walk for an RBI.
So far this year, the Nationals' rotation has been the best in baseball. The 1-5 guys have been lights out minus a few game changing calls in Ross Detwiler's last start. They have the League's best ERA so far, but the offense still remains dormant, partially due to lack of production from the left fielders. Nady, Derosa, and Bernadina haven't been able produce on a consistent basis yet this year, even though with Morse injured the position seems wide open. I would like to attribute that to the immaturity of the season. With Bryce Harper's slow road to the bigs, it seems the patience will prevail for the under performing fielders. Nevertheless, with the rotation as zeroed in as they have been, as long as LF can catch the ball the rest of the bats should be able to carry them.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

It's Time

On my first trip of the year to visit Nationals Park on Saturday, I noticed a few things that the television can tell you. For one, it felt like a playoff game between the Nats and Cincinnati Reds, in the middle of April on a Saturday. As Edwin Jackson pitched his way to a complete game 2 hitter, the crowd came to life. During the 8th inning as he walked from the on deck circle to the batter's box, the fans erupted. And even as he struck out, he received a standing ovation on the way to the dug out. His complete game came at a very important point in the young season. The two prior games in the series the pens had to to pitch extra inning games. So the arms in the bullpen were a bit over used, and Jackson saved their arms with his gem. These things have combined to show the dormant DC fans are ready for a winner. I fully believe a sell-out every game is possible this year. Looks like a new Philly has been born. Welcome to Nats Town.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Drew Storen injured

Any time a player is scheduled to see world renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews only bad news can follow. Unfortunately this is the case with young closer Drew Storen. Having a stiff elbow in spring training, Storen started the season on DL. He has been rehabbing, but has yet to move past the elbow discomfort he is suffering from. So the Nats scheduled a visit to figure out the next course of action, which doesn't appear to be ligamental damage but more likely bone spurs or chips within the joint. So regardless, the young closer will miss some time, how much remains to be seen. Either way, the bullpen will survive but not at full strength.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Opening weekend

With the first weekend in the 2012 baseball season in the books, all of baseball looks towards the future. Some with hopes of a fast start remaining throughout the year, and others believing it's just the first weekend. The Nationals managed to pull out 2 of 3 from the perennial cellar dwellers the Chicago Cubs. Both wins were come from behind efforts off of Cubs' closer Carlos Marmol. The Nats did trail in all three games late, but managed to mount a rally and force the Cubs to hold on for dear life. One can look at this in two lights. The first, the Nats never give up, and no game ever seems out of reach. The other, the club couldn't stay ahead to have a comfortable win against the lowly Cubs. The way Davey Johnson's club is winning is very dangerous, but as long as it works, very few will question it. Jayson Werth has had another slow start to the year, striking out 5 times in pretty key situations. After Adam LaRoche's bad first game, 0-3 with 3 k's, he combusted into flames the past two games looking like the player the Nats payed for last year. The bullpen has been completely unhittable minus Mattheus poor outing late yesterday. The good news is the pen will be a strength this year. The bad news is the strikeout epidemic seems to have persisted through the offseason. I'm not not willing to call up a mob for it yet, but being struck out 7 or more times in each game, is very troubling. As of now, chalk it up to the cold Chicago weather. All in all, a good series by the Nationals, showing their resolve with the come from behind victories.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Opening Day Takeaways

What a win! The Nats are picking up right where they left off last year by picking up the come from behind victory in Wriggly versus the Cubs. Rad Brad Lidge racks up the save as the Googled Gangster Tyler Clipard grabs the win. Stephen Strasburg had a heck of game allowing only one run as he looked in mid-season form. The main thing that sticks in my mind is the RISP, that's Runners In Scoring Position, that were left on base. Adam LaRoche struck out three times while leaving a total of five runners in base, Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa twice, and Jayson Werth did the same minus the three K's. Ryan Dempster of the Cubs had a heck of a game mowing down Nationals left and right. Carlos Marmol also looked in mid-season form with a blown save. The top of the Nats' line up of Desmond and Espinosa made skipper Davey Johnson look like the genius he his. All in all, an excellent game as the Nats win 2-1.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

My predictions

NL East winner
Miami marlins

NL Central
Milwaukee Brewers

NL West
Arizona Diamondbacks

Wild Card Winners
Philadelphia Phillies
Washington Nationals

The NL East is easily the division most difficult to pick. There are so many different variables and possibilities. The Central is the most jumbled. It's very hard to determine whether teams will improve with the loses of Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, or if new mashers emerge. The West really only have two possibly three contenders, the D'backs and the San Francisco Giants, and possibly the LA Dodgers. The effect of the new ownership group may have be greater than we all expect. The two wild cards will come down to four teams, the Phillies, Nats, Atlanta Braves, and whoever doesn't win the West, the Giants in my book.

AL East
New York Yankees

AL Central
Detroit Tigers

AL West
Los Angels Angels of Anaheim

Wild Card Winners
Texas Rangers
Tampa Bay Ray

These ones were exceptionally easier to pick. The Yankees are the best in the East. Detroit is an absolute lock. And the Angels and Rangers are locks as well, but where they finish is the real question. The last spot comes down, once again, to the Rays and Boston Red Sox. I don't think Boston can compete with the Rays' pitching staff or with Skipper Joe Madden. The Kansas City Royals will be the surprise of the year, but will fall short in very close race.

Playoffs
Washington over Philadelphia

Marlins over Nats
D'backs over Brewers

Marlins over D'backs

Rangers over Rays

Detroit over Rangers
Angels over Yankees

Detroit over Angels

Detroit over Miami in 6

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Rotation is set

With the demotion of John Lannan earlier, this means Ross Detwiler locked up the fifth spot with his very solid spring. These is very interesting because it shows who will make the personnel decisions between skipper Davey Johnson and GM Mike Rizzo which is a good thing to have that kind of connection between the suits and the jerseys. Rizzo obviously respects Johnson enough to demote his team leader in wins last year. This type of a relationship can only bring good this for the Nats. The demotion opens a spot for reliever/starter Craig Stammen to be in the bullpen. This settles out the bullpen along with Ryan Matheus.

Nationals Expectations

As with most things in life, I prefer the wait and see method. The Nats this year are no exception. The first two series are pretty easy competition and, other than opening day at Wriggly Field with the Cubs, should be able to sweep those games. So a 6-0, sounds pretty great right? But caution is paramount, as the rest of the month is pretty difficult. A home opening series with the Reds will tell everyone a little bit more on whether the Nats can stick with the contenders. With the exception of a very winnable 4 game set against the Astros in DC, the rest of month is dangerous. Games with Miami, San Francisco, and the recharged Dodgers will certainly show who the Nats are. With the Phillies beat up and older, they're missing their 3 and 4 hitters, this is the best time for the Nats to seize control of the division early and build a buffer for when other teams become healthy and make a run for the division crown. If the Nats win 2 of 3 and 3 of 4 in every series, they will be the team to beat in the NL East.