While Matt Albers obviously has the closer role on lockdown, the bullpen is still a big, fat question mark. Luckily for the Nationals, the answer to their bullpen struggles is already on the roster! In fact, he just got demoted to AAA. Confused? Let me explain.
There was some big news in the world of baseball nerds this week. While you were probably distracted by this series in Colorado, with scores looking more like football games than baseball games, MLB released a whole bunch of fun new Statcast based tools via Baseball Savant. Statcast, as you have likely heard by now, is the new radar based tracking system installed in every MLB stadium.
This system tracks all the movements on the baseball field, from positioning of defenders to launch angle of batted balls to the rotation of a thrown ball. If you have heard terms like “catch probability” or “exit velocity,” you have Statcast to thank. It’s a new system that has lots of potential to teach us new and exciting things about the game. For now, though, it’s mostly a cool new tool to play with. With that in mind, what do these new tools have to tell us about the Nationals?
Thanks to some quirks in the early season schedule, Joe Ross finally takes the bump for the Nationals in 2017 today. Ross hopes to build on the positives from 2016, while avoiding the injuries that cut his previous season short. As the youngest member of the Nationals’ starting rotation, there are plenty of positive signs for Cool Joe Ross but some causes for concern as well heading into 2017.
It’s obviously early in the season — small sample size and all that — but there are some Nationals who have clearly started the season hot and others… who have not. So let’s pick a couple Nats who are hot right now, and some who are not and figure out if they will stay that way.
Mad Max is back. After a stress fracture in his throwing hand slowed him down, the reigning Cy Young winner will finally take the mound for the Nationals in 2017. He didn’t pitch Opening Day for the Nationals in DC, but he will pitch Opening Day in Philadelphia. As fun as it would be to see Max mowing down batters in DC on the first day of the season, it might be even more fun to see him shutting down the Phillies in their home ball park.
Gio Gonzalez had a roller coaster of a 2016 season, and it ended with his worst stats ever as a National. He ended with a 4.57 ERA, by far his worst during his tenure in DC. As a result, Gio found himself on the trade block during the offseason as the Nationals searched for upgrades in the bullpen and at catcher. In the end, Gonzalez stayed put in DC and he will try and turn things around in 2017 as he takes the mound for the first time this season.
Coming off of a disappointing 2015 spent shuttling between the bullpen and the starting rotation, it felt like Tanner Roark was the forgotten man in the Nationals’ 2016 rotation. All Roark went on to do was post the sixth-lowest ERA in baseball among qualified starting pitchers. Not bad for a guy who throws in the low 90s and was never a top prospect.
Opening Day is here, and the Nationals will hand the ball to Stephen Strasburg to kick off the 2017 season. After a series of starts and stops in his career, Strasburg is hoping 2017 is the year it all comes together.
After a solid career as an Oriole, Matt Wieters made the (usually not so) quick drive 95 to DC and will be donning the curly W in 2017. Wieters has some big shoes to fill as he steps in to take the place of Wilson Ramos. While Wieters is a consistent ball player, he won’t be able to replicate Ramos’ success.
Ryan Zimmerman was one of the worst everyday players in baseball in 2016. As a proud owner of a vintage Zimmerman “Natinals”-era shirsey, it pains me to admit that. But it was true. Yet 2016 is over and the 2017 season is right around the corner. Is there any hope that Zimmerman can turn things around?