With about two more months to go until the regular season ends, and with the postseason picture becoming more clear, it’s become obvious that unless something changes drastically, the Nats are going to play the winner of the NL Central in the playoffs. And right now, it’s looking like that team is going to be the Cubs (unless the Brewers can fulfill my chaos-fueled wishes and unseat the Cubs).
For the last few years, the Nationals have been known for their starting pitching. At the the beginning of the season, they looked to have one of the strongest rotations in the league. Max Scherzer had just won the Cy Young, Stephen Strasburg looked to finally be the full-year, dominant starter we’d expected him to be, Tanner Roark was coming off a career year, Gio Gonzalez got off to an incredibly hot start, and Joe Ross was looking to become a full-time rotation piece. Everything seemed to be falling into place.
On Saturday, it was announced that Joe Ross, who left his last start after 3.1 innings due to an injury, would have season-ending Tommy John surgery to fix the tear in the ulnar collateral ligament of his right elbow. Ross had been experiencing some declining velocity in his pitches through his starts all season, so an arm injury isn’t all that surprising. But this sudden surgery will end his season and likely set him back for most of 2018 with no current timetable for return. This puts a pin into an up-and-down season for Ross, puts the Nationals down a fifth starter, and adds another item to their midseason wish list.
We’ve reached the All Star break, meaning we’ve hit the “halfway” point of the season. At this point, we can typically take a step back and get a good look at baseball thus far this season and maybe get a good prediction of how it’s going to end. Of course, anything can happen between now and October, and I am neither an expert nor am I clairvoyant. But I’m going to give a go at predicting some of the likely candidates to win the National League MVP at the end of the season. Last August I did the exact same thing (albeit with a month and a half more playing time to consider), and I correctly predicted the top five MVP finalists. So here is my early insight into potential 2017 MVP candidates.
Everyone is hurt, the bullpen sucks, and Gio Gonzalez wasn’t named an All-Star. The Nationals were in a bit of a skid until Max Scherzer hurled a gem on Sunday night, and things weren’t looking so pretty. Trea Turner’s wrist is broken, Jayson Werth is still out, and the bullpen is a revolving door of awfulness. And yet the Nationals have continued to play some consistent baseball. So who’s been the saving grace throughout all these injuries? Not Scherzer or any of the big boppers in the lineup, but Brian Goodwin.
Continue Reading Brian Goodwin, the Saving Grace
Bryce Harper is an absolute stud. There’s no other way about it. He’s raked since the day he stepped foot into the league, and it doesn’t look like he’s going to slow down anytime soon. But there’s one factor he has that makes him incredibly important to the Nationals: he’s clutch.
It’s a narrative that Nationals fans have become all-too familiar with this season. The starters pitch a quality game, the offense scores enough to be able to win. And then in comes the bullpen, and suddenly that lead is gone. It feels like it happens instantly, and like it’s a given. One or two of these games is okay; it’s bound to happen over a 162-game schedule. But to have the constant fear of the bullpen even entering the game for fear of a lead slipping away every game is a major concern.
On Monday, June 5th, the most recent update for the All-Star Game ballot was released, and the results were more than pleasant. Though he trailed Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo after the first ballot update, Ryan Zimmerman surged past Rizzo to take the lead in voting. Nats fans rejoice with the knowledge that Cubs Nation can’t compete with the facts.
It’s no secret that the bullpen has been a course of chaos all season. The bullpen was blowing leads even if the starters had pitched a great game, and if the starters didn’t do well and didn’t go far, the bullpen didn’t do anything to help them out. But lately, the starters have eliminated the need to go the bullpen by declaring, “We’ll just do all the work ourselves.” And oh my, have the starters been outstanding.