On June 29th, after Trea Turner unsuccessfully tried to turn away from a 96 mph 2-1 fastball up and in from Pedro Strop of the Cubs, a lot of things happened: First, Turner walked slowly to first on a hit by pitch, the Nationals scored three runs that inning and took the lead, and the (then) horrific bullpen coughed up that lead in the top of the 9th. The other thing that happened was Turner’s right wrist was broken, sidelining him for what appears to be an approximately 8-week stint on the disabled list (Turner is currently rehabbing in AAA Syracuse).
With all the injuries decimating the Nationals this season, Nats outfielders have been dropping like flies. And with Bryce Harper and Brian Goodwin going down quickly, Michael A. Taylor’s return was nothing short of a blessing. It was also at the perfect time, coming during the stretch in which they played three games in about twenty-four hours, and help was so desperately needed.
The 2017 season has been one of many surprises, both good and bad. The Nationals have been absolutely decimated by injuries, but a few not-so-big names have stepped ably into their place. At 73-47, the Nationals are on a 99-win pace and hold a comfortable 14-game division lead. But if they hadn’t had their major injuries, would they be on a 106-win pace? Or if their bench hadn’t stepped up, would they be on their way to 87 wins? Let’s break down all these surprises and see if we can’t figure out the impact they’ve had on this team.
Every year in April, I think about how ridiculous the term “dog days of summer” is. How do people become bored and uninterested when it comes to a baseball team they love and every game matters so much and counts the same as any other? Then August rolls around. I’ll admit it: I was entirely indifferent towards the result of a Harper-less, Turner-less, Werth-less (no pun intended, but fitting) Wednesday night game against the Angels. As I said to my mom as we drove across the country to move my stuff back into school for senior year, “honestly I’m just listening to the game so I know if anyone else gets hurt.” Granted, part of this comes with the benefit of a double-digit division lead with no real competition for the NL East title since May. Still, as an aware baseball fan, the games that matter that don’t include men in a curly W are worth following. To help Nationals fans, I put together the August Awareness Guide (with the understanding that unless you have MLB.tv, many of these games can’t be watched) so you can know what scores to keep an eye on over the next two weeks.
Another trade deadline has come and gone, and Mike Rizzo did what he does best: bolster the Nationals roster without selling the farm. While teams like the Cubs, Dodgers, and Yankees made major moves, the Nationals made less heralded moves that fix the major issues with this team: bullpen and bench outfielders.
This has been a great week to be a Nats fan living in Chicago, let me tell you. All corners of the Windy City are ablaze with #HotTakes as talking heads and fans alike panic about the Nationals’ B-team going to Wrigley and taking care of the Cubs in two of three games. For good reason, too: Erick Fedde shut down everyone besides Willson Contreras and “closer of the future” Carl Edwards Jr gave up a grand slam to light-hitting Matt Wieters, neither of which inspires confidence about a ball club. While ESPN Radio Chicago spent the week with entire afternoons dedicated to lamenting the Grand Canyon-like gap between the Nats and Cubs, rational thinkers considered the true impact of a series two months before an NLDS game with at least a half-dozen major contributors not playing a single inning. Some immediately said that nothing about it mattered at all, but I got to wondering: Did Washington actually luck out by not allowing their likely playoff foe to see the top of the rotation?
(Author’s note: All stats as of 08/07/17, he has had two walks while I wrote this…..so, yeah)
“…any other man stops and talk, but the walking man walks.” — James Taylor
What happens when a baseball player is one of the best in the league at a certain skill set, a career building skill set, and then suddenly he stops doing it? Perhaps the answer is that a baseball demi-god becomes mortal.
This trade season has been an active one for Mike Rizzo, who acquired a total of four players in an attempt to fix the much-maligned bullpen and add to the teams dubious position player depth. As the dust settled Monday afternoon, the Nationals were left with a transformed bullpen and a bolstered outfield with the additions of Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson, Brandon Kintzler, and Howie Kendrick. Despite the flurry of additions, the Nationals still have a number of questions looming over them as the postseason slowly approaches. Stephen Strasburg’s elbow health is of the utmost importance, the bullpen still has a number of question marks, and the infield depth remains precariously thin. Luckily for the Nationals, trades are still possible until the end of the month so they can still add to the roster if they feel it necessary. Because players traded in August have to pass through revocable waivers, many of the seemingly available players all have performance or salary issues. Should they decide to take a risk, whether out of competitiveness or desperation, there are still valuable players that the Nationals could look to acquire this August. Let’s take a look at some of these players.
There are 53 games left in the regular season. Fifty-three games to get through until the games really matter. Fifty-three games for some guys to get healthy, some to get hurt, and others to either play their way on or off the playoff roster.