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).
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I’d like to start by apologizing for writing this piece one week ago — I didn’t intend for Max and the Nationals to actually try to test how replaceable Scherzer actually is… I have not had good luck with these sorts of posts: On June 8th, I opined that the bullpen was no longer awful. Over the next six days, the pen gave up 18 earned runs. On April 27th, I wrote about how to organize Trea Turner and Adam Eaton at the top of the order. Three days later, Eaton collapsed at first base with a torn ACL. This, of course, doesn’t actually mean anything. Just in case, however, do not be surprised if you see me writing about the Cubs and Dodgers later in the year. I’m a team player, after all.
The Washington Nationals have followed up each division-winning/disappointing playoff loss season with an even more disappointing campaign. 2013 and 2015 were ravaged by poor performance, injuries, and a lack of overall depth. 2012 saw injuries to Jayson Werth and Michael Morse; Bryce Harper was a rookie. While we were relatively healthy, our bench was outstanding — “The Shark,” Roger Bernadina posted a career best 1.7 WAR, hitting .291/.372/.405. He was one of the best pinch-hitters in the league that year. Along with Bernadina, Tyler Moore had an .840 OPS; Chad Tracy posted a .784 OPS; post-deadline pickup and current Nat-killer Kurt Suzuki had a .725 OPS. All of them provided valuable, quality at-bats off the bench. They would all crater in 2013, as no one off the bench with more than 50 plate appearances had an OPS higher than .625. They did not have the depth to make up for injuries to Werth and Harper and the struggles of starters like Adam LaRoche. 2015 brought a mirror of 2013, with a struggling bullpen and horrible string of injuries that would see the opening day lineup together for just two games. They got a very good year from Clint Robinson annd a late season surge from Matt den Dekker, but they did not have enough to make up for injuries, under-performances, and Matt Williams.
Today is the NHL’s expansion draft. If you’re unfamiliar, here’s a quick primer of the NHL expansion rules: each team is allowed to select a certain number of its players to protect. Any others are eligible to be selected by the expansion team, which must select exactly one player from each team.
So, in the spirit of keeping things topical, I decided to take a crack at seeing who the Nationals would protect in an expansion draft. MLB had its own expansion draft 20 years ago when the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Devil Rays joined, and therefore has its own set of rules.
With the season a third of the way over and summer fast approaching, things couldn’t be going much better in the nation’s capital, at least as far as baseball is concerned. The Nationals are currently 36-20, good for a 11.5 game lead over the second place… (double-checks standings) Braves? The season is barely a third of the way over, and it looks like the Nats are well on their way to claiming the division title, their fourth in six years.
Despite all of their success, the Nationals still have a potential problem on the horizon, and that is their depth — or lack thereof. Although the Nationals have a commanding lead in their division, injuries happen, and the reserves will have to play well if the Nats hope to continue their hot start for the remainder of the season. Injuries and a lack of performance have already put the organizations depth to the test, and have produced varying results. With Jayson Werth on the DL, I thought it would be prudent to look at the Nationals current depth options, starting with the hitters, and see what they could bring to the team if called upon.
Pain. As we reach the quarter point of the season, the Nationals have hit their first real rough patch, losing four of six to teams that are a combined 12 games under .500. The Pirates, who have the second-worst offense in MLB, scored 20 runs over the three-game series. The Braves were one of the most power deficient offenses in the league—especially so without Nat-killer extraordinaire Freddie Freeman. Atlanta hit six home runs in their two victories before Strasburg dealt them the Ace of Spades and shut them down over 7.2 IP. For all the good the Nationals have, there are some cracks in the foundation. For the starting pitching, the bullpen, lineup, and bench, we will look at the areas of concern, and how significant they are.
As Adam Eaton lay sprawled on the dirt past first base at Nationals Park Friday night, it didn’t just feel like the air was let out of the budding Nationals comeback or out of the lungs of the 34,000 plus revved up in the stands. Instead, it felt like the air had escaped from the entire young, promising season. Continue Reading The Adam Eaton Hole