Category Archives: David Webber
3 Things on San Francisco
The Nationals played some of the best baseball we’ve seen them play all year in a thoroughly entertaining 3-game demolition of the San Francisco Giants, formerly the No. 2 team in the N.L. Here are five things to take away from the sweep:
1. The Back End
The Nats beat a very good team with the back end of their rotation. The Giants have one of the top pitching staffs in baseball, but even their top three starters couldn’t hang with the Nats. The combination of Jordan Zimmermann, Edwin Jackson, Ross Detwiler, and another stellar series by the bullpen allowed the Nats to post a very respectable 3.66 ERA in the three games.
2. Hitting the Best
When the Nats plated 35 runs in four games at Coors Field, it was easy to suggest that the notoriously thin air of Colorado was to blame. Not so, apparently. The Nats scored 24 runs against the Giants – good for an even eight runs per game – something that just doesn’t happen. San Fran came in to the series with a 3.37 team ERA, and left with an ERA 15 points higher.
3. No Fluke
Perhaps the most amazing stat of the series? In the last 2 years, the Giants were 74-1 in games in which they led by three or more runs. The Nats somehow managed to grab two such wins in two nights, an accomplishment that speaks to something very important: we may be beyond the point where we simply think the Nats’ bats are hot. Perhaps it’s just the potential finally coming through.
3 Things on Colorado
1. Home Cookin’
The Nats entered Colorado a few weeks ago with a 2.95 team ERA. In the four games at Coors Field, that pristine ERA, which had been under 3.00 for 63 of 70 games, shot up to 3.11, thus proving that no pitching staff escapes Colorado with good stats. What does that mean for the Nats? It means they get to face the Rockies at home, where the pitching staff is decidedly better. Sweep?
2. The Matchups
There really isn’t much to say here, except this:
Strasburg (2.81) vs Pomeranz (3.72)
Gonzalez (3.01) vs Francis (5.16)
Zimmermann (2.70) vs Guthrie (6.28)
3. Heading to the break on fire.
If the Nats manage to sweep the Rockies, as they are entirely capable of doing, they will be riding a 7-game winning streak heading into the All-Star break. Since you never know how a team will perform in the week or so after the break, going into the break with such confidence is critical. The Nats can’t get overconfident – falling in a series to the Rockies could be very detrimental to the rest of the season.
April 5, 2012 was a very important day for Washington Nationals’ shortstop Ian Desmond. The 26-year old holdover from the Montreal Expos (the only other National who can claim that distinction is Roger Bernadina) was stepping to the plate against the Chicago Cubs in the season opener of the 2012 campaign. For all intents and purposes, it was the beginning of the most pivotal season in Desmond’s career, one that would decide whether or not he would make a career as an everyday player in the major leagues.
2012 was deemed a make-or-break year for Desmond. In 2011 Desmond’s second full year of starting he regressed significantly and posted thoroughly unimpressive stats. His batting average went down almost 20 points and his defense, while slightly improved, was still a major question mark.
In that first game against the Cubs, the 330th game of his career, Desmond started his quest to silence the doubters by banging out three of Washington’s four total hits, and driving in a game-winning run in the top of the ninth inning. It was a resounding start to a year that has seen Desmond go from a potential replacement player to a National League All-Star, and arguably the most important player in the N.L.-leading Nationals’ lineup.
You can take any position you want to describe Desmond’s sudden rise. It could be his slightly altered batting stance. Or maybe it’s the immense amount of hard work he put in during the offseason. While it could be any combination of factors, one stands out above all – for the first time in his major league career, Ian Desmond is the most confident player on the field.
“He’s doing things we all know he’s capable of doing,” says Nats’ manager Davey Johnson. Desmond’s confidence spurs from Johnson’s refusal to keep the rocket-armed shortstop out of the lineup. Even when Desmond wasn’t hitting well near the end of March, Johnson stuck with him and the results have been superb.
Through 79 games, Desmond has already crushed his career high in home runs (14, vs 10 in 2010) and with 47 RBI is only two off the total he had all of last season. His 11 errors put him on pace for a career low in the department that Nats fans have been grumbling about for his entire career. Though his defense is not yet sterling, it is well beyond the point where fans cringed every time he fielded a routine ground ball.
Through all of his improvement, the most amazing thing about Desmond has been his ability to hit in the clutch. While Adam LaRoche was the backbone of a struggling offense in the first part of the year, Desmond’s clutch hitting has been there since the beginning – and it’s gotten so good that you hope Desmond is up at the plate in any clutch situation.
Desmond’s newfound clutch gene was never more prominently on display than on June 5 against the Mets. Washington found itself down by one run in each of Desmond’s final three plate appearances, and the young shortstop promptly drove in a game-tying run in every single at bat, including two in extra innings. Thanks to Desmond’s heroics, the Nats moved nine games over .500 with a 7-6, 12-inning victory.
Another stat that proves Desmond’s clutch factor is his ability to drive in runs with two outs. More than half of his RBI come in these situations – 25. Think about that. With two outs, there are only two ways to score the runner when contact is made: by error, or by a hit. That means that Ian Desmond gets hits with two outs, and he gets them a lot.
That screams clutch.
All the stats and the accolades can only say so much, though. The best way to see Ian Desmond’s improvement is to simply watch him. He’s not a kid anymore. He’s a seasoned veteran who has learned how to play ball. He’s become a feared hitter who can hit for average, power, and has speed on the base paths. He doesn’t walk much, but he can hit the gap with the best of them (3rd in the N.L. in doubles) and he’s slugging almost .500.
Say what you want about Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg, or Bryce Harper – Ian Desmond is the Original National, and he’s finally showing that he can play with the big boys.
Matt Cain threw a perfect game the other day, in one of the greatest displays of pitching in Major League Baseball history. It was the third no-hitter in the last 13 days (counting the Seattle Mariners’ combined no-hitter about a week ago) and the fifth this season.
While being treated to yet another dominant display of pitching, the thought occurred to me: Which Nationals pitcher, on arguably the best staff in the game, would be the first to throw a no-hitter?
The Nats currently employ one pitcher who has a no-hitter to his credit – Edwin Jackson, who tossed the most tumultuous of no-no’s in a 149-pitch “gem” against the Tampa Bay Rays. The four others – Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, and Chien-Ming Wang – have yet to pad their resumes with a no-hitter.
From a pure “stuff” standpoint the obvious choice for no-hitter number one would be Strasburg, who, at just 23 years of age, as established himself as one of the best pitchers in the game. There is no pitcher in the league who can match Strasburg’s control over such a vast and deadly array of pitches.
The problem with Strasburg, though, is his lack of experience going deep into games. Obviously, the most basic quality of a no-hitter is that it comes in a complete game – something Strasburg has yet to do. And, as a strikeout pitcher, his pitch count could prevent him from having the stamina to go the distance, even in a few years when he isn’t staring at an innings cap. So as much as it may seem strange to say it, I don’t think Stephen Strasburg is the pitcher on this staff who is most likely to throw a no-hitter.
So that leaves us with Gonzalez, Zimmermann, Jackson, and Wang. Now remove Wang (let’s be honest here).
After taking out Wang, I’d focus on Jordan Zimmermann. Zimmermann is a workhorse. And he’s an excellent pitcher. But his abilities don’t lend themselves to pitching a no-no. He’s a fastball/slider guy who is as solid as they come, but who also finds himself in tricky situations late in games. Also, he has allowed about a hit per inning (8.8 hits/9 IP) in his career, which is the death-knell for no-hitters.
So now we’re down to Jackson and Gonzalez. Jackson has a no-hitter, and is in the midst of a career year. And sometimes, he comes out with nearly unhittable stuff. But Jackson isn’t necessarily what I’d call an elite pitcher (although that seems to be criteria for perfect games…here’s looking at you Dallas Braden and Phillip Humber), and while I can see him throwing another no-hitter somewhere down the road, I just can’t see him getting it before…
Gio Gonzalez. Until Matt Cain threw his perfect game, I would have put in my vote for Gio as the N.L. Cy Young of the season thus far (look at Cain’s stats and you’ll realize why he’s now the frontrunner in my opinion). The thing that Gio has going for him in terms of getting a no-hitter is this: opponents are hitting .168 against him, which to me is a trend that cannot be overlooked. He has allowed just 43 hits in 72 innings, and has the lowest WHIP of his career. The only way to get a no-hitter is to allow no hits – and that’s what Gio Gonzalez does best.
In an interesting twist, I’d put Gio down as the least likely to throw a perfect game, because while his control has been decent this year, I don’t think there’s any way he’d go nine innings without walking someone.
So there you have it. In my opinion, Gio Gonzalez is the pitcher most likely to throw the first no-hitter for the Washington Nationals.
As for who will have the most? I’ll take Strasburg – and I’ll take the over with and over/under of 3.
Let us know who YOU think will toss the first no-hitter in Washington Nationals history! (An aside: the Montreal Expos had 4 no-hitters, including one in just their 7th game as a franchise.)
The Washington Nationals are like autumn leaves – they look pretty good, but are fragile to even the slightest touch. I know that’s an awful comparison (I’ve never been one for similes, and I never will be), but it’s a pretty good personification of a baseball team that simply can’t catch a single break.
That the Nationals are 21-13 is almost hard to believe. They’ve lost so many players to injuries, it’s entirely conceivable that they could field a winning team with their DL (tune in later for an interesting perspective on that). Among the names gracing the list of the fallen are C Wilson Ramos (torn ACL, out for the year), OF Jayson Werth (broken left wrist, 6-12 weeks), OF/1B Michael Morse (strained right lat), Closer Drew Storen (elbow), and SP Chien-Ming Wang (hamstring, close to return).
One can only imagine how good this baseball team could end up being when it’s entirely healthy. But until that glorious day arrives, we are faced with the question: Will this season turn into a “what if” year?
How depressing would it be to see a Nationals team done in at the end of the year by one injury too many? In a game of inches, one injury could be the difference between making the playoffs and failing to do so. For all we know, Jesus Flores could be at the plate in the bottom of the ninth with two on and two out in a 4-3 game – the 162nd game to be precise, a win-or-go-home situation – and strike out in a situation where Wilson Ramos could have brought home the winning runs. What if Drew Storen re-injures his elbow in September and Henry Rodriguez blows the save that could have won the division?
Injuries are something that every team has to deal with, but a team like the Nationals really can’t afford to have too many. Even with Werth, Ramos and Morse in the lineup last season, this was a below average offense at best. Without those players, the Nats have to be thankful for guys like Adam LaRoche, who has basically put the team on his back and is carrying it offensively.
One thing the Nationals have going for them is that their pitching is so dominant, they will be in almost every game no matter how banged up the batting order is. A heavily injured lineup should still be able to score 3 runs in a game (ironically, about what a healthy Nats lineup might average), and the pitching is so good that the Nats could probably get a win in a game like that.
But the fact remains: injuries are heavily impacting the Nats through 34 games. There are 127 games left. That’s plenty of time to either get healthy or to crowd the D.L. even more. At the end of the year, we will be faced with two possibilities – a team that used all it had to make the playoffs, or a team that missed the postseason simply because it was too banged up to be consistently competitive.
1. He’s Bryce Harper, he can wear his hair however the hell he wants.
2. He could have made the Nationals starting lineup in the inaugural season of 2005 at age 12.
3. You have to take final exams this week. HE DOESN’T.
4. He ignites Natitude simply by existing.5. Because nobody’s Sharper than Harper.
6. And it’s Nice to be Bryce.
7. He made more money at age 17 than you will for the rest of your life.
8. He plays softball on the Mall and makes national news.
9. The entire Nationals team has Ebola – except Harper, he is immune to all human plagues. (@JackoBeam)
10. He doesn’t have to live in Syracuse anymore.
It’s no secret that the Washington Nationals have struggled to hit the baseball in 2012. The team ranks near the bottom of the N.L. in nearly every offensive category, spoiling a legendary start to the season by the unflappable pitching staff they score for. Below are some interesting statistics chronicling what the Nats do well, what they don’t do well, and what they really suck at.
4.6: Jayson Werth averages an excellent 4.6 pitches per plate appearance.
.314: Adam LaRoche has a batting average of .314.
And that’s about the extent of the good. Not much, is there? Just wait until you read the bad and the ugly:
3.8 %: Danny Espinosa, Xavier Nady, Mark DeRosa, and Rick Ankiel have combined to score 5 out of 131 possible base runners. That’s a success rate of 3.8%.
13: The Nats have 13 home runs. Matt Kemp of the L.A. Dodgers has 12 by himself.
.166: Opposing pitchers hold the Nats to a .166 batting average the first time through the lineup.
Slugging .323: The Nationals’ slugging percentage is 62 points lower than the league average, good for last in the league.
59.9: The Nationals hit one home run every 59.9 at bats. The league average is 40.4.
26: The Nats can’t score at the beginning of games. In 115 innings that encompass innings 1-5 this season, the Nats have scored a grand total of 26 runs.
2: Along the same lines, the Nats have scored 2 runs in the 1st inning this season. They have more runs in extra innings (3) than they do in the first.
.182: Batters in the three-hole for the Nats this season have a dismal batting average of .182. That’s the spot in the order that’s supposed to have the best hitting, people.
WTF: Batters in the 3rd, 6th, and 7th spots in the Nats’ lineup have struck out more times than they’ve gotten a hit.
45:15: This season, the Nats have a 45:15 strikeout to walk ratio when leading off an inning.
The Nationals rank last in all of the MLB in Slugging Percentage, and Total Bases.
If you want more information on the Nats’ offensive struggles, check out this piece by The Nats Blog.
If I were a G.M., I would attempt to model my team very simliar to how the New York Rangers have constructed theirs.
I would start by trying to find a tough, no-nonsense, defense-oriented coach like John Totorella.
I would stock up on capable offensive players like Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards.
I’d make sure to have a solid defensive corps, like the McDonagh/Girardi/Del Zotto trio, and institute a team-wide philosophy of defense over offense.
And of course, I’d try to get an ideal goaltender such as Henrik Lundqvist to back my team up on those rare occasions when things break down horribly.
Yes, the New York Rangers of 2012 harken back to the tougher, grittier days of the NHL and the Blueshirts are deserving and capable of being a No. 1 seed. They are as well-rounded as any team in the NHL.
But in battling the Washington Capitals to a 1-1 series tie in the Eastern Conference semifinals of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Rangers have found that nothing ever comes easy in hockey.
Make no mistake: the Rangers are supremely talented and have a leg up on Washington at nearly every position. The Caps simply refuse to see it that way.
In two games, the Capitals have played as well as – if not better than – the Rangers. Game 1 started as a Ranger clinic, but morphed into a slugfest which was ultimately decided by some poor officiating and at least four pucks off the iron behind Lundqvist.
Game 2 was a seesaw battle in which the Caps tried and failed to score multiple times, but locked down on defense and beat the Rangers at their own game. Caps coach Dale Hunter has convinced his players that operating with a defensive mentality creates a marvelous scenario – it evens the playing field. The Rangers may have the talent on paper, but the Caps see them as another team that they can grind down to a pulp.
It happened in Round 1, as well. The Caps went up against a superior Boston team and beat them with hard work and defense. In hockey, more than almost any other sport, the bounces go your way if you outwork the other team. Hustle stats like blocked shots and hits go a long way in determining the outcome of a game. No matter how talented the opposition is, masterful play at the defensive end will always make a game close.
Ultimately, it’s allowed the Caps to go deeper in 2012 than they did in 2011. The formerly high-flying, goal-a-minute gunners have transformed into a group of hard-working, passionate grinders. Most importantly, Washington has become a team that is very hard to play against. More than anything, it is this quality that makes them so dangerous. Their style is such that no matter who they play, they will always be in the game.
The Rangers and Bruins and clearly better than the Washington Capitals.
The boys from D.C. don’t think that it matters one bit.
1. He doesn’t have to live in Oakland anymore.
2. He likes to imitate the trajectory of his curveball with the shape of his mouth.
3. He’s just too damn good.
4. Jordan Zimmermann hired him to smile for him.
5. It’s for his cameo on the cover of Nat Gio magazine.
6. He hasn’t seen a Wizards game this year.
7. He’s thankful he gets better run support than Jordan Zimmermann.
8. He works publicity for K Street.
9. Gio has serious Natitude (we think, still not 100% on what that means).
10. He watched Davey Johnson react to a fire alarm.
1. “I frame pitches better than your mom frames pictures.”
2. “I thought getting kidnapped was bad, but then I caught one of Strasburg’s fastballs.”
4. “I guess I left Minnesota right on time.”
5. “I’m finally an everyday starter. Maybe it’s because I worked off some Pudge.”
6. “Oh you have a goatee? Tell me about how you think it’s better than mine.”
7. “It’s embarrassing to think that the Twins saw more in Matt Capps than they did in me.”
8. “I got rescued in Venezuela because I told the authorities to changeup their plans to the inside corner of the building I was in. “
9. “I’m so good, the depth chart says I’m ahead of Jesus.”
“It’s RAH-mos. You call me RAY-mos and I’ll have H-Rod deliver a fastball to your face.”