Friday, July 31, 2015

Nats Week Today

1.       In the news on the field, the Nationals won two of three from the lowly Marlins, not a sweep as hoped for but still a series win. Outside of the blow out game Wednesday night, though, the Nationals only put up two runs, stymied by the great Jose Fernandez and then… double checks… Dan Haren? The one game that turned into a rout was only a blowout thanks to the work of Bryce Harper, mostly single handedly. That won’t cut it, no matter how well the starting pitchers perform. Of course, a big chunk of the lineup has been recently activated off the DL and it will take them some time to round into form. It’s a small sample size, but Ryan Zimmerman looks much better now than he did before hitting the DL. He turned on a few inside pitches and pulled them to left field, something he was struggling with earlier in the year. He also busted it down line on a couple groundballs and didn’t look totally hobbled. I haven’t gotten enough of a look at Werth or Rendon yet to get a good read, so I will have to get back to you on those two. But the team will need them to start picking up the slack, and soon.
2.       The Mets made a move, which I covered in detail here, for Tyler Clippard. In short, it helps their bullpen, especially with Jenrry Mejia getting suspended again for PEDs the day after the trade. But the Mets real problem is scoring runs and Clippard doesn’t help them with that. They tried to address their offensive woes by trading for Carlos Gomez of the Brewers but, in typical Mets fashion, only succeeded in humiliating their own player after reportedly getting hung up on Gomez's salary. The Nationals head into New York again facing a murderer’s row of pitching (Harvey, deGrom, Syndergaard). Barring a last minute deal today, the Nationals will again face the worst offense in the NL though. Rumor has it the Mets are making moves to trade the Reds Jay Bruce. Assuming the Mets don't get cold feet again when they find out they have to actually pay Bruce to work for them, the Mets will wind up with an above average outfielder who likely represents a major upgrade to their lineup, but a downgrade to their defense as they will supposedly shift the not-so-fleet footed Curtis Granderson to center field to make room for Bruce in right. Either way, win the series, and the Nationals can start putting the Mets in the dust as they head into back to back series against below average teams. Lose the series, and this team will have to continue to fight off the pesky Mets.
3.       When the Papelbon trade first went down, I’ll be honest, my gut reaction was to hate it. I examined some of the details of the trade, including Papelbon’s recent performance, here. Subjectively, it’s a really crappy way to treat Drew Storen. Not only does he get demoted for a pitcher who is arguably not as good as Storen has been, but the decision likely hits Storen’s wallet as well. As much as I hate the Save stat, Saves get paid. Saves are awarded in arbitration, which Storen will go to next offseason, and it gets rewarded in the free agent market. While teams will know the circumstances Storen faced this season should he hit the market, they also know his own team chose Papelbon over him for the Nationals run to the World Series, reinforcing the idea that Storen can’t be trusted in big situations. While I don’t buy into it, there is also the fear that Storen collapses following this demotion just like he did after his demotion in favor or Rafael Soriano before. Objectively, though, this deal makes the Nationals a better team without sacrificing much future value either. The game essentially just got shortened by two innings. If the starter can go 7 innings and exit with a lead, the game gets turned over to Storen and Papelbon to close it out. The Royals (with Ned Yost, not the sharpest tool in the shed, at the helm, don’t forget) just rode this system to one base short of a World Series title. Additionally, this frees up Storen to come into the game if a high leverage situation arises in the 7th or 8th inning. Since Matt Williams is too old school to use his closer prior to the 9th inning, any high pressure situations early in the game were getting turned over to unreliable arms out of the pen. The Nationals are all in for the World Series this year. What to do with Drew Storen and/or Papelbon for 2016 can get sorted out in the offseason. For the time being, Papelbon seems to be fitting in well with the team and Drew Storen is continuing to be unhittable, just now plying his trade in the 8th inning.

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