Things to Know About the Washington Nationals

The Mets head down to the nation’s capitol this week for a three game series against the Washington Nationals. Here’s some stuff you might want to know about them:

Record: 10-10
Manager: Jim Riggleman
Park: Nationals Park. Fair park, favors righthanded hitters for home runs and lefthanded hitters for everything else.

Quickly . . .
Can they hit? Not so far.
Can they pitch? Sorta.
Can they field? Sorta.
Who’s their best player? Ryan Zimmerman is still on the disabled list with an abdominal strain, making Alex Cora the best National until he returns . . . just kidding. Sans Zimmerman, it’s Jayson Werth.

Lineup:
2B – Danny Espinosa – S
CF – Rick Ankiel – L
RF – Jayson Werth – R
1B – Adam LaRoche – L
C – Wilson Ramos – R
LF – Mike Morse – R
SS – Ian Desmond – R
3B – Jerry Hairston – R

The Nationals’ offense has been sputtering without Zimmerman, who has been out of the lineup since their last series with the Mets. Washington rank 13th in the NL in on-base percentage and 15th in slugging percentage, and three regulars have sub-.600 OPSs. Younglings Danny Espinosa — bumped into the leadoff spot in place of the slumping Ian Desmond — and Wilson Ramos have been bright spots, but everyone else has been either surprisingly bad (Werth, Desmond) or unsurprisingly bad (Ivan Rodriguez, Rick Ankiel).

Zimmerman’s injury also exposed the Nationals’ lack of depth, as third-base-subs-and-lesser-brothers Jerry Hairston and Alex Cora have combined for a .233 on-base percentage and one home run this season. It’s almost as if the baseball gods punish teams who sign Alex Cora for his intangibles, injuring the player Cora backs up — Jose Reyes in ’09, Luis Castillo last year, now Ryan Zimmerman – and forcing Cora to actually play in their stead.

Rotation:
4/26: RHP – Jordan Zimmermann (vs. Chris Young)
4/27: LHP – Tom Gorzelanny (vs. R.A. Dickey)
4/28: RHP – Livan Hernandez (vs. Chris Capuano)
Miss: LHP – Jon Lannan
Miss: RHP – Jason Marquis

The Nats have been kept above water by their thus-far-effective pitching rotation. Game 2 starter Tom Gorzelanny is the only starter with an ERA higher than 3.70, as Jordan Zimmermann, Livan Hernandez, Jon Lannan, and Jason Marquis have combined for a 3.54 ERA and just 38 walks in 101.2 innings. That said, it’s a group that fails to rack up strikeouts, ranking last in the league in Ks, something that suggests they may be pitching over their heads. But while no one is missing bats, the Nats’ rotation is keeping the ball in the park and not issuing free passes  – everyone is doing a nice Livan Hernandez impersonation, including Livan Hernandez — two things that bode well for Washington’s rotation. If the pitching can hold it together until the offense figures out what’s going on, the Nationals might stick around .500 well into the summer.

Bench:
C – Ivan Rodriguez – R
IF – Alex Cora – L
IF – Brian Bixler – R
OF – Laynce Nix – L
PH – Matt Stairs – L

Fact: Designated softball pinch hitter Matt Stairs is on pace for 0 hits and 32 walks in 121 plate appearances this season. Fiction: Stairs hibernates with a family of wild bears during the winter months.

Bullpen:
RHP – Drew Storen
LHP – Sean Burnett
RHP – Tyler Clippard
RHP – Chad Gaudin
LHP – Doug Slaten
RHP – Todd Coffey
RHP – Brian Broderick

Righty Drew Storen and lefty Sean Burnett have split the saves so far, each with three on the year, and Tyler Clippard has continued to refine his unique role as a goggled, multi-inning setup man. The three relievers have combined for a 1.53 ERA and 1.5 wins above replacement already, part of the Nats’ early season success. The problem is that Jim Riggleman is going to destroy them all by the end of June. Storen, Burnett, and Clippard have combined to make 33 appearances and pitch 35.1 innings, while all other Nationals relievers have combined to make 31 appearances and pitch 27.1 innings. The big three are on pace to pitch in 89 games each, or 40 games and then Tommy John surgery. Something’s going to give.

And those were some things to know about the Washington Nationals.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Things to Know About the Washington Nationals

  1. I’m a big fan of this feature. Hope you can manage to keep it up for the season. I’m sure the 31897th Nationals series later in the year isn’t going to be easy to write.

    • Patrick Flood

      See, I haven’t gotten sick of writing about the Mets yet, so I’m hoping writing about the Nationals six times a year won’t be too painful. That’s the plan, at least.

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