Things to Know about the Washington Nationals

The Mets remain home for a quick two game set against the Washington Nationals. Here’s some things you might want to know about them:

Record: 20-21, 4th place NL East
Manager: Jim Riggleman. Lifetime 644-808 (.444) managerial record.
Park: Home games for the Mets.

Quickly . . .
Can they hit? Nope
Can they pitch? Kinda
Can they field? I guess
Who’s their best player? Ryan Zimmerman is still on the DL, so let’s say Jayson Werth.

Lineup:
CF – Roger Bernadina – L
SS – Ian Desmond – R
RF – Jayson Werth – R
LF – Lance Nix – L
1B – Adam LaRoche – L
C – Wilson Ramos – R
2B – Danny Espinosa – S
3B – Jerry Hairston Jr. – R

Among NL teams, the Nationals are last in batting average (.225), last in on-base percentage (.298), and last in slugging percentage (.348). So they’re having trouble hitting. The offense has been kept out of the runs-per-game basement by batting a more respectable .234/.330/.374 with runners in scoring position – second baseman Danny Espinosa has a .502 OPS with no one on base, and a 1.162 OPS with runners in scoring position – but they’re not getting many runners in scoring position because they’re not getting many runners on base. The entire infield has sub-.300 on-base percentages. Lance Nix and Roger Bernadina (filling in for the injured Rick Ankiel) have provided a temporary offensive boost in the outfield, but it seems unlikely that either will hit over .300 all season. The return of Ryan Zimmerman and a resurgence from Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche should help, but when every expected contributor except Wilson Ramos is underperforming, it’s not hard to see how the offense is in trouble.

Rotation:
5/18: LHP – Tom Gorzelanny (vs. Jon Niese)
5/19: RHP – Livan Hernandez (vs. Dillon Gee)
Miss: RHP – Jason Marquis
Miss: LHP – Jon Lannan
Miss: RHP – Jordan Zimmermann

The worst strikeout staff in the NL – Tyler Clippard has a decent shot at leading the team in strikeouts, and he’s a reliever – but only the Phillies and Braves rotations have walked fewer batters, and the 3.91 ERA is 7th in the league. The low walk and strikeout totals mean the Washington starters surrender a lot of contact, but the big outfield in Nationals Park and an improved defense have helped limit the damage.

Jordan Zimmermann’s start yesterday was rained out, but the Nationals will take it as an opportunity to limit his innings and skip him, sending Tom Gorzelanny out for Wednesday’s game as scheduled. Gorzelanny has allowed just 29 hits in 42.1 innings this season and his ERA sits at 3.40, but he’s helped by a .189 batting average against on balls in play (BABIP). Over the last 50 years, no pitcher has ever had maintained a BABIP that low for a full season – the record is .203 — so unless Gorzelanny knows something no one else does, it’s a good bet some more balls are going to fall in for hits and his ERA rises. Livan Hernandez starts Thursday’s day game affair. Whatever the heck he’s doing — probably rubbing flubber on the baseball — it’s still working.

Bench:
C – Ivan Rodriguez – R
UT – Brian Bixler – R
IF – Alex Cora – L
OF – Michael Morse – R
DH – Matt Stairs – L

Michael Morse (.247/.278/.337) has hit his way out of a starting job and into a left field platoon with Lance Nix; a righthanded hitter, he probably gets the start against Jon Niese. Designated hitter Matt Stairs finally got his first hit of the season since the last time the Mets saw him. He’s now on pace to finish the season with 8 hits and 24 walks. Brian Bixler never plays, just 15 plate appearances since he was called up, so I don’t have anything to say about him. I just felt bad for him and wanted to make you, reader, temporarily aware of his existence.

Bullpen:
RHP – Drew Storen
LHP – Sean Burnett
RHP – Tyler Clippard
LHP – Doug Slaten
RHP – Todd Coffey
RHP – Henry Rodriguez
RHP – Cole Kimball

Jim Riggleman appears to still be adhering to his controversial “destroy all our good relievers in a misguided run at .500” management plan. 23 year old closer Drew Storen is on pace to pitch in 83 games, while Tyler Clippard and lefty Sean Burnett are both on pace to pitch in 75. Righthander Todd Coffey (2.45 ERA) appears to be sprinting in as another option with 16 strikeouts in 14.2 innings, and he could help take some of the strain off Storen, Clippard, and Burnett. But one of them is totally going on the DL before July. As a group, the Nats bullpen is middle of the pack in everything – ERA, walks, strikeouts, home runs allowed, batting average against – but obviously top heavy.

And those were some things about the Nationals.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Things to Know about the Washington Nationals

  1. *snicker* You said ‘flubber’!

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