What a first month of Washington Nationals baseball, with several ups and downs. The Nats end April with a one game under .500 record of 13-14. This puts them 4.5 games back of the Atlanta Braves. They will look to get things going here in May.
Lets take a look at the good, the bad, and the question marks of the Nationals.
Bryce Harper has come out of the gates like a bat out of hell. He is on fire. It still amazes me that this kid is still not old enough to drink. It really does feel like he is a 5 year vet and a leader on this team. Harper is hitting .334 with a OPS of 1.150 in the month of April. Not to mention he is 2nd in the NL with 9 HRs and a team leading 18 RBIs. Out of all the All-Star numbers Harper has put up this month, the one I am most stoked about is the 14 walks to 16 strikeouts. Harper has been known to be overly aggressive at the plate, and this was very evident in the beginning of last season. This is why Harper is a true baseball talent, he is not only making adjustments year to year but at bat to at bat. With his new patience at the plate Harper will be a hitting force all season long.
Jordan Zimmermann is looking like the saving grace of this Nationals starting 5. In his 5 starts he is 4-1 with a 2.00 ERA, and a WHIP of 0.86. He has thrown 36 innings, this is only second to Stephen Strasburg at 37. This includes a one hit shut out against the Cincinnati Reds. Zimmermann retired the first 12 of 13 in that game and it only took him 92 pitches to complete the game. You can’t ask much more then that from your starting pitcher.
Adam LaRoche is not having the start to the season that the DC fans were looking for. LaRoche is hitting a team low (min of 20 ABs) .136 and has a team high 29 strikeouts. To say LaRoche has been in a slump would be a like saying Bryce Harper’s hair cut is a good style. He went 0-26 and had to call an old friend of his, Chipper Jones, to look at his swing on video. The only person in DC, and Northern Virginia Metro Area that is not concerned about LaRoche is Davey Johnson. Johnson was quoted saying:
“He’s veteran player, he’s been through it. He’s a quality hitter and I’m not worried that much about it.” – Davey Johnson
I feel if LaRoche keeps this pace up we will be looking for a free agent first baseman. Makes you think about what life would be like if Michael Morse was still around?
It hurts me to put Strasburg on the bad list, but he has just not done if for me in the beginning of this season. He has a 1-4 record with a 3.13 ERA. Now a 3.13 ERA may not sound bad, but Strasburg’s issue is getting out of the first inning with the game still in hand. He has a 10.50 ERA in the first inning with innings 2-7 being under 2. When your starting pitcher is struggling to get out of the first inning it does not put your team in a good place mentally. And with reports of stiffness in his arm I’m beginning to wonder if things will be getting darker in this bright young stars career.
The Question Marks
Who will be the Day-to-Day catcher for the Washington Nationals was a topic up for grabs in this off-season. In the beginning of this season Davey Johnson told us that Kurt Suzuki and Wilson Ramos will share time behind the plate 50/50. Shortly after this Wilson Ramos went down with a hamstring injury and the job was Suzuki’s. Now that Ramos will be coming back, Johnson has a decision to make. Who will be the Day-t0-Day catcher, and the numbers don’t lie. I know the sample size is small but I think it still gets the point across. Nationals pitchers do better with Ramos behind the plate. Just look at Steven Strasburg’s numbers with Ramos: 13 IP, 0.00 ERA, 10 SO, 1 BB, 1 HR vs, Suzuki: 17.1 IP, 5.19 ERA (10 ER), 19 SO, 10 BB, 2 HR. I hope Johnson takes a good hard look at his catcher situation and puts Ramos in as the Day-to-Day catcher.
I think with any teams pitching staff the question mark lies in the bullpen. And the Nationals are no different. They have tons of options to go to in the pen, but one continues to confuse me. Henry Rodriquez should not be in a Major League bullpen, let alone being given the chance to pitch in the game. This guy has not shown any signs of being an asset to the team. In his 9 innings pitched he has walked 9 hitters. The question of the year: How long will Davey Johnson waste a bullpen spot on Henry Rodriguez?
All in all this has been a good month of baseball for the Washington Nationals. I would have liked to see a few more wins, but I feel the team is on the right path. The worry lies in how long some players will be out from injury. Zimmerman should be back soon to fill the 4 spot in the line up, and things are not looking too good with Jayson Werth. With that being said, the two guys I would keep my eye on and that will affect the outcome of this teams season will be Desmond and Espinosa. They are the middle of the infield and the unknown factors in the lineup. They can sway in either direction just as easy as the wind blows. I know you can’t crown a champion in April, but you can sure get a good look at what the season will be like, and this one may be a bumpy one.