It’s raining cats and dogs* this afternoon in Tallahassee, so what better excuse to stay indoors and bang out another edition of Quick Hits.
- Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports is reporting that the Nationals are exploring pitching options to potentially replace Stephen Strasburg, with Ryan Dempster among the names being mentioned. And, according to Rosenthal, the Nats are also looking for an everyday catcher, with Ramon Hernandez of the Colorado Rockies being considered. Let’s start with the latter possibility first. If it’s Ramon Hernandez the Nats are looking at, put me down in the “move along” column. I know Jesus Flores has had his struggles at the plate (.621 OPS) and I’m guessing Washington isn’t inclined to roll more with the rookie Jhonatan Solano. But Hernandez, even with the help of the thin rocky mountain air, has a slightly lowers OPS (.620) and fielding metrics indicate that Flores is the superior defender to Hernandez. You might rightly point out that Hernandez has been banged up this season with a wrist injury, which has masked his offensive superiority. It’s true that Hernandez’s career .747 OPS is better than Flores’ .682 mark. However, did I mention that Hernandez is coming off a wrist injury that typically saps offensive output? Move along.
- Since this is “Quick Hits”, I figured I should bump the whole Stephen Strasburg shutdown watch to a second bullet. And actually, the topic probably deserves a whole column. But that wouldn’t necessarily be quick, now would it? Stop wasting words smarty pants. By almost all media accounts, it is just a matter of when and not if the Nats will shut down Strasburg this season. Whether it is at 160 innings or some other point, it appears that at least publicly, Nats management is saying that health will come before everything else and Strasburg will be told his season is over before the season is actually over. Now, I don’t know what will actually happen come September, with the possibility of a World Series run on Washington’s horizon. It is very easy to say in mid-July that you will put down one of your bayonets when the other side comes charging in September for fear of breaking it. But for the life of me, I still cannot understand baseball’s obsession with protecting pitchers with artificial innings limits and pitch counts, the value of which is based on dubious or non-existent evidence. For all the limits and restrictions put in place by teams the last 20 or 30 years, has there been an appreciable decline in pitching injuries? Maybe shutting Strasburg down is the right thing to do to ensure that he is there to take the mound for the next 10-12 years. But wasn’t management saying the very same thing in 2010 when he wasn’t allowed to throw more than 100 pitches in a game? How did that work out?
- One final thing on the whole Strasburg shutdown. If the Nats do decide to park him in September, I’m not sure they are, or should be, in the position to mortgage even more of their farm system on getting someone like Dempster, who isn’t controlled beyond this season. GM Mike Rizzo has been adamant that any moves made would be done with an eye towards upgrading for the long-haul, and not just this season. I hope he sticks with this philosophy, because if they want to make a move that gives the team the greatest possibility of winning this season, it would be to find a way to keep Strasburg pitching while not further depleting their farm.
- Finally, in addition to being a rabid Nats fan, I’m even a more die-hard Washington Redskins fan. I know. Counseling helps some. And so it is that even the Redskins can find a way to screw up the start of RG III’s career: Griffin III again misses Redskins rookie camp. Thank you Nats for winning. It eases some of the pain.
*Cooley the dog would like to note for the record that it is not literally raining dogs, though he is intrigued at the possibility of a rain shower of cats. Manna from heaven.
I’m going to presume that the Nationals’ Assistant to the Traveling Secretary pulled a George and booked the team on a very early flight back to DC; hence, their putrid effort today on get away day. However, while that assumption is comforting for the moment, the reality is that the Nationals offense is not very good right now. Gone are the late rallies, the hot start of Ian Desmond, and what has sunk in is that without Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse, the Nats sorely lack offensive punch.
Today, despite holding the Dodgers to just three hits, a bout of untimely wildness from Gio Gonzalez was the hiccup that a struggling Washington offense could not overcome, as they fell 2-0. As the Nationals head back east for a six-game home stand, they now find themselves tied atop the NL East with the surging Atlanta Braves and in desperate need to find their bats in order to return to their winning ways.
Game ball(s): Chris Capuano, who took full advantage of an awful display of hitting by the Nationals, whiffing nine in 6 2/3 shutout innings.
Goat(s): Nats’ hitters. Each and every one of them. Washington has pushed across six runs in the last four games, including laying an egg today. Not surprisingly, the Nationals have lost four straight.
Bryce Harper is still only 19: So, after several long and intense discussions with Cooley the dog, we settled on a new name for the award formerly known as the Bryce Harper is not as far off award. Our logic: While we are on bended knees hoping that Harper is the real deal from the get go, the reality is that he is 19, so for the Nats to have success this season, and in the near future, the team will have to get meaningful contributions from players that can legally drink. And well, this isn’t a public school report card where everyone gets a game ball. With that out of the way, Cooley the dog humbly suggests we give out today’s award. And today it goes to Craig Stammen, who has been fantastic in April, and delivered again with another two scoreless innings of relief today.
Current Record: 14-8