Nationals Baseball

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Homestand / Homeland joke

Sorry - never watched the show.

The Nats have a very important homestand coming up. They are roughly a 1/10th into the baseball season (I know!) and have played all of three teams. They've dominated the Marlins and the Mets, who are fighting to prove they are .500 teams and they've been dominated by the Braves, who are fighting for division and league titles. Seems pretty cut and dried, but the Nats are also very familiar with these teams and vice versa so facing some outsiders helps to really figure out the course of the team. This homestand features three teams not in the NL East and by the end we should have a good idea of who the Nats (minus all those injured guys) are. We should also have a much better idea of when all those injured guys are coming back. All in all we'll know by the end of the month if it's time to panic, if the Nats have got this, or likely if the team is somewhere inbetween.

The Nats themselves are dealing with some difficult injury issues.  They've managed to hang on but there are a lot of questions with how they are doing it. Is Danny Espinosa really back? (not sure) Is Zach Walters this good? (no of course not) When is Ian Desmond going to start hitting? (soon I hope) It doesn't look good - but it doesn't have to be good for long. A couple days hopefully for Bryce. Maybe a week for Span. Just get lucky and get a hot bunch for a week and things are ok. The pitching is more of a concern but it's more an "watch it" than "panic" thing. We'll be watching each start fearing another crash, most notably with Strasburg, but the talent still seems to be there. The bad starts are probably flukes... probably.

The first opponent is the toughest one. Four games versus the defending NL champs, the patron saints of constant competition (for those not willing to break the bank), the St.  Louis Cardinals.They come in at 9-6 and playing pretty well, taking 4 of their last 5 and 2 of their last 3 versus the division leading Brewers. Offensively, the team was ice cold but the bats are coming around, hitting .285 / .338 / .425 in the last 7 days. Jhonny Peralta, who was particularly terrible to start the year is now particularly red hot, along with Molina.  The remaining issues are when will Allen Craig come around and is Kolten Wong ever going to show he belongs at the major league level.

Pitching wise the team doesn't really have any issues. Shelby Miller is the only starter with bad stats but he's been improving each time out. Rosenthal has been a bit shaky but everyone still believes in him.  If either of these guys falters Carlos Martinez is there to be awesome and stuff.

The short of it is - they are good and they are playing well so this could be a tough series.

The Angels are the next appointment and they are mired in expected mediocrity. The offense is clicking enough but they lost another cog in Kole Calhoun. Adding that to Hamilton eventually that's gotta catch up with them, especially since the early success is in part because of freaky good bench perfromance. Meanwhile the pitching is struggling.  The bullpen is kind of a mess, they don't have a 5th starter, and Jered Weaver is getting killed by the long ball.  This has all the looks of a team about to bottom out.

The Padres are the polar opposite of the Angels - they can pitch but can't hit. You'd expect the hitting to get better. It's a lot of guys way underperforming and the good performances aren't crazy.  On the flip side you'd expect the pitching, well at least the starting pitching, to get worse. Cashner could be a very good pitcher but the rest don't scare anyone. They are certainly capable but I see them as also capable of being killed. The pen is full of talent though.  Doesn't that always seem to be the case for SD?

The Nats face the Cardinals and could be out Zimm, Ramos, Span and Bryce? Good luck with all that. I'm going to go ahead and predict 1 win in four games.  Hey, this team is kind of reeling and was a couple of Saltalamacchia brain freezes from losing two of three to Miami. I see the Angels though as ripe for the picking, injured themselves and starting from a lower point. Sweep? The Padres pitching should keep them in the games but the Nats are better. 2 of 3 3 of 4 there. So I'm thinking 6-4 7-4.

Best (likely) case : 7-3 8-3 for the homestand.  Nats split with Cardinals, sweep one of the Angels or Padres and win the series versus the other.

Worst (likely) case : 4-6 4-7. Cards take 3 of 4, Angels take 2 of 3, Padres split. (or what I actually like better Cards win 3, Nats win series v Angels 2 games to 1, but Padres win 3)

As long as Bryce and Span are back by the end of the Cards series I think they'll be fine. 6-4 7-4for the stand 15-10 16-10 for the season and we can evaluate what the future looks like as dates for Fister, Zimm and Ramos' returns all get clearer.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

What samatta with Strasburg?

No one has pitched particularly well this season for the Nats. Not ZNN. Not Gio. Not Roark or Jordan. But it's still early and bad games happen to good pitchers every year. It may just be a touch of bad luck that both Gio and ZNN both had one of their 5 or so bad games in their first 3 outings. Jordan and Roark, well who knows about them? Could be the same bad luck or it could be that they aren't all that good to begin with (I know where I lean).

Strasburg though is different. He's had 4 starts so far with one mediocre outing and two certified stinkers. Strasburg started 30 games last year. If you use Game Score (a rough way of ranking game performance based on various things) these 2014 games would have ranked 21st, 28th and 29th last year. In other words he's thrown out a whole lotta bad in a short period of time. The million dollar question is why?

Of course the problem with trying to diagnose the problem this early is that you have enough variation in stats that things can change dramatically in one start. Broad, macro level ideas are just coming into focus while micro-details still are fuzzy. Add to that there are thousands of ways to attack pitching data. Is his velocity down? Is his location off? Is one particular pitch less effective? Is it a certain type of batter that's causing the problem? Is it a certain type of situation?

Is it both velocity and location for a certain type of pitch to a certain type of batter in a certain type of situation?

Gah - so teasing out information that's meaningful just from data points is hard at this point.  Here's what I feel ok with saying.
  • There really hasn't been a change in overall mix of pitches thrown... factoring in the slider. 
  • He is missing more bats (contact rate both in and out of the zone are way down) - but he's missing for two reasons; his strikeout rate is up 14.1 K/9 vs his career 10.6(good), his walk rate is up 3.9 BB/9 vs career 2.6 (bad). The bad here is worse than the good.
  • His velocity is down but he's still very fast. 
What this tells the novice pitch stat analyzer is that it's not his stuff. Even with the very mild (and still early in the year) velocity drop, it's still fast enough to strike people out and he's doing just that. Instead it's the location. He's wild and that's causing him to get hit.  If that's the case then we should see a difference in location of pitches thrown, especially the pitches he's getting hit hard by.  Righties are killing his fastball for example. What do we see there?

Last year (thanks to F/X by Texas Leaguers)

You're looking from the catcher's POV.  There's a distinct grouping a little bit on the outer half of the plate when throwing low. (up high it mattered less) This year?

Way less data but you can see he's missing that outer half of the plate spotting he had last year. What about the curve? That's getting hit hard too.  Last year

He was in the zone alot but mostly nailing low and away off the plate. This year

It's not getting off the plate enough.

Now I can't say anything for certain. Look at the number of pitches we're dealing with for this year.  It's tiny. Plus I don't even know if the above include last nights game. (I think so) But given the things I feel good about saying - this makes sense and honestly it's nothing special in terms of analysis. He's wilder than he's ever been so far this year. That means he's not hitting his spots. Part of that is leading to more walks. Part of that is leading to balls left over the plate.

This is the easy part. The hard part is figuring out why he's wilder and fixing that. Good luck with that one, McCatty.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Low on health but the enemies here are weak.

The Nats are in a bit of a sticky wicket right now, with three starters and an starting pitcher out.  Span, with a concussion, should be back soon, but concussions are tricky. We'll assume he's back in the lineup up sometime this week and move onto the big three. When will they be back? What do the Nats face during this time? What are reasonable expectations?

Let's look at the schedule. The Nats will play two more games away against the reeling Marlins. Strasburg vs Koehler and Roark vs Fernandez both look like obvious wins - so let's say split for those two (giving the Nats 2 of 3 away - a good outcome) and move on.  We'll do quick looks here - save the real analysis for the actual start of the stands.

Homestand 11 games, 4 vs STL, 3 vs LAA, 4 vs SDP

Pretty standard homestand but it starts on the 17th which is way too early for anyone to comeback. By the end we're at the 27th and Fister becomes a remote possibility as would a super fast healing Ramos but this is a weird part of the schedule, you'll see.

Away Trip 5 games; 2 @ HOU, 3 @ PHI
Homestand 3 games;  3 vs LA
Away 6 games; 3 @ OAK, 3 @ ARI

See? Home on the 27th of April, then Houston on the 29th, Philly on the 2nd of May, DC on the 5th, Oakland on the 9th. It's a ton of travel, but it's not too bad on the team as there are days off right now on either side of the Houston trip, before heading to Oakland, and after the last game. Still, it seems unlikely they'd bring guys in to be bounced around like that especially with Syracuse on a homestand from the 1st through the 8th.

The way I see it Fister (and Ramos if healthy - I'll guess not, but if) will be in Syracuse for that homestand then join the Nats out West. Makes sense for Fister to start vs Oakland sometime during that May 9th series. He's familiar with stadium and team, and the late West Coast start time could ease him into the rotation, as opposed to a prime time DC start. Ramos, it makes more sense in my mind, to wait until the next homestand which starts on the 16th. Syracuse does not travel far (Columbus, then Toledo) so a short rehab stint with them is possible. Given his slow healing history I think that's more than fair. (6 weeks would be about the 14th). 

Homestand 6 games; 3 vs NYM, 3 vs CIN
Away 4 games; 4 @ PIT
Homestand 9 games; 3 vs MIA, 3 vs TEX, 3 vs PHI

It's a nice long time in the area, basically 3 weeks interrupted with a short jaunt to Pittsburgh from May 16th through June 5th. A good time to acclimate players. Zimm in theory could join the team when I think Ramos will at the start, (4 weeks would be about May 11th) but I'd bet on him being back with the later homestand, which kicks off on the 26th.

What about expectations? The stretch they face before Fister would come back vs Oakland has some tough teams, but they get them at home. I think if they can go 11-10 during that time (tonight through Oakland) I think that's fair. Won't put them in first, but they won't be out of it. (unless ATL pulls one of those 15 game winning streaks) I know I said .500 till these guys are back may not cut it, but I was saying till they ALL come back which would be the very end of May or into June.  .500 for the next couple weeks would be ok.

Post-Fister the schedule looks pretty soft. Split the games away then Ramos is back for easy teams and easy travel for 3 weeks.  You have to like the Nats to start moving up here 6-4 w/Ramos, before Zimm? 6-3 in that homestand with everyone?  Now we're looking way far ahead but 34-25 at that point would feel pretty good. 

Boiling this rambling down - we're looking for the Nats to go basically .500 from now until that easy stretch begins (hopefully with Ramos returning).  That's 27 games so something like 14-13. Then something like 12-7 during that long stretch when by the end of it, everyone should be back and healthy. Two separate goals. Maintain over the next month. Impress over the 3 weeks after that. Neither goal seems unattainable.

The injuries matter but the Nats catch somewhat of a break with a schedule that's toughest section looks to be months from now during the stretch run. Right now they might be able to muddle through a perfectly average stretch then dominate an easy one as guys start coming back.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Monday Quickie - I love Mondays!

because the Nats are not playing the Braves anymore!  (and the Yankees took 3 of 4 from Boston but I doubt that concerns you)

The Nats have been terrible vs the Braves. Going back to late 2012 that makes the Nats 7-22 in their last 29 games vs Atlanta. Why? Well, the big part of it is Atlanta is good, in particular was really good last year, while at the same time the Nats were off last year. It's pretty simple.You can have an off year versus a good team and get slaughtered. (Hell you can have an off year versus a mediocre team and get slaughtered if the chips fall the wrong way) 

Of course this would be easier to take if the Nats weren't also 0-6 vs the Cardinals last year and 1-5 versus the Dodgers (3-4 vs Pirates, but hey! 4-3 vs Cincinnati!) Like I said at the end of last column, with the Nats sitting at 1-5 against Atlanta the question becomes -  Can the Nats beat good teams? Unfortunately for the Nats, the question is asked at a time when the answer is most likely "No". Fister, Ramos, and  Zimmerman out. Span potentially out. This is an ailing team that has passed the point of its preparation.  At that point perceptions change.

Did we like the Nats better than the Braves? Yes.
Do we like the Nats better than the Braves? No.
Will we like the Nats better than the Braves? I don't know.

If the Nats all come back healthy in 6 weeks than sure. That would be the same team to start the year. Or perhaps if the Braves, who have reached their own limit in preparation, lose another starter. But I don't want to say it looks good for the Nats right now. Have they ever had guys come back exactly on time and perform up to expectations? I'm seriously asking. It at least feels like everyone comes back late and comes back hurt. A Nats team with a third of the team guarnteed to underperform is not a playoff competitive team unless Bryce and Rendon become Mantle and Hornsby overnight.

The ball is now in Rizzo's court then.  The easy solution, the one Rizzo has taken mid-season in the past, is to do nothing. Sit, wait and assume everything will go according to plan. The Nats will hold court going in the neighborhood of .500. Zimmerman, Ramos and Fister will all be back by about June 1st and the Nats will play the next 100 games as they should have played 162 if healthy. Seems like an ok plan. Of course that assumption - that everyone will be back healthy on June 1st is a big one. Then there is the assumption that no one else will get injured. That's a big one, too. Then there is the biggest problem :

That scenario doesn't guarantee playoffs

62 games at a .500 pace is 31-31
100 games at "original" pace* is 58-42

That's a 89-73 team. 89-73 did not make the playoffs last year. Used to be 89 would at least give you a shot and the thought was that in the expanded playoffs it could be a lock. Turns out though the competition steps up and tries harder with a goal in reach. Water finds its level. 90 wins is needed for a good shot. 92 for a lock. 

If Rizzo does nothing again - the Nats are probably in for a dogfight just to make the playoffs. 2014 has turned into 2013 alarmingly quickly.

*Using 94 wins pace

Other notes
  • The sweep will bring out the idiots shouting "SEE! YOU OVERRATED THE NATS!!!!" These are probably the same people that would act like you were stupid if you didn't pick the Rockies to finish at least 2nd in the NL West in a season where they only managed that when California fell into the ocean because of a massive earthquake.  Ignore them.
  • The injuries matter far more than the losses do.  The worst part about the losses is that the Braves now have a one-game lead and the Nats have "only" 13 H2H games to make that up.  That's not bad - that's fine. Then there are the 137 other games still left too. As the season wears down you like to have H2H because you are only hoping for one event, not two. That matters, but this far out it doesn't matter a lot.
  • Bryce is heating up. Danny looked ok.  Maybe the Nats can do this? 
  • Rendon is cooling down. So is LaRoche. Desmond didn't look good either. Maybe not?
  • The Nats SP ERA sits at 4.81.  Clippard and Blevins both have ERAs over 5.  That's not going to get it done. (It will get better though)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Braves Preview

First - since I haven't mentioned it for a year - if you are so inclined I am on twitter - mostly baseball stuff, more than I originally thought it would be, but not all.

The Nats are killing relievers. They are hitting them at a .315 / .397 / .519 clip by far the best in the National League. (Nats OPS is .915, next best is .835, then .774 - the AL has a couple teams a little closer but the Nats are still easily #1).  Is it that the Nats have just faced lousy bullpens? It didn't seem that way going into the Marlins series, but that is certainly a possibility. But so what? You want to kill lousy bullpens and the Nats have at the very least done that, if not beat up on ok ones.

I do believe though that the starter/reliever splits (Nats are about mid-MLB vs starters) gel with my idea of the Nats offense. It is not a murderer's row. It is good, and with Rendon and LaRoche, arguably the two biggest question marks coming into the year, both hot, there are no easy outs. (well maybe Lobaton right now but back-up catcher isn't a field flooded with talent. Honestly this guy was the best the Nats could do.) It doesn't have a guy yet who you feel you just have to pitch around. Yet.

Atlanta's relief staff has not been great. Kimbrel is Kimbrel, but getting to him has not been easy. Can the Nats take advantage of that? Speaking of Atlanta - there's a series this weekend!

The Braves come in on a bit of a slide, losing 3 of their last 4. They haven't played poorly over that time but it did highlight some flaws. The biggest overall issue is the fact their offense can go ice-cold seemingly at the drop of a hat. Nine games into the season and they already have 4 games where they've scored 1 or 0 runs. Freeman is still killing it (.419 / .514 / .677) but no one else is. Justin Upton is doing ok and Simmons, who may be limited in the series, can get singles but nothing else.  So forget Blevins pitching to Freeman. Pitch around Freeman would be the better plan versus this bunch.

The starting pitching is the biggest strength.  I'm not sure any starter has had a bad game, the worst one likely being David Hale's outing in the last game where he gave up 3 ER but in only 4 1/3 innings thanks to 5 walks. That's not good, but when it qualifies as your worst that gives you a sense of how good their starters have been. The Nats could likely be caught in a series of games that remain tense and low-scoring until the later innings. If the Nats could knock a pitcher out early their is a soft underbelly here. Of course the Nats scored all of 1 run off that underbelly last series so take that for what it's worth.

The Nats, as you know, are red hot. They did throw out their 3 best pitchers versus the Marlins though. Got two great starts from Gio and Stras, and one terrible one from ZNN.  The pen has looked good, though with a shaky moment or two.  Of course what does that all matter when you score 22 runs in 3 games? Desmond, Werth. LaRoche and Rendon have all hit exceptionally well the past week. Bryce looks to be heating up. Zimm has been a little off, and Span, you know the guy who leads off all the time and is probably the one hitter in the lineup you can't even say "well he used to be good" isn't hitting well. Surprise. Lobaton is also struggling in his role, but you have an endpoint with him. This doesn't matter when 4 guys are killing it but something to keep an eye on.

Pitching Match-Ups
Roark v Teheran
Teheran is a good pitcher. The Nats just faced him, presumably not at his best (4 walks and 111 pitches), and managed 3 hits and 2 runs over 7. Like I said - he's good. When he's on he's among the best in baseball with great control and strikeout stuff. A bit susceptible to the long ball perhaps. In theory Roark "owns" the Braves but I think that's a little bit good timing for him and wishful thinking.  Still this offense looks like it could be owned by anyone right now.

Jordan v Wood
This was the match-up last week too. In that one both guys pitched well. You could argue Wood actually pitched a bit better than Jordan but Taylor gave up 1 run to Alex's 2 and that was all either team would score. Alex could be wild, but doesn't give up the long ball. Jordan also "owns" the Braves. Like I said - I don't know if that can be disproved this time with the Braves collectively hitting so poorly.

Gio v Harang
Harang has done very well in his first two starts, almost no-hitting the Brewers and handling the Mets. But it's smoke and mirrors. His BABIP is .133 (which means he's getting lucky with GBs NOT finding holes)  His LOB% 88.9% (which means he's getting lucky with said GBs NOT finding holes at the right time). and his GB% is 27.6% which means those aren't acutally GBs he's getting lucky with - more like FBs not going out of the park. 0 HRs so far this year. He's pretty good at keeping guys in the park, but not that good.

The first two games should be toss-ups. The Nats could be held down just enough for the Braves to squeak across a couple runs, get to Kimbrel and get the win. OR the Braves could continue to be punchless, the Nats could scratch a run or two off the starter, a run or two more off relievers, and win 4-1, 5-0.  Either way I think through 7 these games are going to be close. Given that I don't feel good either way, I'll go with the split. As for the third game - Harang is a time bomb. I think the Nats win in a blow out.

I'll say the Nats take 2 of 3 and extend their lead in the NL East to 3 games. If that happens... well I'm not going to say wire to wire just yet. The Nats do have to finish an away set vs the Marlins then play STL for 4 games, but you start to think that maybe the Braves don't have what it takes to hang.

I think either way both teams have the same goal. Don't get swept. For the Braves that would really put them in a hole. With no common games until June 19th, they wouldn't have a good opportunity to close what would then be a 5 game gap until then.  It could be setting them up for trailing all the way until that 4 game set which would be the only time the play before the break. That would make that series huge... if the Nats hadn't already gotten too far ahead. If the Nats get swept "the Braves own the Nats / The Nats can't beat good teams" idea starts to get play. It could get wiped out as soon as they play the Cardinals, but then again - they Cardinals are really good.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

We now return you to your previously scheduled program

The Nats are good.

The Nats won last night. They now have the best record in baseball.  Early? Sure. 8 games is only 5% of a baseball season, but what have you seen that actually bothers you? The tendency to have issues hitting good pitching? Guess what. Everyone has that problem and on a usual night the Nats have the arms to make it a battle. The injuries? OK the injuries are an issue already sapping the Nats depth but at least the Nats had the depth this year, right?

Last year the Nats would have already been staring at a black hole in the 8th spot in the lineup with Solano likely replacing Ramos. Zimmerman's issues would have them staring at a whole lot of Lombo.  Lombo is ok used very sporadically but is a scary proposition when used every day*. Last year the first non-Top 5 start was Zach Duke. The next one was Nate Karns. Karns might be a better "prospect" than Jordan or Roark (might - he's getting killed in AAA this year), but Jordan and Roark are better "pitchers right now" and the Nats are a team to win right now.

This is the team Nats fans thought they were getting last year before the wrong injuries and poor back-up planning brought the team down.  Enjoy it. (seriously enjoy it now - one more injury and I can't promise such a rosy outlook)

Last night notes

Williams makes stupid lineups but this team is too good for it to matter. But don't just laugh it off. A stupide lineup in the playoffs can matter.

Williams also over manages but he doesn't do it badly if that makes any sense. He does too much but everything he does seems defensible. In other words, if he runs into a scenario where "If you do X, things might get better", he does X. It's like the "might" doesn't matter to him. Still because it's defensible he will run himself into some decisions that make sense to do early, like pulling ZNN a few batters before he may have done conventionally. ZNN didn't have it and it was very close to being a throw in the towel game.

Speaking of ZNN, that was a stinker wasn't it? He does have these sort of games. He had about 4 last year. What's really rare is the fact he threw less than 60% of his pitches for strikes. (He averages around 68%) The last time he did that was May 6th, 2012. One game fluke? We certainly hope so.

A twitter follower wanted me to comment on how ZNN was so hot in Spring Training and everyone was like "he's the best" but he's thrown out one good, but short, outing and one terrible one. But I'm way too classy to say, once again, Spring Training stats don't matter. Really why would I bother harping on the fact that Spring Training stats don't matter at this point anyway? It just wouldn't make sense to say Spring Training stats don't matter two weeks into the season when that's in the past. So I'm not going to say Spring Training stats don't matter. Sorry.

Ok one time SPRING TRAINING STATS DON'T MATTER**. Not even just a couple weeks into the season.

*Lombo is hitting .321 for the O's.  That sounds good but he's getting on base at a .321 clip. That's not good. He's slugging .321. That's bad. He's actually below average (#140 or so out of 205) in OPS right now. With a .321 batting average.

**OK, that's a simplification but since the things that do matter, like pitch velocity and slugging, only might matter in some cases it's far better just to take the above to heart.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

My usual call to be nicer to Strasburg (now with added Bryce!)

The Nats won last night.  Henderson Alvarez did pitch well enough to make it a fight but was done in by some non-pitching mistakes (some his own) and the Marlins bullpen indeed wasn't perfect. None of that really mattered though as Gio and the pen dominated the Marlins lineup with relative ease. This sets up nicely for a sweep given the pitching match-ups upcoming. The only question being if this aggressive plate approach (nats averaged 3 1/3 pitches per plate appearance vs Alvarez) will work against a guy who's had trouble hitting the zone. Probably well enough given that he misses high too.

One of the things from last night is how well Rendon is hitting right now. It reminds me a lot of when he first was called up. A lot of line drives. Now of course I told people that couldn't last and that he would likely end up hitting in the .280 range, and could drop to .260 with some bad luck. I proceeded to get yelled at by at least one commentor to which I now say I WAS RIGHT! YOU WERE WRONG! IN YOUR FACE! to whoever that was that I'm too lazy to look up now. Same thing holds true this year as his .476 BABIP isn't going to hold up. Not that he'll hit .260, just don't take a .300+ average as a given because of a hot 7 games.

As hot as he is, Bryce is that cold. He did manage a hit last night, but also struck out again and we wait patiently for him to warm up.  The reason I bring Rendon up is to highlight how young Bryce still is. You like Rendon. Think he's got a great future right? Bryce will be the age Rendon currently is sometime during the early stretch run in 2016. (around August 18th or so). If you like what you see of Rendon for his future and for the Nats, you've got a good long leash to give Bryce before he fails to provide something similar. Are you really going to hold it against Bryce that he's not already set on a Hall of Fame career track (even though he kind of is?) That he's not Mike Trout? You are? 

Meanwhile Strasburg struggles as well. "Generational talent" you scoff.  Would you be happier with Strasburg if he went the way of the last consensus "oh this is the next Hall of Famer" pitching talent? That guy, Mark Prior, at Strasburg's current age was 2 months from throwing his last pitch ever. Where's your beloved Kershaw? Harvey? Oh you've moved on to Jose Fernandez? How convenient. When he goes down in 2016 will you move on to "Why can't Strasburg be like Carlos Martinez?" Strasburg has to get better this season, obviously, but he's been arguably as good as ZNN or Gio the past two seasons.  He's younger that either of those two neither of who put together complete seasons before 25. (Gio would get wins, but pitch only good until his first Nats year at age 26. ZNN would pitch great at 25 but not get the wins until last season at 27. Remember that?) Let him have a couple bad starts.

Consider this an early season intervention if these guys keep struggling. Other people set the bars for Strasburg and Bryce, and while both these guys would love to jump over it and made that a goal, they still didn't set them. Don't be too harsh on them if they don't make it over, especially because they are likely to still be moving the Nats toward the ultimate prize while making their attempts.