Taking the series 2-1 vs the Reds salvages the road trip at a respectable 3-3. If the red-hot Braves weren't able to sweep the Cardinals (didn't see that coming) the Nats would indeed still be in first place. But the Braves did and the Nats aren't. Luckily they have a medication for this condition. Take four games with the Padres and Pirates at home and call me on Friday. Any worse than 3-1 can be seen as a disappointment. Going 3-1 likely keeps the Nats within a game of first, if not back on top in some manner.
The loss of Ramos is a big deal, but Ramos wasn't necessarily starting over Flores because he was THAT much better. It was far more a age, contract, development, thing. Starter wise, for 2012 the change may not end up mattering, though it does probably hurt the all important 2013 squad. It also weakens the bench. Flores was not doing well in the bench role, but compared to most back-up catchers he wasn't an automatic out. Sandy Leon, despite 27 games this year that have been good, is in more of the typical no hit variety. His best combined line (taking the best BA/OBP/SLG from any year) going into 2012 was .251 / .345 / .362. Expect nothing.
Henry Rodriguez blew it didn't he? Nats fans are calling for his head and it's hard to blame them. However, objectively is it terrible that H-Rod is the closer? Well yes and no.
H-Rod is a high-walk, high-K type of guy. This type of guy is useful in a bullpen for those "need a strikeout can afford a walk" situations. Say... one run up, nobody out, man on 2nd; or tie game, man on third, one-out. He's not ideal for those situations either because of his propensity for wild pitches, (Yes Ramos had something to do with those but I get the impression fans treat catchers like NFL recievers. You get your hands on it you should get it. Anyway getting off topic) but that's the place I'd want him in. Since he could easily put 2-3 guys on in an inning due to wildness, you wouldn't want him pitching a lot in a close game which is essentially the closers job in a nutshell. Pitch a whole inning in a game where the other team is relatively close to you.
However, H-Rod can be a fuel to the fire type of pitcher, his walks putting runners on, forcing others into scoring positions. His wildness moving guys over without the fielders having a chance to make a play. It's actually not a terrible idea to have this guy start an inning, where his wildness can do the least damage. And the... well let's just be frank here... rigid idiocy of the closer role means he won't necessarily be facing the best batters, the ones that could most use his wildness against him. Instead sometimes he faces the good ones, other times he faces the free swingers at the bottom of a lineup.
How does that make sense? How is it good and bad for Henry to close? It's because the closer is a stupid position. For those thinking it's the pressure the got to Henry - shut it. This is the pitcher Henry is. It's who he was in the minors (6.5 BB/9, 11.6 K/9). It's who he is in the majors (5.5 BB/9, 10.2 K/9). While it fits a nice narrative of "some guys can't close" that is so far from the truth that the closest way to get back to the truth is to dig a hole straight through the center of the earth. The problem is less Henry than it is how he is used because of the idea of what a closer should be. Sometimes you want Henry pitching that 9th. Other times, like if the game is one-run and you are going into the heart of the lineup, you'd want someone else out there. For the Nats now, the guy you want in that situation would be Clippard or the re-invented Stammen.
Since Davey isn't about to reinvent something that gives managers a complete pass on, you know, managing the 9th inning. I guess I'd lean on pulling Henry out. That way he can be used properly in innings 6-8. Hopefully his replacement will be someone good all the time that they won't miss much in the middle innings that have been held down so masterfully so far.
- Danny Espinosa had a nice weekend. Five hits, including two homers and a double, plus 2 walks. He still has a ways to go to get his yearly stats where they need to be but this is the type of 3 game set you want Danny to have every other week or so.
- Roger Bernadina has also had a couple nice games in a row after kind of being given the starting nod. All he needed was someone to believe in him? I don't buy it. He's had too many at bats and too many tries for that to be it. Just a lucky streak. He's not terrible, but he's not the everyday LF for a good team unless he's the worst player out there.
- Break out the band! The Nats scored 15 runs against the Reds, most in a series this year and tied for the most in any set of three games. Everyone was either doing good (aforementioned, LaRoche, Desmond) or ok (Zimm, Ankiel, catchers) except...
- SHHHH - we're not supposed to mention it but Bryce is hitting .231 / .317 / .346. Four homers is his last 71 minor/major league games. Not to mention the sloppy fielding. Still think he should be up though.
- Lost in the H-Rod mess and the offensive explosion - the pitching wasn't up to snuff this weekend. The relief was shaky the first and last games of the series and Gio (9 baserunners - 2 doubles) and Jackson (5 hits - 2 homers) were lucky they didn't give up more runs than they did. Only ZNN acquitted himself nicely. Five singles scattered over seven innings, with 9 Ks and only 1 walk. It's almost as if he knew he couldn't give up that 2nd run and expect the Nats to score a 3rd for him.