How can Nats improve defensively in 2023?

CJ Abrams Luis Garcia gray celebrate

Davey Martinez knew what he was getting into during the 2022 season, his fifth as manager of the Nationals. In the first full year of the Nats’ rebuild, he wouldn’t have the most talented roster in the major leagues and they wouldn’t win a lot of games. But he at least expected his players to give their best efforts and make fundamental plays every night.

The effort was always there. The same cannot be said about the fundamentals.

It was a roster filled with inexperienced players and journeyman veterans during a season in which development was the focus. Still, it seemed like the Nationals too often had difficulty with even the most basic plays, especially on defense and on the basepaths. Common signs of a rebuilding team.

The Nationals finished the season with a -39 defensive rating and -47 defensive runs saved as a team, both second-worst in the majors per FanGraphs. However, they did fare slightly better in ultimate zone rating, another widely used defensive metric, at -8.8, which ranked 21st in the majors.

So how can the Nats improve defensively in 2023? Aside from the obvious solutions of practicing in spring training, making routine plays, acquiring better defenders to fill out the roster and perhaps even pitching better, they could benefit simply by players playing in their proper positions for the majority of the season.

Continue reading
  0 Comments
0 Comments

Looking back on a disappointing yet memorable Nats season

GettyImages-1329760798

While speaking to reporters in New York a few days ago to wrap up the 2022 regular season, general manager Mike Rizzo said this year was a “disappointment” for the Nationals.

That should be a given after the Nats finished with the worst record in the major leagues at 55-107, setting a new club record for the most losses in a single season.

When we look back on the 2022 Nationals season, we probably won’t do so fondly. There was a lot of bad. But there was also some good. Put them both together and you get a memorable season for better or worse.

Looking at some of the final results, it is mostly bad. As bad as we’ve ever seen in Washington baseball.

At no point during the regular season did the Nationals reach the .500 mark. Their longest winning streak was only three games, which they accomplished five times. Their longest losing streak was nine games from July 7-16. They never swept a series and were swept 12 times. They were shut out 12 times and only shut out their opponents four times. They were walked off five times and only walked off twice, both not coming until September. And they by far had the worst run differential in the majors at -252.

Continue reading
  0 Comments
0 Comments

Game 159 lineups: Nats vs. Phillies

patrick corbin blue

The Nationals and Phillies have been able to play three games so far this weekend. They have one more scheduled today to wrap up this four-game series and the home portion of the 2022 regular season at Nats Park.

The forecast isn’t great for today, but it looks like it’s mostly light rain this afternoon, which they might be able to play through. If not, we could either be here for a long time or back on Thursday if the National League wild card isn’t settled. 

Patrick Corbin makes his last start of the season today and fourth against the Phillies, who have been really good against him. The left-hander is 0-3 with a 10.97 ERA, 2.625 WHIP and six home runs allowed in 10 ⅓ innings against the Phils.

Zack Wheeler makes his second start against the Nationals this year. He held them to one run over seven innings in a win at Nats Park on June 16. He’s 9-14 with a 4.44 ERA in 27 career starts against the Nats.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 1:35 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 The Fan, MLB.com
Weather: Rain, 57 degrees, wind 13 mph in from left-center field 

Continue reading
  0 Comments
0 Comments

Meneses’ go-ahead homer helps Nats salvage series finale in Atlanta (updated)

espino fields gray

ATLANTA - Like a library desperate for an overdue rental, the Nationals were making empty threats, lacking the power to follow through. 

Washington had scored just five total runs and gone a combined 4-for-22 with runners in scoring position over the last three games, all losses. 

But Wednesday in Atlanta, the Nats finally broke through, and all it took was one mighty swing from Joey Meneses. 

The 30-year-old rookie mashed a two-run homer onto the second deck in left field in the seventh inning, turning around what was then a 2-1 game and helping the Nationals (52-97) take the series finale over the Braves (93-56) by a final of 3-2. 

"I can't say enough about what Joey's been doing since he came here," manager Davey Martinez said after the win. "He's been hitting doubles, homers, getting on base, playing good defense."

Continue reading
  0 Comments
0 Comments

Nats' bats scuffle again, Corbin exits in 3-2 loss to Braves (updated)

Nats' bats scuffle again, Corbin exits in 3-2 loss to Braves (updated)

ATLANTA - Patrick Corbin took an exceptionally long time between pitches. He shuffled his feet, kicked some dirt and adjusted his belt ever so slowly before turning around and motioning to the second base umpire.

Something wasn’t quite right.

Corbin left with back spasms in the first inning of Tuesday’s 3-2 loss to the Braves after throwing just 12 pitches. After throwing a 76-mph slider high and outside to Matt Olson and fidgeting around the rubber, the lefty was greeted by manager Davey Martinez and head athletic trainer Paul Lessard.

Corbin, who leads the Nationals (51-97) in both starts and innings pitched, stretched his back before taking a slow walk to the visitors' dugout.

"He just threw a pitch and (his back) tightened up on him," Martinez said after the game. "We watched him, he started trying to stretch. We went out there and he said it just cramped up on him. ... As he was getting back on the mound, he said he couldn't get loose, so the smart thing to do is just get him out of there."

Continue reading
  0 Comments
0 Comments

30-year-old rookie Joey Meneses brings savvy to Nats clubhouse

Joey Meneses swing gray

ATLANTA - When Joey Meneses signed with the Atlanta Braves, he was three days from his 19th birthday. It was May 2011, and Truist Park was six years from being built.

Eleven years later, a 30-year-old Meneses played his first game in Atlanta, wearing the uniform of the Braves’ division rivals. He went 4-for-4 with four singles, raising his batting average to .325 through his first 41 career big league games. 

“The whole time I was playing in the minors to get to this point, to get this opportunity,” Meneses said through interpreter Octavio Martinez after Monday’s game. “I just want to do as well as possible up here and, hopefully, remain here as long as possible.”

Meneses’ Baseball-Reference page can’t be read without scrolling several times. His career includes stops in Mexico, Japan and four major league organizations, spanning 12 years.

There were plenty of good seasons in there. His final season in the Braves organization came in 2017, when he hit .292 with a .763 OPS for Double-A Mississippi at age 25. After signing with the Phillies that winter, Meneses hit .311 with 23 home runs and an .870 OPS for Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Continue reading
  0 Comments
0 Comments

Nats do little with nine hits, fall to Braves 5-2 (updated)

abbott blue @ ATL

ATLANTA - Alex Call raced back to the warning track, found the wall, halted, and leapt upward, kicking up dirt and reaching his glove toward the sky.

He missed.

The ball, hit at a 41-degree launch angle, floated inches above Call’s glove, and Austin Riley’s 37th home run of the season landed in the seats just beyond the left field wall.

Even the Braves’ pop-ups are home runs.

Atlanta (92-55) mashed their National League-leading 221st and 222nd homers of the season in a 5-2 win over Washington (51-96) in the series opener on Monday night. The Nationals, meanwhile, scored just two runs on nine hits, keeping their homer total at a paltry 126.

Continue reading
  0 Comments
0 Comments

Game 146 lineups: Nats vs. Marlins

meneses and voit

The Nationals haven’t found themselves in this position very much this season, but here they are today: After back-to-back wins over the Marlins the last two nights, they have a chance to sweep a series for the first time in 2022.

To do that, though, they’ll have to either outpitch Sandy Alcantara or score some runs off him. Neither is an easy task. Alcantara remains the favorite to win his first career Cy Young Award this fall, entering today’s start with a 2.43 ERA across an MLB-high 203 2/3 innings. He is the very definition of a modern ace, and the Nationals have had all kinds of trouble against him.

This is Alcantara’s fourth start against the Nats this season. He’s 2-0 with an 0.78 ERA, having allowed only two runs and 19 batters to reach base across 23 innings. He pitched a six-hit, zero-walk shutout the last time he faced them, June 8 here in D.C.

So, if the Nationals aren’t going to outslug the Marlins today, they’re going to have to outpitch them. Aníbal Sánchez, the long-ago Marlins right-hander, faces that task this afternoon. He has pitched quite well recently, with only three runs allowed over his last five starts, spanning 23 1/3 innings. His last outing lasted only two innings, though, because of that long rain delay in Philadelphia one week ago. So he’s plenty rested for this one.

MIAMI MARLINS at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where:
Nationals Park
Gametime: 1:35 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, MLB.com
Weather: Partly cloudy, 82 degrees, wind 8 mph out to center field

Continue reading
  0 Comments
0 Comments

Revolving outfielders have more to prove over final weeks

Meneses-Robles-Thomas-gray

Even with two extra spots in September, the Nationals are currently only carrying four true outfielders on their active roster. That’s usually the standard for any team: three starters and one backup on the bench.

But manager Davey Martinez, in fact, has utilized six players in the outfield since the roster shakeup at the trade deadline.

Victor Robles and Lane Thomas have been in Washington all season long. Joey Meneses (typically a first baseman) and Josh Palacios were brought up to fill the holes left by Juan Soto and Josh Bell, with Palacios making a couple of trips back-and-forth between the majors and Triple-A Rochester. Alex Call was selected off waivers from the Guardians on Aug. 7. And utilityman César Hernádez has appeared in left field four times to start September.

This is part of the process for the Nationals to see what they have in these players before the season ends in three weeks.

For the most part, they know what they have in Robles, who you may have noticed has not played since Sept. 7 in St. Louis. He was scratched from the starting lineup with a stiff neck the following day, but has been seen walking around the Nationals clubhouse this week with seemingly no issues.

Continue reading
  0 Comments
0 Comments

Game 141 lineups: Nats at Phillies

sanchez gray pitching

PHILADELPHIA – The forecast here is not good. It’s supposed to rain all day. The forecast tomorrow is somewhat better, though not guaranteed to be dry. That’s the only remaining common off-day for the Nationals and Phillies. In other words, this has the potential to be a mess, and we could be here for a while, then possibly coming back tomorrow.

Whenever they play, the Nationals will be trying to avoid a series sweep that would put a real damper on what had been shaping up to be their best road trip of the season. A win would at least allow them to head home with a 5-5 record.

To do that, Aníbal Sánchez is going to have to keep up his surprising resurgence (0.84 ERA, 0.797 WHIP over his last four starts) by keeping the ball in the yard. The Phillies have out-homered the Nats a staggering 32-9 in 14 head-to-head games this year.

The Nationals will be going up against Aaron Nola for the fourth time this season. The right-hander has a sparkling 1.66 ERA in the previous three starts, though his record is only 1-1.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
Where:
Citizens Bank Park
Gametime: 1:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, MLB.com
Weather: Steady rain, 73 degrees, wind 5 mph right field to left field

Continue reading
  0 Comments
0 Comments

Game 134 lineups: Nats at Mets

fedde gray

NEW YORK – On the heels of an impressive 7-1 win, the Nationals now have a shot at a surprising series win today at Citi Field if they can continue to hit, pitch and field like they did Saturday night.

Patrick Corbin was outstanding, allowing one run on three hits over seven strong innings that required only 85 pitches. Can Erick Fedde come close to matching that? The right-hander was really encouraged how he felt in his return from the injured list 12 days ago in Seattle, but then he was beating himself up for a substandard showing last week against the Athletics. After that start, Fedde lamented his inability (or unwillingness) to come inside on Oakland’s hitters, so it’ll be interesting to see if he’s more aggressive this afternoon against an obviously tougher Mets lineup.

The Nationals lineup has a challenge itself today in Carlos Carrasco, who makes his fourth start against them this season. The right-hander is 2-0 with a 1.56 ERA in his previous three head-to-head encounters, allowing only three runs in 17 1/3 innings.

The Nats made a change to their bullpen before today's game, recalling Andres Machado from Triple-A Rochester and placing Víctor Arano on the 15-day injured list with a right shoulder strain. 

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at NEW YORK METS
Where:
Citi Field
Gametime: 1:40 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, MLB.com
Weather: Chance of rain late, 85 degrees, wind 8 mph out to center field

Continue reading
  0 Comments
0 Comments

Meneses delivers Nats' first walk-off win with three-run homer (updated)

GettyImages-1420003016

In years past, today’s result between the 44-86 Nationals and 49-82 Athletics would have been actually important. The finale of a three-game set between teams who have two of the worst records in the major leagues and split the first two matchups would have had draft-order implications for the following year.

But alas, the implementation of the MLB Draft lottery gives the three teams with the worst records an equal chance at next year’s No. 1 overall pick, rendering this just another getaway-day game between two bottom-feeders.

Whatever the stakes, the end result was an exciting 7-5 walk-off victory for the Nationals in 10 innings.

Who else but Joey "Four Bags" Meneses to deliver the game-winning blow?

With two runners on base in a 5-4 game in the 10th, the Nats' new slugging right fielder and No. 2 hitter stepped to the plate to hit a three-run homer for an extra-inning win.

Continue reading
  0 Comments
0 Comments

Game 120 lineups: Nats at Padres

anibal sanchez pitching road

SAN DIEGO – This won’t be as notable or awkward as it was last week in D.C., but the fact that Juan Soto and Josh Bell are facing the Nationals again this soon after a trade that is still only 16 days old is pretty remarkable. Who’d have thought the only two series between these two teams would come right at this juncture of the season?

Can’t change anything about that now, though, so the Nats once again will be trying to figure out how to get Soto, Bell and the rest of the Padres lineup out over the next four days. They did a pretty good job against Soto and Bell last weekend, but they struggled to hold everyone else in check while losing two of three games.

We’ve got a rematch of the one game the Nationals won in that series tonight, with Aníbal Sánchez facing Yu Darvish. Sánchez gave up solo homers to Manny Machado and Trent Grisham in that game, but otherwise fared alright, allowing three runs over five innings to give his team a chance.

The Nats meanwhile, were shut out by Darvish for five innings before finally coming though with three runs in the sixth on back-to-back homers by Lane Thomas and Joey Meneses, then adding the go-ahead run in the seventh on Victor Robles’ RBI single to right, with César Hernández scoring only after it was determined Padres catcher Austin Nola was illegally blocking his path to the plate. Fun times.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at SAN DIEGO PADRES
Where:
Petco Park
Gametime: 9:40 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, MLB.com
Weather: Clear, 74 degrees, wind 9 mph left field to right field

Continue reading
  0 Comments
0 Comments

New-look Nats follow up Soto trade with win over Mets (updated)

meneses debut hr white

There’s no doubt today was a sad day for the Nationals. What most people thought would happen came to fruition in the form of an unprecedented trade of Juan Soto and Josh Bell the Padres for six players, five of whom are prospects.

Plenty more will be written and said about the franchise-altering decision to trade one of the best players to wear a Nationals jersey before the prime of his career.

But lost in the background of today’s news and the subsequent reactions was the reality that the Nationals still had to play a baseball game tonight. And not only were they suddenly without their two best players, they were facing Jacob deGrom, one of the best pitchers in the sport, in his season debut.

“I was relieved," manager Davey Martinez said of the passing of the trade deadline at 6 p.m. ET. "Yeah, I really was. I mean, I felt a different breath of fresh air. And for me, it was about regrouping and saying, 'All right, this is what we need to do moving forward.' So like I said, we're going to go out there and we're gonna compete and we're gonna play hard and we're gonna do some different things. And like I said, I was proud of the boys going out there today and doing what they did.”

After deGrom didn’t play a deciding role in the game while departing a tied game after five innings, the boys were able to take a late lead to win tonight’s game 5-1 in front of 29,878 mostly Mets fans at Nats Park. A small victory on a tough day.

Continue reading
  0 Comments
0 Comments

Nats make roster moves after mega trade with Padres

palacios blue jays

The big news of the day, of course, is Juan Soto and Josh Bell being dealt to the Padres in exchange for six players, including five top prospects. But the Nationals had to make other roster moves to both make room for incoming players and fill an active 26-man roster for tonight’s game against the Mets.

The flurry of moves: 

* Selected the contract of first baseman Joey Meneses from Triple-A Rochester
* Recalled outfielder Josh Palacios from Rochester
* Transferred left-hander Evan Lee to the 60-day injured list
* Designated left-hander Josh Rogers for assignment
* Optioned shortstop C.J. Abrams to Triple-A Rochester

Abrams, one of the top prospects coming to the Nationals organization in today’s trade, was the both the Padres’ No. 1 prospect and the No. 9 prospect in all of baseball entering this season, according to both Baseball America and MLBPipeline.com.

He made San Diego’s opening day roster and his major league debut this season, starting the second game of the season at shortstop. He hit .232 with five doubles, two home runs, 11 RBIs, four walks, one stolen base and 16 runs scored in 45 games across two major league stints with the Padres.

Continue reading
  0 Comments
0 Comments