The Nationals find first place, Randy Choate reaches first base, the Brewers go back-to-back-to-back, and the best defensive play of the day.
The Tuesday Takeaway
Hope springs eternal when teams break camp and head to their respective openers with 0-0 records. Every team, from the heaviest favorites to the longest of long shots, is in first place on the first day of the season.
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Noah Syndergaard loses to an ace; Giancarlo Stanton has a jack; Strasburg flops; and the best defensive play of the day.
The Tuesday Takeaway
The debut of Noah Syndergaard was highly anticipated largely because the 6-foot-6 right-hander has the type of pedigree that gives him the potential to be one of the better pitchers in baseball down the road. However, Syndergaard is also 22 years old and is far from a finished product, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that the hard-throwing Texan ran into some issues against a talented Cubs lineup on Tuesday. It also shouldn’t come as a surprise that the guy opposite Syndergaard, Jake Arrieta, one-upped the rookie and pitched like a polished front-of-the-rotation starter, given that it’s pretty much what he’s been for the past year.
How Stephen Strasburg has become Phil Hughes, and why it's not working.
Stephen Strasburg is finally resolving the dissonance we have all felt about him for five years. Ever since his debut performance raised unreasonably high expectations even higher, Strasburg has been chasing the ghost of his own future, pitching stunningly well, but never well enough to clear the bar people set for him. Strasburg was worth 8.5 WARP from 2012-14, according to DRA, and that’s despite the degree to which the Nationals kept training wheels on him after his Tommy John surgery in 2010. Strasburg led all starters in strikeout rate in 2012, and led the NL in both strikeouts and games started last season. It’s been difficult to reconcile his dominance with the feeling that something is missing. Happily, that dilemma feels distant now.
Much less happily, of course, the reason for the decreased tension there is that it’s now much easier to simply call Strasburg, at least this season, disappointing. In six starts this season (the last of which ended with him leaving with shoulder discomfort, although the early indications are as comforting as possible), Strasburg has a 4.73 ERA and a 4.90 DRA. His FIP does come in at a tidy 2.77 (thanks to 32 strikeouts, 10 walks and only one home run allowed), and his .398 BABIP tells us that he’s going to get some help from regression soon, but DRA is king for a reason: you can watch Strasburg and know better than to think he’s simply encountering bad luck.
Bryce goes yard, and yard, and yard again; Scherzer and Stanton have an epic showdown; Aroldis throws his changeup; and the TWO best defensive plays of the day.
The Wednesday Takeaway
It’s not as if Bryce Harper needed to prove himself to anybody. The 22-year-old entered Wednesday’s game against the Marlins the owner of a .294 True Average over 1,610 plate appearances, all while being younger than many of the game’s top prospects—Kris Bryant, Joc Pederson, Jorge Soler, and so on. And yes, the fun fact that he has yet to face a pitcher younger than him at any professional level still holds true.
Many pitchers are relievers because they never developed a great off-speed pitch. Tyler Clippard now has two.
“The terms splitter and forkball are often used interchangeably to describe a pitch where the index and middle fingers are split around the baseball in any fashion. … Nonetheless, very few pitchers actually throw the slow, tumbling, dropping forkball.” – Mike Fast
The Nationals did something amazing two nights ago. Matt Williams already had a better story to tell, though.
The Nationals’ comeback against the Braves Tuesday night will be remembered as a turning point in their season, if their season ends up being worth remembering. They entered the night at 7-13, and with their ace sidelined by a thumb injury, they asked rookie A.J. Cole to begin the process of turning things around. Cole got shelled, surrendering nine hits and nine runs in two innings of work, a mess that got worse than it needed to be because of Cole’s own error in the field. Atlanta led 9-1 after two innings and 10-2 after four. The Nationals stormed back. A fielding error opened the door to a four-run fifth inning, and ultimately, Washington chased Braves ace Julio Teheran with two outs in the sixth inning, down by the more manageable score of 10-7. The Braves led 12-10 after eight, but Dan Uggla—facing the team who pays the bulk of his salary, the team who cut him outright last summer—came up with a second huge hit (a three-run homer), and Drew Storen bravely held off Atlanta in the bottom of the ninth.
It likely won't last long, but A.J. Cole, the second-best pitching prospect in the Nationals system, is finally arrived.
The Situation: After spending over $200 million to add Max Scherzer to an already strong group of arms, the Washington Nationals were expected to have one of the best rotations in baseball. With May a few days away, things have not gone to plan in D.C.. The Nats are tied for the third worst record in MLB and sit in dead last in the N.L. East. Nationals pitchers have allowed 81 runs on the season. Scherzer hurt his thumb while batting last Thursday and will miss a start. Misfortune for Scherzer has created an opportunity for Cole to make his MLB debut. It might be only one spot start, but it’s also an audition and perhaps a chance for something to energize this team.
What the heck is up with next winter's top free agent shortstop?
Ian Desmond is a confident individual. He established that during the winter by rejecting an extension worth $107 million in order to pursue a greater prospect—the chance to hit the open market at age 30 as the best shortstop available. So five months later, why does Desmond look out of place on the field? And should his prospective suitors share in his uneasiness?