Archive for September, 2018

Park Hits 40 Homeruns for Third Consecutive Season

Sunday, September 23rd, 2018

After a break to give major league baseball a try, Park Byung-Ho returned to the KBO and hit 40 homeruns for the third consecutive season. Even after missing a month of the season due to a hamstring injury he was able to hit 40 homeruns. No KBO player has hit 40 homeruns in three consecutive seasons. Lee Seung-Yeop, Eric Thames (now with the Brewers) and Cho Jeong have hit 40 homeruns in two consecutive seasons. An injury to Jeong prevented him from hitting 40 homeruns this year to join Park with three consecutive 40 homerun seasons.

In 2014 and 2015 Park actually hit 52 and 53 homeruns. He then spent two years in the United States after the Minnesota Twins signed him. He spent all of the 2017 season in the Twins minor league system.

Minor League All Stars - AL East

Wednesday, September 19th, 2018

Baseball America came out with their minor league All Stars for each class affiliation, i.e. AAA, AA, etc. This is a team by team breakdown of those players from the AL East who were selected as All Stars. It should be noted that some players do not play long enough in a league to be selected an All Star. Those teams that promote aggressively may lack All Star players.

Baltimore Orioles

Cedric Mullins OF (AA) - The Orioles are doing well with outfielders drafted in the later rounds. Last year it was Austin Hays (2016, 3rd round) receiving accolades. This year it is Cedric, drafted in the 13th round in 2015. He has the tools to hit for some pop and the speed to steal bases and cover ground in center. A smallish frame (5′8″) throw some doubts on him, but those same doubts followed Jose Altuve when he was in the minor leagues. Cedric is having some success against major league pitching, but he may never be an elite major league player. His defense and bat will allow him to be a middle of the pack centerfielder.

Ryan McKenna OF (High A) - A superb defensive player drafted in the fourth round in 2015. He tore through Frederick (.377) but struggled in Bowie (.239). His power will not be there to play the corners so centerfield is his best bet. His arm is stronger than Mullins so if anyone will move to left it will be Mullins.

D.L. Hall LHSP (Low A) - The Orioles first round 2017 pick took a lot of losses but pitch counts prevented him from going five innings to pick up a lot of wins. His fastball sits in the low 90s but can hit the mid 90s. As he matures that fastball should carry more zip, which is good for a lefty. The opposition only hit .203 against him and he whiffed more than innings pitched, which is something you want to see in the low minors.

Boston Red Sox

Bobby Dalbec 3B (High A) - There are questions whether the 2016 fourth round pick will stay at third. He does not run well but he has the quickness that may allow him to stick at third. What he has that many teams covet is raw power, the kind of power that consistently give you 30 plus homeruns per year. Like most sluggers that raw power comes with a lot of swings and misses.

Denyi Reyes RHSP (Low A) - At the lower levels pitchers with good breaking pitchers can dominate. His fastball is a little pedestrian, but at 6′4″ the Sox hope it will pick up in velocity as he matures. The numbers were good (1.97 ERA and .210 opposition average), but time will tell if he can continue that success as he pitches at the higher levels.

Jarren Duran 2B (SS) - The seventh round 2018 pick is lighting it up in short season ball with a .348 average. Even a promotion to Low A did not slow him down where he hit .367. What was amazing about his short season performance was his 10 triples in 37 games. His college numbers at Long Beach state sat below .300 so we will see if he can replicate those kind of numbers next year.

New York Yankees

Juan De Paula RHSP (SS) - The Dominican was one of the players traded to the Giants for Andrew McCutchen. De Paula originally signed with the Mariners and was part of the trade to the Yankees for Ben Gamel. Not a lot of stuff but was able to limit the opposition to a .207 average in the New York Penn league with a 1.71 ERA. His fastball sits in the low 90s.

Antonio Cabello OF (Rookie) - The Yankees used $1.35 million of their bonus to sign the Venezuelan. He rewarded them with a decent power year, slugging .522 at the rookie levels. Despite the power, speed is his best tool, which will allow him to play center. If center does not work his arm is not good enough for right so this will force a move to left. Bat speed and power could make him a special player.

Luis Gil SP (Rookie) - The Yankees are developing a number of hard throwers who hit triple digits with their fastball. This Dominican is just another one of those players, though he was signed by the Twins and acquired by the Yankees in the Jake Cave trade. As with many hard throwers who stand 6′3″ finding the plate is a challenge. Opponents hit only .190 against him but walks brought his WHIP up to 1.37.

Angel Rojas 2B (Dominican) - The Dominican hit nine triples with a .285 average. He did commit 26 errors, 11 at second base and 15 at short in just 50 games so his defense needs a lot of work.

Tampa Bay Rays

Brandon Lowe 2B (AAA) - The third round 2015 pick swung a decent power bat in AA and AAA slugging 22 homeruns in the minor leagues and adding an additional five in the major leagues. Lacks speed to show range at short and arm is just above average. His offense will keep him on the big league roster.

Colin Poche LHRP (AAA) - A 14th round pick of the Diamondbacks in 2016, the lefthanded reliever limited offenses to a .151 average against and a 0.82 ERA despite minimal stuff. He was part of the package for Stephen Souza. He also had 110 whiffs in 66 innings. With a low 90s fastball and slider he must do something right to fool hitters.

Nate Lowe 1B (AA) - A 13th round pick in the 2016 draft has shown some pop rising three levels with 27 homeruns. He has also hit for average with a .330 average at three levels. A lack of foot speed will prevent a move to the outfield. Nate makes good contact for a power hitter.

Ronaldo Hernandez C (Low A) - The Colombian has a solid arm to shut down base stealers. This year he broke out with the bat for a .284 average and 24 homeruns. The Rays converted him from infielder to catcher after he signed a contract with them.

Vidal Brujan 2B (Low A) - The speedy Dominican signed with the Rays in 2017 for a bargain basement price of $15,000. There is very little power from his bat.

Moises Gomez OF (Low A) - His first year in a full season league was a success with 19 homeruns. He also peppered the gaps with 34 doubles and 9 triples. Last year his defense was limited to left field.

Simon Rosenblum RHRP (SS) - A 19th round pick in the 2018 draft out of Harvard strung together 8 saves in 9 opportunities. He limited the opposition to a .150 average with 62 whiffs in 38.2 innings.

Wander Franco SS (Rookie) - Myworld debated including him in our top shortstop list a couple months ago. The rookie leagues had not started yet so he was not considered. Shame on us. He is raking in rookie ball. Franco has all the tools to be a superstar, with the ability to hit for power and average with a strong arm for right field if center field does not pan out.

Jordan Qsar OF (Rookie) - Drafted in the 25th round of the 2018 draft Qsar showed his pop with 14 homeruns in 62 games. His 1.142 OPS in rookie ball earned him a promotion to the New York Penn League.

Matthew Liberatore LHSP (Rookie) - The first round 2018 pick stands 6′5″. He has all the requisite pitches to stay in the starting rotation, with a fastball that can hit a tick above 95. Matthew has good command for a pitcher his height. In nine starts he finished with a 1.38 ERA with a .189 opposition average.

Toronto Blue Jays

Danny Jansen C (AAA) - The 16th round pick in 2013 is more an offensive catcher with good defensive tools. Last year he hit .275 with 12 homeruns at AAA before being promoted to the major leagues. He seems to be holding his own there and could be the Blue Jays starting catcher next year as they look to rebuild.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr 3B (AA) - The minor league player of the year hit .381 with 20 homeruns in 95 games. Large in frame at 6′1″ and 200 pounds, some felt he would not move quick enough to stay at third. This year he handled the position well defensively so the only issue preventing him from playing for the Blue Jays next year is service time.

Travis Bergen LHRP (AA) - Not a big time prospect but he lit it up in AA with a 0.50 ERA in 27 appearances. Lefthanders get long looks in the minor leagues.

Patrick Murphy RHSP (High A) - At 6′4″ the third round 2013 pick had a solid season leading the Florida State League with 135 whiffs. A 2.65 ERA shows he could be ready for the Blue Jays rotation sometime by mid-season in 2019.

Eric Pardinho RHSP (Rookie) - The Brazilian is small in stature for a right handed pitcher at 5′10 but he does reach the mid-90s with his fastball. His curveball may be his best pitch, which will get a lot of swings and misses at the lower levels. Next year should see his debut at full season. Eventually he may have to move to the bullpen.

Mullins Leads O’s Over White Sox

Sunday, September 16th, 2018

Not a game a lot of people care about. The right field bleachers were virtually empty for this game. Myworld was there. O’s fans got a treat with prospect Cedric Mullins peppering his first four hit game of his major league career to lead the Orioles over the White Sox 8-4. He also showed off his defense with a diving catch in centerfield in the seventh inning. Myworld thinks Adam Jones was more excited about the catch than Cedric.

Ex-National Lucas Giolito got the start for the White Sox. The pale hose defense did not do him any favors. In the first inning they gave the Orioles six outs to score five runs. Cedric Mullins started the inning with a double. Joey Rickard laid down a bunt not that far from home plate. Wellington Castillo picked it up, saw Cedric was far off second, pumped and then threw to second but Mullins found the base ahead of the throw. Singles by Jonathan Villar and Adam Jones scored two. Jones stole second after Castillo had trouble handling the ball. D.J. Stewart grounded a ball weakly to Yoan Moncada at second and he chose to go home. The speedy Villar slid into home ahead of the throw for the third run. Renato Nunez hit a slow grounder to Matt Davidson, who booted the ball to score a fourth run. Breyvic Valeria made it five with a fly ball to right that scored Stewart. An ugly inning for Giolito and the White Sox.

The White Sox did whittle their way back off David Hess. Daniel Palka led off the second hitting one onto Eutaw street. In the fifth inning Yolmer Sanchez barely cleared the fence in center for a two run shot and one batter later Palka did it again with a solo shot to left field. That ended the day for Hess before he could go five to get the win.

Giolito did give up a titanic blast to Jonathan Villar that one hopped the brick wall on Eutaw street. His fastball seemed to drop after the first inning from 94 to 91-92, not the kind of velocity myworld remembers seeing from him when he was with the Nationals. The defense did play better for him after a missed popup by Jose Rondon in the second. In the second through fourth they turned three double plays. Giolito retired the last 7 O’s he faced to work six innings.

The Orioles got a solo shot from Adam Jones in the seventh. In the eighth Cedric Mullins delivered his fourth hit of the game to score the Orioles eighth run. They loaded the bases with one out in the eighth but Villar struck out and Jones flied to center.

David Hess did a good job of getting out of a first and third no out situation in the fourth. He struck out the side to end the threat. Perhaps he got a bit cocky after that, giving up the two homeruns in the fifth.

Game Notes: Good to see Boog Powell signing autographs at Boogs Barbecue Pit on Eutaw street. Myworld has not seen him for awhile, but perhaps Sunday games are not his thing…Peanuts at Camden sell for $4.75. At Nationals park they are $6, or maybe even $8. They are so high I don’t even consider buying them. Beer is also much cheaper at Camden…The Jonathan Villar homeruns was one of the longest at Camden Yards. There are not too many markers behind it on Eutaw street. Daniel Palka will also get a marker for his shot on Eutaw in the second inning…The shift with a runner on second does catch the third baseman napping. Yolmer Sanchez jogged into third with Renato Nunez playing the shortstop position and seeing Sanchez steal third too late to get to the bag…Chance Sisco had to leave the game after a foul ball hit off his mask. Daniel Palka also had to leave the game after he attempted to make a diving catch but his cleats got caught in the grass…Yoan Moncada struck out three times bringing his season total to a major league leading 201 whiffs. Unless he can tame his swings and misses he could end up being a disappointment for a number one prospect. He is still young. In total White Sox hitters struck out 14 times…D.J. Stewart appears to be over matched with major league pitching. He has yet to get a hit in 14 at bats. Today he struck out once and couldn’t get the ball out of the infield in his other three at bats.

A Big 0 for the O’s in 2018

Saturday, September 15th, 2018

The Orioles have played above themselves the last few years, not finishing below .500 since 2012. Most baseball experts picked them for last or next to last in the AL East in those years and they would surprise everyone by making the playoffs or hanging on until September. Except for this year. It is almost as if the baseball gods got even with them for all their surprise winning seasons and piled all the losses they should have had in previous years onto the 2018 season. At their current pace this will be a record season for the Orioles from a loss perspective (at 106 with their record at 107 in 1988).

So what went wrong with the Orioles in 2018? They signed two free agent starting pitchers to give them a solid five in the rotation. They had all their sluggers coming back. They had their closer returning. Or thought so. And of course Manny Machado was still on the team. What went wrong?

1) Defense. This was a franchise that always prided itself on defense. Not this year. The 2018 season saw one of the worst defensive teams take the field. Moving Manny Machado to short hurt the defense at two positions, short and third. Adam Jones lost a couple steps to turn into a below average centerfielder and having corners Mark Trumbo and Trey Mancini was a disaster in shagging down line drive hits. Singles turned to doubles and outs turned to singles. Baseball Reference ranked the Orioles defensive efficiency as last in the major leagues. Even when they got to the ball they made errors above league average. This lack of range did not help the pitching staff, which also found itself last in the league in ERA. The starting pitching and relief staff also gave up the most runs per nine innings than any of the other 29 major league teams.

2) The big bombers disappeared. Last year when the pitching was weak the Orioles bombed balls out of the park, their 232 homers fifth in the major leagues. This year, with the Chris Davis and Jonathan Scoop brown outs the homerun balls were less frequent. Even big bopper Mark Trumbo slowed down, though he was injured for much of the start of the year. The only consistent bopper was Manny Machado, but they traded him mid-season.

3) The Orioles signed two free agent pitchers in Andrew Cashner and Alex Cobb to fill into their rotation with Dylan Bundy, Kevin Guasman and Chris Tillman. Chris Tillman had an awful 2017 but the O’s were hoping for a return to his 2016 performance. It did not happen. In baseball you need more than five starters because of injuries. When Tillman did not work out (10.46 ERA in 7 starts) there was no pitcher to fill in behind him. Cobb also pitched poorly at the start of the season having no spring training. The two number one picks Bundy and Guasman have faltered to mid rotation starters, with Dylan Bundy giving the O’s one bad outing for every good outing. The pitchers they tried to fit in the fifth spot in the rotation after Tillman was released all had ERAs above 5. It was an ugly year for starting pitching.

4) Zack Britton missed the start of the season. That put a lot of pressure on the bullpen. When your starting pitchers are giving up runs in bunches there are not a lot of save opportunities, but Brad Brach and Mychal Givens struggled in the role when given the shot, each with an ERA north of 4. No relief staff has given up more runs per nine innings than the Orioles. It was also an ugly year for relief pitching.

5) The Orioles were hoping Austin Hays would take over the right field spot, putting Trumbo at the DH spot. Both Hays and Trumbo got injured and the Orioles started the season with no real DH or right fielder. Pedro Alvarez failed as a DH and a convention of players were tried in right field with little success. Hays never got past AA and Trumbo with his iron glove had to eventually see a lot of time in right field.

6) The farm system is still weak. While it brought the Orioles Tanner Scott and a number of other ineffective starters and relievers it did not provide any position players. The holes were filled by other teams minor league free agents or waived players. Cedric Mullins has shown some promise in centerfield, but long term success is not a certainty. The major leagues is filled with the names of September superstars who were never heard from the next year, i.e. Austin Hays. While the farm system is better it is still at the bottom of the league and lacks depth. Having the worst record in baseball will give the Orioles the first pick in the draft next year, but they may have to do a search next year for a new GM to lead the strategy for that draft. Both Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter have expiring contracts and will likely not be part of the Orioles in 2019.

So the news is not good for Orioles fans. Last in defense, starting pitching, relief pitching and the American League. At one time they used to say that about the Senators. Now the bumbling play has moved north.

18 and Under Qualifiers

Saturday, September 15th, 2018

The 18 and under World Cup will be played in Gijang, Korea in 2019. The first two qualifiers for that tournament were from Europe, Netherlands and Spain. The Asia qualifiers have finished and the three dragons have advanced.

Korea won the 18 year old qualifiers held in Miyazaki, Japan, defeating Taiwan in the finals 7-5. The game went into extra innings after Taiwan scored a run in the ninth to tie. Japan had to settle for third place after their 14-1 victory over China.

Korea and Japan seem to be leap frogging the 18 and under championships, with Korea winning in 2009 followed by Japan in 2011. Korea took the crown again in 2014 but Japan followed by recapturing the championship in 2016. Taiwan has finished in second place for consecutive tournaments. The last time they won an 18 and under Asian championship was in 2007.

The last time any team other than Korea, Japan or Taiwan has finished in the top two was in 1994 when Australia finished second. That was the first recorded 18 and under championship. Australia now competes in the Oceania region. China, Philippines and Thailand are the teams that fill the fourth spot.

Top 20 AFL Players to Watch

Friday, September 14th, 2018

Below are the top 20 players who will be playing in the Arizona Fall League that myworld will try to get out to watch. Austin Hays, one of the players we initially had on the list will now not be playing because of ankle surgery.

1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr (Blue Jays/Surprise) 3B - The son of the Hall of Famer and the minor league player of the year in most organization readings. How could you not want to go out and watch him if you have not seen him play already? Flirted with .400 this year and showed impressive power. Some question his defense at third and think a move to first may be required.

2. Luis Robert (White Sox/Glendale) OF - He came hyped with lots of tools. Those tools, especially the power did not make an appearance in his second minor league season, though he was limited to 50 games because of injuries. There were no homeruns in his bat.

3. Forrest Whitley (Astros/Scottsdale) RHP - Most pitchers who appear in the AFL are there because they pitched little in the regular season because of injuries. Forrest was limited to 8 starts last year. At 6′7″ he has length and a blazing fastball that can hit triple digits. He needs to increase the 26 innings he pitched in the regular season and show the fastball is difficult to hit.

4. Domingo Acevedo (Yankees/Glendale) RHP - The same that was said of Forrest also applies to this 6′7″ righthander except he had a few more starts (12) and innings (69) to his season. The strikeout numbers (55) were not impressive, especially when you consider he can hit the high 90s with his heat.

5. Jon Duplantier (Diamondbacks/Salt Lake) RHP - Last year he had an unbelievable season with a 1.39 ERA. Only Justin Verlander has had a lower ERA in the minors. This year his season was delayed by injuries. He did squeeze in 16 starts and his numbers were excellent (2.55 ERA) but not when compared to last year. Myworld expects only four starts from him in the AFL before he is gone, so get there early if you want to see him.

6. Peter Alonso (Mets/Scottsdale) 1B - In the Futures game he hit one of the longest and highest homeruns myworld has ever seen at Nationals park. He has power. Right handed hitting firstbaseman are not given a lot of respect by major league analyzers, but his 36 homeruns last year could change some minds.

7. Taylor Trammell (Reds/Scottsdale) OF - He was voted the MVP of the Futures Game, almost hitting two homeruns in his two at bats. His first almost homerun he ran into a triple after it hit the top of the wall. He began his circle around the bases with a homerun trot, but then had to shift it in high gear after the ball did not travel over the fence. This year the toolsy outfielder hit only 8 homeruns in the Florida State League, but his resume shows the potential for power and speed.

8. Bo Bichette (Blue Jays/Surprise) SS - The son of Dante is not said to have the tools to play major league shortstop. Myworld was impressed with what we saw of him in the Futures game. He does have a potent bat that sprays the gaps with doubles (40 plus) and hits his fair share of balls over the fence (15 plus).

9. J.B. Bukauskas (Astros/Scottsdale) RHP - He does not carry a lot of height (6′0″) for a right handed pitcher but he was the Astros first round pick in 2017. Last year injuries restricted him to 14 starts but they were an impressive 14 starts (2.14 ERA and .199 opposition average). He throws in the mid 90s.

10. Sixto Sanchez (Phillies/Scottsdale) RHP - Another smallish pitcher (6′0″) who throws gas. Last year injuries limited him to 8 starts (2.51 ERA). A good AFL and strong spring will put him in AA, a stone’s throw from the major leagues.

11. Keston Hiura (Brewers/Peoria) 2B - Maybe one of the purest hitters in the Fall League. Batting titles are in his future. Elbow issues restricted most of his appearances to DH duties. When he does play defense it is at second base. He may get a lot of second base playing time in the AFL.

12. Keibert Ruiz (Dodgers/Glendale) C - One of the better catching prospects in the minor leagues. He can hit for pop (12 homeruns) and has a decent arm, though he was only able to gun down 26 percent of those who stole against him. Makes solid contact striking out just 33 times in over 400 at bats.

13. Carter Kieboom (Nationals/Salt Lake) SS - A first round pick of the Nationals in 2016. The reports on him is that his arm and range may be short to play shortstop in the major leagues. Since Turner has that spot locked up (whose scouting report was similar to Carter) second base may be his best position. Expect him to get some time there. He shows good pop with the bat with 16 homeruns last year.

14. Daulton Varsho (Diamondbacks/Salt River) C - The son of Gary, an ex-major leaguer, he was named after Darren Daulton. Another catcher with some pop who had a little more success nabbing base runners (40 percent). He showed some speed for a catcher with 19 stolen bases in 22 attempts. If he is half the player of Darren Daulton he will make it at least as a back up.

15. Estevan Florial (Yankees/Glendale) OF - The Haitian born prospect was all the talk of the Yankees prospect system last season after hitting .298 with 13 homeruns in 2017. Last year he had difficulty replicating those numbers, though his season was limited to 84 games because of injury.

16. Buddy Reed (Padres/Peoria) OF - The Padres have a wealth of minor league and young major league outfielders. Buddy shows some good tools to play center field, but will they be enough to beat out Manuel Margot. Last year he stole 51 bases to go with his 13 homeruns.

17. Pavin Smith (Diamondbacks/Salt Lake) 1B - The Diamondbacks drafted him in the first round of the 2017 draft. That is pretty high for a first baseman who may be a bit short in the power numbers. Last year he hit 11 homeruns but his batting average was only at .255, not indicative of his college numbers (.342). Pavin needs to hit for pop to justify his first round selection.

18. Bobby Dalbec (Red Sox/Mesa) 1B - Because there is someone we want to see play at Mesa. The power is there with 32 homeruns last year, but it comes at the expense of having a right handed bat. There is still a lot of swing and miss in his swing that he will have to learn to tame if he wants to see Fenway park.

19. Lucius Fox (Rays/Peoria) SS - All the tools and gracefulness to play short but his bat may hold him back. The Giants signed him out of the Bahamas but made him one of the players included in the Matt Moore trade.

20. Alfredo Rodriguez (Reds/Scottsdale) SS/2B - There was a lot of hype about him and his glove when he came out of Cuba. The glove has been good but the bat has been blah (.241/.294/298 slash line for average/OBA/slugging). Injuries limited him to 46 games last year. At 24 he should be knocking on the major league door rather than scuffling in the Florida State League.

London Mets Champs of Britain

Wednesday, September 12th, 2018

For the second straight year the London Mets have won the British baseball championships. It was also their third championship in four years and their fifth overall, more baseball championships than any other team in Great Britain. They swept the Herts Falcons, who have yet to win a championship.

Rich Minford was voted the MVP for the finals with his .500 batting average and 10 strikeouts. In the best two out of three format both games ended because of the 10 run mercy rule.

The London Mets had finished in first place with a 25-5 record. The Falcons were a surprise participant in the finals since they finished the regular season 7-20.

KBO Establishes Salary Cap on Foreign Players

Tuesday, September 11th, 2018

The KBO will establish a salary cap on foreign players next year. The salary cap will be $1 million, which in addition to salary also includes the transfer fees the KBO club has to pay the major league club for his release. With the average salary of major league baseball players over $4 million and the minimum salary at $545,000, this will limit the quality of major leaguers looking to Korea as an option.

The good news for the foreign player is that the cap no longer applies if the club wants to re-sign the player. So the initial contract would be one year, but if the team wanted to re-sign the player there would be no limit. This re-signing would not apply if a team wanted to sign a foreign player released by another team.

If a KBO team attempts to circumvent the salary cap the punishment is the loss of a first round pick and a $887,000 fine. The player who signed the contract would be suspended for a year.

Nitpickin at the Nats

Monday, September 10th, 2018

Of the 30 major league baseball teams only one team can win the World Series. That is an honor any player would celebrate. On the other end of the spectrum is an honor most teams would choose to avoid. That is being the most disappointing team in baseball. That dubious honor belongs to the Washington Nationals.

They were supposed to easily win the National League east. They had trouble fighting their way past .500. The Phillies and the Braves shot past them and appear to have younger and more talented teams for the future. The Nationals traded most of their youth to stay in the playoff race. The saving grace is the Nationals have an opportunity to pass the fading Phillies before the year is out. If they can fight their way out of that .500 bag.

Below are some of the issues myworld believes went south for the Nationals season.

1) Ryan Zimmerman’s belief that spring training is a waste of time and over rated. He spent most of his time in the minor league camp, making only a couple appearances in major league spring training games. Don’t know if he was trying to hide an injury but appearances matter. If Zimmerman had gotten off to a strong start all would have been forgiven. As we said earlier appearances, which are defined by results, matter. He could not find his way above .200 until two days before he got injured and by the time he returned in late July the Nationals fate had been sealed. His bat has gotten better since his return from injury, but it was not enough to escape .500. He has also become a part time player, starting in only four or five games a week.

2) The microfracture knee surgery for Daniel Murphy was treated very lightly. The Nationals indicated he would only miss the first couple weeks of the season. Myworld has not been witness to any micro fracture knee surgery having a recovery time of less than six to nine months. April turned to May and Daniel Murphy was still not back. After Howie Kendrick’s injury the only real option for the Nationals at second base was Wilmer Difo. He is best used in a utility role, not as a regular starter for a playoff contending club. When Daniel Murphy finally returned in June his defensive mobility was extremely limited.

3) Managing on the cheap. The Lerners are not known for spending a lot of money hiring managers. Don’t know if they run their business the same way when they hire CEOs. They hired Davey Martinez to manage the club with a three year contract that comes out to a little less than $1 million a year. Quite a bargain for managers these days. Davey learned that managing is a little more difficult than being a bench coach. Instead of making recommendations that do not have to be followed you have to actually make decisions. His use of the bullpen early in the season was not good. Ryan Madson was overused, got lit up and may have lost his confidence as the season progressed. Last year the bullpen was a strength after the acquisition of Madson and Sean Doolittle. This year it was a weakness, even though the actors remained the same.

4) The trade for Adam Eaton and sacrificing the depth of the starting pitching. Perhaps Mike Rizzo did not like Reynaldo Lopez, Lucas Giolito or Dane Dunning when he traded all three for Eaton. At the time Eaton was going to be the centerfielder, but most defensive metrics measured him as a suspect defensive outfielder. He did not get much of a chance to play for the Nationals in 2017 after getting injured early in the year and not returning. He got injured again early in the 2018 season, missing a good portion of the early games. The injury seem to linger and even upon his return Eaton does not run like an outfielder with healthy legs. The trade of the three outfielders to get Eaton sacrificed much of the depth the Nationals had in their starting pitching in the minor leagues. When injuries hit them this year they did not have a sixth or seventh starter to replace those injured starting pitchers. It is possible that Lopez or Giolito would not have been the answer. They are struggling with the White Sox now that they have been given an opportunity to pitch in the major leagues. Pitching for the Nationals they may have been given more development time in AAA to be effective in the major leagues. Another minor league starter the Nationals traded was Jesus Luzardo, for Doolittle and Madson. Blake Treinen was also included in that deal. Luzardo was pitching so well in the minor leagues he was being discussed as the minor league pitcher of the year.

5) The collapse of Michael Taylor. Myworld does not know what kind of effect the departure of Dusty Baker had on the confidence of Michael Taylor. He seemed to have a break out season in 2017 addressing the Nationals centerfield needs. When 2018 began it was Eaton in left, Taylor in center and Bryce Harper in right. Eaton got hurt to begin the season and Taylor failed to hit. Juan Soto became a saving grace in left when the Nationals had no choice but to call him up. Meanwhile, the Nationals centerfield position has been a black hole defensively. Bryce Harper and Adam Eaton can not play the position like Michael Taylor. The early returns on Victor Robles indicates he still needs some improvement on route running before he becomes an elite centerfield like Taylor defensively. So the disappearance of Taylor has put a black hole in center field when it comes to defense.

6) The Nationals failed to address their weakness at catcher. Despite Wilson Ramos inability to catch balls on throws home he is still the best catcher the Nationals have had. When they let him go as a free agent after the 2016 season and signed Matt Wieters they were hoping for a wash. What they lost offensively they could get back defensively. Wieters was a disappointment in 2017 and he was even more so in 2018. Pedro Severino, the catcher of the future appears to now be the catcher of AAA. His bat was so far south of the Mendoza line that teams would walk the pitcher intentionally to face Severino (a slight exaggeration). For the 2018 season the catching position was a big hole and it appears to be a problem in 2019. They tried to trade for J.T. Realmuto in 2019, but they traded most of their quality players from their farm system for veterans to help them in the playoff run that the only attractive options the Nationals had were Juan Soto and Victor Robles, and the Nationals did not want to trade them.

7) The lack of leadership in the locker room. When the Nationals went into the playoffs in 2012 they allowed Michael Morse to leave as a free agent. He was the recognized leader of their clubhouse in 2012. Without him the Nationals did not make the playoffs in 2013. Jayson Werth took over the leadership reigns in 2014 and the Nationals returned to the playoffs. He left after the 2017 season and the Nationals again found a big void in the leadership equation. Myworld is not saying allowing Morse and Werth to depart was not the right move, but sometimes general managers do not take locker room camaraderie into account when building a team. Max Scherzer tried to take over the leadership role, but it is tough for part time players (starting pitchers) to rally position players. Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman seem to lack the fire or will to take over the leadership role.

The National players complained about management waving the white flag too soon and trading their veteran players, while getting nothing in return. Sometimes it is tough to look in the mirror and see reality. You want to see the good things. That 50 year old face is still 20 and those wrinkles around the eyes are invisible to your tainted view. The Nationals had too many problems at the beginning of the 2018 season to over come them. Perhaps next year will be different. One thing is certain. They will not be the favorite to win the National League East.

Bote Haunts Nationals Again

Friday, September 7th, 2018

The last time David Bote batted against the Nationals he hit a walk off grand slam homerun in front of a national audience for Sunday night baseball. Forward to D.C. a couple weeks later and he enters as a defensive replacement in the bottom of the ninth. He gets another chance to beat the Nats batting in the tenth with a runner on second. He lines a pitch into right center just past the glove of Victor Robles for a double, driving in the go ahead run in the Cubs 6-4 win over the Nationals. Most of the baseball world has not heard of David Bote. Against the Nationals he is their nightmare.

Stephen Strasburg got the start for the Nationals. He was not sharp, throwing a lot of pitches with his velocity still sitting at 94. In the third he retired the first two hitters but became unhinged after that. Javier Baez touched him for a bloop single into left field. Anthony Rizzo beat the shift by lining a ball into right center past Wilmer Difo, who was playing in short right field. Because Baez was going on the pitch he scored easily, even though the Nationals cut the ball off before it reached the warning track. Ben Zobrist followed bouncing a single off the first base bag to score Rizzo to give the Cubs an early 2-0 lead.

The Nationals bounced back in the bottom of the fourth. Bryce Harper grounded a pitch past the first baseman into short right field. Javier Baez fielded the ball and threw to the pitcher covering first. The ball zipped past the pitcher putting Harper on and tacking an error to Baez. Anthony Rendon lined a pitch into right center for a triple, scoring Harper. With two outs Mark Reynolds drove a pitch over the left field bullpen to give the Nationals a 3-2 lead. All three runs off Kyle Hendricks were unearned, though that error against Baez was a tough call.

The lead did not last long. Ex-Nat Daniel Murphy drove a single into left field. Anthony Rizzo bounced a ground ball to third. Rendon made a back hand play of the ball, tried to make a sidearm/underhand throw to first and sailed it over the head of Reynolds. Murphy advanced to third where he would score on a Ben Zobrist fly ball.

In the bottom frame the Nationals re-captured the lead on a two out single by Trea Turner scoring Spencer Kieboom from third. Kieboom finished the day 3 for 3 to raise his average over .200. He was bunted to second by Stephen Strasburg and advanced to third on an Adam Eaton ground out.

With a 4-3 lead could the Nationals bullpen hold it? Justin Miller could not. He gave up a leadoff single to Kris Bryant in the eighth. Albert Almora followed with a single to center. Victor Robles made the throw to third, but it was too late to get Bryant and Almora advanced to second on the throw. Trea Turner made a nice back hand play on a ground ball hit by Wilson Contreras in the hole. He could not get Bryant out at home but his throw to second was able to nail Almora, who had strayed too far off second base.

With the score tied the Nationals had an opportunity to take the lead in the bottom of the eighth. A Juan Soto double into the right field corner put runners on second and third with one out. Justin Wilson, a left handed pitcher came on to relieve right hander Cal Edwards and struck out Mark Reynolds, who is a killer against left handed pitching. That was a move going against the books. Another right hander Wilmer Difo flied to shallow left to end the inning.

The walk off man Ryan Zimmerman came up in the ninth and grounded to second. That brought the game to the tenth where the hard throwing Jimmy Cordero was called on to pitch. He was short of the task. Albert Almore and David Bote hit back to back doubles to score one and Taylor Davis tacked on an insurance run with a single to right.

Jesse Chavez came on to close out the game. The Nationals rallied on a Trea Turner walk and Anthony Rendon single to put runners on first and third with one out. The Nationals super rookie Juan Soto could not get the job done, striking out and Mark Reynolds lined out to center to end the game.

Game Notes: A sparse crowd for a Cub game. Daniel Murphy was given an ovation prior to the game but there were not a lot of Nationals fans at the park. As the game continued the seats filled, but it sounded like most of the seats were occupied by Cubs fans. The attendance was announced at 32,000. It would have been a sell out if the Nationals were still in the playoff hunt…Wilson Contreras seems to be wearing down. In past seasons injuries have given him a rest during the season. He hit three weak grounders and a shallow fly ball. There appears to be no juice left in his bat…Part of me wonders if Michael Taylor might have caught that line drive hit by Bote into right center. Taylor knows how to track down fly balls. Robles seemed to make an inefficient route when trying to catch the fly ball hit by Bote…Terrence Gore came in as a pinch runner and stole second base. He now has more steals (23) than major league plate appearances (15).