Nationals Retrospective: Opening Week

After a week of some utter domination by Nats pitching mixed with a
rollercoaster of a series against the Reds, Nat fans have plenty to talk about
as the 2013 season gets underway.  For those of you who may have missed a
few games this week, here’s a great look at what’s been happening in Natstown:

The Pros:

– The starters brought their A-game.

Besides a hiccup from Dan Haren against
the Reds where the newest member of the starting five allowed six runs off four
home runs, the rotation has looked excellent.  In the first run through
the rotation, Nats starters still posted a 2.17 ERA with a 1.14 WHIP.
 While they only posted a mediocre 4.66 K/9, there were still shutout
performances from Stras, Gio, and Detwiler.  The Nats entered this season
with the starting rotation very publicly considered as one of the team’s
biggest strengths.  So while early success is not surprising, it is still
encouraging and always a great sign.  However, Haren’s inability to stump
Red’s hitters will have a few fans raising their eyebrows.  The veteran
righty is coming off an injury plagued season with the Angels.  He is
someone to keep an eye on in the following weeks.  

– Danny Espinosa looks
excellent.  

Even though he has hit for only a .182
average through the first week of the season, the numbers do not tell the whole
story.  Espinosa has been hitting the ball with authority from both sides
of the plate.  Vast improvement from the left side of the plate is needed
if Espinosa is to join the ranks as an elite middle infielder.  The second
baseman hit just .233 against righties last season and struck out 141 times.

Espi looked great in spring training
and it’s great to see him take that confidence into the early days of the
regular season.  Fans were worried this offseason to hear Espinosa battled
rotator cuff issues throughout the end of last year and into the postseason.
 Rather than get surgery to repair the tear in the shoulder’s labrum, Espi
elected to strengthen the area and avoid going under the knife.  So far
there has been no indication that Danny has been feeling any pain from the
shoulder.  It should be all systems go as the season continues.

– Ryan Zimmerman’s shoulder
looks 100%.

We heard it all throughout the end of
the 2012 season and into the offseason.  Ryan Zimmerman just didn’t look
comfortable throwing the ball across the diamond.  Ryan had offseason
shoulder surgery in an attempt to alleviate the issues that lead to the vast
dropoff in his fielding ability last year.  All reports so far indicate
that Ryan feels great both on the field and at the plate.  Zim was tested
early in the first game of the season against the Marlins when third baseman
Placido Polanco scorched a ball between third and short.  Zimmerman ranged
to his left and laid out to keep the ball in the infield.  He quickly and
effortlessly threw a bullet over to first base for the out, showing no signs of
discomfort.

Zimmerman is off to a .238 average so
far this season with 3 RBI in the team’s first week.

– Wilson Ramos is back…..with swag.

After missing most of the 2012 campaign
with a debilitating knee injury sustained at the Red’s Great American Ballpark,
many Nats fans were hesitant about how exactly Ramos would contribute to the
2013 Nationals.  Ramos’ season got off to a better start than even he
could have hoped – calling great games behind the plate, exhibiting stellar
defense, and even blasting two bombs in Saturday’s extra-inning win against the
Reds.  On his second homerun of the day, Ramos stood in the batter’s box
and watched the ball fly, all whilst letting his bat casually fall to his feet
(a la Manny Ramirez?).  The Nationals entered this season planning to
split time behind the plate between Ramos and Kurt Suzuki.  Both players
are capable of starting.  But Ramos’ early success in his three games
played this week has increased confidence in himself, his manager, and the fans
of D.C.  Do not be surprised if the balance of playing time seems to shift
more towards Ramos in the coming weeks.   

The Cons:

-What happened to Ian Desmond’s fielding?

Sure its early in the season, but
Desmond has already made four errors in just his first five games.  The
All-Star shortstop made two errors in Saturday’s extra-inning win against the
Reds.  Both errors lead to unearned runs scoring.  It’s worth noting
that Desi made only 15 errors throughout the entirety of the 2012 season.
 The resurgence of defensive issues for Ian Desmond is a tad bit
concerning since he made great strides in improving that aspect of his game
over the past couple seasons (Back in the 2010 season, Desmond’s defense was a
notable cancer – he allowed 34 errors and compiled a .947 FPCT).  In the
long run, Desmond will surely become more comfortable as he finds his stroke
and the weather warms up.  Nonetheless, Desmond’s inability to make
seemingly routine plays this first week had many Nats fans scratching their
heads.

– Did anyone else expect a blown save this early from Rafael Soriano?

Soriano blew his first save of the year
in Saturday’s rollercoaster of a game against the Reds.  The Nats would up
victorious after 11-innings, but Soriano entered the ninth with a two run lead
which he quickly blew by allowing lead-off homerun, followed by a triple,
followed by a wild pitch.  This type of ninth inning is uncharacteristic
from a closer with Soriano’s dominant track record.  While the blown save
is nothing to panic about, Nats fans wanted to see Soriano be absolutely
dominant out of the gate.  After the crushing blown save in game four of
the 2012 NLDS, Nats fans simply don’t have the stomach to handle another ninth
inning loss.  No one is even mentioning tightening the leash on Soriano,
but his struggles on Saturday, albeit against a potent Reds lineup, certainly
did not leave a great taste in our mouths.

Injuries:

– The Nats were able to send out the
‘cookie cutter’ lineup the first four games of the season.  But Gold Glove
first baseman Adam LaRoche was scratched from both weekend games with soreness
in his back.  Manager Davey Johnson reported his delicacy with LaRoche was
merely a precaution.  But apparently LaRoche couldn’t even bend down to
tie his shoes.  The hope is that liberal rest along with an off-day on
Monday will be just what LaRoche needs to rehab the sore back.  If this
injury develops into anything more serious, the Nats could be in trouble.
 But simply, after the series of trades bringing in Denard Span’s
on-base-ability and shipping off Michael Morse’s power, the Nats need the
production of Adam LaRoche in their lineup.  LaRoche needs to be the
five-hole hitter that repeats his Silver Slugger winning 2012 campaign and
drives in another 100 runs.  Fingers crossed that a little icy hot and a
nice dip in the hot tub is all the Nationals need to get the 33-year-old
veteran back on the diamond.

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One comment

  1. Sure it’s only a week, but you can start to see alternative narratives starting to take hold on many teams, Philly is the most notable. Everyone agreed they have a great starting 3 and a potent lineup so long as Utley, Howard et al can stay healthy. Sure it’s only 7 games, but that starting 3 doesn’t look very intimidating yet. Too early to draw much of anything from the nats, having played the best and worst of the NL it’s impossible to tell what is real and what is illusion (of the good and the bad…)

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