Washington Post Sports Columnist <strong>Tom Boswell</strong> answered your questions about the Redskins, the Capitals, the Nationals, the rest of D.C. sports and more. <br><br> <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/linksets/2010/07/06/AByEJ1D_linkset.html">Past Ask Boswell chats</a>

May 29, 2012

Washington Post Sports Columnist Tom Boswell answered your questions about the Redskins, the Capitals, the Nationals, the rest of D.C. sports and more.

Are we going to see a platoon situation at 2b when Morse comes back? Against RHP, Lombo plays 2B and an outfield of Morse 7, Ankiel 8, Harper 9 with Espinosa sitting. Against LHP, Espinosa plays 2B and an outfield of Lombo 7, Harper 8, and Morse 9. I have to admit, the second outfield is a bit defensively challenged but I could use some time off from watching Espinosa try to hit from the left side.

Adam KMilgore has a nice summation of the situation.

Of course, Espinosa plays against LH pitchers. He hits them well. Against RH pitching, Davey doesn't want to bench Espinosa and, imo, he shouldn't. Just too much upside for many yrs into the future. And he's been hitting better.

So, in plenty of games, the crazy "solution" would be an OF of Lombardozzi in LF, Harper in CF and Morse in RF!

You'd have weak arms, relative to the demands of the position, in LF and RF. And throwing has been what's kept Morse on the DL, not hitting.

Lombardozzi and Harper have speed, but little experience in the OF. Morse tries but doesn't cover much ground.

I would (and will) refer to this as The King And His Court Outfield.

The "King" was a famous barnstorming softball pitcher who was so fast and unhittable that he traveled with only five fielders on his team. Often, there'd be no outfield at all!

If Lombo, Harper and Morse head out there together, a lot of Nats pitchers are going to feel like The King.

Somewhere, Riggleman would beat his head on a wall. Davey loves offense. Especially when you have the best power staff in baseball that leads MLB in K's (no need for OFers then) and gets more ground balls than fly balls (not much use dfor OFers then either). 

Lombardozzi-7

Harper-8

Zimmerman-5

LaRoche-3

Morse-9

Desmond-6

Espinosa-4

Flores-2

Pitcher-1

Well, ypou can't say it wouldn't be interesting.

Have not seen Harper in any ridiculous get-ups or carrying luggage to date... Is it only a matter of time?

That usually comes much later in the season

It'll happen. They'll have to think upo something special for him.

Professor Boswell -- Espinosa is batting .180 left and .333 right. Why on earth does he continue batting left? He looks completely overmatched so why not just live with his results as a right handed batter? He's an automatic out and the Nats have a razor thin margin on offense to begin with. Also, isn't the wise move to transition Lombardossi to 2nd base when Morse is back in the lineup?

For years Espinosa hit better in the minors LHed. Also, his '11 wrist injury has healed so, in theory, this should be his year to break out hitting LHed.

Sure hasn't worked that way. Espy says he considers himself a low-ball hitter LHed. His problem is laying off the high fastball. I watched Al Bumbry struggle with that for four years. He said the high fastball, which was right next to his best power zone, was like ice cream; he couldn't resist it. Finally, he learned how to lay off that pitch __even if it was a strike 20-30% of the time. And he became a semi-star. Can Espinosa do the same.

The problem for Espinosa is that a weakness for high fastballs immediately (for most) opens up two other "holes." You're high fastball conscious __it's your problem__ so the br4eaking ball down and in is hard to lay off. Espy chases them right into the dirt. And the changeup low-away also works vs the guy who's high-fastball conscious.

If Espinosa can somehow say, "Lay off that high heat, even some of the strike," then he's probably on his way back up. Davey certainly wants to give him that chance. He's s abig talent. "Pound for pound, Espy has the most power in the league," said Johnson. true or not, it's close.

Love the chats! I know that you, Rizzo and everybody else say that Strasburg will be shut down at 160 no matter what, no questions asked. But let me ask this hypothetical question: what were to happen if a minor injury, say an ankle sprain, occurred sometime this summer and he had to miss 3-4 weeks. Then, he might be available for the pennant chase, right?! It just makes me think, why not fabricate a minor injury, shut him down for 3-4 weeks in the middle of the summer to have him available later in the season? It makes the whole pitcher's schedule issue seem a bit arbitrary when he would clearly be available at the end under this scenario.

Well, how about doing that with a minor "biceps soreness" after Michael Morse gets back to add offense. You'd still have a rotation of Gonzalez, Z'mann, Wang, Jackson and Detwiler.

I just think the Nats want to "go by the book," as they did successfully last year with Jordan Z'mann. That's best medical practice. Don't jack with it.

But if Strasburg does have a minor biceps issue, then skippimng a start makes sense at some point. A semi-fake DL trip is much more dicey. "Shut 'em down, start 'em up" is a good way to court injuries. As long as SS says he feels fine __and he touched 99 his last time out__ just go with the program.

He's having some of what Z'mann went through last year after Tommy John surgery __inconsistently in a few starts. To me, Strasburg rushes and overthrows at times and that's almost the only thing I ever see that he needs to correct. And that's mental __self-control, relax, trust 96 mph and command__ not physical.

are you trying to keep this chat a secret?

I think there's a link on Sports section site.

I'll check.

Is Jordan Zimmermann regressing? Last year it seemed he was a pretty good six-inning pitcher coming off of TJ surgery who used to lose 2-1 games. I'm concerned he's been figured out or is having some mental toughness issues.

Z'mann is having an excellent season, better than last year, with a 2.80 ERA in 10 starts vs 3.18 last year. And he's better in most other categories, too. His 44 K's to 11 walks is exceptional.

A lot of fans got spoiled in April when the Nats only gave up 2.68 runs a game __which is impossible. But in April, they couldn't hit __3.36 runs a game.

Now, things are just normalizing. In May, Nats are allowing 3.65 runs __very good because EARNED run average is even lower. And they are scoring more __4.38 runs a game, which would be 5th in the N.L.

Z'mann has SIX starts where he gave up only one earned run. With average run support, he'd be 6-3, not 3-5. Hey, and he hit a home run yesterday!

The only thing Z'amnn needs to do is keep doing exactly what he's doing, but learn to "expand the zone" a little when he gets ahead and improve his changeup so he trusts it more. Yesterday, he threw 75 strikes in 98 pitches. That's insane. It's TOO good. He should watch Gio's "effectively wild" success.

He'll learn the trick of it, though it took Dennis Martinez an eternity.  

I heard that Davey was planning to watch Strasburg's bullpen session this week. Are there any injury concerns, or is this just to work on whatever mechanical issues have been plaguing his fastball command?

They always watch SS like a hawk. His mechanics were certainly off in his last start. Should be an easy fix.

Here's the most Nats Are Doomed link you'll ever see. Gio also has the "Inverted W." Is it a real concern? A sore-arm-theory fad? With the Curly W be destroyed by the Inverted W.

http://www.chrisoleary.com/projects/PitchingMechanics101/Analyses/GioGonzalez.html

I've seen others articles, much more "scholarly." It's one theory. There are many. The number of innings before age 25. The number of "stress" innings. On and on. Gio has pitched as a pro for 9 years and never missed a start. And he pitched for years before that in high school, etc. If the inverted W is so fatal, how is that possible? He's 26. Also, none of the Nats top pitchers has ever had a significant shoulder injury (including Detwiler who's never had arm problems) and that's the one that "gets you" like Wood and Prior, not elbows. We'll see. Pitchers blow out. Always have. Everybody thinks they know why. Nobody does, imo.



 

Yo Bos! say the wiz get the #2 overall pick in this years NBA draft? Who do you think would be the best fit in D.C and why? If they get the #1 pick is it obviously Davis?

Just think "1-1-1-1-1!"

D.C. has had a run of good luck with No. 1 overall picks __RGIII, Strasburg, Harper, Ovechkin. Okay, John Wall maybe not so much.

It's a big gap back to No. 2 in this draft. So lets not have that debate. For now, all focus on good luck charms and It's-D.C's-Turn Karma.

I'm not left-handed, but I feel their pain. However, why is that it is so much harder for left-handed hitters to hit lefties, yet that same level of difficulty does not happen for right-handed hitters vs. righties? Is the science behind a left-handed person's delivery - making the ball harder to pick up - really that substantially different? It just irks me - in real and fantasy baseball life - when a professional hitter is benched because he can't hit a lefty (but he's a professional hitter for pete's sake!).

Since most people are RHed you grow up seeing almost entirely RHed pitching. So RHers learn to overcome their fear of the ball __or they don't keep playing baseball. I faced future MLBer Tom Bradley (fanned >200 a couple of times in the A.L.) in high school and don't remember being scared, just overmatched.

BUT lefthanded hitters seldom get to hit LHers as they are developing. So they tend to "buckle" more easily.

That's my theory. Maybe there are more young lefties now, but I doubt. Baseball was The Sport when I was growing up, the NFL wasn't No. 1, and I don't think I faced more than two or three lefties. One on our HS team, a kid named Brad Sherman, has pro scouts visit. It was so strange to see a lefty that I could touch him even though, in theory, you should feel more secure when the ball is released on the "other side" and doesn't seem like it is starting right at your head every time it comes out of the pitchers hand.

I'd love to hear more sophisticated theories on this. Frankly, my little home-grown thesis here  seems pretty lame.

Maybe I misunderstood you in your chat last week, but I thought you wrote that he was topping out at 89mph in the minors and has not returned to form. When he pitched this past week, he was hitting 94mph and he looked pretty good doing it. What gives?

Yeah, I'd like to know, too. In Wang's 3 innings, he topped at 93.7 mph and averaged 91.8. Last year he was 90.6. So, if he's a little quicker than '11, and he won 19 games averaging 92.7, don't you HAVE to see what you've got in him __especially after investing 3 yrs and $8M in the project? Sure, you do.

Also, Wang's slider is probably better now than it was with the Yanks. It was 87.8 last week __a hard slider with bite. That's up from 83.8 last year and harder than he ever threw his breaking ball in NYC.

His location was bad __up__ in Atlanta. If he can get his power sinker down consistently it's going to be interesting because he throws it 72% of the time. Also, Wang never hads a curveball as a Yankee. Now he's added one at 78-79 mph. It (finally) gives him an off-speed pitch.

He'll presumably never be the one-pitch bowling-ball sinker guy that he was in pinstripes. But he might be...

Well, lets just see. Then you m ight resign him __he feels loyalty to the Nats. He'd be a heck of a trade piece at July 31. But Davey really likes the poise and experience he'd bring to a pennant race.

I fully believe the Nats will be in contention in July, Aug, Sept. If the Nats are buyers at the trade deadline and acquire someone like CF Denard Span from the Twins, what happens to Morse and LaRoche? Does one of them go in the trade package? Obviously if Werth is not back by August, the question answers itself--but, let's say Harper (LF), Span (CF) (healthy) Werth (RF)...that leaves Morse w/o a spot unless he plays 1b. What gives?

You don't need or want a mediocre Span. The Nats OF is crowded now w Lombardozzi __who may be a better leadoff man than Span (career .361 OB%__ needing playing time, too.

IMO, jujst wait on CF this year. See how Harper develops. The off-season will be plenty of time to think about a $75M CF. After watching Michael Bourn stagger around CF in Atlanta last weekend and get overpowered by Nats pitchers, I don't think he's any $75M FA. 

Is there another team in the league that has home runs from two different starters?

Nats pitchers, as hitters, lead all MLB staffs in everything.

They're 15 for 73 (.205) with 4 doubles and two homers. But Strasburg is most of it __7-for-18 with three doubles and a homer! Jackson isn't up to his norm yet. The starters slash line looks awful, b ut for pitchers it's exceptional __.226/.342/.568.

Gorzelanny can hit a little. Clippard claims a ".280 career average." Never believe a pitcher about his hitting __Clip's .214.

Strasburg is the most interesting. LaRoche said, "He's really got an idea up there." He's hit all three of his doubles off the rightcenter field wall and just missed a 3-run homer down the RF line early in the season. And his homer was 385 feet into the LF bullpen. 

Both Tracy and Flores pulled up lame running the bases last week. They weren't sliding or diving, just running. Do these guys stretch? Is the training staff to blame for the recent stint of injuries?

There are a lot of injuries everywhere. Boston and San Diego have 12 each on the DL, including 3/5 of the Pads rotation and, in Boston, Ellsbury, Andrew Bailey, Carl Crawford, John Lackey, Jenks and Dice-K. 

The Yanks, poor babies, have 10 on the DL including Rivera, Gardner, Pineda, Joba and Dave Robertson. The Cards are without Chris Carpenter, Lance Berkman, Allen Craig and Jon Jay, all prominent in the Series last year. The Rays are overcoming the loss of Longoria, Des Jennings and others. And the Phils, if Halladay goes on the DL today, would finally catch the Nats in  the Really, Really Injured category with Worley and Doc on top of Utley and Ryan Howard.

Even so, nobody is MORE injured than the Nats and __in total__ the Nats have probably suffered more than any team because thier injuries are so LONG and to such major players __Werth, Ramos, Storen, Morse and four becnh or relievers who would have been on the Opening Day roster.

I think __only half joking__ that some of the vets have been TOO inspired by Harper's hustle. They want to hold up their end. Flores slid head-first into third base the other day. Nooooo!! And Tracy probably shoiuld have been jogging out that double instead actually taking a fairly firm turn at 1st base.

Leave the basepath aggressiuon to Harper, Desmond, Espinosa, Lombo, Bernadina (a poor base runner) and Weerth when he gets back. They know how to do it. The rest of you guys, cut it out, including Zimmerman.

Isn't Davey in the running? With that patchwork lineup overcoming injury after injury, bullpen dominating without a closer, and somehow harnessing the ebullience of Harper to the tune of first place in the standings? Also, will Stras be available to pinch hit once the innings limit is up?

I don't know how he could manage his way through this mess much better.

A reader asked me recently if I thought Davey would WANT to come back next year. I hope he can stand the grind and come back. He's a tough buzzard. But he's been limping on an infected toe for weeks. He told me a week ago that, at one point, he'd been on antibiotics for weeks and it was "better," but that doctors, at one point had told him not to fool around with it because if it got much worse "they might have to amputate it." He wasn't laughing when he said it. In recent days, he's still limping. No, you haven't read this anywhere before. I think it's the big toe on his right foot. He jokes that everybody on the whole team has to have an injury, so he has his.

In future, the Nats have two good candidates for Next anager __Bo Porter and Randy Knorr (in no order). Davey/Rizzo think highly of both. But you can't clone Johnson. Over the next few years, it'd be less hard to get to a Series or win one with him than without him. Don't know if he wants to stick around that long. It seems like he wants to get the team "perfect" in his mind's eye, then turn it over to the next manager, so "whoever it is" can get the prestige and stay in the job a long time. Help establish stable sustainable excellence, like the old O's, is his mental model. Man, you don't see much of that attitude anywhere. 

 I'm not sure even Davey can explain his own managing.  There are so many parts of him, including a lot of Texas tale-telling twang and "blue" BS, a high IQ, a legit math background, combative-stubborn-independent confidence based on being so good at everything he's ever tried, that he doesn't over-analyze what he does or why. "That's just me," he'll say and shrug. But what he means is, "And I'm right." Whether he is or not, the swagger, the enjoying risk and pressure, rubs off on players. Davey's rep __that he's smarter and crazier than your manager__ worries other teams, especially one of the Nats division rivals whose team knows that he  practically worships Johnson. This manager, who's very good himself, cheerfully "godded him up" all those years that Davey was away and assumed to be gone for good, then damn if Davey didn't come back __in his division. 


Barring more injuries, who goes down when Lidge and Morse return this week? Ryan Perry and Solano/Maldonado?

Oh, don't worry. There are candidates!

Solano is a prospect. I'd think he'd stay. But Maldonado, who's sent 17 years in the minors for the sake of 58 games in MLB, sure knows how to call a game.

Is there any way the Post could implement some IT solution to convert your underscores into hyphens?

Perhaps the writer should think about that and cut it the hell out. Didn't know it was a problem, distraction. Hmmmm.

Boz, Been watching baseball as long as you have. Never before have I seen so many baseball injuries. Seems every team has half a dozen guys on the DL with multiple boo boos. Do you have a theory?

For some reason __size of contracts, desire to cover-your-ass__ NOBODY comes BACK until they are absolutely 100% OK. And if you open your mouth and say something hurts, it gets 1,000% attention until you are 1,000% recovered. 

Nobody is ALLOWED to play injured. In the "old days," Morse would have been back long ago __jmho__ even if he had to throw the ball back to Desmond with a submarine motion that didn't bother his side. These days, if Morse came back and got hurt again, somebody's head would roll. And it wouldn't be Morse's. So, caution has become epidemic.

And "play hurt" __not play injured__ is mighty vague.  Oh, plenty do play hurt. They just don't say word one and grit their teeth.

To your point, MANY of the '12 injuries __to all teams__ are NOT boo-boos. Not criticizing you, just saying I went through the list and Werth (broken wrist), Ramos (torn ACL), Storen (bone chip surgery) are typical. Brian Wilson, out for the season. Longoria, torn hamstring. Michael Pineda out for the years with a shoulder injury that may change his career tyrajectory.

And then there is the medical report due today on Doc Halladay's shoulder which probably determines much of the Phils fate for '12. He's worked a LOT of innings but, more important perhaps, he's gone to his cutter and curve, rather than a pure fastball, for the last two years. It's a major change in his style and I wonder if he's put different strains on his arm/shoulder.  In '04 Halladay threw 70% pure fastballs. That last three years his fastball percentage has dropped from 37% to 23% to 15% in '12! Sooner or later, that's a prescription for a "tore up" arm. 

The spring training photos in the Sunday magazine were great and got me thinking about those guys that didn't make the majors. Any early returns from the minors catch your eye (good and bad alike)? Has Lannan righted the ship? How about Purke and Alex Meyers--are they going to make us forget about AJ Cole?

Corey Brown played himself in the majors last week with a big season in AAA. Lannan isn 't doing well, to say the least (6.12 ERA). He's better suited to the majors than the minors. (Too long to go into.)

Daniel Rosenbaum (LHer) in AA has been this year's Tommy Milone: 6-1, 1.69 ERA in 10 starts. Finally got hit hard (6 ER) in last start. Until then his numbers were ridiculous. 

Anthony Rendon looks like he's out for most or all of the year. Man, he's looking brittle. And destin Hood has regressed. Too early for much on Purke. Alex Meyer, 6-foot-9, high 90s mph,  has 55 Ks in 48 IP in A ball, but a 4.10 ERA. Needs polish, has stuff.

Thank god the football offseason seems just that - OFF. The nationals have captured the mind of at least this DC citizen. We'll see how much more of a dent they can make in the coming months/years.

We definitely shall see __soon.

Hard to get psyched for NBA (for me) until a Heat-Spurs final. No pleasure in watching Heat beat up old Celtics with help of refs. And anybody who talks Redskins right now should be put on double-pemanent probation.

In April, the Nats average attendance was 24,346, which is more like that they've been drawing in May the last couple of years. Then in May __before Memorial Day, which is when attendance jumps up everywhere__ the Nats averaged 29,346, with 30,852 in their last 7-game home stand, which included 4 weekday games against San Diego and Pittsburgh (awful draws); that's usually what the Nats draw in June, after school is out and kids come more.

So, what happens in June-July-August when the Nats, and most others draw best __by a lot. In '05, though it's hard to remember (or believe) they averaged around 38,000-a-game all summer in RFK. That's not going to happen. But I suspect we'll see three months with average crowds close to 30,000. 

Is it just me, or is this kid already one of the most entertaining players in baseball? Let's just hope that he pitchers work around him some more, just so they can face Zimmerman.

Absolutely agree. Here's an enthusiastic blog post comparing Harper to 15 of the greatest HOFers in their rookie years __most 21 or older, not 19.

Makes Harper look VERY good in all areas, especially his batting eye (walks) at such a young age.

Tom, This is looking like Davey's best job as manager. He is the perfect man for this job. He is weaving a gem what with the injuries, youngsters, the pitching staff etc. What grade would you give him so far?

Davey deflects. (As he should, imo.) He always says what he did wrong, including some things that weren't wrong, but serve his purposes to put that way.

Imagine what Ozzie Guillen would be saying about himself __indirectly__ if he were looking so good with so many injuries.

In one paragraph, you risked multiple jinxes. "Gio has pitched as a pro for 9 years and never missed a start." And, "none of the Nats top pitchers has ever had a significant shoulder injury," to which you added, parenthetically, "including Detwiler who's never had arm problems." You're killing me, Boz.

Just so I don't kill them.

Hey, I didn't want chatters to read that blog __about Nats Doomed to career ending injuries for Strasburg, Gio and Z'mann__ and jump off the roof.

RGIII has yet to take a snap from scrimmage in an NFL game. Isn't it a bit premature to say the pick - and the deal that acquired the pick - a success? It's hard to place him in the same category as Strasburg, Ovechkin, or even Harper at this point. And none of these players were acquired by trading away assets - doesn't that impact the measurement of success for him?

All good points. Sorry about that premature Redskin enthusiasm. Should have learned my lesson the last 20 years. (But RGIII really has special talents and great makeup __see I can talk like a SEC coach with an IQ of 80.)

I'm guessing LA vs NY was the preferred matchup but the Kings v. Devils should be pretty compelling. LA has rolled through the West, any predictions for how the stack up against the Devils?

Just so "Torts" is gone for the summer.  What a condescending jerk.

Just wanted to thank you for your Tweets and encourage more of them. They're some of my favorite reads!

Well all right! I enjoy 'em.

And that tweet is ThomasBoswellWP

See everybody next week. I hate the fact that I leave and still have new questions left to read, much less answer. Summer's here __have at it!!

So, when Adam Jones becomes a free-agent after 2013 you think he'll want to sign with DC's baseball team? Oh wait................................... Thoughts on the deal Jones and the O's agreed to?

Good deal. A "must do" as I said here last week.

Full disclosure: Livo is one of my favorite Nats and I have loved watching him throw everything from gems to clunkers in his classic "What-me-care?" fashion. So, watching with my dad, we were hoping that Livo would make Harper jump out of his shoes in the first at bat (that's a REAL old school "Welcome to the bigs, kid) -- and he did not disappoint. And now, of course, you watch for how The Kid learns if Livo tosses him another slowball. Boy did he learn! Scary that he's only getting better. Love that he never seems to make the same mistake twice.

Good stuff. I was thinking much the same. Thanks.

Strasburg made a comment about working with a friend in the off-season on hitting. I had one theory, based on some tweets and my husband came up with a different one (before I shared mine). He thinks Strasburg might have been working with his college coach in the batting cages. I thought he might have been getting some help from a CF from up the road. Any thoughts?

Ha!! The Tony Gwynn of hitting pitchers! Must investigate.

Is it always this much fun to have a contending team?

Yes.

By the 10th or 12th year, it gets a little redundant.

In This Chat
Thomas Boswell
A Washington Post columnist since 1984, Thomas Boswell is known for the many books he has written on baseball, including "How Life Imitates the World Series" and "Why Time Begins on Opening Day."
Recent Chats
  • Next: