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July 9, 2012

11:06
A.M.

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

Past Ask Boswell chats

Total Responses: 27

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About the host

Host: Thomas Boswell

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."

About the topic

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

Verducci - SI and I Have Dream

Verducci (SI): First-place teams should start printing playoff tickets. Teams with an outright division lead of any length at the All-Star break go to the playoffs 73 percent of the time (61 of 83). Any team with a lead of more than five games is a virtual postseason lock. Nats. Gawd. Link

A.
Thomas Boswell :

One site has the Nats with a 78.2% chance of making the playoffs. That's probably about right.

Looks like .540 or 87-88 wins will be enough for the 2nd wildcard. To get to 88-74, Nats would need to go 39-40. For 90-72, which has to be a 95% chance, they'd need 41-38. That shows how realistic it is.

However, when surprise teams go bad, they usually really go back. I always look at ~110 games as the start of an August melt (for any team) before saying, they'll stay in it all the way.

The Nats are going to have countless adventures the next few years. We're just starting on the first one. They'll probably have at least one losing skid, maybe a couple. They have to learn how to deal with it, just as Harper will have to deal with the media mob here today asking him about being the first 19-year-old All- Star player (not pitcher). 

– July 09, 2012 11:05 AM
Q.

Justin Upton

Would the Nats considering making a trade for him?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

The Nats don't need a centerfielder. They have found one. It's Harper. Nobody seems to have noticed.

Harper has started 20 of the last 21 games CF (and 27 of last 32). When Werth gets back, obviously Harper will play CF the rest of the year everyday. Davey (and Rizzo) must be comfortable with him out there.

It's hard to judge defense with simple stats, especially small samples. But in chances-per-9-innings, Harper is above average at all 3 OF spots. CF: 2.75 vs 2.48 MLB avg. RF: 2.15 vs. 1.99. That doesn't prove he's above average. It may show that, simply because of his speed and alertness (he's READY when the ball is hit) he's at least average.

Let me use this excuse for my favorite topic of the day: Does Harper deserve to be on the N.L. All-Star team? Or is this MLB hype because America wants to see a 19-year-old and wants to see Mike Trout, age 20, and Harper on the field in the same game?

Very few seem to have realized that Harper should be measured against other CFers, because that's what he is now. MLB still lists him in their stats as a LF (!!) because that's where he player his first game back in April. But his starts by position are 33 (CF), 23 (RF) and 6 (LF).

There are ONLY four CFs in the N.L. who deserve any consideration for the AS team. McCutcheon and Bourn are on the team. Only Dexter Fowler might have a small gripe. But I'd take Harper because Fowler's offense is so directly a product of Coors Field at a mile high.

Harper 63g stats projected 162 g: 112 r, 39 doub, 10 trip, 21 HR, 26 SB, .826 OPS. 

FanGraphs's WAR for Harper is 1.7 which would be about 3.8 for all of '12 at the same rate and over 4.0 for a full season. That's very good, certainly All-Star level.

Fowler's h/a splits=1.085 OPS in Coors, .717 away.

The good NL outfielders who didn't get picked who might have a complaint are Prado, Pence, Kubel and Heyward.

If you want to say that Kubel (60 rbi) and others have played all year, okay. But I think Harper is a solid choise on the merits. Right now, McCutchen, Bourn and Harper are probably the 3 best CF in the N.L. so far this year.

– July 09, 2012 11:07 AM
Q.

Catcher

Are you sold on Solano as backup catcher. He had a pretty rough day on Sunday when he tried to backhand a ball he should have blocked, allowing the winning run to score. An analogy would be you have a teenager driving a Ferrari. A veteran catcher might be a good pickup.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

The two wild pitches on Sunday to give the tie run, then the winning run to the Rox was a reminder that the Nats have fragile or untested spots on their team. You could see on TV how upset Solano was, even looking at his eyes between the bars of his mask. Those closeups don't give you much privacy!

Yes, if the Nats needed something before the trade line, and it wouldn't cost much, I'd say its a veteran catcher with good defensive and pitch-calling skills. But Solano has done very well up until Sunday and you still have three weeks to decide.

– July 09, 2012 11:07 AM
Q.

Lucas Giolito

Any rumors of what it will take to sign him?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Nats say they won't go high enough to incur a luxury tax (or whatever the new term is). But I think they'll do what it takes to get him.

The whole Strasburg inning-limit discussion is also in play here. Why would a top high school pitcher, who has touched 100 mph but has also had minor arm issues, sign with the Nats, rather than go to a good college, if he saw the Nats pushed Strasburg back and didn't follow best medical practices with him? I'd say the chances are exactly 0%.

Another reason to treat Strasburg properly __it helps you sign amateur free agenst as well as MLB free agents who are pitchers.

 

– July 09, 2012 11:11 AM
Q.

Nats' Starting Rotation After SS Sits

Boz, Will it be Gio, Jordan, Edwin, Det, and Lannan/Wang? Or could they go with four starters given the incredibly deep BP? Thanks
A.
Thomas Boswell :

They will have to go with a 5-man rotation because they close the season with 16 games in 16 days.  I've always said I thought Lannan would be back, and valuable.

Davey is out this morning saying that he will be disappointed if the Nats don't win the N.L. East.

http://wapo.st/PAORSF

This is the right position to take. Especially because it's true. Always be aggressive, set high (but not unreasonable) goals. He didn't say "best record in N.L." even though they have that, too.)

The Phils will get better with Utley and Howard back. But not MUCH better. If they played at their 102-win rate of last year for the rest of this season, they would only end up with 85 wins.  And that would probably not get a wild card. Even if they could do it. Which they can't.

The Phils may be next-to-dead, but they're going to give some NL East team heartburn in the 2nd half as a spoiler.

Miami just lost slugger Giancarlo Stanton for at least 4-to-6 weeks with knee surgery. Miami is 41-44 and -56 in run differential. Is that a team that's going to catch the Nats if they play decently? Atlanta has always been the main issue, though the Mets are certainly better. If Dickey ends up 24-2, then maybe they will win 86 (their current rate). But what if he doesn't?

It'll get complex. A 4-game division lead can disappear in a week. If they are better than the Braves, they are probably not much better.

But look at the players from whom the Nats can expect much more production in the second half: Morse (missed 50 games0, Z'man, Storen, Harper (who missed the 1st 20 games), Tyler Moore and Werth.

Everybody will have injuries in the 2nd halfd. But it's just as possible that the Nats will play as well after the break as they did before.

– July 09, 2012 11:23 AM
Q.

Advice to Nationals Fans that aren't Baseball Fans

My wife is probably like a lot of people in the area these days. She has come to love the Nats! It's as much about the players and how well they seem to get along as it is about the winning. But she remains adament that she is NOT a baseball fan. She wil not watch other teams play and will have no interest in the All-Star game, except, perhaps, when the Nats are playing. She keeps getting excited and deflated about every rally or killed rally, every win or loss, every up and down. I tell her that in a 162 game season, even the best teams will lose to the worst teams sometimes. Any sage advice that you would like to share with her and other like-minded fans about the whims of baseball?

A.
Thomas Boswell :

Tell her to read your thought question! You've got it right.

As Earl Weaver once told me, when we were chatting in the dugout tunnel before the game __I'd lost track of time__ and the National Anthem started playing. I apologized. Earl said, "Don't worry. This isn't football. We do this every day."

An absolutely essential gift of the best players is to be in tune with the game. I once compared "the gamer" __the player who isn't too low after a defeat or too high after a win, who gets more intense when the team is getting sluggish, but gives off calm when everybody is nervous in a pennant race__ to a tuning fork that has just the right vibration. 

Tell her she has to get in tune to appreciate the game and not let it drive her nuts. Go nuts in the post-season. But day to day, look for smaller trends and, even in loses, smaller pleasures.

– July 09, 2012 11:28 AM
Q.

Shutting down ... Harper?

Mr. Boswell: While I only vaguely remember what it was like more than four decades ago when I was 19 (and reading Povich!), I do recall being tired now and then. Harper and Johnson certainly seem to have thought four days of rest would do him some good. Now that opportunity is lost, and he will only get two days rest. Being an All Star is an honor, but is this a concern, now or long-term? His body is even less "mature" than is Strasburg's, does he not need to be shut down, too? Or at least rested occasionally? And what of his off season? Can an MLB All Star play in the leagues where 19 and 20 year old prospects typically play? Or should he just take three or four months off to recharge his batteries?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Harper mentioned to me that, last season in the minors, he lost weight and strength as the season went along and that he planned to do much in-season weightlifting (!) to stay strong. MLB food is a LOT better than A-AA! But he looks like he needs to put a few pounds back on. That's hard to do in 100 degrees.

Davey and the Nats were right, four days off would have been better for Harper. But MLB called. And it may keep calling at All-Star time for a long time.

Okay, I know you want this. How does Harper compare to Mickey Mantle and Ken Griffey, Jr. at the All-Star break in their first seasons when they were both 19.

Harper: 248 ab, 43 r, 70 h, 15 doubles, 4 triples, 8 HR, 25 rbi, 10-for-13 on steals, .282/.354/.472. OPS = .826.

Mantle: 238 ab, 41 r, 62 h, 8 doubles, 5 triples, 7 HR, 45 RBI (he hit in mid-lineup), .261/.341/.424. OPS = .765.

Griffey: 269-43-75-(13-0-13)-38. .279/.343/.472. OPS = .816.

So they are very similar. Mantle finished the year with 341 AB and .267/.349/.443. But the next year OPS .924 and 3rd in MVP. Will Harper make such a jump at 20, 21 or 22?

Griffey ended at 455 ab and .264/.329/.420 OPS = .748. The next year, at 20, he was .847 OPS, AS, GG and 19th in MVP. So, Harper is close to where Griffey was at 20.

As long as Harper keeps playing well, these comparisons will be made and should be made. He's doing remarkable things at a ridiculously young age and that's big news.

These "comps" are another reason he belongs in the AS game. What Trout is doing at 20 is more like what Fred Lynn did at 21 when he was Rookie of the Year and MVP, too.

So, to answer your points, Harper probably needs a day off now and then after Werth gets back. And, no, I doubt Harper will play winter ball. Though plenty of young MLBers do. But not ones who play everyday __and at a ferocious pace__ like Harper.

 

– July 09, 2012 11:42 AM
Q.

Zim's post-playing career

I hope Ryan Zimmerman has a long and productive career with the Nats. But once that ends, do you think he has a future as a manager? He's always struck me as unusually mature, and he seems to answer questions with a directness that's unusual for a player of any age.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I doubt it. He's more like Cal Ripken, Jr. Perhaps an executive.

My plane out of the Baltimore got delayed by the storms last night by 2 1/2 hours, so we got into K.C. about 1:30 a.m. (EST). Bil Ripken was on the flight so we took a cab into town. He said that it amazes him that EVERYWHERE Cal goes, no matter how secret they try to keep his travel plans and what plane he's on to wherever he's going, there are "always autograph hunters" who meet him the instant he gets to the area where you meet friends and family at the gate. "They've got a nationwide network. Somehow they find out. There's not there by accident. They'll all have Cal Ripken jerseys or memorabilia with them for him to sign."

I asked Bill how hard they tried to keep Cal's travel private to avoid this. "Clandestine" was the word he used, laughing. Where there's a free buck, and all that's needed is no conscience, there's a way.

And here I thought Cal had signed at least 2 autographs for every person in America back in his playing days.

– July 09, 2012 11:49 AM
Q.

Is the ASG the New Pro Bowl?

Every year a number of players opt out for what seem to be pretty dubious reasons. My dad played parts of 11 years in the majors and would have killed for a chance to be in an an All Star Game (not really, but you know what I mean) but never came close. This just seems sad to me.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

It's always been this way in my time. Gary Templeton's famous line and saying he wouldn't go to AS game unless he was in the starting lineup: "If I'm not startin', I'm not  departin'." Jump Steady might have thrown a couple of "ain'ts" in there to liven up the quote.

With the (ridiculous) 2,356-man rosters __is it 34?__ they still have quality teams. And you can bet that the teams with the highest winning percentages in the two leagues are especially interested in home field for the World Series. I always like to look up who those teams are to see if their players look more motivated.

Lemme see, who are those teams this year. Gotta check. Oh, yeah, the New York Yankees and the Washington Nationals. (I think I hear the music now: "Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets...")

– July 09, 2012 11:54 AM
Q.

Werth's Impact on Return

Boz, Trying to get a head start, in case power goes out again tonight. Wondering what your thoughts are about the impact Werth's return in late July is likely to have on the team--not just Tyler Moore's and Lombardozzi's playing time, but the team dynamics. I know he's in the clubhouse and dugout now, but the team's done reasonably well without him, hitting's up recently, and if he goes through Spring Training in July/August like Morse, etc.,, just wondering whether his insertion then, while inevitable, will likely be good or not-so-good.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

They can't wait to get him back. He's very popular and respected. The team leaders are Desmond (now everybody's starting to see why), Werth, Zimmerman (quietly), Harper (due to his intensity, fire) and...actually I'd say that in different ways LaRoche and Morse are leaders, or part of the excellent chemistry.

And the Goon Squad leads from the rear. Note: For the season, the entire Nats bench __defined as "every at bat in every game by somebody who was NOT in the starting lineup that day"__ is around .830, or the Same as the career numbers of LaRoche or Zimmerman. (Thanks to John Dever.)

Davey said he was going to build a bench that was VERY different from the one last year __and he certainly did.

– July 09, 2012 11:59 AM
Q.

Storen, Werth, Tracy...

So, we're on the verge of those three returning. That will affect the bullpen, starting lineup, and bench. What moves will have to be made to accommodate the return of these three guys?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Oh, the Nats suddenly discover more amazing unexpected reasons for players to go on the DL just in time for their return. All teams do it. Nobody goes to the minors. Just an MLB "taxi squad."

– July 09, 2012 12:01 PM
Q.

NatsNut

I'm suddenly anxious and excited about the second half. It's truly when the posers fade and the real deals surge. I really, really, really, really hope my Nats are the real deal.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

The Nats are for real, don't worry. BUT they are going to go through lots of amazing stuff __some good, some bad__ over the next several years. Look at the 1st half of this season: all the bad injuries opened up chances for other players, including Harper, to develop more quickly. Hold onto your hat for the next few years. I think Sunday's loss, small in the grand scheme, was a useful sobering touch to end the 1st half! 3-4 vs the miserable Rockies. The Nats aren't the '75 Reds. They're very good when their starting pitching is healthy. That's been their remarkable good fortune. Remember, they are at least a year ahead of schedule.

Long-view, the Phils "window" really does look like it has closed at least a year earlier than almost anybody thought. Soembody is going to be the next Best in the N.L. East. That's why this season suddenly takes on more importance than anybody (certainly me) thought it would. There's a new divisional order emerging. What'll it be?

– July 09, 2012 12:07 PM
Q.

Nationals

I just want to say that I've been watching Nats games for the past 4 years and going into this season I was hoping they would be 10 games better than our previous season and we'd end the season with a winning record. I'm excited that they could win the division but personally I think that's just gravy. This team has consistently improved over the last two years and really I think that's all you can ask of a team/management, improve. Even if things go way south in the second half we have next season which has always been the year I thought the Nats would be real contenders. Maybe we make the postseason this year maybe we don't. 2013 is the real deal as far as I'm concerned and this year is just a fun warm up!
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Such gaudy displays of good mental health Will Not Be Tolerated.

– July 09, 2012 12:08 PM
Q.

Desmond and regression

Did you see this first half coming from Ian Desmond? I find it interesting that his slugging percentage is up, but his OBP is more in line with his career rates (his OBP is only ten points higher than his career rate, but his slugging percentage is 100 points higher!). Is he in line for a huge regression in the second half or is this the real Ian Desmond?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

In his MLB debut, Desmond had a double and a 430-foot HR that took one huge bounce up by the Red Porch in deeeeep leftcenter. Next game, 4-for-4, then 2-for-5, 2-for-4 with a double. He was an aggressive hacked with tons of pop. I have always seen him as that guy. And I've nagged Nats people about it. (Of course, I also nagged them to extend Adam Dunn __okay, and Josh Willingham). Somehow, somebody (or everybody) talked him into being a top of the order guy who should try to walk and slap the ball to RF.

It drove Davey crazy. Complete misuse of talent. He's taught Desmond "The Move" that makes you a power hitter (he says) that he learned from Hank Aaron the year he hit 43 home runs. After Desmond's 17th HR on Sunday you may have seen him in the dugout grinning and demonstarting a move where he rolls his left hand over __like a golfer "pronating" his wrists, to use Ben Hogan's old term for his golf "move" through the ball. I think Ankiel was one of the guys laughing with him. Well, that's Davey's "drop the head on it" move. Similar to golf, where Davey had a negative handicap for many years (better than scratch). 

Just so Desmond doesn't get HR conscious. Espinosa had 16 homers at the break last year. As they say, just hit it hard, don't try to hit it out.

– July 09, 2012 12:17 PM
Q.

Pittsburgh

They're putting together a nice season in the Burgh and have some talented young pitchers on the way up. As a Nats fan, I wouldn't trade places with any other team but my first choice might be the Bucs (if only bc I really can't stand Atlanta). Do you see Pittsburgh as a team with a legitimate shot or do you expect them to fade in the August heat and succumb to the very talented Reds?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Pittsburgh is much, much better. They gave the Nats fits. That +32 run differential tells you that, if they stay healthy, they probably stay over .500. Just as the Orioles' -36 run differential tells you that, unless Tillman and Gonzalez (the RH SP) solve the Arrieta-Matusz rotation problem,  Baltimore will probably head back under .500 in August.

– July 09, 2012 12:20 PM
Q.

Would you take Soriano to get Dempster?

Assuming Strasburg is shut down for Tommy John reasons (something I fully agree with), might the Nats look into acquiring Dempster from the Cubs, even if they had to take Soriano as well, with Chicago paying most of his salary? (I'm guessing the North Siders would want Moore and probably two minor-leaguers in return.) Unfortunately, Dempster's current hot streak and better contract status might make him harder to pry than Greinke. BTW, I think it's great that for one night, Harper will be a teammate of Chipper Jones and play for Tony La Russa. Come 2032, Bryce might find himself the ship passing the other way.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Nice point about Chipper, Tony and Bryce!

The Nats only want a starting pitcher in trade if he's exactly who they want and they can sign to a multi-year extension immediately. That's very unlikely. I mentioned that in the chat last week. Mark Lerner talked along those lines last week. This is a long-term team. 

After watching Greinke get ejected after FOUR pitches because he spiked the ball in anger after a close play at 1st went against him, it just reminded me of what a jerk he can be with teammates at times. Remember he showed up Jerry Hairston after an E5 in the playoffs last year. He's the anti-Gio Gonzalez. All that plays into decisions.

BTW, 6-foot-9 Alex Meyer, drafted in '11, only threw six pitches in the Future Game here on Sunday and got a 6-3 and K. But his fastballs were 98 with one at 99. I mean, do you really want to trade prospects for a two-month Ryan Dempster rental when you've got Meyer (98 K in 84 IP in A Ball, 3.32 ERA)  and others in the pipeline? Pay more attention to getting an extension done with Jordan Zimmermann like the one they did with Gio. Right now, if the playoffs starter, the best rotation, because of consistency and ability to go deeper into games, might well be Gio, Z'mann and then Strasburg. OK, you'd probably say, "Aw, come on, you gotta start Strasburg." He has the staff leader presence.

– July 09, 2012 12:30 PM
Q.

Desi

Hats off to Desmond on his fine first half of the season. He is a team leader, defensive ace and deserving of the All-Star nod. Sad that he won't be able to participate but I look forward to his second half. In football, 3rd year WR usually make a leap forward--do you see Desmond making that leap and do the Nats see Espinosa as one year away from that leap?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Yes. They think/hope Desmond and Espinosa will be together for years. And that people will remember them in the same breath. Espinosa's swing LH looks better. Last 54 games (a third of a season), Espinosa is .255 and .768 OPS. Forget the Espinosa problem. It's gone. Now the question is how much more he can improve LHed.

– July 09, 2012 12:33 PM
Q.

Are the Red Sox as bad as they look?

I know, a ton of injuries, but playing Gomez at third? He can't even play 1st all that well. They look like toast to me; you? And while we're here, are the Yankees as good as they look right now?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

The Phils are sunk. The probably Red Sox won't make the playoffs this year __after the Youk trade it sure doesn't look like Bobby V and that clubhouse worked out well at all. Yanks aren't as good as they look now, but they've got another year in 'em. I think I said that 2-of-3 out of Phils, Red Sox and Yanks would miss playoffs this year and that, in future, they'd be more like .550 teams __as a group__ than .600 dominant teams. Huge difference between them defining the sport and merely being part of it and not certain to come out on top. I still think that's right.

– July 09, 2012 12:36 PM
Q.

ALR?

Do you see the Nats and ALR agreeing to come back for '13? Seems that one side or the other always wants to opt out of a mutual option...if not LaRoche then who plays 1B in '13, Morse, Marrero or Moore? Rizzo seems clear that Morse is NOT a MLB quality 1Bman and Marrero & Moore are nice pieces, but hardly the glove or stick you want at 1B on a championship quality team...
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I'd like to see LaRoche back next year. But if he has 100 RBI somebody is going to offer him a LOT of money. And the Nats probably won't want to go that many years because they have other options __a monster slugger free agent within 2 years or the M-M-M boys or Rendon if he ever gets healthy.

– July 09, 2012 12:39 PM
Q.

Federer et al

Roger Federer has to be one of the top 5 or 10 athletes all time along with Jessie Owens, Tiger Woods, Muhamed Ali, Wilma Rudolph. Who else belongs in the top 10? Phelps? And four more you can think of.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

As the Post's tennis writer or tennis columnist from ~'75-to-'86 I really enjoyed both Wimbledon finals. Yes, Roger probably in Top 10. But, man, if you think about it, a Top 10 for ALL sports is almost insanely hard to think about. Obvious you put Babe Ruth on there. The longshot winter Olympics skater Eric Heiden has been lost in mists of time but shattered every winter gold medal record. Who's your No. 1 all-time basketball players? Jordan? 

I'll chicken out on this one. Babe Didrikson's in there, probably. Now you've ruined/made my day!

One more and outta here. Thanks.   

– July 09, 2012 12:44 PM
Q.

DC's Natitude?

Let's say hypothetically that the Nats win a world series in the next 2 years, while the Skins continue to flounder as always. Do you think that will change the pecking order of franchise popularity in this town. FYI I am lifetime DC Sports fan, and love all our teams, even the Wiz.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Lets be honest. I'm supposed to supply the "historical perspective" here.

If things work out well for the Nats, I'd say that they GO to a World Series in the next four years while they have Strasburg, and almost everybody else, under team control. Winning a Series is a whole other thing. That might happen in '14 or '34. The post-season is a crap shoot. Look how close the Rangers came and didn';t win the Serie4s against a Cards team that was dead a dozen times.

What we've got here is a wide window of wonderful baseball opportunity, something the area hasn't had since the '30's. If you want to set a goal like "win several N.L. East titles" or win >450 games in a 5-yr period, that's sensible because you can sort of control your 162-game fate. But you can't control October. Though power pitching gives you your best chance. Every year the goal is "Get To October" or "win the division" or even "have homefield advanatage through the NLCS. That's how you build a franchise. But if you put too much weight on October, it leads to back decision making. Theo Epstein said it right (paraphase): Win more than 90 almost every year, then see what happens. And there have been quite a few teams that were able to do that for 20-25-year periods __like the '61-'83 O's, '91-'12 Braves and various fine versions of the Cards, Dodgers, etc.   

– July 09, 2012 12:52 PM
Q.

Bryce's attitude

Harper is such a good kid. When first asked how he felt about making the all-star team, he answered honestly and was disappointed that he couldn't take a break and go home to his family. Then he remembered to say the right thing, that it's about the fans and that he's happy to do it for the fans. I like everything about his reaction -- that he would've preferred a break and family time over the glory of the ASG; that he really knows it's for the fans and is happy to do it for them; and that he knows the importance of saying the right thing, even at 19. But will it be spun the other way? Will Harper ever get over the anonymous "bad, bad kid" thing from before he was drafted? He hasn't done a single thing that I think reflects poorly on him (not even the blown kiss, which was just fine, IMO).
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Leave out the kiss and I'm good with the rest of what you wrote. I suspect I'll be writing about something along those line for tomorrow's paper. It'll be interesting to see how Bryce interacts with the medai masses at 4 p.m. today.

Enjoy the All-Star Game. See you next week.

– July 09, 2012 12:54 PM
Q.

Great First Half!

So I recall over the winter in a chat you said that your calculations on the number of wins the Nats should reach this year came to 93. You framed it as "I'd never put that in a column" as yours and most prevailing wisdom had the Nats around 85-87 wins and the fringe of the playoffs (depending on 1 or 2 Wild Card spots). But your secret formula of running numbers that you ran multiple times kept coming up at 93. Fast forward now to the All-Star break and the Nats could go 44-35 and hit that 93 win mark. Seems utterly doable. First of all, I hope it turns out that you are utterly prophetic. Secondly, how rare is it for a team to improve by more than 10 games at an 80+ starting point? Going from 60 to 70 and 70 to 80 is good, but for my money MUCH easier to do than making the jump from 80 to 90. I imagine it doesn't happen a ton. What do the numbers over time say?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Thanks. Hey, I've got to use that one!

Yes, I've looked for teams that made steady jumps like the Nats __59 wins to 69 to 80 to whatever this year. It's so rare I'm not sure a team has EVER done exactly that: +10 or more for three straight years. Plenty have made huge junps in a three years span but not in exactly the same increments. 

– July 09, 2012 12:59 PM
Q.

Questionable 9th Inning

Boz, Why did Davey sacrifice Espinosa in the 9th yesterday to move Desmond to 2nd? With the bottom part of the order due up, we couldn't afford to give that out away. Also, why didn't Ankiel bat for Flores? Seemed like we unnecessarily managed that game away.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I wwant to ask Davey why he didn't bat Ankiel. Maybe he wanted a RHed batter up when they pulled the first-pitch double steal. He can't take Flores out after that one pitch or he'll have no catchers left. Also, it is traditional to think that an everyday player, who gets at bats constantly, has a better chance to come through in such a tough clutch spot where a single wins the game. So, you sacrifice the LH vs RH edge for the Everyday Player vs RH.

I'd also like to know how much math went into the value Davey attributed to the double steal. With that one play, he creates a ~20-to-25% chance that Flores gets a hit and wins the game with 2 RBI RIGHT THERE. Without the double steal, a single only ties the game (IF you even get the single which is a <25% chance), and, in extra innings, you've probably only got a 55% chance to win.

Before the double steal, the Nats have to do multiple things right to end up with a win. After it, they are one hit away. Also, how much weight do you put on a RH hitter (Flores) hindering the catcher's throw to third to, potentially, end the game.

Enough. See ya. 

– July 09, 2012 1:08 PM
Q.

Dopes

Tom- do you think its really appropriate to call at least 75% of your readership "dopes" for not wanting to shut down Strasburg if the Nats are in a pennant race? When was the last time DC won anything in professional sports? Give me a break. Rest him, skip a few games here and there, anything but giving up on a World Series. Regards, A "Dope"
A.
Thomas Boswell :

We ran a poll on the Strasburg question. The final score was 83% to shut him down and 17% to let him keep pitching. The number of people I insulted just went way down. (I hope.)

– July 09, 2012 1:10 PM
Q.

All Star Game Hosting

How many more years until the area around Nats Park is built-up enough to land the ASG?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

3 or 4. Just my guess.

– July 09, 2012 1:10 PM
Q.

Ian Desmond's fielding ability

Boz, What is the opinion of players and coaches on other teams in the MLB of Desmond as a fielder?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Excellent range. Jittery hands at times. Great arm, now accurate. All-in-all, one of the better defensive SS's around if he can keep his errors under ~25-a-year. Last year, 23, this year pace for 24.

One of the most important long-term questions for the Nats is just how good Desmond is. The guy's on a 34 homer, 101 RBI, 48 double, 22 steal, .285 pace. That's not All-Star, that's on the way to superstar. With all do respect, I assume we've seen him at his absolute hottest. But the possibility is now open that he's not just, potentially, a very good player with fine clubhouse value, but a downright wonderful player. That's "team changing" when it's a shortstop. We'll find out in the next year-and-a-half.

– July 09, 2012 1:18 PM
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