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August 18, 2014

11
A.M.

Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

Total Responses: 28

About the hosts

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.

Past Ask Boswell chats
Q.

Closers

I'm not one who's been calling for Soriano's head, but I admit to being a little worried. Still, Storen has had his troubles, and I remember a number of Cardiac Clip outings from before the Break. At this point, especially maintaining a six-game lead, don't you have to give Soriano a chance to straighten things out?

A.
Thomas Boswell :

The general rule of thumb for fans when it comes to closers who blow leads is that "one" gets you down to your last chance and two in a week means you are the Devil incarnate.

Soriano is a good closer. He's not one of the very best, so fans will be impatient. His career ERA is 2.80 which is typical of the famous closers. Few few are much lower but 2.80 is elite. His ERA as a Nat is 2.89. They got what they paid for. (He was largely Ted Lerner's gift to the fans to make a big run in '13.) Desmond tweeted last night that the fan's reaction to Soriano on Sunday was ridiculous.

But I see the similarities to a closer like Jeff Reardon who still had the numbers, but not the same stuff, as he aged. The Braves probably ruined a chance at a World Series win by believing he could make it all the way through October.

This will sort itself out. Soriano had pitched in four of five games. On winning streaks, when he's needed a lot, Williams acknowledged yesterday that it might be a good idea to use Storen, Clip or Thornton, who have all closed, for one day to make sure RS has the proper amount of work and rest. Just a "maybe."

The guy with Closer Stuff is Clippard ho's as hard to hit as Kimbrel, even though he doesn't throw 99. He closed for much of '12. But he's enormously valuable where he is. Obviously, if RS's problems continue you can "flip" him with Storen. But I doubt that will be necessary. A six-game lead allows patience. For now, just let Soriano work it out. As October gets near, then take one last Big Look.

– August 18, 2014 11:06 AM
Q.

Potential Upside of Strasburg and Harper

Do you know if baseball insiders in general and the Nationals front office in particular have re-assessed the potential upside of Strasburg and Harper?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I assume everybody has noticed that Strasburg lost a tick on his fastball after TJ surgery. (Z'mann didn't.) So, I think that surgery took him out of the Greatest Prospect Ever category. 97-98-99-100 makes everything else look better. 94-95-96-97 doesn't warp hitter's minds.

Harper is 21 and his mechanics and mental approach are messed up right now. Look at his numbers from '12-'13. That's a fine OFer. Will he be Griffey or Trout? "Everything changes everything." Right now I'd say, "No." But he'll get back to '13 levels and probably trend higher over the next few years. That's a star. A superstar? You have to prove that.

Nats are delighted to have both. Advanced metrics say that Strasburg is now one of 10 (or so) best FIP, xFIP and SIERA pitchers. He's just unlucky this season. I'd just say he's somewhere between his traditional stats and those numbers. BUT in his last start he may have pitched inside -- hard and time after time, better than I've ever seen him do. His teammates really approved. That may be a key moment for him if he sticks with it.

– August 18, 2014 11:06 AM
Q.

Winter Classic

Any inside scoop on what's going on with the game location? I assumed Mark Lerner's involvement with Monumental would make it easy to work out an arrangement to host the game at Nats Park. I guess I was wrong.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

$$$ is always a good place to look.

– August 18, 2014 11:07 AM
Q.

Fister/Rendon Ritual

In attending two games at Nationals Park when Fister was pitching, I noticed that after Fister finished his warmups for each inning, he walked over to Rendon and they conversed for a few seconds. This reminded me of Dave Letterman talking with someone off camera before beginning his monologue. Do you have any information about this?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Fister's  last 17 starts -- 12-2, 1.89 ERA.

But those zany advanced metrics say he should be a 3.50 ERA pitcher and the fifth best in the  Nats rotation. Sometimes I feel like all the fancy stats are saying, "Who are you going to believe? Me or your lying eyes?"

I think Fister's habit is to make eye contact with all four infielders -- maybe make an upbeat gesture at them like "Everybody ready to go" -- and Rendon may be the last in the ritual.

I've finally formed an opinion: If the playoffs opened tomorrow (they don't), I'd start Fister in Game 1. It's not a debate about "ace." It's just that he's pitching so fabulously this year and sets such a mature tone. Also, he has MUCH more October experience than any other Nats, including that World Series start when he ignored the line drive off his head (that bounced to the CFer) and retired (from memory) 14 of the next 15.

In that can't-see-the-ball 5 p.m. starting time on Sunday, Fister pitched the first four innings -- when the shadows were worst for hitters -- like his feet were on fire and he wanted to get back in the dugout to pour water on them. Almost all strikes and as little time between pitches as possible without "quick pitches." No hits through those four. Hitters had no chance.

– August 18, 2014 11:15 AM
Q.

Asdrubal Cabrera

He's got game - good glove, solid ABs. Should Rizzo look to sign him to four, five year contract rather than letting him walk?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Cabrera, rightly, probably wants to sign somewhere as a shortstop. (Not a second baseman.) So the Nats would be smart to assume he wouldn't prefer to come back to DC. Since the Nats ARE smart, I assume that is their operating assumption. Got that? I assume.)

– August 18, 2014 11:18 AM
Q.

Braves sweep the A's

From a Nationals' perspective, what should we learn from the Braves sweeping the A's? That the A's are free falling (7-10 since the trade) or that the Braves are righting their ship (or keeping up with their streaky ways with a winning wave right now)?

A.
Thomas Boswell :

Streaks lead to opposite streaks. I hope I mentioned in a past chat that I thought the Braves might go from very cold -- and a team-wide hitting slump -- to very hot -- with power -- immediate afterwards. I've seen it happen so many times. One at a time hitters chance "cold" from each other untility feels like they'll never score again. Then, one at a time, they catch the other contagious disease -- hot -- from each other and got nuts for a week or more. IOW, Nats picked a fortuitous time to go 6-0.

Braves also got Andrelton Simmons back at SS after sprained ankle. After Freeman, Kimbrel, he may be their biggest piece. Just an amazing fielder. Desmond is pretty good, except for nervous hands on routine grounders at times and those odd April error binges. But Simmons is from a different defensive world. The more you see him the more you say, "Is there ever a Braves game where he doesn't steal at least one hit?" Like watching Brooks, Ozzie Smith.  

– August 18, 2014 11:24 AM
Q.

Rizzo's picks

In a recent chat, you suggested that the Nats were willing to move Zach Walters in part because he was not a good fit for the team from a personality perspective. I think " arrogant" was the adjective, a word that some might say applies to Harper. This made me think about Mike Rizzo and his standards. What can you tell us about what he looks for in his players, how he assesses players for team compatibility, what traits are deal-breakers, etc? What is the most important trait that unites a team ranging from the brash Harper to ultimate team player Ryan Zimmerman?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Good character. Ability to blend, work with, others. A player who listens and learns. But once in a blue moon you go for amazing talent and a big personality. Some stars are Humble Harrys. Many aren't. Harper falls in the good character class. Blending, learning and listening, maybe not as much as when he was 19.  His teammates like him. That doesn't mean some wouldn't tweak him a little.

I see/saw nothing wrong in Walters. In fact, I saw a lot that was good. Hope he tears it up in Cleveland.

– August 18, 2014 11:31 AM
Q.

Sports psychology

Sports psychologists are common among PGA tour players. Are they employed by baseball teams as well? It would seem that a starting pitcher or two on the Nats could benefit from one. Thoughts? Thank you.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Baseball has used them for many years (decades). It's team by team. Long ago the White Sox even had a Team Shrink (I think) that did group sessions. Maybe the Sox were just trying to get a bulk rate.

Something simpler might work for the Nats. I'd have the grounds crew put a white dotted line in chalk from the pitchers mound to first base when Gio pitches. I bet he'd never forget to cover first base again.

– August 18, 2014 11:37 AM
Q.

Ryan Zimmerman

Do you think he'll be back before the playoffs?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I don't think anybody knows whether he will be back at all. Maybe his hamstring knows. I asked Rizzo about it yesterday. He said what was obvious (and true): "You can't know until you test it." In other words, think that it's improved enough so you can test it. Then stress it a little more the next time. Bit by bit, you find out.

Z'man DID come on the field for the walk-off celebration on Saturday night. After everybody was done with the crazy stuff, he did a little mini-chest bump with Ramos. But he DIDN'T jump. So, can't feel too bad if he comes on the field. Can't be too great if he doesn't jump one inch.

My gut is pessimistic on this -- based on absolutely nothing.  I suspect the Astrubal Cabrera trade will prove to be very important because it allows the Nats to field an entire credible team without Z'amn. Rizzo called the injury "a big blow" yesterday and said the whole team -- veteran players and coaches -- had consciously tried to raise the vibe of the team internally so they wouldn't go flat because the lose of Z'man is so central to them. It took a while but seems to have worked. "I had to do my part, too," said Rizzo who got Cabrera and Thornton. I found it interesting that the Indians picked up the rest of Astrubal's contract for '14 -- which allowed them to demand a better player in return (Walters). I assume any team/GM would prefer to pay a fraction of a year's contract and KEEP the better prospect. So the Nats payroll really does seemed pretty maxed out, as I believe Mark Lerner mentioned months ago. They picked up Thornton (on waivers) but his remaining pay was much smaller, so not a problem, I guess.

Talking to Kevin Frandsen yesterday he volunteered that the team gets a boost from having Zimmerman with them for home games but "we miss his personality" on the road. (He has to stay back to get proper treatment. Said he was one of the game's outstanding (and unselfish) clubhouse personalities and he knew it when he was a Phil and only had it reinforced as a Nat. (They had some interaction in Minors, too.)

It's a huge issue, imo. Without Z'man, I'd guess they win a round but n ot the pennant. With him, they have as good a chance as anybody to go all the way. BUT there are probably 4-or-5 other teams with legit "could gfgo all the way" written on them, too.

BTW, to answer an earlier questioner, looks like A's might have serious compromised their offensive synergy, and maybe team chemistry, when they traded Cespedes and all his power/presence in the lineup EVERY day for Lester, who's a force once every five days.

The A's can say that the trade wasn't just about October. But it was: Need an ace to get over the hump in post-season. Now the A's may be in danger of ending up in a wildcard game if they don't get busy in their 10 remaining games against the Angels. Ex-Nat Derek Norris batting cleanup between Donaldson and Moss last night in Atlanta just isn't the same as Cespedes. (Norris went 0-for-4 in a 4-3 loss. Lester got the loss. Just one example of the forms that a trade "not working as expected" can play out.) 

– August 18, 2014 12:01 PM
Q.

manfred

What should we expect with the new commish?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

An extension of Selig's policies. Good man, smart, knows everything that's happened the last 20 years. His special areas were labor relations and tough drug testing -- the two most important areas of improvement in the last 20 years.

Long ago I'd have reacted to that thought -- "more Bud"-- by jumping off a cliff. Now it seems like a good idea. Especially compared to a hand-picked Reinsdorf front man to start another ruckus with the union. Ironically, long ago, Bud was Reinsdorf's front man as the owners prepared for the '94 war. That experience taught Selig some (painful) wisdom. He changed to Lets-Work-Together (well, kinda). Jerry, apparently not so much.

– August 18, 2014 12:07 PM
Q.

Taylor

Why was he brought up?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Speed, good glove in CF, killing the ball at AA, including power. And Stephen Souza, who was called up first, went on the DL after hitting the wall in Atlanta.

Looks like he has a ton of tools, great attitude, but probably needs more seasoning. This was his break out year as a hitter in the minors. But these big-league pitchers are mean.

– August 18, 2014 12:10 PM
Q.

NFL preseason results have a inverse relationship with regular season

It seems that that in the NFL preseason, bad teams must work on getting their players integrated into the system, so they try much harder. Good teams only care about staying healthy. So it is pretty obvious that wins in the preseason are an indicator of bad things to come. (e.g. Redskins last year were 4-0 in the preseason.)
A.
Thomas Boswell :

That's a REALLY good analysis.

I'm looking forward to going to the Skins-Browns exhibition tonight, but more for the RGIII-Manziel-LittleShanny circus than real insight into what the Skins will do this year. I'm trying to talk myself into optimism -- which for me would be a four-win jump to 7-9 -- because Grudern is so appealing compared to Shanahan, who really was the least appealing person to coach a D.C. pro team during my time. Formidable X-O coach and good at the riding-crop school of vengeful discipline. But after that, hard to come up with more compliments. Sometimes they say "you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone" and that means you didn't fully appreciate what you had. But that can work both ways. Skins followers probably suffered from some Stockholm Syndrome with Shanny in town. You don't fully appreciate how much more fun it is to follow the team until he's gone.

Yeah, but what about the 10-6 season, some would say.  That was completely neutralized, maybe even negated, by the decision -- almost unbelievable in real time -- of leaving RGIII in against Seattle when he was a compromised player.

Skins looked organized vs Pats. If the first team defense gets a shot at Manziel -- and that was the worst Skins defense since '54 last year -- I still think they'll get the better of Johnny. Skins focusing on more pressure on defense. Manziel loved to be pressured, and escape it, in college. But he sure looks like a little guy. NFL pressure may seem entirely different to him.

– August 18, 2014 12:25 PM
Q.

Staton vs Harper

If you polled all the GM's in MLB, would you rather lock Staton up to a long term deal at market value (or even a hometown discount) or have Harper who is cheap and under team control. IE which team would blink first and is it close? While Harper is young, GS creates a hype of must see baseball each time he comes to the plate.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Giancarlo Stanton in a heart beat. He's only 24! And he has already proven to be what Harper hopes to become in his highest-ceiling scenarios -- a total slugging monster.

Stanton missed 86 games with injury in '12-'13. (It's not just Harper who gets hurt.) This year he's played in every game and is on pace for 42 homers and 115 RBI in a lineup where he has little protection.

– August 18, 2014 12:33 PM
Q.

MO'NE DAVIS--BASEBALL'S BIGGEST STAR?

It's refreshing, but a bit sad, that a 13-year-old girl has more star power than major leaguers like Stanton, Kershaw, Trout and Verlander. Seems like we're in an era of bland baseball superstars. Did baseball stars have more of a mystique when we saw them less often?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I've seen her interviewed -- very composed, wants to be UConn's point guard someday. And I've seen clips of her pitching. But, no, I don't think she has the "star power" at 13 of Clayton Kershaw. I think she has the Great Story power of this moment. Fun to see her enjoy it.

Completely aside from Mo'ne Davis, I've never been too much of a fan of Little League or the Little League World Series. Pretty much defines Too Much Too Soon. There's a reason that the phrase "Little League Parent" is part of the language.

– August 18, 2014 12:38 PM
Q.

Great column today

Hey Boz, I really enjoyed today's column. It's amazing what a great GM can do for you. The Strasburg and Harper drafts were no-brainers but so many other picks Rizzo has made, in addition to so many of the trades and FA signings, show Rizzo's real value. The real irony is actually that the no-brainer drafts have arguably contributed less than so many "lesser" pieces (so far). How much does Rizzo depend on metrics and how much does he rely on his own eyes?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Thanks. Mike says the Nats rule-of-thumb formula is 65 percent scouting (eyeballs) and 35 percent stats. But with a lot of respect for both. It's not just his eyes. The list merely starts with Doug Harris (player development), Kris Kline (scouting), Bob Boone (player personnel) and Bryan Minniti (stats). When you talk about eyes for the game, it's hard to beat scouts like Bill Singer, Johnny DiPuglia, Kasey McKeon (Jack's son) and a half dozen more. The Midnight Raid that Kasten and Rizzo pulled off __stealing 17 (I think) scouts, stat crunchers and front office people in the first hours when their old contracts ran out with other teams may prove to be the most important day in Nats history __more than any one signing, free agent or trade.  And, to their credit, that's what Kasten and Rizzo said at the time.

"Moneyball," in a way, made it possible. It was a slanted-for-effect book that had a big accurate point to make, but didn't care much about nuance or people's feelings. Scouts everywhere felt unappreciated, almost mocked. The pendulum had swung too far. Mike the ex-area-scout as GM (and his dad, the career scout) made the Nats the natural home of the disaffected who wanted to band up, have some juice in a rising organization and "show 'em." They're doing it. The guys with 300,000 miles on their cars and enough "points" to fly around the world 10 times should have a very big party if the Nats ever make a World Series. 

– August 18, 2014 12:50 PM
Q.

Fister or Gortat

The trades that brought Doug Fister and Marcin Gortat to Washington are easily the best DC sports trades of the past 12 months, and early results indicate that the Cabrera trade could end up near the top of the list, as well. What do you think is the best player(s) for player(s) trade in Washington sports history? (Exclude draft picks for draft pick trades like the one that landed RGIII.)

A.
Thomas Boswell :

Wow, my mind just froze. That's every sport over a 50+ year period.

Norm Snead for Sonny Jurgensen, when I was a kid, may be my favorite. People thought it might be an even deal.  Norm was a mad bomber type and Sonny was thought to be about as uncontrolable and ready to party as....Johnny Manziel?

Gortat may be the Best Quote that D.C. has gotten in trade in a long time. He's smart, he's funny, he's off the wall. His personality and confidence is as big as he is.

– August 18, 2014 12:54 PM
Q.

Zimmerman's and Werth's shoulders

Ryan Zimmerman had shoulder problems in 2012 and played well after a cortisone shot. The word at the time was that he could not do additional damage by playing. Now his shoulder is arthritic. Two questions: I know you are not a doctor, bu has anyone in the know suggested or even wondered if Zim's shoulder problems were exacerbated by playing in 2012? Could the same be happening to Werth now? Given how much money is tied up in both players, if there is a risk of shoulder problems, the Nats need to be pretty careful.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

That question crossed my mind as soon as Werth had the shot. It's completely valid. Teams say they are helping inflammation go away. But many times you are also masking pain to keep playing. And it can certainly cause more injury. But you never know when or how much. Some players never seem to pay a price. I covered a lot of Orioles who "got shots" to play out a season. Jim Palmer hated 'em but, if I remember correctly, got some anyway.

You are only allowed to play one first baseman at a time. You don't want to end up with Z'man and Werth ONLY able to play 1st base in a couple of years. I doubt it works out that way. But it's a concern.

– August 18, 2014 12:58 PM
Q.

Fister Trade

Boz, Despite some early-season contrarianism - following Fister's early-season injury and Robbie Ray's early promotion - it seems clear that the Nats have entirely hosed the Tigers in the Doug Fister trade. Value this season so far, from all contributors (WAR via B-R): (WAS) Doug Fister: 3.7 Total: 3.7 (DET) Robbie Ray: 0.0 Ian Krol: 0.0 Alex Gonzalez: -0.6 Total: -0.6 So, the Tigers - who are an old and rapidly aging team, and now a full game and a half behind the *Royals* in the AL Central, did a 4-win-plus nosedive on a single trade, just when Miguel Cabrera starts looking human again and Justin Verlander puts up an 87 ERA+. Dave Dombrowski gets a lot of credit for almost always winning trades (and indeed, Ian Kinsler is second on the Tigers with 3.9 WAR), but Mike Rizzo is looking pretty good in this category, too.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Good stuff. Thanks.

– August 18, 2014 12:59 PM
Q.

Nats Weekend

What a weekend! For the pessimists out there, I guess there's enough there to fret about. Still, watching a player getting mobbed by his teammates never gets old - the look on Scott Hairston's face after the sacrifice fly almost made yesterday's game worth it.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

The whole three-generation Hairston family defines classy professionalism. Great to see Scott get to show the latest example. "Did you get the pitch or the location you were looking for?" "Both." Big grin.

– August 18, 2014 1:01 PM
Q.

2014 PGA Championship

Hi Boz, I found the final round of the PGA championship mesmerizing. It seems to me that in most golf tournanments, the players are battling the course and weather conditions more than each other, but not so near the end of Sunday’s final round. McIlroy, Mickelson, Fowler, and Stenson were going at it and it was a lot of fun to see the lead changes from hole to hole. I really enjoyed Mickelson’s chip shot on the 18th green that he aimed directly at the cup. If that shot had gone in, the place would have exploded. How can other golf tournaments better create that kind of direct competitive environment? It would do wonders for the game of golf from a viewer’s perspective. Related, I read an article by a journalist who opined that David Feherty’s assistance in looking for Jason Day’s lost ball was a serious breach of the journalist’s code of 'not inserting one’s self into the story/event'. Feherty didn't agree citing the gentleman's code of golf, whatever that means.

A.
Thomas Boswell :

Good points, all. I save the last hour of the PGA to watch again just because it was so much fun. And I thought Phil might actually knock it in. You can't plan for tournaments to end like that. They just have to happen, which is part of what makes sports so great. In a sense, sports tops fiction -- regularly. Things you wouldn't believe -- or accept as a reader or viewer --in a book or movie actually happen all the time in sports. Like a smart appealing 13-year-old girl throwing 70 m.p.h. in the Little League World Series.

As for Feherty, I've casually looked for players balls in the rough when I was covering tournaments. Never "saved" anybody. I remember how hard we all looked for J.C. Snead's ball behind the sixth hole at Avenel on Sunday when he was leading and had a chance to win his first (and I think only) PGA Tour event. 60 people couldn't find it. He blew up and lost.

Long ago, I saw a very well known player's drive go in the rough at a major championship. Everybody was looking in the wrong place. I was young and didn't want to open my mouth and say, "Over here." As time was about to run out, the player's caddie said, "I found it." Quite a few yards from where I was pretty sure I saw it land in the weeds. But I was only "pretty sure." And I might have been wrong. Still, it's not something you ever forget.

– August 18, 2014 1:12 PM
Q.

Come on, Boz

I've never liked Soriano. I think he has an attitude problem and isn't a team player, but I am always willing to put that aside if I think the player can actually help the team. He doesn't. He puts us at risk every time he enters the game. For a while he even had a pattern: get one out, put two on, then try to escape that jam. And sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn't. I've yet to meet a fan who trusts him to protect the W in the ninth. So what is that all of us fans are missing? Writers and the coaching staff seem to trust his stuff, and I really cannot fathom why.

A.
Thomas Boswell :

Sorinao has as good command of three pitches as any reliever in the game -- most days he can "throw them in a teacup." He has a wonderful feel for "reading the bat" and has the guts to go back to a "hole" in a hitter's swing two or three times in one at bat -- and "make the pitch" every time with the game on the line.

His success isn't an accident. He knows exactly how he does what he does. And I've enjoyed talking to him about it. Most fans, frankly, are not qualified to evaluate him. He lives on the edges and never gives in. Next time, watch the hitters, not his pitches -- which aren't bad pitches, just not as overpower as some relievers. They always take awkward uncomfortable swings, seem off balance. EXCEPT on the days when he's missing over the plate. Then, "WHAM."

Soriano is a relief PITCHER, not thrower, in the mold of later career Trevor Hoffman and Doug Jones.

He's pitched well deep into the playoffs, including the Series. He's got the ice water in his veins, the implacable stare. He never lets them know what he's thinking -- or feeling. Or if he's even feeling anything. (He is.) They wonder if it's "just a job" to him so he has a huge edge -- the hitter is nervous, under pressure and this damn guy doesn't seem to care if he wins or loses. He doesn't even back up bases some times. "His own drummer" can be unnerving.

This is the case for Soriano over the last several years. Can he still be that guy or are we watching deterioration? That's the right question, imo. But those who say "I just don't like this guy" probably misunderstand how he pitches, why he succeeds or why his imperious manner, apparent indifference and annoying "untuck" all play into an effective relief persona. And a LOT of closers have worked on that identity.  So has Soriano. Teammates say, "He knows how to do it and he's been doing it a long time." There's a lot hidden underneath those words. 

All that said, he's got to get it fixed pretty quick or, like any reliever his age who doesn't throw 97+ anymore, the game will move on to the next closer.

– August 18, 2014 1:25 PM
Q.

Since you brought up the long term of the ball club

I know your mantra has often been to enjoy what we have now and not worry about the future, but you brought the future up in today's piece... How long do you see the Nats keeping Fister? What does the rotation look like in two years? Who's the odd man out? Roark? Gio? Nice problems to have.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Nobody knows those answers now. What is known is that Roark is under team control through  '19 and Gio through '17. Lucas Giolito, who justed turned 20 (!) last month, is graded the best pitching prospect in the entire minor leagues. After his TJ surgery soon after he was drafted -- the Nats took at late-first-round chance knowing he'd probably blow out his already injured elbow--  his first three pitches when he came back were all clocked at 100 mph. This year at Hagerstown (A ball), in 98 innings he has allowed only 70 hits, fanned 110 with a 10-2 records and 2.20 ERA. I'd be surprised it, healthy, he isn't as good a big leaguer as Jordan Zimmermann -- which is saying a LOT.

If Fister or ZX'man aren't in the rotation after '15, you can be pretty sure Giolito, Strasburg (through '16), Roark and Gio will be. Also, A.J. Cole is a top prospect power pitcher.  Austin Voth, FIFTH-Round pick in '13 from U of Washington has as good or better numbers as Giolito and, at 22, has raced up through AS-A+-and-AA ball already this year. At all levels, he has a 2.27 ERA in 122 innings with a tiny 79 hits  allowed and 132 K's.

A few years ago, the olny Nat farmhands with such numbers were the rare Z'man, Z'mann, Strasburg who dominated the minors. Then the fall-off to the "others" was huge. Now Souza, Taylor, Walters (bedfore trade), Giolito, Voth, Cole (and others) are putting up the same kind of numbers that future standouts usually post. They won't all fail.

Oh, here's a link to a piece I haven't read yet in our Fancy Stats (Neil Greenberg) on Soriano's best-to-worst month.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fancy-stats/wp/2014/08/18/how-the-nats-rafael-soriano-went-from-best-to-worst-closer-in-a-month/

One more and that's it for today. Sorry about so much baseball, but it's, well, baseball season. But we can all feel the NFL season coming. Too bad their pre-season tells us so little. But soon, soon, we'll have substantial stuff to chew on. Thanks for all the questions.  

– August 18, 2014 1:42 PM
Q.

Stras pitching inside!

Hi Bos, Love your chats and will leave the Soriano rants to others today. Watching Stras against the Mets, it was the first time I can recall him pitching inside as much and making the hitters uncomfortable. He pitched a gem. Did something just click for him and is he getting over the hump or am I getting too excited about one start against the Mets lineup?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

It was consciously planned. One veteran Nat hitter pointed out that it is much more effective to throw 25 fastballs inside, most for strikes, at 95-96-97 than to just occasionally brush somebody back. You are constantly getting pounded in, and up and in, either on the black or a little inside. It's very uncomfortable and sets up his great curve and change.

 

– August 18, 2014 1:46 PM
Q.

Maria Sharapova

Did you see, or follow, Sharapova's behavior at the Cincy tournament, where she mocked Ivanovic for getting a medical time out? Not just mocked her, but mocked her several games later in response to her - Sharapova's - own inability to serve. I don't know why, but it's still surprising to me that someone as ruthless and impersonable as Sharapova is the richest female athlete. I used to respect her for her grit and determination, but she is a hypocrite (10 minute bathroom break to mess with Madison Keys' mind just two rounds earlier) with no class. Please tell me someday we will mature past deifying leggy blondes.
A.
Thomas Boswell :
– August 18, 2014 1:49 PM
Q.

Nats the source of the Orioles' success

Boz, a lot of O's fan have been quite smug in the comments sections of Post articles (and elsewhere), saying that Nats fans shouldn't complain about the MASN deal and we should be grateful we have a team thanks to the magnanimity of Peter Angelos. I'd argue that O's fans should be grateful for the Nats. With competition for tickets, Angelos has been forced to produce a competitive team. To my mind, without the arrival of the Nationals the O's would still be AL East cellar dwellers. What do you think?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

The O's didn't start to compete in the A.L. East until the Nats became a strong threatening team.

Looks like Nats attendance is in a surge, now up to 32,316 a game, may soon pass the Cubs and into 11th place. Looks like they edge last year's attendance, which was a reaction to the '12 team.

– August 18, 2014 1:59 PM
Q.

Tyler Moore

Barry Svrugla wrote a very good article about our "26th Man." I can't help but feel for him--married less than a year and a thousand miles away from his bride. Why is there such disparity in salary, living conditions, etc, between AAA and the majors? And how hard must it be to be bounced up and down like a yoyo, never having any idea what will happen next? Much as I would hate to see it, should we trade him to someone who needs a first baseman and would give him more playing time?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Great story by Barry. Read it if you missed it.

Don't think Tyler's going to get a full-time shot at playing in D.C. Like LaRoche, I hope for Moore's sake that he's traded. I think he's Josh Willingham. Which would be a nice career, even if it gets started late (now 27) at the MLB level.

Outta here. Thanks agin.

– August 18, 2014 2:02 PM
Q.

Beltway World Series

What are the chances? The topic has come up in my house a few times now, though I think the odds of both the O's and Nats making it all the way is pretty slim. However, if you had to pick one of those two teams to make it to the World Series, which would you go for? I'd say the O's, I don't believe the Nationals have demonstrated they can win big, important games yet.

A.
Thomas Boswell :

If you are high on the Nats and O's, then maybe you'd say their chances of reaching the Series are 3-to-1 or 4-to-1 with five teams making the playoffs in each league.

So, the odds on both might be something like 12-to-1 -- if you think the Nats and O's have a really good chance. That's remarkable. It's a long shot. But NOT THAT LONG.

– August 18, 2014 2:05 PM
Q.

MASN hearing today?

I understand there is supposed to be some sort of MASN-related legal procedure today. Any chance there is something newsworthy afoot?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Oh, we've got it covered. Gotta love a good baseball brawl. Not many of 'em on the field anymore. So this will have to suffice. Billionaires with lawyers, "what more could be better."

(Editor's note: Follow James Wagner on Twitter for the latest updates.)

– August 18, 2014 2:09 PM
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