Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

Sep 02, 2014

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

E.g., Desmond, Harper and Espinosa: With a two strike count whatever happened to protecting the plate and making contact rather than swinging for the Anacostia River?

Everything needs context. This is the era of strikeouts. Far more pitchers grow up knowing how to use better mechanics and emphasize weight work to gain "core strength" which lets them throw harder. So, what used to be awful K totals are now normal. The Nats rank ninth highest in strikeouts. Not good but not a big problem.

The Nats ALSO just moved into the No. 1 spot in the N.L. in runs scored, if you exclude the Rockies who are a fluke because of mile-high Coors Field where they average 5.86 runs a game. On the road the Rox score only 3.29, which is an awful 15th in the N.L.

So, any analysis of the Nats hitting should have that context -- in a high-K era and in a season when Ramos, Z'man and Harper will miss over 220 games with injuries, the Nats lead the N.L. in scoring.

That said, Espinosa obviously has a big K problem hitting LHed. RHed, you can live with all his offensive numbers. So far in his career Harper has averaged 146 K's per 162 games. That's high but for someone with his power production -- a career .818 OPS even including this year --it's OK, especially in such a young player. Harper spreads out in the box with two strikes as much as anybody you'll see and is very conscious of avoiding Ks, putting ball in play. It's one of the more "advanced" parts of his game.

Desmond, I think, is special case. He's a natural fifth or sixth hitter whose primary job is to "do damage," not worry primarily about getting on base or minimizing Ks. But when he lays off breaking balls in the dirt, he can have very impressive "good at bats" against fine pitchers. His homer off (King Felix) Hernandez in Seattle on Friday was on the 10th pitch of an at bat where he started off down 0-2.

Since Jayson Werth started playing for the Phililes in 2007, Philly has won 586 games (as of Monday); the Nationals have won 599. Teams with Jayson Werth have won 710. Maybe those Philly fans should reconsider their Werthless chant?

I suspect they learned that in '12 when Nats won N.L. East with a lot of help from Werth's leadership, come  back from injury and .300 average. Werth, at 35, still leads by hard-nosed example about as well as anybody. He takes extra bases. His hitting with RISP has been over .340 this year. That's partly luck/randomness. But it still counts.

His first inning homers in Seattle on Saturday and L.A. on Monday were tone setters in victories by Strasburg and Gonzalez.

Any insight as to why Seastrunk was not signed to the practice squad?

I thought the 80-yard TD on the screen pass in the last exhibition game would probably get him a spot. A runner with strong legs and speed, too. I'll be interested to see where he ends up. Redd certainly looked better overall. Skins have good depth at running back. (Wish you could ssay the same for O-line.)

Boz, I don't know what to make of Bo Porter's firing. The Astros appeared to be an improving team and then the GM says the firing was not about wins and losses. I thought Porter was highly thought of by Davy when he was here so was this a bad situation or just a power struggle with the GM.

Don't think he was as good in-game as expected. Made some head-scratching decisions. When Bo left, many (including me) thought the Nats might have lost a valuable future manager. But I certainly think the Nats are better off with Matt Williams. Sometimes you don't realize when you get lucky. But Porter did well enough -- with potential for a 15-win jump this year by the (still lousy) Astros -- that he'll get another shot.

Ex-Post super reporter Richard Justice (now at MLB.com) worked in Houston for years and knows all about the Astros. His tweets since the firing seem to indicate that he thought the Astros front office was probably right to move on from Porter. He noted that Bo apparently asked the PR staff for the quotes from his players that appeared in news stories. Not the stories themselves, just the quotes. If Richard is right on that (and he's very seldom wrong), it's curious. However, most of the immediate heat seems to be on the Astros front office, not Bo. So, lets wait for more time to see what else comes out.    

Anyone planning to attend the Nats game on Saturday, September 6, might be interested in arriving in time for the National Anthem, which will be performed by 500+ performers ringing handbells. The anthem will be played at 3:56 before the 4:05 start against the Phillies.

Noted.

Would a Nats crowd ever arrive late? (Oh, sorry, I thought all those people still arriving in the top of the second inning were a mirage.) 

Any idea as to what's changed with Denard Span and the home run hitting, it seems very out of character for him? Also is the operative assumption in clubhouse that zimmerman will be back for October, and if so what do you think should happen with Cabrera, both in October and next year, he has been impressive to say the least.

Span's hot and is probably as shocked as anybody at two homers in one game. He's having his best year. He should think: "DON'T hit any more HRs this year -- don't mess up your stroke.") I bet he's already thought that.

Astrubal Cabrera was been a wonderful pick up. I really liked his play at second for the Indians as a rookie. I wondered if he was just as good now as then. Answer: almost! He was almost other-worldly then and had to be moved to SS to use as many of his gifts as possible.

No reason to think he'll be back next year with Nats. He's a free agent. He can be a starting SS for many teams. That's where he'll get the biggest multi-year contract by far. The better he plays the more the chances of keeping him drop from 1% to 0%. So enjoy him. He's never gotten the attention that a two-time All Star shortstop who switch-hits with some power would normally get. That's what playing in Cleveland will do to you, even when they finally make the playoffs ('13). Enjoy him.

Looks like the Nats have very good news on Ryan Z'man. It really does look like he'll be back around the middle of this month -- unless he has a setback. I was very close to writing in this chat that I doubted he'd return this year. Nobody knew. Hamstrings don't talk. But they do heal. That's a huge plus for the Nats. For one thing, it may let LaRoche take some days off the last couple of weeks of the season for his back to feel better. The Nats really need every LHed bat they can get in the post-season. 

One of the huge positives about getting Cabrera is that the Nats now have one "extra" starting-quality player for October. That is much more than just "aa good problem." It means you might be able to withstand an otherwise very damaging injury. For example, what if you lost LaRoche for the DXivision Series but knew you'd get him back for the NLCS or the Series. You could put Z'man at first and still have a fine lineup.

What if they are all healthy? With a month to go, don't even say such a tempt-the-gods thing. But a very healthy Nats team would be very tough to beat in October -- even for the maybe-better-on-paper A.L. West elite in LA and Oak.

I was looking at the rest of their schedule - they go a long stretch without a break (17 days in a row, if I counted right). How will that affect them as we come to the end of the regular season?

Not at all.

They just brought up three pitchers who have had success in the past with the Nats: Aaron Barrett, Blake Treinan and lefty Xavier Cedeno. That's as big a Sept 1st addition to a club as I've seen. They now have a bullpen so deep, and an extra starter if necessary, that 17 in a row shouldn't matter. They also brought up Tyler Moore who can spot in LF or 1st and, soon, Stephen Souza (when healthy), as well as two decent backup catchers.

They are so deep its ridiculous. I'd actually love to see a 14-inning battle with the Braves in which they use nine relievers. Could happen. 

Like many DC baseball fans, I had to adopt the O's for far too long. The most gut wrenching moment of that forced relationship was Amando Benitez vs the Indians in the '97 playoffs. I realize Soriano is a much more accomplished reliever than Benitez ever dreamed of being, but despite all the untucking bravado I don't see Soriano as someone that batters fear and would dread seeing him in a close game in a playoff scenario. Convince me that it's not 1997.

Sorry, can't help you there. But I did see "Full Pack" Don Stanhouse close for the '79 World Series Orioles.

A Soriano note: I was talking with Joe Maddon, Rays manager, last week. He said, "Say hello to Raffy for me. What a great person. One of my favorite players ever." I said, "Rafael Soriano?" We laughed. Soriano is widely misunderstood. Maddon said, a paraphrase, that if Soriano just opened up a little bit, he'd be a very popular player. But that stoic act, and a little arrogance in the untuck, is part of his Closer Act. You can't be warm and cuddly and The Implacable Hired Gun, too.

I mentioned that Soriano felt especially bad about one blown save this year (on a HR). A few days later I was talking to him about it and he said,  "It was my mother's birthday" and he felt he'd spoiled it by failing. Maddon talked about how smart he was about pitching, how he studied the HP ump throughout the game to know the K zone when he came in, how he mentored other young relievers. 

AND Soriano did close for the Rays team that reached the World Series.

Now, after all that, plus the fact that I enjoy talking to him (his English is more than good enough, my Spanish non-existent. Why did I take all that useless French in school?), I will say that he reminds me far to much of another favorite player of mine -- Jeff Reardon, who saved 367 games in his career.

In '91, he saved 40 games. In '92, he still saved 20 more at age 36 but was losing his stuff, getting b y on smarts and location. The Braves, who needed a closer, acquired him late in the season. He had a 1.15 ERA in 14 games for them, then had three shutout appearances in the NLCS to help them reach the Series. I held my breath every time he pitched because he was so gutty under pressure -- he had a 0.00 ERA in the '87 Series as the Twins closer -- but, I thought, doomed to an awful moment.

In Game 2 of the World Series in '92, he came in for the top of the 9th with a 4-3 lead to face the Jays 7-8-9 hitters. Piece of cake. He got a line drive out. Uh oh. Then he walked a pinch hitter. Then another pinch hitter, Ed Sprague homered to turn a 4-3 win into a 5-4 loss.

In Game 3, the Braves called him into a bases loaded, one out jam in the bottom of the ninth of a 2-2 game. Talk about a tough spot. In his earlier days, when his nickname was The Terminator (honestly), he might have blown somebody away or gotten a DP ball. Another nobody pinch hitter -- Maldonado -- walked him off with a hit.

Maybe by telling the story I've exorcised it. But I certainly know what Nats fans are feeling. 

If, over the next month, Soriano rediscovers his best form, he can still do the post-season job. He still throws 93, plus slider and cutter, unlike Reardon who was 37 by the '92 Series and couldn't hit 90. But if he keeps looking as "off" as he has since the All-Star game, the Nats may have to do some hard thinking. But that time isn't now. Show confidence and hope the Best Sori shows up again. Remember, just two months ago he deserved to be an All-Star. 

Giddiness, I tell you. Giddiness! I need to calm down a bit. So if you were trying to explain to someone why the Nationals WON'T win the World Series this year ... what would you say?

They can. And I think they have the best chance of any NL team of reaching the Series. BUT there are four big words that stand in their path to the Series (much less winning it): Cardinals, Braves, Kershaw and Soriano.

The Cards are getting healthy and maybe coming on strong at the right time with Yadier Molina back and Wacha on rehab assignment. If the Nats meet Cards in a DS, they'd have home field advantage if they won the N.L. East. And Cards aren't as good as they were in '12 while Nats are better (when healthy). But they still have head-to-head trouble with the Cards. If Nats met Braves in post-season, I think they'd beat them; but, even though the Nats have won three of their last fve games with the Braves that hardly means that they "play them well." Nats need to establish -- in their six September meetings -- that Atlanta no longer owns them .

Clayton Kershaw will, this year, join only five pitchers who have won three Cy Young Awards in four years: Sandy Koufax, Jim Palmer, Pedro Martinez, Greg Maddox and Randy Johnson. True, Kershaw had a bad game in the '13 playoffs. But "historic pitchers" are not what you want to meet in a 5-game DS where Kershaw might pitch Games 1 and 5.

As for Soriano, I've already worn that subject out. He's good. But this is a period with more 97-to-100 mph closers than the game has ever seen. He's out of the mold. Doesn't mean he couldn't do it.

So, be as optimistic as you want. Plenty of Series winners have been of the same general quality as the current Nats.   

But October is about a hundred factors. Then, when they actually play the games, you realize that factors No. 101, 102 and 103 all mattered more than the 100 you thought of.

Mr.B: If I heard correctly on ESPN's "Mike and Mike" this morning, Kershaw has a two-season ERA that beats everything going back to "pre-Black Sox" Chicago. Is he that good?

His '13-'14 ERA in 55 starts is 1.79. So, yes, the facts prove he's "that good." But, in nine post-season games, six of them starts, he's 1-3 with a 4.23 ERA. In '09 and '13 post-seasons combined he's allowed 20 runs in 36.1 innings. So, he's not untouchable. Does he have a slight case of nerves? Seems doubtful. Career vs. Nats: 10 games, nine starts, 6-2 with 2.79 ERA. So, you might want to watch the Nats game TONIGHT to see Kershaw -- both on his enormous merits and to see how the Nats cope with him. Baseball will amaze you. If you'd told me that Nats would hit 14 homers in their first four games in Seattle and LA, including four homers off King Felix Hernandez, I wouldn't have believed it. They "should" have hit maybe three. So, maybe they're hot and hit three homers off Kershaw tonight or maybe he no-hits them. It's baseball. It really could be either.

It's hard to complain when a team is 20 games or so over .500, but there's this one thing I don't understand. Whenever a close game gets out of hand in late innings, usually it's Ross Detwiler or Jerry Blevins who gave up the insurance runs to the opposition. Why are these pitchers who specialize in Giving Up Runs in Late Innings still on the team? What am I missing?

Blevins had a three-year track record in Oakland that was very good -- 10-1, 2.81 ERA in 155 games. And his stuff looks good now. "It's a mystery." But the arrival of Matt Thornton looks like a case of Rizzo to the Rescue. He's been trying to get Thornton since last winter. Now we see why. 

The addition of the three call-up relievers should "awaken" Detwiler and Blevins, I suspect. Instead of, perhaps, feeling pressure and disappointment at their poor seasons, they'll sense competition. Fear is a wonderful motivation to run faster (or pitch better). 

Your column on Strasburg no longer being the clear No. 1 starter caused social media to go all... atwitter (I apologize). Since then Fister's had a couple of rough outings, and Zimmermann continues to be a machine (and remains the one I'd want for a must-win game). But more interesting to me is the other end of the rotation. Gio pitched very well yesterday, with two walks (his nemesis) but none after the second inning. I think the next few weeks determines who's the fourth playoff starter. What happens to the fifth? Is he the long reliever you hope you never need?

As I mentioned last week, there are reasons to see Roark as an excellent fit in a post-season bullpen. But he's so competitive that I think he could handle October starts. Strasburg had one of his best "command the fastball" games in Seattle. But he still backed a couple up over the plate that he escaped -- one of a Werth running catch and a couple of other long outs. If the Nats keep a healthy lead, there'll be plenty of October rotation debates. But, in whatever order, your first three certainly look like Strasburg, Z'mann and Fister. 

He is not an NFL QB, he is a marketer, and even if his football potential were within reach, his injuries would prevent it from being realized. So is this a case of the Emperor Has No Clothes, with everyone wanting him to succeed because they have nothing else? Or would Kirk actually be a better choice?

I just shake my head at this nonsense.

Twenty months ago, this guy was even money to be the greatest Skins player in 50 years. He really did have an historic season, as a recent Fancy Stats post of ours pointed out.

Just chill. (Yes, I know this is impossible for DC.) This year -- the ENTIRE YEAR, all 16 games, no matter what -- are about RGIII learning to play QB in the NFL with more emphasis (but not exclusive emphasis) on pocket-passing and defense reading.

Then all of NEXT YEAR will be about...The Same Thing.

Get over the hating, folks.

And Kirk Cousins isn't close to being the answer. These men have actually played in the NFL. We aren't projecting college players. Cousins has throw 203 passes. His career QB rating is 68.6 (bad). Last year it was 58.4. His AverageNetYards/Attempt -- the "OPS of the NFL -- is 4.60. (That includes the influence of sacks as well as all the other stuff.) 

RGIII's "awful" '13 was better than Cousins career numbers: 60.1% completions, 16-12 TD-to-INT ratio (Cousins is 8-10 career), and a 82.2 QB rating with a (poor) 5.48 ANY/A.

Sorry to introduce facts into the discussion.

The Skins offense wasn't the main reason they were 3-13 last year. It was the worst-in-50-years defense and the worst-in-the-history-of-mankind special teams. The offense was mediocre. Griffin, with a coach who hated him, was an average NFL QB.

This is a case of The Critics Have No Clothes. Griffin will eventually be a good or very good NFL QB. Great? Don't know. Maybe not. That may bed the true 'bad news." But he will be the starting QB in Washington in 2020 (if he can stand upright). QB's who have great seasons as good as '12 and bad seasons as decent as '13 Never Go Away in the NFL. 

Look at the history of the NFL and every QB who ever had even one wonderful year. (I have.) They are still starting in their 30's and usually into their mid-30's. How many have injuries that essentially end their careers before 30? Almost none.

Just relax and hope that Griffin improves this year as the Skins go 5-11 or 6-10. And then that he improves again next year as the Skins get a little better.

This is called Rebuilding. Of course, the Skins will deny that such a thing could ever happen to them. (The fact that they deny they are rebuilding is one reason that they can never actually DO it.) Be glad that their "project" quarterback is WORTH the trouble of being a project.

Cousins may be a nice backup. Good for him. Maybe he will develop into a decent NFL starter somewhere someday. It's even conceivable that he will be Trent Green someday -- a heck of an accomplishment. But more likely Gus Frerotte.

Just for the sake of realism, go through the Skins schedule. Assume that they are 12 touchdowns better than last year. That's more than 80 points better over 16 games. Then use the '13 strength-of-teams metric at Pro Football Reference is see what the "lines" on every game would be this year. Add 5 points for the Skins to each of their '14 games. What would their record be? 

4-12.

Okay, now assume they are seven points a game better this year -- or 112 points for a season -- an heroic assumption.

Then they are 8-8.

This is hopelessly broad brush. But at least it's sanity-based.

If you like the Skins, don't say destructive things about them like "no reason they can't win 10 games this year."

In January I wrote a column about this after Gruden was hired. Quoting myself (ugh):

"What are the chances that, two years from now, Snyder will stare at a Spurrier- or Zorn-like record and have to decide whether to stand fast? The facts, please. All NFL teams that ever had Washington’s record last season — 3-13 — averaged a 13-19 record over the next two years. A lot like the 12-20 two-year records of Spurrier and Zorn and the 20-44 four-year record of Shanahan.

There were cheerful exceptions. Indy once flipped from 3-13 to 23-9 behind Peyton Manning. Allen and Gruden could be a magical combination. But in NFL history only one team in six that goes 3-13 has a winning record the next couple of years. All hands, lash to the mast."

I actually think they have looked better in the exhibition season -- on defense, special teams and general organization and structure -- than I expected. I'm optimistic. Which means 5-6-or-7 wins. If a lot goes right. With the wrong injuries...don't even think about it.

The Phillies are a mystery to me. Hamel (with help) throws a no-hitter yesterday. The Nats had no answer for him or Burnett during last week’s sweep. Their lineup is the envy of many teams with Revere, Rollins, Utley, Ruiz, Howard, Brown and Byrd. They stand pat at the trade deadline. Yet they’re in last place, 11 games under .500 and 15 games behind. What’s up?

They're old (and getting older) and awful and doomed for the next few years by past decisions and bad contracts.

The only one of those names who is still recognizably "himself" from the Good Old Days is Hamels. Rever is a nice little piece. They have some big young arms in the pen . They'll be back. Someday. Just not any day real soon.

The Marlins and Mets? Watch out for them in '15 and '16. It's not just getting Jose Fernandez and Matt Harvey back. They are improving. The Phils? I always feel sorry for Phils fans. I just went back and reviewed the '64 collapse when the Phils led the N.L. by 6 1/2 games with only 12 games left in the season. (They didn't qualify for my list of "biggest blown leads in September" in my Sunday column because they never led by 7-or-more in Sept). They went 0-10 and were ELIMINATED with two games still left in the season.

The huge blunder (memo to managers this September) was Gene Mauch giving up on Art Mahaffey as a starter and pitching HOFer Jim Bunning three times on two days rest. In those three starts, Bunning gave up 19 runs in 10.1 innings. In his other 38 starts that year, he had a 2.14 ERA!

He also started Short on two-days rest twice and he was decent, but lost. Mahaffey actually got two starts in the 0-10 collapse: both were quality starts and one was 1-0 loss.

September is a bad month to start thinking too much.

Boz, I read recently that in MLB, the home team only wins about 52 percent of the time. Since the All Star Game has determined home field advantage in the World Series, however, the home team has won 8 of 13 - about ten percentage points higher. Why the discrepancy?

The actual impact of home field is even greater than that in recent times. I've written about the trend two or three times. Baseball reporters who have been at all the Game 6s and Game 7s of the last 10-to-15 years never ask that question. For those high Series stakes, those home ballparks are insane. Look at Series sweeps in the last 15 years. Almost all start with back-to-back wins at home. If you come back home ahead 3-2, you close it out. If you come back home down 2-3, you get even and then it seems like you can't lose Game 7.

Of course it's not inevitable. But World Series noise and pressure is not at all like April-through-September.

(If the Nats reach the Series for the first time in 81 years, I promise to dream up some reason why this trend has suddenly become null and void. Ahh, perhaps because the Nats roster is so well suited to adding a DH in AL parks. See, wasn't that easy!?)

If the Nationals make the World Series, their lineup in the AL park is actually going to be AL caliber.

See, great minds think alike. (Or maybe "delusional minds think alike.")

"I'd actually love to see a 14-inning battle with the Braves in which they use nine relievers." Does your hypothetical 14 inning battle involve a blown Soriano save?

Touche.

I must say, I am amazed at how little a baseball game can turn, and a how one game can set the stage for the season. In hindsight, I think so far the biggest game was when we lost to ATL 6-7, after spotting them seven runs through five. The Nats lost the game, sure, but they came back....after that game, they were 16-6. including the crazy streak (12-2 in the following 14 games). It is almost as if that game reminded the team that they are never out of a game. In 2012, they had some come from behind games, but never anything like this. Couple that with the game against SF, down 5-0, yet won in a blowout.... I think Sept and Oct will be fun.

Several Nats players mentioned this even before their 10-0 streak had much momentum. Every team every season writes its own "story arc" for itself -- internally. Unfortunately, sometimes it's more like "Breaking Bad."

"Anyone planning to attend the Nats game on Saturday, September 6, might be interested in arriving in time for the National Anthem, which will be performed by 500+ performers ringing handbells." Given the delay the Nats were forced to endure in Philly on 8/27, while the team honored an area little league team and dilly dallied some more, let's make the Phils stand around while each bell is slowly rolled off the field.

Ideas, yes, our chatters here definitely have original ideas.

(I think the Phils have suffered enough for one year.)

Was at the O's game yesterday. Showalter has to be front runner for MOY by having that squad with a 8.5 game lead and 20 over .500 on September 1. No legit ace pitcher, a staff of 2s, 3s and 4s, and two all-stars out for the year. Delmon Young is an atrocity in the field, as is Jimmy Paredes. They are running out a team of mostly journeyman, and Chris Davis has been in a slump all year. How do you see them doing in the ALDS?

Buck is so much better now than before he spent those years at ESPN that he could be MOY any year.

In DS, it may depend on whom the Orioles play. Right now, they'd play either the Royals or Tigers. This year, they are 3-4 and have been outscored 18-26 b y KC. They are 1-5 and have been outscored by the Tigers 20-33. (In '13, the O's were 3-4 vs KC and 4-2 vs Det.)

Oddly, the two best run-differential teams in MLB are the two that Baltimore has played best against over the last two years. they are 9-4 vs the Angels and 7-6 vs Oakland.

It's hard to believe that the Tigers rotation with Scherzer and Price at the top wouldn't have an edge over the O's in a five-game division series. Root for the Royals, I'd say.

What is a realistic expectation for this year's Nats team? Winning one playoff series? NL Champs? World Series or bust?

Of all the words in the unexpurgated English dictionary, the one which applies least to October baseball is "realistic."

Looking back at an earlier answer, do you think that the '92 Blue Jays' fans believed that the winning hits in Toronto's first two World Series wins ever would be from pinch hitters named Sprague and Maldonado. That would be similar to the Naationals winning two games that ignite an NLCS victory on game-winning pinch hits by Kevin Frandsen and Jose Lobaton. Or the O's doing something similar thanks to Nick Hundley and Ryan Flaherty __not Adam Jones or Todd Cruz. Could happen.

But the rule of thumb is that October fate will decree: Descalso and Kozma, not Molina and Holiday.

Of course, I will be writing pre-playoff "analysis" in a month in which I will deny that I ever wrote this. 

Babe Ruth never struck out more than 93 times in a season. This season, SEVENTY players have struck out more times than that ALREADY.

Babe also ate 50 hot dogs at one sitting.

So, maybe not your normal measuring stick.

And the only player to have more career homers than strikeouts is...

Joe DiMaggio.

The player who almost did it: Yogi Berra.

The Nationals aren't going to win 98 games this year, but do you think that the current version might be better than the team in 2012?

2014 team is better.

The '12 team started very hot (14-4, I think), build a great season-long record, but cooled off late in the season. 2014 Nats started slowing -- 25-27 and 37-35. That's often helpful. Since 37-35, they are 41-23 (.641). I've seen a lot of teams that can get on a roll for 100-to-120 games, including the post-season. Very few can roll for 162 regular-season games plus three more series in October. That's ~180 games of seven months of staying in a groove. Could Nats stay in sync from mid-June on? Seems plausible. 

 

Hey Bos, what do you see as the reason(s) the Nats are the homerun champs of late?

The same reason they went nine games with zero homers a while back. It's a game of streaks. Including almost insane streaks.

Was in Las Vegas this weekend. They have the Redskins 50/1 to win it all this season. If you're interested in that bet, I'll cover it for you instead.

No thanks.

FYI: Here's a Post blog collection of interesting RGIII quotes on his "heartbreaking" fallout with Shanny.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/dc-sports-bog/wp/2014/09/02/rgiii-says-his-fallout-with-mike-shanahan-was-heartbreaking/

I'll say it's 6.5 wins. Taking the over or under???

I believe that IS the over-under line.

I don't bet on sports (of course). But even if I were not a sports writer I wouldn't because my picking ability is neither good nor bad. I'm so mediocre at it that I'm not even a good contrary indicator. I'd say 6.5 is a hair optimistic. What's comical is looking back at pre-season predictions in the NFL and MLB. They are almost never even remotely close to accurate. It's not like you can parse it down to .5 wins.

Just noticed on the "About the Host" that you started with the Post in 1984, so happy 30th! In 1984 we were 13 years in without a baseball team, the Redskins were coming off of two straight Super Bowl appearances, Caps were consistent playoff contenders under Bryan Murray, Bullets were consistently one and done. Highlights? Lowlights?

I wish. Started at the Post in '69 as a past-time lobster-shift coffee fetcher and phone answerer right out of college. Wrote my first columns (weekly) as the high school sports editor in probably late '72.

I'm afraid the MLB drought for D.C. was a lot longer. I wrote the thumb-nail sketches of all the Padres for the Post Sports section when it was universally believed that the San Diego franchise would move to D.C. in '72 (or '73?). Topps had baseball cards with some Padres as the next Washington team. I think we had five or six teams that were absolutely-positively-almost head to D.C. over those 33 years, including  possible expansion teams.

Took a while. Seems like it worked out okay. 

But thanks. Too many highlights to mention. All the low lights recede.

Hey, Boz! Nice to see Adam Dunn get a chance to make the playoffs in Oakland. Always liked him when he was a National. Seemed like a class act. Any good stories about him?

Loved it that Dunn hit a homer with his first swing with Oakland! Never been in a post-season game. Love to see him do well.

Favorite Dunn story. I introduced myself and, within a couple of minutes, I said, for no reason, just some off the wall impulse, that he seemed like a guy who would enjoy "The Big Lebowski."

Dunn said, "That's my all-time favorite movie."

In the playoffs, I'll probably think of Dunn a couple of times and mutter "The Dude Abides."

So we've got a shaky QB and a decent defense. They have lousy QBs and a real good defense. Sounds like a boring game to watch, probably come down to turnovers. What say you?

The Mike & Mike show had the Texans as 5-11 or 8-8 (Golic) in their radio picks this a.m. Golic thought their 2-14 record was warped last year by an unbelieved number of "pick sixes" and that they were somewhat better at QB with Mallet . 

I think that when a team that was 3-13 meets a team that was 2-14 -- no matter WHAT crazy stuff contributed to the horrific records --  it's almost a bizarre Must Win for both because if you can't beat THEM who can you beat? You aren't going to face many other teams with memories that bad or team confidence that may be so easily shaken.

How well can the Skins O-line protect RGIII from a potentially scary (and healthy again) pass rush. J.J. Watt just got a $100-million contract extension a few hours ago. Will that be motivation?

Start tomorrow in Scotland!!! Why aren't you covering them? Come on anyone can hit a home run, throw a TD pass or slam dunk a basketball. Try moving sheep with a dog. These sheep dogs are the best and msot intelligent athletes on the planet they ahev to understand their human handler's whistle and vocie command and also read the body langauge of the sheep. Sorry fluffy or some hunting dog cant do this and neither can any currnet professional athlete. Try moving a few sheep on your own Mr Boswell.

"That'll do, Pig."

I understand that when the Senators left a lot of DC fans decided to root for Baltimore. Not me, first I pouted (I was 9 after all) then by 1975 I became a Red Sox fan. There was no way I would root for our neighbor to the north. So it STILL galls me to see a huge color picture of a Baltimore player on our Sports page when the Nats are playing great and meaningful games. Can you imagine The Baltimore Sun putting RGIII up there with a similar story? I'd prefer to cover Baltimore no differently than any other out of town team, but barring that can we at least not take up half of the first page of Sports with them? Please WASHINGTON Post?

A good story is a good story. (And that piece by Barry was a very good story.)

The market most like DC-Baltimore is SF-Oakland where there is PLENTY of bad feeling over the A's inability to escape to San Jose because of the Giants opposition. But I have good baseball-crazy friends in the Bay area who have followed both teams for years, gone to the games (and post-season games) of both. They have a clear family favorite team. But they enjoy both.

But everybody's different. So, on the preference for Nats or O's or both, it's to each his/her own. But the possibility of an LA-LA or Oak-SF or DC-Balto World Series is one of the biggest VALID stories in baseball (or sports) right now. We're certainly not going to ignore it .

You said "AND Soriano did close for the Rays team that reached the World Series." No he didn't. It was Percival. Soriano is going to cost the Nats this year. For all the questions raised about Storen's supposed lack of mental toughness after the 2012 NLDS, Soriano is FAR, FAR worse.

Thanks for the fix. Soriano has not pitched in a World Series. He's pitched in four post-season series with a 3.00 ERA. His only year with the Rays ('10) he saved 40, but they lost in the DS.

That's it for today. I won't chat next Monday because I'll be flying back from Houston (Skins) to see the start of the Nats Braves series that night. I'll probably chat next Tuesday at 11 a.m. We'll let you know when we figure it out. Thanks again!

I wouldn't worry about LA; even if they're lucky enough to win the wild-card game, they don't hit HRs, they don't field well, they don't play hard, they don't run the bases well, and their bullpen is comprised of arsonists.

That should bring a smile to a few faces.

(Wild card game? You wouldn't be from SF, would you?)

Tom, I think you and Gene Weingarten should go to a game together -- or a couple games over a weekend -- and both write a column about it. I think the different styles of writing would be amazingly interesting to compare. And I think you two would have fun together. He once went to a SABR conference just to ask people why there were no left-handed catchers.

Gene and I sometimes e-mail about baseball. See, I DO get along with huge lifelong Yankee fans. (It's not their fault.)

No, not that one. In a trivial moment it dawned on me that the Nats have been the Nats through three different franchises and two different official nicknames spanning a period of over a hundred years (with the infamous 34 year sabbatical). Kind of remarkable if you think of it.

Yup.

They were called "Nats" as often as they were called Senators in the '50's-'60's. Better for headline writers, too.

Kershaw obviously deserves all the praise he gets, but some of the talk-radio chatter is making me cringe. He's not as good as Pedro Martinez was from '97-'02. Check out Pedro's '00 season; 1.74 ERA when league average was 4.97 and second lowest in the league was 3.70. That's the gold standard; Kershaw's the best today, but that's it.

Good point: Relative to league norms matters a lot. That's what ERA+ is for: what percentage are you better than the league's normal ERA in that season with an adjustment for home park.

Kershaw's ERA+ the last four years: 161, 150, 196 and 207 this year. So, he's 107% better than the league norm this year.

As you point out (thanks) Pedro Martinez is the best in ERA+ in this four-year span w 3 CYAs: 219, 163, 243, 291. He also had years with 202 and 211. Incredible.

Randy Johnson and Greg Maddux won 4 straight Cy Youngs. The Big Unit was about the same as Kershaw: 184, 181, 188, 195. (He also had years of 193 and 197.) Maddux was better: 166, 170, 271 and 260. (He also had years of 189 and 187.)

Koufax & Kershaw are also roughly the same: Sandy 159, 186, 160, 190. Jim Palmer is last in this amazing group: 155, 105, 169, 130.

So, by this measure, Kershaw is not as dominant as Pedro, also a bit below Maddux at his best, about the same as Koufax and Randy Johnson (!) and better than Palmer. 

I'd say that ends up being a large compliment to Kershaw.

Here is the all-time career ERA+ Top Four among starting pitchers since 1900.

1. Pedro Martinez (154)

2. Kershaw 151. His will probably decline if he has a long career.

3. Lefty Grove 148 (who pitch in the Lively Ball '30's and had a career ERA of 3.06.)

4. Walter Johnson 147 (who pitched in the Dead Ball Era with an ERA of 2.17

The others mentioned: Randy Johnson 135, Maddux 132, Koufax (who had bad early years) 131, Palmer 125.

Stephen Strasburg has an ERA+ of 124 __almost as good as Jim Palmer's career. One stat never tells all. But at an ERA+ of 123 we find pretty good careers like Juan Marichal, Mike Mussina and Justin Verlander.

 

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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."
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