Things looked according to plan two weeks in last year. They swept the White Sox to move to 7-2, before getting swept at home by the Braves and eventually ending April with a 13-14 record. Bryce Harper went from tearing the cover off the ball to running into the right field wall in Dodger Stadium. Things continued to unravel all year long with blown leads by a shaky bullpen and questionable decisions by their Skipper that made observers question his sound-mind. By the time they were ready to start putting the toothpaste back in the tube, it was too late.
They would go on to a noble 86-76 finish. It displayed a lot of the fight and character left in the group that will take the field in 2014. A 23-11 run that began on August 20th scared the bejesus out of a couple other teams who were in the driver’s seat for the Wild Card spots. The Nationals were on fire. But it was too late to save themselves from the sins of their short past.
But all is not lost. They’ve got a new weird manager at the helm in Matt Williams. Bryce Harper’s knee is healthy, and as promised; he got as big as a house. The Nationals return an impressive core and GM Mike Rizzo made a few under-appreciated moves that will have this team knocking on the doors of contention again in 2014.
Major Off-season Moves:
Traded for LHP Jerry Blevins from the Oakland Athletics.
Signed Nate McLouth to a two-year, $10.75 million dollar contract.
Traded for RHP Doug Fister from the Detroit Tigers.
Signed LHP Mike Gonzalez.
Traded for Catcher Jose Lobaton.
Perhaps we should all tamper expectations on everything until the Nationals show us that they’re ready for the big time – but what fun would that be?
The Nationals young star power is what intrigues us. From Harper to Strasburg to Rendon to Ramos to some of the guys in the minors like Lucas Giolito, A.J. Cole, and Brian Goodwin; Washington has a lot to like in their future if they can show us that we’re in the beginning of the run by making another one.
Here’s one of the famous images making it’s rounds on the interwebs today. It’s Bryce Harper at Spring Training, presumably today, carrying two boxes of girl scout cookies.
Harper looks tremendous. We had not previously noticed a big difference in him, but when you look at this picture he looks like a power lifter. He also has tremendous taste in girl scout cookies, I believe that is thin mints and Samoans, and the fact that I can ID those at such a quick glance is why I look nothing like Bryce Harper right now.
On a baseball related note – we just hope his swing plane hasn’t changed at all due to the muscles.
For most Major League players, they have the luxury of being at 100% physically at one point in the Major League season, and that’s spring training. From there, they’ll depreciate either slowly or quickly like a piece of used farm equipment. And whether we’re talking about the tractor on the farm or your team’s star left-fielder, depreciation is an ugly thing.
“As far as I know, he is full-go for spring training,” Williams said. “We’re going to monitor him, though. We’re going to see how his knee reacts. There’s no way, even in a rehab situation, there’s no way to really simulate a game or the stuff that we do on the field until you do it. That’s why guys go out on rehab and play games, because you just can’t do it. So we’ll monitor him every day. If we see anything that’s bothering him, we’ll modify his program first. And if we’ve got to hold him out a day, we’ll hold him out a day to make sure he’s ready to go. As of right now, he’s full-go.”
That’s great news. The only thing that can hold back Bryce Harper is staying healthy and logging his most important stat: games played. If he plays in around 150 games, you’ll see career numbers from him. With a talent like his, you’re only going to slump for so long until someone makes a mistake. As a fan of baseball and someone who would love to see Harper become the game’s brightest star, we are hoping he finds a way to dial it back, pace himself, and spend the majority of the season in the lineup.
Hopefully this is the last time we ever feel the need to mention ‘Bryce Harper’ and ‘depreciation’ in the same post.
We aren’t that far. As bad and as brutal as February is to the baseball fan, we can make it. More tweets like this from players all around the league will be rolling in more frequently as the days roll by. Once we get to March Madness, we’ve basically made it.
And it’s good to see a player like Harper reporting for duty early. Washington Nationals position players weren’t due in until February 18th. It’s safe to assume Harper is spending his Valentines Day in route to Viera, Florida. That’s the kind of player we like – a guy who shows up early ready to dig in and work on getting better.
Bryce Harper: .279/.363/.523, 28 HR, with 15 steals. I’ll take the OVER on the long balls and the UNDER on the steals. He’s bulking up for a reason. Harper comes complete with a 4.9 WAR and his #1 comp is Kal Daniels. Before you snicker or grimace like I first did, remember that Kal Daniels had nice seasons in 1987, 1988, and 1990. Albeit, Bryce Harper’s expectations are just much higher and he’ll need to be better than Daniels ever was.
Ian Desmond checks in as the second best hitter: .269/.315/.439, 20 HR, 23 steals, and a 3.5 WAR. Desmond is a nice little player all around.
Anthony Rendon got the Jeff Blauser comp. Blauser was a pretty damn good hitter, all things considered.
Another comp worth noting is that of Stephen Strasburg. They say he will be Mark Prior, making 26 starts, striking out 164 in 149 innings of work. He is projected for a 2.83 ERA and 3.8 WAR. Also with the same WAR projection is Jordan Zimmerman.
A.J. Cole earned a Zach Greinke comp.
Switch-hitting 24 year old Zach Walters: 20 HR, .247/.276/.443, we don’t see Walters having that kind of impact in the upcoming year.
Ryan Zimmerman is compared to Pinky Higgins (his first season came in 1930). Zimmerman is projected for his steady Eddie 3.4 WAR. Pinky Higgins probably has the biggest boner right now.
As pointed out by this comment, the Nationals are projected for a 43 WAR; or 91 overall wins. This is the highest projected amount so far. I’m bullish on the Nats again this year, though I think Matt Williams is a real wildcard as manager.
The new addition Doug Fister is projected to lead the team in innings at 192, worth a 4.0 WAR and earns the John Burkett comp. John Burkett was an RBI Baseball legend.
We’ll try to do a few more of these as the weeks go onward. Obviously with the month of February being here we have nothing better to do than tally a few notes on interesting (albeit conservative) projection systems like ZiPS.
Though I thought he would finish with at least twice this many round-trippers this season, Bryce Harper has reached 20 home runs in his age 20 season. The Nationals beat the Marlins 3-2 tonight at Nationals Park in Washington, with Harper’s three-run home run in the first inning totaling their entire offensive output for the night.
The Nationals have been baseball’s best team over the last month, and although it looks to be too little too late, it’s going to be a small happy ending on the career of Davey Johnson. Harper has had a tough season, and there have been times when we thought he should have played that he didn’t. He’s still earned some respect by gutting it out for the most part this last month and playing out the string with some dignity for his team. His OPS sits at .892 as the night closes. That’s a pretty great sophomore season.
Harper’s shot came off Marlins starter Henderson Alvarez. The last time he hit a home run off Alvarez it landed off the BlackBerry sign in Toronto. With just over a week of regular season left, Harper looks to close a chapter on his career and begin a long winter of hopefully becoming baseball’s best player in 2014.
On the heels of one of the most tragic days ever in the nation’s capital – a day that the Nationals game was rightfully cancelled – the Nationals played a doubleheader that ended up being their most magical day of the season.
They entered the ninth of their afternoon game down 5-3, and with Craig Kimbrel entering the game it looked to be lights out on the game and possibly the entire season. But the sun shined especially bright in the sky, and luck shined on the Nats. A Denard Span bouncer went through the legs of the great-gloved Andrelton Simmons with the Nationals down 5-4. That allowed the Nats to win 6-5.
The Nats then took the nightcap 4-0 with Tanner Roark throwing seven shutout innings. The Nationals are 4.5 games out of the Wildcard race with 11 left to play.
Denard Span had hits in both games, extending his hitting streak to an MLB best 28 games on the season.
Bryce Harper had a couple of knocks and a couple of runs in the second game.
It was the first time in his career that Craig Kimbrel had given up three runs in an outing.
I was at the Navy Yards just a few weeks back in my visit to Washington. We walked around near it after the game. It’s a quaint little area that will make for a great living spot for people that want to be around the park in DC in the future. It seemed relatively peaceful. And as horrible as this tragedy that so many are numb today in today’s sick world was unspeakable and cowardly; I feel like it helped bond a city and it’s new team today. The Washington Nationals made the people of that city forget about the ruin that had happened just a day before, even if it was just for a minute.
Good for the Nats. They’re not going to catch anyone, but they’re finally playing like the team they should have been all year.
Guessing that Harper’s girlfriend Kayla Varner is middle-named ‘Martina’.
We should probably start a tag ‘Bryce Harper Bat Watch’ by now, because it’s a subject we’ve covered before. Harper’s usage of bats has no pattern. The only guarantee is if he has a bat in his hands, it’s not long for being his object of affection.
Harper has sported a grey bat. He’s used an all-black bat. He’s used this cherry colored model with a white handle to honor a kid stricken with terminal cancer. There are times he grabs a white ash bat. This is so anti-Ken Griffey Jr. – I always remember Junior using an all-black bat. Kenny Griff’s legendary sweeping, sweet swing wouldn’t have looked right with an all-white bat. My point is there are some players who use a solid colored bat for their entire career, so much that the bat color almost becomes a part of them. You ask me a player’s bat color, I can tell you with certainty what color it was or if he was married to a particular color.
Manny Ramirez? He was known to use any bat out there and drove teammates nuts because he would use their bats. He had no rhyme or reason – similar to Harper. Mark McGwire? Always the big white ash stick. I could go on and on.
Now he’s been using an all-black model that represents the leading lady in his life, his girlfriend:
No word yet on whether or not Harper’s idol Mickey Mantle ever had a bat model created after a woman – though The Mick was known to keep the company of dozens of women at any given time so that may have been tough.
Overall it’s a pretty cool and unique idea. Hopefully the black maple KMV8 goes down in history as the model-type that Harper hit home run number 20 in his age 20 season with.
This was Bryce Harper’s 41st career big league big fly.
The Wasghington Nationals are one of baseball’s hottest teams. Bryce Harper is playing his best baseball of the season. Davey Johnson even cracked a few grins tonight. After what’s been a season in quicksand, it’s all good to see.
Bryce Harper extended his hitting streak to 11 games with this home run off Tom Koehler of the Marlins. And it seems Harper has been hitting an awful lot of opposite field shots this season. That’s the one aspect of Harper’s game that really is fully developed. He can hit the ball out to any part of the park. This one landed in the flower bed box in left field, shredding some of those neat little annual flowers in front of the left field seats. It got the Nats jump-started with a 2-0 lead, and they would go on to win 9-0. He would later add a single.
We’ve been waiting on this all year. The Nationals aren’t a mighty squad, but they’re a lot better than the mediocrity they’ve shown all season long. I don’t think their fate is completely spoken for yet. They’re 6.5 games out of the wildcard right now. They have a lot of games down the stretch against bad teams and teams that matter. If Harper ends the season hitting this way on most nights, do not be surprised if they enter the last week of the season with a chance to play their way into the playoffs.
If you were expecting anything fair from Boras on the topic then you were being extremely naive. The guy is here to destroy the game of baseball’s financial cash flow sheets with the green heading in one direction: his own.
There’s two sides to every deal. You’ve got the marketability of Harper, the potential of him being a future Hall of Famer, all the talent and skill set in the world; and all that great stuff. I’m as big of a Harper fan (when he’s on the field) as anyone. But this deal at the moment looks extremely risky. Harper thus far has decent but not phenomenal numbers. There are aspects of his stats that have been phenomenal; and I believe there will be seasons in which he’s the best player in baseball statistically.
That said, he’s proved to be made of glass. If you’re going to bend over and let Boras put it to you for a dozen years, you better make sure that you’re getting a player who is extremely durable and who will age well. While I’m sure there’s a team in baseball that is willing to roll the dice with their finances; I look into the crystal ball of Harper’s career and I see a lot of seasons where he doesn’t play 100 games. When he ages and progresses skill-wise, and he plays in 140 to 160 games, you’re going to see some huge numbers out of the guy. I expect ultimately we see a player who could have been one of the greatest ever if he could have stopped getting hurt so much. I see a gleam when he’s on the field, but he’s out of the lineup entirely too much for too many really small reasons.
And in closing for now; Scott Boras is so bad for the game you cannot define it with a simple sentence. He is a greedy pig, and he makes everything I love about the game seem so much less articulate when I realize he’s got his slimy fingerprints throughout it.
Bryce Harper hit his 18th home run of the season off of a guy who gives up a lot of home runs, Ervin Santana. The home run extended Harper’s hitting streak to eight straight games and tied the game at 4-4. The Nationals ended up losing the game 6-4.
With this homer – number 40 on Harper’s career – he became the third man in baseball history to reach 40 homers before his 21st birthday.
The Nationals pretty much have to run the table if they are going to have ANY hope at catching someone in the National league Wildcard race. It’s not going to happen, but Bryce Harper took one out of the loss column last evening and inserted the game into the win column for his team.
It was Harper’s first career game in Kansas City. While he didn’t sink a pearl into the legendary fountains of Kauffman stadium, he did just about everything else to help the Nationals hang onto a 11-10 come from behind win.
And rumors are that he’s hurt yet again. And we’ll say it until we’re blue in the face. The guy has to stop getting dinged. That’s like; a dozen or 15 different ‘dings’ he’s had this season.
I can cross another bucket list item off my list, and another ballpark. Another city down, one less to go before I see them all. My experience in DC was a good one, so get ready for a photo heavy post with lots of commentary about baseball and everything else in between I experienced.