Get To Know A Series: St. Louis Cardinals

Cardinals

Washington Nationals (9-6) vs. St. Louis Cardinals (9-6)

2014 Head to Head Record: (0 – 0)
2013 Head to Head Record: Cardinals 6 – 0
 

Thursday, April 17 7:05 p.m.
Taylor Jordan (4.76 ERA, 3.84 FIP, 6.53 K/9) vs. Adam Wainwright (2.57 ERA, 2.24 FIP, 10.29 K/9)

Friday, April 18 7:05 p.m.
Gio Gonzalez (3.5 ERA, 3.93 FIP, 8.5 K/9) vs. Michael Wacha (1.89 ERA, 2.62 FIP, 8.53 K/9)

Saturday, April 19 1:05 p.m. (Pups in the Park!)
Jordan Zimmermann (5.27 ERA, 4.51 FIP, 11.20 K/9) vs. Lance Lynn (4.00 ERA, 2.88 FIP, 11.00 K/9)
 
Sunday, April 20 1:35 p.m.
Stephen Strasburg (6.00 ERA, 3.19 FIP, 14.14 K/9) vs. Shelby Miller (4.67 ERA, 6.74 FIP, 7.27 K/9)
 
In the short history of the Washington Nationals there are just a handful of teams that make Nats fans cringe. Arguably, chief among them are the St. Louis Cardinals. The Nationals one pure moment of ecstasy, and its one true moment of agony thus far are linked inextricably to the redbirds and one volatile 24 hour period in the Nation’s capital. If you don’t know what I’m talking about: Game 4, Game 5. Now you’re all caught up.
 
Making matters worse, the 2013 Nationals got absolutely pummeled by the Cardinals who were cruising along to being NLCS winners. Last year offered revenge for neither the Nationals nor their fans. As such, for many Nats fans, this series opens with plenty of bitter in our mouths.
 
Unfortunately, the St. Louis Cardinals are probably the only team as deep and complete as the Washington Nationals. Even the vaunted (and pricey) Los Angeles Dodgers can’t compete for organizational depth with the St. Louis Cardinals who seem to always have someone on the field, the bench, or in the minors ready to become a great ball player. Nats fans may begrudge the Cards plenty, but they are a great team and a great organization (Even if the moniker of “Best Fans” may still be a bit far fetched).
 
How the Nats Win: Unlike the Mets (who have a bad bullpen), or the Marlins (who have a pretty spotty lineup) or even the Braves (who suffer from some starting pitching depth) the Cardinals have it all. They can hit, they can run, they can throw with the best of them. These games are going to likely come down to who makes mistakes first, and who turns those mistakes into runs. Both teams are capable of putting another team away with a lead. Both teams are capable of coming back if the other leaves the door open. The Nats may benefit from having last-ups, and any fan should be happy with a 2-2 split with the Cardinals.
 
Three Cardinals to Watch For: Yadier Molina is arguably the best catcher in baseball, a least according to his profile in Sports Illustrated. He is a catcher that can both excel at defense and hit, a rare commodity in the game today. Many credit the Cardianals success with young pitching to his excellent game calling and command skills. Micahel Wacha may have a name that invokes Fozzy Bear, but he’s anything but a cuddly character. Throwing out his final appearance in the 2013 World Series, Wacha joined the Cardinals at the end of May and filled in more than admirably throughout the season. Lastly, let’s all keep an eye on Mark Ellis, who I don’t expect to make much of an impact on the games…but he’s the guy the brought up to replace Pete F#$*(NG Kozma.

Get To Know A Nat 2014: Kevin Frandsen

Kevin Frandsen

Name:  Kevin Vincent Frandsen
Nickname(s): Pig Pen (Ed: Because I’ve been listening to this song, I’ve been calling him ” I’m the Frand “)
DOB: May 24, 1982
Twitter?:  @KevinFrandsen
From: San Jose, California
Position: Bench Utility Player (Infield, Outfield and Emergency Catcher)
Hand: Right
With the Nats Since: Signed a one-year major league contact with the Nationals on March 26, 2014.

Just Who Is This Guy?: One word describes Kevin Frandsen and that word is versatility. Throughout his eight-year MLB career, Frandsen has played in 411 games with four different teams (San Francisco Giants Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Philadelphia Phillies and now the Nationals). Versatility is a great word to describe him because he knows his role on the team, meaning, he knows that he is a fill-in player and does whatever he can for the team. He’s doesn’t play the game just to boost his own stats; he just wants to get the “W” (or in this case, the Curly W) at the end of the day.

Throughout his career, Frandsen has played second base (115 games), third base (108 games), first base (44 games), shortstop (32 games), and the corner outfield positions (13 games in left field and three games in right field). In his eight seasons, he has a career .973 fielding percentage and a career 0.3 WAR. At the plate, Frandsen has a career slash line of .261/.318/.360 with 14 home runs, 94 RBIs, and seven stolen bases.

Overall, Frandsen doesn’t add much pop, drive in a lot of runs, or steal bases. He does, however, hit for decent average and doesn’t strike out much. He can play virtually anywhere on the diamond, and provides excellent leadership in the clubhouse, especially in a clubhouse with as many young players as the Nationals have. He’s a gritty player who goes out there each game just trying to do something for the team. Frandsen isn’t going up to the plate swinging hard, trying to smash a homer; he’s going up there to try and get on base and give someone else in the lineup an opportunity to drive him in. He is the definition of a team player and I love what he brings to this team because of it.
Continue reading

Get To Know A Nat 2014: Aaron Barrett

Aaron Barrett Pitching for the Senators. (Click for original article).

Aaron Barrett Pitching for the Senators. (Click for original article).

Aaron Barrett  DOB: January 2, 1988
Nicknames: none, but he’s a fake Aussie. So there’s that. (He also shares a name with lead singer of Real Big Fish- Ed.) 
Twitter@aaronbarrett30
From:  Evansville, Indiana, then Ole Miss
Position: Middle Reliever    Hand: Righty
With the Nats Since: Drafted (9th round) by Nationals in 2010 Debut: March 31st, 2014

Who is this Guy?  He’s a bad mamma-jamma, that’s who. Barrett is a 26 year-old, former collegian, who K’d his way through the minor leagues before beating out a host of veterans to earn the last spot in the bullpen this Spring Training. His age means his time is now and so far so good. He has faced 13 batters to this point and he’s struck out 6 of them. He has yet to give up a hit, much less a run. He throws two pitches – a fastball and a slider – almost evenly, in the classic Brad-Lidge-late-inning-reliever mold. Update: Barrett did give up a hit on Friday night, and then was sent back down to make room for players due to an over taxed bullpen. -Ed. 

Continue reading

Major League Football Week 15 Playoff Picture via @SCviaDC

National League American League
NL East W L T PCT
Atlanta Braves 8 4 0 .667
Washington Nationals 7 5 0 .583
Philadelphia Phillies 6 6 0 .500
New York Mets 5 7 0 .417
NL North W L T PCT
Milwaukee Brewers 10 2 0 .833
Pittsburgh Pirates 6 6 0 .500
Chicago Cubs 4 8 0 .333
Cincinnati Reds 4 8 0 .333
NL South W L T PCT
St. Louis Cardinals 7 5 0 .583
Miami Marlins 5 8 0 .385
Arizona Diamondbacks 4 11 0 .267
New Orleans Zyphers 2 9 0 .182
NL West W L T PCT
Los Angeles Dodgers 9 4 0 .692
San Francisco Giants 8 5 0 .615
Colorado Rockies 6 7 0 .462
San Diego Padres 5 7 0 .417
AL East W L T PCT
Toronto Blue Jays 7 6 0 .538
New York Yankees 7 6 0 .538
Baltimore Orioles 5 7 0 .417
Boston Red Sox 5 8 0 .385
AL North W L T PCT
Detriot Tigers 6 4 0 .600
Chicago White Sox 7 6 0 .538
Minnesota Twins 6 6 0 .500
Cleveland Indians 6 7 0 .462
AL South W L T PCT
Charlotte Knights 6 5 0 .545
Tampa Bay Rays 7 6 0 .538
Houston Astros 5 8 0 .385
Kansas City Royals 4 7 0 .364
AL West W L T PCT
Oakland Athletics 8 4 0 .667
Seattle Mariners 6 5 0 .545
Texas Rangers 6 6 0 .500
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 6 6 0 .500

After 14 weeks of play, the playoff picture for Major League Football is starting to form into shape. I’ll take you through division by division as the teams compete for the coveted home-field advantage.

The Atlanta Braves took sole possession of the NL East Division last week, and are riding the momentum of a three game winning streak. The Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies are one and two games behind, respectively, and even the New York Mets at three games back are still theoretically contenders. The Braves will have to keep their foot on the pedal and finish the season strong, as these three teams will be ready to pounce if there is any let up by the leaders.

Continue reading

Talking Points: Different Weekend, Same Story

Atlanta

Look gang, this week’s talking points…I”m not in a super chipper mood. I know normally I’ve taken on the tone of “hey it’ll all be okay” but I’ve got to admit, this has got me spooked. As such the talking points I’m giving you this week may be a bit more dour than you are used to.

It’s not that they got swept by the Braves, it’s that they got themselves hurt doing it.

  • It’s true. Friday I was engaged in several twitter chains talking about the relative “worth” of a game against the Braves. In my mind, the games are not much more important than against any other NL East team. So with only 6 games done, and 13 to go I wouldn’t say I’m happy about the Nats being 1-5 against the Braves, but I’m not ready to panic yet.
  • Although, I guess while we are on the topic the only reason I have to not panic is the larger, grander scheme of baseball. Things tend to even out, and good teams tend to go in peaks and valleys. So I’m really just sort of betting black here because it keeps coming up red and it just has to come up black sooner or later, right? right? (Translation: The Nats have certainly given me very little reason to believe they can beat Atlanta…but I felt that way about the Nats/Phillies series for years, so it could happen!)
  • No, the real problem is that the Nats added to their walking (or not walking) wounded. Doug Fister has yet to make a start, Scott Hairston pulled a lat and Wilson Ramos is also out a month before the series started.
  • By the start of the game on Sunday Denard Span was put on the 7 day DL as an overly cautious move to protect against concussion, Jayson Werth (who is still playing) pulled his groin, and Ryan Zimmerman broke his thumb getting tagged out on a slide back to second base.
  • The only way I saw the Nats losing was through extensive injury. Go ahead, look through our 2014 player previews. This is how it starts.

There is no good time to miss players, but April is better than September for sure.  Plus, the Nats are in much better shape than last year to deal with injuries.

  • As Citizens of Natstown tweeted above, and most reasonable baseball people agree, the Nats bench this year is much better suited to deal with a month long injuries.
  • The infield depth is much better than the outfield depth, so having to shift guys around there is a little easier. Nate McLouth profiles very well to replace Denard Span in CF (particularly given Denard’s slowish start…again) for the short term.  
  • And yeah, all the games count equally, so missing Zim, Ramos, Span, Fister, etc. is never a good thing. But if you could choose to to get them back in a month and still have most of the season to go, or lose them to injury near the end of the year during a playoff push…well I’ll take this version. The 2012 Nats were successful in large part because they managed to tread water for about 2-3 months while starters recovered from injury. The post-all-star-break Nats were in good shape down the stretch because the team got more talented without having to trade for it.
  • Unfortunately, my mindset is changed. I don’t expect the Nats to go out there and own it for the next month (though I’m happy to be surprised). I’m now in full “tread water” mode. I expect they’ll be keeping pace, rather than setting it, and hopefully pouring it on starting in June or so.
  • Yeah I don’t know what Mike Rizzo is thinking here. I mean you’re the GM, you have to stick up for your guys…but maybe not say it like that.
  • Not that I think the Braves are scouring for bulletin board martial, nor do I believe that is really a “thing,” but I think you can say “we have full confidence in our team” and “We know we can win these games.” Without having to posit you are both “not scared” and are better than the team that has handed your team’s ass to it over the last going on two years.

Nationals101 has it all wrong. James O’Hara was the only voice of reason all weekend during that series. 

  • James is another wonderful writer over at CitsofNatstown. He wrote this on Saturday and you should read it. here are his tweets from when I was indulging in full on panic mode:

  • All of these things are completely true and ought to give Nats fans smarting from an ass-kicking in Atlanta. Take solace in the young man’s wisdom, and follow him on twitter.

My First Opening Day and Nationals Park Through My Eyes

Get To Know Our Newest Writer! Matt Shalbrack reflects on his first Opening Day ever, and what going to Nationals Park was like for relative outsider to the Washington D.C. area.

  
Baseball is back and for the first time in my 23 years, I finally took in Opening Day live at a Major League ballpark. It was magnificent and I can’t wait to continue the tradition again next year and for many, many years after that.

Even though this was my first Opening Day, it wasn’t my first time at Nationals Park. That time came on June 21, 2013 when the Nationals took on the Colorado Rockies. Stephen Strasburg took the mound for the Nats, throwing seven strong innings while striking out nine. Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano recorded the final six outs, securing a 3-2 win. My second time at Nationals Park came on Sept. 14, 2013 against the Philadelphia Phillies, except this time, the Nats lost by a final score of 5-4.

On my first trip to Nationals Park, the experience at the ballpark was great. One interesting thing I noticed was the fact that the ushers make you wait for a stop in play before allowing you to walk down the aisle to your seat. At first, I thought this was silly, but the more and more people walked in front of me during the action, I got frustrated. I didn’t like the rule at first, but now I wish every ballpark did that. The ushers and vendors that I’ve worked with all have very friendly personalities. It’s always simple and easy purchasing something from one of them.

This Opening Day trip was very special to me. Not only was it my inaugural Opening Day game, it was the first baseball game that I’ve attended since my Dad passed away in January. He was the one who got me into baseball, not just as a fan, but as a player too. He coached me growing up and taught me to have a passion for the game. En route to the game, I came up with a way to honor my Dad at every game I attend – buy a beer for not just me, but for him too. My Dad was a big fan of the three B’s at baseball games – beer, brats and baseball (brats and beer, especially since I grew up in Wisconsin) – making this new tradition something special for me to remember him by.

You might be thinking, “Why would you waste $9 on a beer at the stadium and not even drink it?” Well, obviously drank the beer. My Dad would have been upset with me if I let good beer go to waste. It was a nice little treat at the beginning of the fifth inning for me to enjoy while watching the game and honoring my Dad.

BeerForDad[1]

Aesthetically, the ballpark is beautiful on the inside and outside. The white façade mixed with the red accent throughout the stadium is perfect in my opinion, especially since these colors match the team colors. The seats are quite comfortable and there isn’t a bad seat in the ballpark—at least from where I have sat so far. The big screen in the outfield is crystal clear and beautiful to look at. The graphics and videos displayed on the big screen are fantastically done and I always find myself staring at the screen while the game was happening in front of me. My favorite part about Nationals Park is the view that you get from inside the stadium. At night, all of the buildings in the distance are illuminated, which makes for such a pretty view. The dome of the United States Capitol can be seen in the distance depending on where you sit.

When my girlfriend and I first got to the ballpark, we entered through the centerfield gate and made our way up to the Red Loft for a beer and some batting practice. Each of the three times I’ve been to the ballpark, this is what has happened when first entering the game – another tradition of sorts. Personally, I love going up to the Red Loft to watch batting practice before games. It’s a great way to see the whole ballpark, enjoy a refreshing beer and mingle with friends while waiting for the game to start.

RedPorchView[1]

Opening Day was everything I thought it would be and more. Now that baseball is back and I live in a city that has a Major League team with somewhat cheap tickets, I will be attending games on a regular basis. I can’t wait to be a part of the Nationals fan base, meet great people and learn even more about this beautiful game we call baseball.

 

Get To Know A Nat 2014: Taylor Jordan

via @ANatsFan

via @ANatsFan

Taylor Jordan  DOB: January 17, 1989
Nicknames: TJ Max (just made that up cause he had Tommy John surgery and all)
Twitter@TaylorJordan38
From:  Merritt Island, Florida (Right near Viera).
Position: 5th Starter    Hand: Righty
With the Nats Since: Drafted by Nationals in 2009, Debut June 29, 2013

Who is this Guy? After battling with Tanner Roark, Chris Young, and Ross Detwiler for the last rotation spot, both he and Roark made the team once Doug Fister couldn’t make it out of Spring Training healthy. While he moved ahead of Detwiler (bullpen) and Young (cut, signed with Seattle), the real battle for a rotation spot is just beginning. He and Roark will have around a month to prove they belong with the club once Fister returns – and my money’s on Jordan.

Continue reading