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Washington Nationals: 2016 Could’ve Been Different if the Winter Went How They Expected

With less than three weeks to go in the regular season, the Washington Nationals are all but assured their third National League East title since 2012. One has to wonder how this year would’ve gone if the offseason went as planned for general manager Mike Rizzo and his front office, though.

Rizzo made an appearance on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight podcast with Buster Olney earlier this week to talk about his club in advance of October. No conversation in 2016 about the Nats is complete without singing the praises of two influential people: manager Dusty Baker and second baseman Daniel Murphy.

They have truly been difference makers for this club, who owns a 87-59 record as they travel to face the Atlanta Braves this weekend. Rizzo didn’t hide how he felt about their contributions this year, referring to Baker as the NL Manager of the Year and Murphy as the NL MVP.

Even if they don’t take home hardware come November, it’s hard to fault Rizzo for feeling this way. It’s just ironic because neither of them were Washington’s first choice when it came to filling their jobs last winter.

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Odds To Win The MLB 2016 World Series + Best And Worst Bets

The Mets made it to the World Series in 2015 after a subpar start heading into the Trade Deadline. With a ton of pitching and some decent positional players still on the roster, they could set themselves up for a lengthy run in the NL East. Especially if they can coordinate a couple of trades (Pitching for hitters).

The Mets made it to the World Series in 2015 after a subpar start heading into the Trade Deadline. With a ton of pitching and some decent positional players still on the roster, they could set themselves up for a lengthy run in the NL East. Especially if they can coordinate a couple of trades near the Trade Deadline.  While they may have started slow, the bats are alive and well, and the rotation should come around soon.  They are this week’s best odd.

Hunter Stokes (BBBA Featured Writer) 

The Nationals asserted themselves on this leaderboard thanks to a quick start.  They were my 2nd best bet last week at +1100.  Now the odd at +650 is not worth any money at all.

Since Washington was able to play so well, this has created the perfect storm to put some more cash on the Mets.  At +1300, New York is just begging for a wager.

The strength of schedule to which the Nats have played has definitely factored in.  2 series versus the Braves and Marlins and one against the Phillies already, Dusty Baker‘s club has had about a ‘cupcake itinerary’ as you possibly could find.

It gets better for the District’s squad, as they go home for another series with Philadelphia – that comes on the heels of a weekend Interleague series versus the Twins.

If Washington wins those 2 series, they should be about 15 or 16 wins after 22 games.  They should cement themselves in the playoffs with an easy NL East opponents schedule all year.  I just want to see them play some tougher clubs.

The Mets offense has sprung to life behind the backs of Yoenis Cespedes, Neil Walker, David Wright and Michael Conforto.  When the Pitching Rotation settles in a little bit, they should take off.

While Washington is leading the Division, they have yet to face the NL reigning pennant winners.  The division win could come down to the 19 contests between the two clubs.

Terry Collins‘ team has 16 straight games versus squads with losing records.  While the Giants are capable of contending all year, New York should be able to match them well for pitching. Read the rest of this entry

Odds To Be The 1st MLB Manager Fired In 2016: Who Is On The Hotseat?

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Hunter Stokes (BBBA Featured Writer) 

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Every year there are certain managers that have a ton of pressure to win.  This is always a tough process to think of who will be nixed first.

On one hand, many clubs that should be in contention for the playoffs will see an axe come to their tenure, however sometimes clubs are so bad record wise (even though they were projected to be) that the franchise will just slay the field general in the name of mercy.

As far as under the gun goes. guys like Brad Ausmus, John Farrell and John Gibbons.  are tops on the list. 

Ausmus doesn’t have a track record of any postseason series wins like the latter two here, so he is going to be the #1 favorite out of this group of skippers that could go fast with playoff aspirations if their teams struggle out of the starting block.

Gibbons did a great job with Toronto in 2015, but a slow start would really put his name on the block. Say if they are 6 or 7 games behind the playoff bar near Memorial Day.

Farrell has put up back to back 5th place finishes in the AL East after winning the World Series Title in his 1st year of being the skipper in 2013.

Then there is a perennial bad losing club that have long tenured coaches like Walt Weiss and Robin Ventura. I am not sure they should not have been shown the door following last years campaigns. 

Weiss has losing years for every year under his belt, and Ventura rode out 2013 with his late season collapse, but his club has underachieved in every other year.

Still the two most managers on the hot seat are Fredi Gonzalez of the Braves on top of the favorite list at +331, followed by Bryan Price at +441. But I hate putting money on either of these gentlemen with their clubs both being on track to challenge for the worst record in the Majors this year.

Heck, Gonzalez’s predecessor Bobby Cox was the well into his 3rd decade with the “Tomahawk” Choppers when he finally stepped down to a front office job. Gonzalez at least had the Braves in the playoffs in 2012. 

Price can’t really be expected to do anything with this anemic Pitching Staff, and all veterans except for Votto may be available for trade at any point.

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Nationals Are Banking On A Trio Of Players To Have Comeback Seasons In 2016

The Nationals have made the playoffs in 2 of the last 4 years with 2012 and 2014 being sandwiched between poor 2013 and 2015 campaigns of failed expectations. With 2 .300 hitters fleeing the club this past winter, coupled with the loss of Ian Desmond to Free Agency, this club needs Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth and Anthony Rendon healthy and on the field in 2016. If they struggle in production or health, the efforts of reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper will not matter.

The Nationals have made the playoffs in 2 of the last 4 years with 2012 and 2014 being sandwiched between poor 2013 and 2015 campaigns of failed expectations. With 2 .300 hitters fleeing the club this past winter, coupled with the loss of Ian Desmond to Free Agency, this club needs Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth and Anthony Rendon healthy and on the field in 2016. If they struggle in production or health, the efforts of reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper will not matter.

Hunter Stokes (BBBA Featured Writer) 

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Bryce Harper fashioned one of the greatest years we have ever seen by a 22 year old, and the Washington Nationals still only finished with a 83 – 79 record – and plenty of victories behind the NL Playoff Bar.

Harper took home the MVP efforts, and has to be wondering if his supporting cast has his back for the 2016 campaign – if he can make it safely to base at least 300 times again like he did in 2015.

Perhaps the biggest factor Washington struggled down the stretch was injury.  Ryan Zimmerman couldn’t stay on the field – despite racking up a productive 74 RBI on 346 PA.

Denard Span missed 101 games, which is definitely too bad considering the squad was 36 – 25 in games he was featured in.

Jayson Werth never got on track after injuries plagued him early and often – and had his worst year in a decade – after finishing with top 18 votes for MVP in the previous two seasons.

2014 stalwart Anthony Rendon only mustered a half a season of injury riddled play at a .707 OPS after putting forth a Silver Slugger campaign – with a top 5 MVP vote the previous year.

Ian Desmond also had added a horrible 1st half of the year, before he corrected his problems at the plate, and stopped booting the ball around in the second half. Read the rest of this entry

3 lessons we learned during the first week of spring

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With one week of spring training in the books, here are the top three things we learned

It’s’ the beginning of a new season. Spring Training began as pitchers and catchers reported late last week and position players started to arrive early on this week.

Of course there are going to be at least a few interesting situations that will go down in this first week or two of Spring Training. It happens every year beginning with almost every player declaring “I’m in the best shape of my life” to there being so many new faces on some of the teams that the players literally need  to meet one another for the first time.

That was the case for the Oakland Athletics last year after many offseason trades and it appears to be the case in Seattle this season with the Mariners. New GM Jerry Dipoto turned over more than 40% of the Mariners roster in hopes to improve the team enough that they can compete in what is going to be a very competitive race to win the AL West or at least slide in as one of the two AL Wild Card teams.

Some free agents are still signing agreements and getting their physicals while other players are already incurring injuries such as the San Francisco Giants Matt Cain and the Detroit Tigers’ Anibal Sanchez.

While injuries and guys without jobs are no joke …. Here are a few very fun and somewhat  interesting things we’ve already learned in 2016: Continue reading on BBST

Baseball’s Greatest One Hit Wonders Part 2: The Pitchers

Chuck Booth (BBBA President/Owner mlbreports.com) 

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Pitching is the most unnatural motion I can think of.  The human arm is not meant to throw 90-100 MPH repeatedly over and over. 

It is for this reason why I am never surprised when Pitchers go out for any injury. 

When I was 15, I was the catcher for former Major League Pitcher Chris Reitsma on our ALL-Star Team.  I witnessed this kid throwing 90 MPH as a teenager. 

Honestly, no one could hit the guy.  As a catcher for 10 years and having a a decent baseball IQ, I was mad that the coach never let me call his pitches for him. 

Why he would even throw sliders, curves and breaking balls is beyond me and it cost us some games versus some California and Arizona teams.   There was no denying that he was a mega talented pitcher. 

He did go onto a decent MLB career, even appeared in 84 games for the Atlanta Braves in 2004.  Yet he finished pitching by the age of 29 because he threw junk. 

Now I will move on here, I am just pointing out that kids should not be throwing  junk until they are finished high school. 

There will be time in future articles to talk about pitching discipline and attitude. 

Just like the hitters that I featured last week, the pitchers I am featuring here took the MLB by storm for a while.  The fan bases were certain that these players would have great careers, only to see them fade quickly. 

If you ask me which position is tougher to stay up on top of, I would definitely say pitching! 

Remember that if you fail 70% of the time as a hitter, you are still labeled a great hitter.  Pitchers have to have a success rate of 75% to be elite. 

Plus when they are out there, it is a continual one after another moment, whereas a hitter has a chance to regroup after an AT BAT.

This set of 5 pitchers (Mark Fidrych, Mark Prior, Jeff Zimmerman, Tommy Greene and Derrick Turnbow) in this list are all pretty much of recent vintage. 

I saw 4 of them play as I only started watching baseball in 1980 and Mark Fidrych was already done by that time. 

This doesn’t mean that I have not seen countless highlights from the man in the last 30 years.  Here are a couple for your enjoyment before we start.

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MLB Power Rankings: Early Win Total Predictions For Spring Of 2016

Hunter Stokes (Chief Writer/Part Owner) 

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There is parity in the American League and their is a growing distance between the good and the bad clubs in the National League.

One could argue that the top 6 teams (NYM/CHC/SF/WSH/STL/PIT) in all of the Majors reside in the NL right now, and you then you can counter that by saying they have the 6 worst squads as well (PHI/ATL/MIL/CIN/SD/COL).

The funny thing about this whole ordeal is that the AL is absolutely going to cream the NL in Interleague this forthcoming season.  On a 12 year win streak already,  I am predicting a 175 – 125 W – L for the games between both leagues. The AL speedbags the National League in my view.

Last year, the American League held a 167 – 133 mark over the National League so that prediction up there is not foreign by any means. 

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Cincinnati Reds State Of The Union For 2016

The Reds management started off the rebuild project nicely with the midsummer deals of Leake and Cueto. They also got a nice haul for 2 years left of Todd Frazier. However, due to a 10/5 rule for Brandon Phillips, and a domestic dispute killing potential other deals, Cincinnati has been stymied in completing the quest. Our own Jordan Gluck ranked them as the 27th worst prospects team in 2015, and it has only slightly improved since the spring. It is going to be a long arduouas process for the brass to pull themselves out of thi predicament.

The Reds management started off the rebuild project nicely with the midsummer deals of Leake and Cueto. They also got a nice haul for 2 years left of Todd Frazier. However, due to a 10/5 rule for Brandon Phillips, and a domestic dispute killing potential other deals, Cincinnati has been stymied in completing the quest. Our own Jordan Gluck ranked them as the 27th worst prospects team in 2015, and it has only slightly improved since last spring. It is going to be a long arduous process for the brass to pull themselves out of this predicament.  Jesse Winker and Robert Stephenson join Jose Peraza as the top 3 prospects that could make the 2016 club.

Hunter Stokes (Chief Writer/Part Owner) 

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The Reds finished 64 – 98 in 2015 and the situation is going to get a lot worse before it gets any better.  I predict 100 losses for the Cincinnati club for 2016, and they could really rack up some L’s especially past the trade deadline of next year if they do their job right in managing the squad.

I like the path the management has taken for trading players, unfortunately a domestic dispute cost the chance to flip Aroldis Chapman to the Dodgers, and the 10 – 5 rule cost them another opportunity to deal Brandon Phillips to the Nationals.

Obviously there is still hope they can trade these guys before they can’t do so anymore.

Last season the club dealt Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake in separate deals at the deadline, and have 3 players on the current depth chart to show for it (Adam Duvall, Brandon Finnegan and John Lamb, while they have 2 more Minor League prospects in Keury Mella and Cody Reed.)

Cincinnati finished just 1 win ahead of the Phillies for the worst record in the Major Leagues.

There is no polite way to go about this rebuilding process.  Jay Bruce, Devin Mesoraco, Jumbo Diaz, J.J. Hoover, Tony Cingrani, Zack Cozart and Homer Bailey should all be considered to be traded in addition to Chapman and Phillips.

The only real players the club should keep are Joey Votto, Billy Hamilton, Anthony DeSclafani and all other players they traded for last season – or are in their Minor League system.

One only has to look in which Division they play in to realize that their Roster is overmatched and there is no short term solution to fix this organization.

The Cubs are set for an awesome 4 – 5 years stretch of play as all of their young offensive stars are groomed by their recent Free Agent signings over the last 2 winters.

St. Louis has reset their roster among the veteran core that aged together with Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina and Matt Holliday. Read the rest of this entry

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