As I mentioned in my series preview, I was not able to get in contact in time with someone from the Nationals Fansided site, District on Deck in time for the series preview.
I was able to talk to Michael Natelli from District on Deck. Here is a look at the chat we had.
Ehsan: The Washington Nationals are off to a hot start. Is the Nationals pitching staff as good as we are seeing now, or should we expect some regression?
Michael: It’s hard to say they’ll be this good for 162 games, simply because of how well they’ve performed. If each of the five starters performed at their best for the whole season, I wouldn’t question the concept, however, I just don’t see that happening. Every player has hot and cold streaks (in this case on the mound), so the rotation is likely to drop off some. But, when Edwin Jackson (12-9 last year, 3.79 ERA) is your fourth guy, that says something about this staff. Though it won’t be perfect, I expect pitching to be a highlight of this year’s season.
Ehsan: Bryce Harper has struggled a bit in Triple-A, does this slow start delay the Nationals plans on when they are going to bring him up?
Michael: Well first off let’s establish that the man isn’t even 20 yet, so there’s no reason to be concerned long term at this point. But to get to your specific question, it’s still unclear as to what the Nationals’ plans are with Harper. They brought him into Big League Camp, but it never sounded like they were intending on actually giving him a roster spot for Opening Day. Harper is indeed struggling right now, so to me, his call-up time table depends on a few things. 1) Around late-June/early-July, where are the Nats in the standings? At that point they will have a sense of whether or not they’ll be competing, so that will help with making the decision of whether or not to bring Harper up from the minors. 2) At that point, what’s the production from Rick Ankiel/Roger Bernadina looking like? If collectively they’re slacking and that’s causing the Nationals to lose games, that may motivate the Front Office to give Harper a shot.
Ehsan: It’s too early in the season to look at numbers and make a judgment on any player, but in your opinion, has Jayson Werth proving to be the player the Nats wanted when they signed him to that long contract a season ago?
Michael: No one really knows what exactly the Nationals were looking for when they acquired Werth. Some say they thought he’d be the impact bat that would guide them to the playoffs, while others say that Werth was just a decent player the Nationals wanted, and they saw it as an opportunity to show the world/future free agents that they’re willing to spend in order to get the future free agents to start considering them. My personal expectations for Werth were to hover around .270-.275 with 20-25 homers and 90 or so RBIs, with roughly 15 stolen bases. His home runs and stolen bases (20 and 19, respectively) were as expected, but the RBIs and hits were not there. Granted some of that was due to a lingering injury to Ryan Zimmerman, but he should have had at least 70 RBIs in Zimmerman’s absence, and it still doesn’t justify the 130 hits.
So again, to answer your question, I think Werth will indeed become the player the Nationals wanted this season. Will he be worth his salary? No. But what the Nationals wanted? Yes. He won’t keep up the .327 average he currently has, but somewhere in the .280’s in not inconceivable, and when Michael Morse returns, that will take some pressure off, allowing Jayson to be himself more. Assuming Morse stays in the lineup and Zimmerman is healthy, Werth will return to form.
Ehsan:Stephen Strasburg is a monster on that mound. Is his inning count going to hurt the team later down the road? 160 is the magic number, I believe.
Michael: Strasburg has been a blast to watch and yes, 160 is the number. The way this bullpen has performed so far, I don’t believe the innings limit will hurt the team as far as pulling him early goes, but in terms of Strasburg missing starts come August/September, the team will definitely suffer. Strasburg has been a Top 5 pitcher in the NL so far, so even if whoever replaces him (presumably Chien-Ming Wang?) pitches well, he won’t duplicate Strasburg’s success. So unfortunately, this dreaded innings limit may come back and haunt the Nationals come playoff time. But if Strasburg goes on to have the career people expect him to, it will be well worth it.
Ehsan: What pitching match up are you looking forward to most this series? What about pitcher-hitter match up?
Michael: I’m very excited to watch tonight’s matchup of Ross Detwiler and Carlos Zambrano, as this is Detwiler’s first time facing the Marlins as a starter, and it will be a much different team than he has seen in the past. Zambrano’s career numbers against the Nats also make this an interesting matchup, because despite not being the greatest pitcher over the past few years, Zambrano holds an 8-3 career record against the Nationals with a 3.35 ERA in 15 appearances. So, neither team’s ace will be on the mound, but tonight’s matchup makes for a good story.
Thanks to Michael for answering those questions for us on MM. Good luck to the Nationals and their fans in this series. Go Marlins!