The Home Stretch

Here we are, September. The end of the line for 86% of teams, and the beginning of the long, cold, baseball-less winter. At 63 wins, we are hardly world beaters. We are expectation beaters, which is a lot better than perennial expectation shortcomings (see: Washington Redskins). There are a number of interesting stories to watch in the next month. Here are a few of them:

1. The Starting Pitching Conundrum- The current rotation of Shawn Hill, Jason Bergmann, Matt Chico, Joel Hanrahan, and Mike Bascik (with Redding out of commission for a week)
will not strike fear into the hearts of the NL East. It does have the makings of being formidable though. Shawn "When Healthy" Hill has shown some large bright spots, and with his devastating sinker and some strong innings in Fall League, I see him at the top of our rotation next year. There are issues of durability, but I tend to believe that's going to be the way for pitchers from now on. The 200ip pitcher is a rarity now.
Jason Bergmann has been inconsistant, with 2 or 3 gems (with one coming on his last start) surrounded by average or sub average starts. He has tools, but has control issues at times. Again, for what he is, and what he costs, a solid number 4, and a speculative 2-3.
Matt Chico, what can you say? Should he have been in the majors this year? No. He should have been in Harrisburg to start, Columbus near the end, and maybe with a callup. But, he was in the majors, and led the team in starts. Impressive, don't you think? More than any other pitcher on the staff, Chico struggles with control issues, and they have bitten him on many occasions. And with low 90s stuff, and no devastating out pitch (though his change has been responsible for a lot of his K's), he needs to have tighter control. But hey, Tom Glavine approves of him, so we should too.
Joel Hanrahan needs to have a big September to stay with in the rotation next year. He's another pitcher who has had a few nice starts, but has yet to show that he's a pitcher that a team trying to move the next level needs. I think he'll be a stop gap until a young pitcher makes his way up in the end of next season.
Mike Bascik is not good. Next.
Tim Redding

needs to get healthy in a hurry, and he may find himself back with the Nats due to an awful FA crop of pitchers. I hope he does, because I like his stuff. I think he'll be in AAA next year though. So we'll see.

2. The Middle Infield Conundrum- We at the Nats Report obviously love the Guz with a passion likely reserved for his wife and mother. We await his return, and count the days until he makes his appearance this month. That being said, do we know for sure that this year marks the return of Guz's offensive prowess? No, we're not positive. We hope so. Know why? Felipe Lopez is a crappy shortstop. He doesn't hit enough to warrant his D, and supposedly is having attitudinal issues. Ronnie Belliard continues to hit, albeit not at his previous levels this season, and has been reasonably solid at 2b. Should he lose weight so his range improves? Hell yes. Will he? No. Do we have ANY serious middle infield prospects that could help in the near future? No. So here's my prescription, Play Guz at SS all season, hope that he has a killer year, and trade him at the deadline if there's a market for him, since he's in his walk year. Hope that a middle infield prospect has made himself available, and if not, go after a big, young name on the market. Find a fielding first 2b, and platoon him with Ronnie. Oh, and non-tender FLop.

3. The Walking Wounded- Nick Johnson. John Patterson. Alex Escobar (haha. I know). These men have had the luxury of stealing money from the Nats this year. Some of them have net millions. Some less. What to do with these welchers? Nick could rebound this summer, and I hope he does, because he's an OBP machine. This displaces Meat, but that's a problem I don't mind having. JPatt is a head case, and should be cut and resigned to an incentive laden deal. That way when he has "nerve issues" again, we aren't throwing money at the problem. As much as I've said how much I love Escobar, this man is an injury magnet. I don't want him around the other guys...on second thought...maybe he'll steal everyone else's bad karma. He'll ward off injuries from NJ. ESCOBAR FOR BENCH COACH!

4. The Rookies- How soon will the golden children make their appearance? Despite Bowden's lip service, I see 2 or 3 rookies on the 25 man next year. Maxwell as a 4th outfielder. Detwiler as the 5th starter. Alaniz or Albalamadamadingdong in the pen. Write it down.

Ok, I'm tired. What do you think?


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