Redskins

Huskies hope to reverse slump vs. No. 8 Arizona

Huskies hope to reverse slump vs. No. 8 Arizona

SEATTLE (AP) Washington picked the wrong time to go into a slide.

Losing three straight at any point of the Pac-12 Conference season is concerning. This skid by the Huskies (12-8, 4-3 Pac-12) could be even more damaging because of the schedule that lies ahead, beginning on Thursday night when they host No. 8 Arizona.

It would be one thing if Washington's nosedive came against the elite of the Pac-12. But the first two setbacks of the Huskies' three-game losing streak came against Utah and Oregon State, neither of which had a conference victory before beating Washington.

And while the Huskies played well before falling at No. 10 Oregon last Saturday, the slide leaves them little room for error going forward if they want to stay in the conference race.

``We need a good quality win, especially at home,'' Washington guard C.J. Wilcox said. ``We need to get this done now.''

For most of Lorenzo Romar's tenure as the Huskies coach, rebounding from losses to avoiding long losing streaks has been a strength. Since starting the Pac-10 season 0-5 in 2004 - followed by a dramatic turnaround that was capped with an NCAA bid - Washington has not lost more than four straight in any season.

But they will need an upset of Arizona to avoid their first four-game losing streak in nearly five years. The last time the Huskies dropped four straight was midway through the 2007-08 season when they were on their way to finishing the year with a losing record.

It's been a dramatic turn for Washington just in the span of the past two weeks. The Huskies went from leaders of the Pac-12 to suddenly facing a daunting task which if not handled well could leave the Huskies looking at postseason options that don't include the NCAA or NIT tournaments.

After hosting Arizona, the Huskies host surging Arizona State, then hit the road for the Los Angeles schools before coming home to face Pac-12 leader Oregon on Feb. 13.

``It's a big week. We see it as must wins for ourselves,'' Washington guard Abdul Gaddy said. ``We need to come out and play with great intensity.''

The Huskies' slump came on the heels of a stunning start to conference play where Washington started 4-0 with three of the victories coming on the road. That quick start was due mostly to the Huskies defense that has become a liability in the three losses that followed.

After beating Colorado at home on Jan. 16, Washington was allowing just 56 points per game in conference play. In the last three games, they are giving up 76 and allowed the last three teams to shoot nearly 55 percent.

``I think our mentality is a lot of it,'' Wilcox said. ``We came out with energy against Oregon but the games before I don't know what it was. I don't think we took them lightly but that's kind of how we came out and we had to play from behind and we're not really good at doing that. So we have to jump on teams early.''

If nothing else, the matchup with Arizona should be entertaining. Only twice in the past 10 meetings has the game been decided by more than 10 points and three of the last four matchups have provided at least one unforgettable moment.

During the 2011 regular season in Tucson, Derrick Williams came across the lane to block Darnell Gant's game-winning shot attempt in the final seconds of Arizona's victory. Later that season in the Pac-10 tournament championship game, Isaiah Thomas hit a step-back 20-footer as time expired in overtime to give the Huskies a 77-75 win. And last season in Tucson, Washington's Tony Wroten blocked Josiah Turner's attempt at a tying layup as time expired to give the Huskies a 69-67 win.

Thursday night will be the first time a ranked opponent has stepped foot inside the Huskies' home gym since Texas A&M in December 2009.

``We need to play at our highest level,'' Romar said, ``and we need the crowd to be at its highest level. And I know what that highest level is like.''

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Need to Know: Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense

Need to Know: Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, June 19, 37 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense 

It may still be early to project the roster, but things are coming into focus after the round of practices in helmets and shorts. Here is my look at who I think will make it on defense; the offense was posted yesterday.

Defensive line (7)
Jonathan Allen, Da’Ron Payne, Matt Ioannidis, Anthony Lanier, Stacy McGee, Tim Settle, Ziggy Hood

I don’t think that McGee’s groin injury will be an issue, but it seemed that Jay Gruden was very tight-lipped about the whole thing, so we will have to wait until training camp starts. This is one more than they normally carry here and Hood’s presence on the roster could be in danger if injuries force the team to carry more players at another position. 

Outside linebacker (4)
Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Ryan Anderson, Pernell McPhee

Anderson is certain to make the roster, but he was mostly invisible during the offseason practices that were open to the media. The spotlight will be on last year’s second-round pick in training camp. After a zero-sack rookie season, Anderson will be under pressure to produce this season. 

Inside linebacker (5)
Zach Brown, Mason Foster, Zach Vigil, Josh Harvey-Clemons, Shaun Dion Hamilton

The player I have on the wrong side of the bubble here is Martrell Spaight. If he does work his way on, the spot most in jeopardy is Vigil’s. Harvey-Clemons got a lot of reps with the first team in OTAs and the team thinks he can help in nickel situations and perhaps more. And Gruden called Hamilton a potential future starter. So the two younger players seem safe, leaving Vigil vulnerable.

Cornerback (6)
Josh Norman, Quinton Dunbar, Fabian Moreau, Orlando Scandrick, Josh Holsey, Greg Stroman

As is the case with the running backs that I looked at yesterday, this group seems to be pretty well set. It’s not that it’s an exceptionally strong group, but there isn’t a lot of real competition. Behind these six are three undrafted free agents and while Danny Johnson, Kenny Ladler, and Ranthony Texada all have had flashes in the offseason practices they are extreme long shots to make the roster at this point. 

Safety (4)
D.J. Swearinger, Montae Nicholson, Deshazor Everett, Troy Apke

If there are concerns about Nicholson’s health—to be clear, as of now there are none—Fish Smithson could make it as a fifth safety. 

Specialists (3)
K Dustin Hopkins, P Tress Way, LS Nick Sundberg

It looks like the Redskins will have the same trio of specialists for the fourth straight year. I will look it up at some point but for now, I’ll say that it’s been a while since they had such stability here. 


Defensive players: 26
Rookies (5): 
Payne, Settle, Hamilton, Stroman, Apke
New to the Redskins in 2018 (7): Rookies plus McPhee, Scandrick
Not on 2017 Week 1 roster (13): Rookies plus new players plus Vigil (released in the final cut, re-signed later in the season). 

On the 53-man roster:

24 offense, 26 defense, 3 specialists
Rookies: 8
New to the Redskins in 2017: 12
Not on 2017 Week 1 roster: 16

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

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Timeline  

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 37
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 51
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 74

The Redskins last played a game 170 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 82 days. 

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5 things you should know about new Nationals pitcher Kelvin Herrera

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5 things you should know about new Nationals pitcher Kelvin Herrera

The Nationals traded for Royals' pitcher Kelvin Herrera this evening. 

Not only did the Nationals trade for Kelvin Herrera, but they did so without losing Juan Soto, Victor Robles, or Andrew Stevenson. The first two were never in any real danger of being traded for a relief pitcher who will be a free agent at year's end, but the Nats escaped only giving up their 10th and 11th ranked prospects:

On the surface, this deal looks exceptional for the Nationals. Herrera is another back-of-the-bullpen type that only further deepens the Nats' options in that department. Here are a handful of things you should know about the Nationals' newest pitcher:

1. Herrera's strikeout "issue" is complicated 

Herrera, like many other closers over the last half-decade, has made his name in strikeouts. He topped out at a 30.4 percent strikeout rate in 2016, and has a 23.4 percent clip for his career. His K% this season sits at 23.2 percent, which is both higher than last season and lower than his career average. 

People will look at his dramatic K/9 drop as a red flag, but "per/9" stats are flawed and not generally a worthwhile stat to build an argument around. A pitcher who gets knocked around for five runs in an inning -- but gets three strikeouts -- can have the same K/9 of a different (much more efficient) pitcher who strikes out the side in order. 

2. Herrera has basically stopped walking batters 

His career BB% sits at 7.1 percent. His highest clip is nine percent (2014, 2015) and his lowest was a shade over four percent (2016). 

This season, he's walking batters at a two percent  rate. In 27 games this season, he's walked two batters. Two! 

3. The jury seems to still be out on how good of a year he's had so far

Analytics are frustrating. On one hand, they can serve wonderfully as tools to help peel back the curtains and tell a deeper story - or dispel lazy narratives. On the other hand, they can be contradictory, confusing, and at times downright misleading. 

Take, for instance, Herrera's baseline pitching stats. His ERA sits at 1.05, while his FIP sits at 2.62. On their own, both numbers are impressive. On their own, both numbers are All-Star level stats. 

When you stack them against each other, however, the picture turns negative. While ERA is the more common stat, it's widely accepted that FIP more accurately represents a pitcher's true value (ERA's calculation makes the same per/9 mistakes that were mentioned above). 

More often than not, when a pitcher's ERA is lower than his FIP, that indicates said pitcher has benefited from luck. 

Throw in a 3.51 xFIP (which is the same as FIP, but park-adjusted) and we suddenly have a real mess on our hands. Is he the pitcher with the great ERA, the pitcher with the Very Good FIP, or the pitcher with the medicore xFIP? 

4. He was a fastball pitcher, and then he wasn't, and now he is again

Take a look at Herrera's pitch usage over his career in Kansas City:

In only three years, he's gone from throwing a sinker 31 percent of the time to completely giving up on the pitch. That's pretty wild. 

Since 2014, he's gone to the slider more and more in every year. 

His current fastball usage would be the highest of his career. He only appeared in two games during the 2011 season, so those numbers aren't reliable. Going away from the sinker probably helps explain why his Ground Ball rate has dropped 10 percentage points, too. 

5. The Nats finally have the bullpen they've been dreaming about for years

Doolittle, Herrera, Kintzler, and Madson is about as deep and talented as any bullpen in baseball.

Justin Miller, Sammy Solis, and Wander Suero all have flashed serious potential at points throughout the year. Austin Voth is waiting for roster expansion in September. 

The Nats have been trying to build this type of bullpen for the better part of the last decade. Health obviously remains an important factor, but Rizzo's got the deepest pen of his time in D.C. 

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