Nationals

Quick Links

Instant analysis: Yankees-Nationals

794414.jpg

Instant analysis: Yankees-Nationals

Game in a nutshell: The most-anticipated series in Nationals history got off to a ragged start. A couple of early scoring opportunities were mostly squandered, and Gio Gonzalez got himself into trouble during a two-run third inning. Despite that, the Nats were in the game most of the night and only trailed 2-1 in the seventh. That's when the wheels fell off. Brad Lidge replaced Gonzalez and let three of four batters he faced reach safely, though the key "blow" was an infield single by Derek Jeter that wound up scoring two runs thanks to Ian Desmond' throwing error. Michael Gonzalez then added fuel to the fire by serving up a two-run double to Curtis Granderson. That four-run inning completely turned the game around and left a sellout crowd of 41,406 (that is, everyone not wearing Yankees gear) with little reason to cheer.

Hitting lowlight: You can't realistically expect to hold a thunderous lineup like the Yankees have entirely in check, so the only way the Nationals were going to win this game was with some semblance of a productive lineup. They never got it. The Nats did have a couple of early scoring opportunities. They put two on with one out in the first (and watching as Adam LaRoche and Michael Morse each struck out) and then loaded the bases with one out in the third (getting an RBI single from Morse but then a killer, 6-4-3 double play from Desmond). After that, the Nationals' lineup was completely shut down by the New York pitching staff

Pitching lowlight: Sitting on 107 pitches through six innings, Gio Gonzalez was allowed to start the top of the seventh. But after a leadoff single to Andruw Jones, Davey Johnson came out with the hook. Enter Lidge, who immediately turned a tight ballgame into a mess. It's not that anyone hit the ball hard off Lidge (actually, none of the four batters he faced got the ball out of the infield). But a leadoff walk to Russell Martin set the tone, and after intentionally walking Robinson Cano to load the bases for Jeter, Lidge really found himself in a spot. He got a groundball out of the Yankee captain, but it was perfectly placed and (after Desmond's throwing error) led to a pair of runs scoring for the Yankees. Tough spot for Lidge, but he's got to be able to get out of that situation without so much self-inflicted damage.

Key stat: Entering tonight, the Yankees were 17-0 this season when Alex Rodriguez drove in a run. He recorded an RBI single in the third for New York's first run of the night, and the Yankees went on to win and improve that record to 18-0.

Up next: Game 2 of this series features the emerging Jordan Zimmermann and the ageless Andy Pettitte. First pitch at Nationals Park will be at 1:05 p.m. Saturday.

Quick Links

Explaining my National League ROY ballot

sotofinish.png
USA Today Sports

Explaining my National League ROY ballot

This was tight. Really tight. A category for the Braves’ Ronald Acuna Jr. A category for the Nationals’ Juan Soto.

Sorting through 16 categories showed Acuna and Soto should have split the National League Rookie of the Year award. It also showed me a narrow advantage for Soto, which is why I voted him first, Acuna second and Dodgers starter Walker Buehler third. Once the votes from other members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America were added, Acuna won, Soto was second and Buehler was third. It wasn’t close. It should have been.

First, a thought about the general process here: Writers take this seriously. Once assignments for the awards are distributed, we start to talk about them in the Nationals Park press box. Even non-voters hop in on the conversation. Sympathies are relayed to those who have an extremely tight choice, as I did this season and last when I voted for MVP (I’m big in Cincinnati thanks to my Joey Votto selection).

I outline specific categories, talk to opposing players and managers and watch as much as possible in order to come to a conclusion. The only thing easy about voting for ROY this season was the chance to see the leading candidates often since one played here and the other is in the division.

I used 16 categories to largely determine my vote. They were as follows: OPS, OPS+, Baseball Reference WAR, Fangraphs WAR, Baseball Prospectus WARP, OBP, WRC+, SB, HR, late-and-close OPS, 2 outs RISP OPS, BB:K ratio, WPA, “Clutch”, WOBA, and an overall defensive mark.

There’s no perfect formula here. But, when looking through those, Soto took nine, Acuna six and one, Fangraphs WAR, was even. That, coupled with Soto doing this in his age-19 season as the league’s youngest player (Acuna was just 20, so, like everything else the leader’s advantage here is slight), and talking to others in the league, prompted me to vote for Soto.

Again, the gaps were minute. Baseball Reference’s WAR formula favored Acuna. Fangraphs had them even. Baseball Prospectus put Soto clearly ahead. Soto was significantly better in late-and-close situations. Acuna was better with two outs and runners in scoring position.

If Soto had a distinct lead anywhere, it was via command of the strike zone, which is currently his premier talent. His walk and strikeout rates were both superior to Acuna. When asked about Soto, opponents and teammates alike brought it up.

However, Acuna is the better defender and baserunner. Points back to his favor.

Soto was intentionally walked 10 times signifying what opponents thought of dealing with him. Acuna was intentionally walked just twice (though his spot in the order has some influence there).

This ping-ponging of qualifications could go on.

What the National League East has is two of the best players in baseball. Not just young players at this stunningly low age, but two of the best. Soto was fourth in on-base percentage and seventh in OPS in the National League when adjusted to be among the qualified leaders (an explanation from Baseball Reference: In order to rank the player, the necessary number of hitless at bats were added to the player's season total.). Acuna was eighth in slugging under the same adjustment.

The 2019 All-Star Game is in Cleveland. Expect both to be there and this to be just the beginning of them being measured against each other.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS

Quick Links

Nationals' phenom Juan Soto finishes as NL Rookie of the Year runner-up to Braves' Ronald Acuña Jr.

soto_usat.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Nationals' phenom Juan Soto finishes as NL Rookie of the Year runner-up to Braves' Ronald Acuña Jr.

Despite a surprising, impressive and historic start to Juan Soto's career in Major League Baseball, the Washington Nationals' young star finished as the runner-up in the National League Rookie of the Year voting behind winner Ronald Acuña Jr. and ahead of finalist Walker Buehler, the league announced Monday.

For the Nationals' rising star who didn't shed his teenager status until after Washington's season ended, finishing second behind another similarly impressive player doesn't diminish his record-breaking accomplishments throughout the 2018 season -- so many of them related to being a 19-year-old rookie.

After the Nats called Soto up in the spring, he made his debut in the majors on May 20, quickly becoming famous for both his power and consistency and drawing countless comparisons to teammate Bryce Harper. He broke or tied too many records to list here -- but you can find them on NBC Sports Washington -- so we're highlighting the biggest.

He finished his rookie year with a .292 batting average, slugging at .517 and racking up 22 home runs, 70 RBI and 79 walks -- the most by a teenager in MLB history which also made him the only teenager with more than 60 walks in a single season.

Both the highest for a teenager in MLB history, Soto finished with a .406 OBP -- he's also the only teenager to break .400 -- and a .923 OPS, which put him second and third, respectively, among all NL hitters. He became the first teenager to finish with a slash line of at least .290/.400/.500 and the first rookie since Albert Pujols in 2001 to do it, according to MLB.com.

His three multi-home run games are the most by a teenager in MLB history, as are his multi-walk games (16). Soto also racked up 22 home runs this season, which tied Harper for second by a teenager, behind Tony Conigliaro with 24.

Soto started the 2018 season with the Class A Hagerstown Suns before getting bumped up to the Potomac Nationals (Class A-Advanced) and the Harrisburg Senators (Double-A) on his way to the majors.

With the Braves playing in the postseason before losing to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS, 20-year-old Acuña finished his rookie year with a slash line of .293/.366/.552, having a slight advantage over Soto in both batting average and slugging percentage. He also had the edge over the Nats rookie in home runs (26) and hits (127 vs. 121).

Winning the NLCS with the Dodgers before falling the World Series to the Boston Red Sox, Buehler was the lone pitcher in the NL Rookie of the Year race. The 24-year-old right-hander finished his first season with a 2.62 ERA on an 8-5 record. He struck out 151 batters and gave up 12 home runs.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS