MetsBlog and SNY.tv intern Steve Hirsch is bringing back the out-of-town Q&A at the start of each new series to learn about the opposition from local reporters and bloggers.
This week Hirsch talks with Patrick Reddington, who covers the National’s for SB Nation.
The Mets begin a four-game weekend series in Washington with a double-header that starts today at 1:35 pm ET.
Hirsch: Tell me a little bit about new Nationals’ hitting coach Rick Schu. Obviously the Nationals have struggled mightily to open up the second half of this season, but does the front office see him as a long term solution?
Reddington: If the Nationals promote from within, I can see Rick Schu staying around beyond this season. Most of the in-house candidates like Randy Knorr and Trent Jewett, who are on Davey Johnson’s staff now, or Tony Beasley, who is managing in Triple-A, have a bit of history together with the organization. Schu’s been the minor league hitting instructor since 2009, so he’s worked with the young core of the Nationals’ roster (Bryce Harper, Steve Lombardozzi, Anthony Rendon), worked with the minor league teams at every level and he knows the players well.
If the Nationals go outside the organization for Davey Johnson’s successor though, you’d think a new manager might bring their own coaches along, and it would seem Schu could easily slip right back into his previous role as a roving instructor after finishing out this season. He has a history with Nats GM Mike Rizzo from Arizona.
One other note though. I tend to think Davey Johnson’s probably every bit as good a hitting coach as anyone they can bring in. I could personally listen to him talk all day about studying Frank Robinson and Hank Aaron’s swings when he was teammates with each.
Hirsch: With the recent news that Ross Detwiler is going to be on the disabled list for longer than expected, can we expect the Nats to start making some pretty aggressive moves before the deadline?
Reddington: I’m on the fence here. To get a pitcher who’s going to make a real difference in the Nats’ rotation, they’re going to have to give up some decent prospects and the last two years they’ve traded away a few of the organization’s top young pitchers in the trades for Gio Gonzalez and Denard Span. I’m not sure how attractive any of the hitters in the Nats’ system are right now to other teams outside of maybe OF Brian Goodwin, a 2011 1st Round pick I’d rather the Nationals didn’t trade. Most of the pitching talent in the organization right now is at A or AA ball and there are a few injury issues with the top pitchers. I’m not sure even if there was a pitcher out there that was available and worth it for the Nationals right now that they’d have the talent to land them.
As for what options the Nationals have already in the organization? There’s Ross Ohlendorf, who is exceeding all expectations after signing a minor league deal, though I wonder how long it will last, and two rookies in Taylor Jordan, who’s got 20-30 IP left on an innings limit after Tommy John, and Nathan Karns, who was up earlier this year and struggled but has been strong since he returned to Double-A. I’d almost rather the Nationals see what they can piece together from the three of them and a hopefully better Dan Haren.
Hirsch: Along similar lines, Davey Johnson has gotten off to slow starts before. In 1996, Johnson’s Baltimore Orioles were 50-51 after 101 games and won 88 games and made it to the NLCS. At this point, do you think the Nats have what it takes to make a playoff run?
Reddington: If the offense as a whole doesn’t really ignite, I don’t see it happening, but I’m not at the point of counting the Nationals out. They’ve had solid pitching from the rotation most of the season with strong years by Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and especially Jordan Zimmermann, but the back of the rotation is a bit of a question mark right now. As good as the pitching has been, however, the hitters haven’t provided the necessary run-support. Strasburg, as of today, has the third lowest run-support amongst starter in the majors at 2.85 average per start.
If the left-handed bats in the Nationals’ lineup (Span, Harper, LaRoche) don’t start hitting left-handed pitching and if the Nationals don’t get more runners on overall (they’re 28th in the majors with a .298 OBP as a team) they’re just not going to be able to score enough runs to to turn things around. Though Davey Johnson’s taking a bit of a beating right now in the press and social media in D.C., there’s probably not anyone I would rather have at the helm if the Nationals are going to try to make a run.