Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com wrote a column yesterday about how the Nationals and general manager Mike Rizzo are “not looking for scapegoats” following a 21-27 start.
Much of the article is about how they’ve dealt with lots of injuries to key players and about how Rizzo is “satisfied” with the performance of manager Jim Riggleman and hitting coach Rick Eckstein, but then there’s this piece that caught my eye:
Rizzo says there is only one problem with his club. “We’re playing terrific baseball except for the fact that we’re struggling with runners in scoring position,” Rizzo says. …
“Am I happy with the won-loss record? No. But I think it’s really based on us not hitting with runners in scoring position, getting the big hit. I hope that turns around. We’re played good enough baseball to be way better than our record indicates.”
What an odd thing to focus on.
Washington is hitting .230 with a .663 OPS overall, compared to .228 with a .697 OPS with runners in scoring position. In other words, they’ve actually been slightly better with runners in scoring position. Obviously the Nationals would have more wins if they were hitting, say, .328 with runners in scoring position, but when a team bats .230 overall and .228 with runners in scoring position pointing to that as the problem is silly.
As for the notion that the Nationals should be “way better than our record indicates” … well, that’s off base too. Washington would certainly be better if Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg, and now Adam LaRoche weren’t injured, but their actual performance has been every bit as bad as their record so far. They’ve been outscored by 18 runs in 48 games, which all things being equal projects to a 22-26 record. And they’re 21-27.
Kurt Suzuki will wear a Braves’ uniform through the 2018 season after signing a one-year, $3.5 million extension with the club on Saturday, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. Rosenthal adds that the two had been in talks for weeks and Suzuki made it clear that he wanted to remain in Atlanta for the foreseeable future. The team has yet to announce the extension.
Suzuki, 33, initially signed a one-year contract with the Braves back in January. The veteran backstop stepped into a backup role behind starting catcher Tyler Flowers, but still found a way to impress at the plate with a .271/.343/.525 batting line, career-best 18 home runs and an .868 OPS through 287 PA. According to FanGraphs, Suzuki’s 2.2 fWAR makes 2017 his most valuable season since his run with the 2009 Athletics.
It’s a prudent move for the Braves, who would have lost one of their most dynamic second-half hitters to the free agent market this offseason. Entering Saturday, Suzuki is second only to Freddie Freeman with 11 homers and 1.4 fWAR since the All-Star break. His stunning comeback also confirmed the team’s decision to look outside the organization for a backup catcher, rather than turning to fellow veteran Anthony Recker behind the plate.
“On a personal level, this season exceeded my expectations,” Suzuki told reporters on Wednesday. “It’s just one of those things I can’t explain. I put a lot of work in and really didn’t have a job until late January. I got an opportunity here and took advantage of it. It was definitely a good fit.”
Tigers’ outfielder Mikie Mahtook is unlikely to play again this season, club manager Brad Ausmus announced Saturday. Mahtook was diagnosed with a Grade 2 left groin strain following Friday’s series opener against the Twins, when he appeared to injure himself after chasing down Byron Buxton‘s two-RBI double in the fourth.
This is the second time Mahtook has sustained a groin injury over the past month. The 27-year-old exited Friday’s game with a .276/.330/.457 batting line, 12 home runs and a .787 OPS through 379 plate appearances with the team.
With the Tigers out of contention, there’s no reason to trot out Mahtook for the remaining eight games of the regular season. The club has yet to specify a timetable for his return, but there’s no reason to believe he won’t be in fine shape to compete for a starting role next spring.