Armchair Analysis: Joe Ross Shows His True Colors (4/19/21 vs Cardinals)

DeJong hits 2 of Cardinals' 5 HRs in 12-5 win at Nationals | Professional |


Game 1 of 3 vs Cardinals
Box Score

St. Louis (8-8) 0 1 3 2 5 0 0 1 0 -- 12
Washington (5-9) 0 0 0 2 0 3 0 0 0 -- 5

The Bad
Joe Ross
After two scoreless starts to begin the season, Joe Ross fell apart, allowing 10 runs in just 4.1 innings pitched. A regression to the mean was to be expected after his prior dazzling performance, but this quickly? He simply did not have anything going for him in this one. His fastball was down and he coughed up more meatballs than an Italian chef during the lunch rush. Another problem was manager Davey Martinez leaving Ross in for too long, particularly considering the unusually quick hook he typically has with any starting pitcher not named Max, Stephen, or Patrick. After allowing four runs over six innings, Martinez should not have trotted Ross back out for another inning. At the very least, he should have pulled Ross after he put runners on 2nd and 3rd with nobody out. The decision to leave Ross in becomes even worse when one considers that the Nationals added three runs in the 6th--a rally that could have easily made the game close had the damage been limited in the 5th. Unfortunately, Martinez seems to be into the trend of throwing in the towel anytime a starter digs a deep hole. This was the third game that could have been close but got out of hand due to Martinez leaving a struggling starter in the game for too long. Go to Joe 30330

The Good
Ryne Harper
I tried to find silver lining to this game. I truly did. Harper's performance was all I could find on such a forgettable night. The best Harper in baseball pitched two perfect innings in relief, doing his best to limit the damage and eat up some innings.

The Question Mark
Josh Bell
When the Nationals acquired Bell from the Pirates in December, the expectation was that they were bringing in some much-needed protection for Juan Soto. Since returning from the COVID list last Monday, Bell has been anything but protection. In this game, he did record a hit but struck out twice and left two runners on base in a 1-for-5 stat line. Thus far this year, Bell is hitting .120 with a wOBA of .189, has yet to hit his first Nats longball, and his wRC+ is a whopping 15. Yes, you read that right. 15 (league average wRC+ is 100 for those unfamiliar with advanced statistics). Not quite as pathetic as Jeff Mathis' wRC+ of 2 from 2019, but pretty atrocious. Bell's ineptitude at the plate has reached a point where opposing pitchers have zero fear of him, and are once again giving Juan Soto nothing good to hit. To be fair to Bell, he is only a week removed from coming off the COVID list. I am not aware of whether he experienced symptoms, but players recovering from the disease have shown a tendency to struggle out of the gate. Additionally, Bell had a phenomenal Spring Training. So while his performance has been dreadful thus far, it's still fully possible that the slugger will rebound.

Player of the Game: Ryne Harper (2 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 1K)
I never got around to writing my analysis for Sunday's game, but I named Trea Turner the player of the game for that one due to his two home runs. That game marks his second time as the Player of the Game this season.

Other Thoughts
Throwing in the Towel
I touched on this earlier, but I wanted to bring it up more extensively because it's a disturbing trend. A few of Davey Martinez's decisions in the middle innings made it clear that he was no longer managing to win the game. Namely, leaving Joe Ross in despite the fact that it clearly was not his day. I understand the logic of wanting to preserve the bullpen for future games. However I question the overall usefulness of such a strategy. Which will cost the team more wins in the long run: using back-end relievers for two or three additional innings, or leaving any struggling starter in the game long enough to create an insurmountable deficit? I would certainly think that the latter leads to more losses, but most of Major League Baseball's managers tend to lean the opposite way, and I find it truly baffling. Another head-scratcher from Martinez was his decision to remove star shortstop Trea Turner from the game in just the 6th inning. Removal of a non-injured star player is one of the most significant white flags a team can fly, and Martinez chose to do so in just the 6th inning. Not a good look.

Situational hitting
In the bottom of the 7th inning, the Andrew Stevenson led off with a pinch-hit walk before Juan Soto laced a double to put runners on second and third with nobody out with Bell, Schwarber, and Harrison coming up. Down by 6 at the time, it seemed like the team's biggest opportunity to claw back into the game. In the situation, any contact from Bell or Schwarber besides a pop-up would have been at least a run, but they both made the curious decision to swing for the fences. Unsurprisingly, both struck out. This was a huge momentum killer, and the team did not score for the rest of the game. Manufacturing runs has always been comparable to pulling teeth for this team, but they have been especially lacking in that department over the past two seasons. They often appear to be swinging for the home run ball in situations with runners in scoring position and less than two outs, which suggests to me that hitting coach Kevin Long is the catalyst for this chronic problem.

What's Next
The Nats and Cardinals face off for game 2 of a three game set. Lefty Patrick Corbin will be starting for Washington, hoping to turn his season around after two atrocious starts.

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