Washington Nationals Rapid Reactions: How Much Blame Should be Put On Matt Williams?

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The Washington Nationals (58-58) lost their fifth game in a row Saturday night, falling in 12-6 fashion to the San Francisco Giants (63-53). Since the All-Star Break, the Nats are 10-19 (a .345 winning percentage). With a majority of the Washington players having returned to the lineup, the injury card is no longer playable. The talent is there, but the results are nowhere to be found. Players, coaches, and fans are left searching for answers as to how the Nats are going to get back on track. The most lost of them all, however, may just be manager Matt Williams.

On nights where the pitching is superb, the offense fails to plate any runs. In games where the lineup lights up the scoreboard, the pitching staff is lit up themselves. Close games turn into blowouts by the seventh inning, leaving newly acquired Jonathan Papelbon left sitting in the bullpen unused night after night. Yet when actually faced with tight situations, Williams continually fails to make the right decision, especially when managing the bullpen.

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Williams has this idea that every relief pitcher is entitled to at least one full inning of work per appearance, and that utilizing pitcher/hitter match ups isn’t as effective. Southpaw Felipe Rivero holds left-handed hitters at bay as well as anyone in the league, sporting a .196 BAA with no home runs. Against righties? It’s a whole different story. Right-handers hit .288 against him, while slugging two home runs and hitting seven doubles. Nevertheless, Williams continues to ignore matchups and send him out for full innings, resulting in runs the Nats’ offense is not able to overcome.

When his starting pitchers are struggling early in games, Williams tends to give them too long a leash, leaving them in too long only to cause more damage. One can understand the occasional game where the manager lets the starter prove he can finish one more inning, but Williams will do that plus let them head out to the mound again the next inning, allowing opponents to score even more. Games that would have been close get out of reach, leaving the offense helpless as it is forced to battle under five, six, or seven run deficits.

While firing Matt Williams midseason would be catastrophic towards the Nats postseason chances, many are questioning whether he’ll remain in a D.C. uniform heading into next season. While his serious demeanor and playing career may make for an excellent resume, his so-called aggressive approach to the game has not been translating into wins. When a team with talent loaded across the roster underperforms its expectations, many fingers begin to point towards the manager. With the way he’s managed the Nats thus far, the accusations may be warranted.

Next: Pitching Lets Nats Down As Team Loses 5th Straight

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