Archive for the ‘ Nationals Magazine ’ Category

Nationals Magazine: A Numbers Game

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A version of this story first appeared in the Washington Nationals’ 2014 Yearbook. Visit nationals.com/publications to find out how you can subscribe to all Nationals publications.

by Amanda Comak

The Nationals’ Baseball Research & Development department, utilizing the latest technology, statistics and advanced analysis, drives the organization to forge a new, smarter way forward. 

bbops guysLeaning on the dugout railing at Arizona’s Chase Field in mid-May, Phil Rizzo gazed at the Washington Nationals as they took batting practice. He talked ball with those nearest to him, sharing some of his observations about the team his son — Nationals President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo — had built, and the first six weeks of their season.

At one point, Sam Mondry-Cohen, the Nationals’ Director of Baseball Research & Development, joined the small gathering.

Phil Rizzo, a baseball lifer who’s spent more of his 84 years evaluating ballplayers than he has doing pretty much anything else, lit up.

“This is the smartest guy around,” Rizzo said, smiling and reaching to throw an arm around Mondry-Cohen.

Much like his father, Mike Rizzo is a scout at his core. What his eyes tell him — what his experience tells him — will often be the trump card when he makes decisions to guide the organization, now and in the future.

But there is another side of that decision-making process and it involves more than just the eyes. The Nationals have taken a proactive approach to incorporating data analysis into their evaluations, and their three-man analyst team — led by Assistant GM & Director of Baseball Operations Adam Cromie, and filled out by Mondry-Cohen and Manager of Baseball Research & Development Michael Debartolo — plays an integral role in how the organization operates.

And as the scene between the elder Rizzo and the 26-year-old Mondry-Cohen so aptly illustrated, they’re also welcome additions at the table.

“Mike embraces what we do,” Cromie said. “He asks good questions and he puts us in a place where we’re central to a lot of the decisions (the team) makes. Other people in the organization see that and that helps lend us credibility.

“I think one of the things Mike really embraces about the way that we look at the game is that there’s a definitive line of reasoning with everything we do. We’re pointing to evidence, almost exclusively. I think there’s something, by nature, which lends credibility to that.”

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Cromie studied economics at Allegheny College, while playing Division III football, before pursuing his masters in Sports Management from the University of Massachusetts. He came to the Nationals after working for Baseball Info Solutions as a video scout and analyst, spending time employed by an agent, and interning for the Washington Wild Things in the Frontier League.

When he began working for the Nationals, there wasn’t much of an analytics department to speak of.

“(When I first got here) it was just Adam,” said Mondry-Cohen, who joined the Nationals as an intern while studying English at the University of Pennsylvania. “He was the only one whose job was really dedicated to working with data, whereas now I think that’s part of all three of our jobs, and the majority of my job and Mike (DeBartolo’s).”

The son of a high school math teacher, Mondry-Cohen had two main interests as a kid: baseball and numbers. Living what he calls “a very charmed baseball life,” Mondry-Cohen worked as a batboy in the visiting clubhouse in San Francisco and he’d see the teams that would come in to play the Giants up-close-and-personal.

“The way I followed the game was the numbers of the game,” Mondry-Cohen explained. “That kind of coincided with the explosion of baseball blogs and baseball research published online. I was just a big fan and that was the way I followed the game.”

With Mondry-Cohen aboard full-time upon his graduation, Cromie’s role expanded to encompass more than data analysis. Cromie is now involved in every player personnel move the team makes.

“When I first started, I was doing analysis and research,” Cromie said. “As we started to build tools and analytical systems, it started to give me time to do other things. Then I hired Sam, Sam hired Mike, and we’ve got a lot of consultants we work with now.”

In 2012, after four years at an investment consulting firm and in the midst of completing his MBA at Columbia University, DeBartolo joined the organization as an intern.

An economics major at Tufts University, DeBartolo grew up in baseball-mad Boston following the Red Sox — and noticing as their front office personnel began to shift.

“It was around the time that some executives with non-traditional backgrounds were getting into the game,” said DeBartolo, who was hired full-time by the Nationals in November of 2013. “And that was always kind of a dream of mine.”

DeBartolo’s addition gave the group yet another mind from which to draw, and to divide up a workload that has only continued to increase.

“I think the tasks that we do as an analytics group fall into three categories,” Cromie said. “There are broad strategic issues, ad-hoc projects and general research.

“We have a lot of input on the broad strategy we adopt as a team on almost every level: how do we want to spend resources? Where do we want to spend resources? I think a lot of that falls out of how competitive we think we are, and one of our strengths is being able to analyze that.”

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What separates the Nationals’ analytics team from, say, the fan who accesses advanced statistics in myriad places online, is the information they have to complement those numbers. In truth, it may actually be the other way around: the statistics complement the wealth of internal information the organization gathers.

“We’d call it a process-driven box score,” Cromie said.

Across the organization — including Minor League affiliates — the Nationals have installed tracking systems that measure everything from the traditional PITCHf/x information (utilized by live game trackers like MLB.com’s At-Bat app to plot balls and strikes) as well as a radar technology called TrackMan.

“That gives us data that’s not available in a box score,” Mondry-Cohen said. “Some of it a scout could pick up with a radar gun, like pitch velocity, but one thing they can’t get is the exit velocity of a hit ball. We know what some of the hardest-hit balls were, and whether or not they turned into hits.”

The technology goes deeper still.

At all levels of their system, including the Major Leagues, the Nationals can evaluate a pitcher’s release point in three dimensions throughout the game to note changes, like how the rotation of their pitches or velocity was affected when they altered their release point.

Used in conjunction with other internal information, like medical reports from the team’s training staff, the group can put together a far more accurate analysis of the data than someone operating off the numbers alone. That the Nationals have access to all of it exemplifies the organization’s interest in the information.

“It costs a lot to install these technologies at these affiliates,” Mondry-Cohen said. “And that’s not something we had five or six years ago. That’s something ownership has invested in. The only reason we have (a lot of these) measurements is because of the technology we’ve paid to install.”

The task then falls to Cromie, Mondry-Cohen and DeBartolo to process the information and turn it into something the entire front office can understand and absorb.

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On any given game night, Cromie, Mondry-Cohen and DeBartolo will watch from one of three spots: the GM’s suite, the scout seats in the stands, or at their desks, which have televisions within view. How much they each watch varies.

“There was a time when I made an effort not to watch the games,” Cromie said. “I’ve really gotten away from that, largely because I think I’ve come around to the idea that a lot of the things we do can really inform the way you watch a game and make it more enjoyable.”

“For me, it’s very difficult to just watch the game,” DeBartolo said. “Every once in a while I find myself drifting into a fandom where I’m rooting for something to happen, but I think a lot of times we’re thinking through and watching closely the approach of a player, fielding position, all of the decision making that can happen. I think it’s less about a rooting sense and more a sense of evaluating.”

In Spring Training, the group had multiple meetings with Nationals Manager Matt Williams and his staff as they got to know one another and discuss philosophies. The exchange of ideas was another step.

“They’ve been extremely open,” Mondry-Cohen said of Williams and his staff. “They’ve wanted as much data as they can get and I think the things that they want are kind of allied with some of the things Mike (Rizzo) likes — predictive statistics, as opposed to history. They’re asking for more decision-making tools and we’re happy that they’re asking for it.”

“I think Matt views statistical analysis as a tool and as a new manager he wants every tool at his disposal that he can have,” DeBartolo added. “I have great respect for that, for being open-minded and trying to get every advantage he can have.”

The calendar dictates the more detailed work that the group does. In early May, they prepare for the MLB First-Year Player Draft. As the All-Star break approaches, they’re assessing the team’s strengths and weaknesses, and identifying potential trade partners in advance of the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. As the calendar inches toward fall, their focus turns toward the postseason, then free agency and the rest of the offseason — working to hone their projections and convey them properly.

Regardless of the specifics, all of the data they’re gathering and digesting on a daily basis will be utilized.

And, in the process, they’re continuing to evolve an organization built on the bedrock of scouting and player development by augmenting and improving those evaluations. The Nationals are a scouting-first organization, and there is no desire to replace the boots-on-the-ground work of those trusted scouts.

The hope is the work Cromie, Mondry-Cohen and DeBartolo do will only serve to complement and support it.

“It’s not (Rizzo’s) forte, conducting data-based research,” Mondry-Cohen said. “He’s a scout — a great scout — and that’s where he came up. But even if it’s not his forte, I think it’s something he really has interest in. He definitely wants it to be a part of his process. I think we’ve grown together, but he’s always been interested. He’s such a baseball guy. We’re researching baseball.”

“It’s a two-way street,” Cromie added. “We’ve learned a lot from him, too.”

Nationals Magazine Preview: Kevin Frandsen; His Brother’s Keeper

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The following is an excerpt from the August/September issue of Nationals Magazine. To read the full story, visit nationals.com/publications to find out how you can subscribe. The August/September issue of Nationals Magazine is on sale now, can be purchased at the Main Clubhouse Team Store at Nationals Park and is also available inside Nationals Park on gamedays.

by Amanda Comak

frandsen magFriends and family often tell Kevin Frandsen that it feels like yesterday that their world was shattered. That it seems as though hardly any time has passed since his older brother, DJ, retired from his 19-year battle with kidney cancer.

But this September it will be 10 years. And the Washington Nationals utility man has felt every second of DJ’s absence.

“If you told me it’s closer to 20 years, that’s what it’s felt like,” Frandsen said in late June. “Because when you lose your best friend (you feel it). Every day I talk to him, every single day.”

Frandsen paused and glanced at his surroundings. He sat on the edge of the dugout at Wrigley Field, a baseball cathedral, playing for a team that he calls “the winner you dream about being on,” and talked about how much he wishes DJ were here to see him now.

“Ten years,” Frandsen said. “It’s nuts.”

Frandsen’s memories of DJ are so vivid, so present in his mind. He smiles when he talks about the day he got drafted by the San Francisco Giants, and about how DJ cheered him up when the wait to hear his name languished past the 11th round. Frandsen had retreated to the batting cage their dad, Dave, had built in their backyard. Over the years, it’d become Kevin’s sanctuary. When he couldn’t be with the rest of his family at the hospital with DJ, he’d hit.

“DJ had just gotten back from another round of chemo and I was getting frustrated because I hadn’t been drafted yet and it was the eighth or ninth round,” Frandsen recalled. “I went into the cage to get away and at the end of the 11th round he was like, ‘You need to come back in. It’s time. You’re going to get drafted.'”

With the 29th pick in the 12th round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, the Giants called Frandsen’s name.

“They give the number, and then they said ‘Frandsen, Kevin,'” Frandsen said. “And DJ, he could barely run. Walking was tough. But he was running outside with his shirt off.”

That year, as Frandsen began his professional career, DJ and Dave surprised him and showed up at his first game. The last time DJ ever saw Kevin play, he went 4-for-4 with two doubles. Later that season, Frandsen was playing a ground ball at second when the runner on first collided with him and broke his collar bone.

The injury was crushing. But it was also a blessing. In the final seven weeks of DJ’s life, the injury allowed Kevin to spend each day with his big brother — who is three years, five days older, Kevin is quick to point out.

DJ passed away on Sept. 16, 2004. He was 25. He’d fought cancer off and on since he was six.

In the years since DJ’s passing, Frandsen and his family have ensured that he would be a part of their everyday life, and that families going through what theirs did might have a slightly easier road. They set up “19 for Life” in DJ’s honor, and the foundation has become exactly the type of shining light they’d hoped it would.

Mag3_CoverTo continue reading “His Brother’s Keeper” on Nationals utility man Kevin Frandsen, along with more great content from Nationals Magazine, please visit nationals.com/publications, or pick up a copy at the Main Clubhouse Team Store at Nationals Park, as well as inside Nationals Park on gamedays.

Nationals Magazine Preview: Anthony Rendon; Equilibrium

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The following is an excerpt from the August/September issue of Nationals Magazine. To read the full story, visit nationals.com/publications to find out how you can subscribe. The August/September issue of Nationals Magazine is on sale now, can be purchased at the Main Clubhouse Team Store at Nationals Park and is also available inside Nationals Park on gamedays.

by Mike Feigen

No matter the game situation, the position he plays on the diamond or the spot he hits in the lineup, Anthony Rendon serves as the Washington Nationals’ steadying influence.

At one end of the spectrum stands The Era of Twitter, the 24-hour news cycle, newspaper comments sections and ubiquitous “hot take” sports columns. The gravitational pull of this collective force draws unsuspecting victims into its orbit, with misstatements becoming headline news and free agent decisions drawing round-the-clock coverage.

Mag3_CoverAt the other end stands a reserved, unassuming 24-year-old, grinning sheepishly — perhaps reluctantly — as a cluster of reporters scurry to form a semicircle around the padded folding chair in front of his locker. With his back to the scene, he collects his thoughts, takes a deep breath, and turns to face the scribes, with the chair forming a symbolic barrier between himself and The Era, lest it envelop him, too.

Whether he wants to admit it or not, the Nationals’ success through the first three-and-a-half months of the season was largely a credit to the work put in by Anthony Rendon. The 6-foot-1, 198-pound second and third baseman enjoyed a tremendous all-around first half, hitting .287/.343/.490 with 13 home runs, 53 runs batted in, 67 runs scored and eight stolen bases.

His cool, calm and collected approach at the plate and in the field gave the Nationals a dependable presence on a daily basis, with injuries sidelining Bryce Harper, Adam LaRoche, Wilson Ramos, Denard Span and Ryan Zimmerman for a combined 168 games at various points in April, May and June.

Beginning the year as Matt Williams’ Opening Day second baseman — and hitting the back-breaking three-run home run in that game — Rendon started nearly every day at third base when Zimmerman went down less than two weeks into the year, before moving back to second upon Harper’s return on the last day of June. He provided excellent defense wherever he played, showing remarkable range, nifty glove work and a howitzer for a right arm.

Rendon’s success at the plate earned him a series of “promotions” up the lineup card, moving from the eighth spot in the opener — that experiment lasted just one day — before settling in nicely as Williams’ everyday No. 2 hitter behind Span. He hit at least once in every spot in the order along the way, including five times at the No. 5 spot and nine times in the leadoff role.

Span has seen an uptick in the amount of quality pitches he has to hit with Rendon hitting behind him, driving 28 doubles prior to the All-Star break — matching his entire 2013 total in 278 fewer plate appearances.

“(Anthony) has been the catalyst,” Span said in early July. “He’s done everything — he’s gotten on base, he’s scored runs, he’s knocked in a ton of runs. Defensively, he’s been unbelievable at second and third base. He’s been our MVP so far in this first half of the season.”

Mag3_CoverTo continue reading “Equilibrium” on Nationals infielder Anthony Rendon, along with more great content from Nationals Magazine, please visit nationals.com/publications, or pick up a copy at the Main Clubhouse Team Store at Nationals Park, as well as inside Nationals Park on gamedays.

Nationals Magazine Preview: Ian Desmond; The People’s Captain

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The following is an excerpt from the June/July issue of Nationals Magazine. To read the full story, visit nationals.com/publications to find out how you can subscribe. The June/July issue of Nationals Magazine is on sale now, can be purchased at the Main Clubhouse Team Store at Nationals Park and is also available inside Nationals Park on gamedays.

by Mike Feigen

The most coveted emblem in sports is not a logo on a cap or a dollar sign on a contract. Instead, it is the captain’s ‘C’ on a player’s chest, symbolizing not just their play on the field, court, or ice, but the respect they earn off it. Currently, no baseball players don a ‘C’ on their jerseys — only three are designated as team captains at all — but Ian Desmond, with the encouragement of his most devoted fans, could one day join that exclusive company. 

Mag2_cover_webThe evening of April 17, 2014 proved to be one of the toughest of Ian Desmond’s career. He’d shown up at the ballpark hoping to lead the Nationals to a victory over the St. Louis Cardinals, but instead found himself in front of his locker answering questions after a difficult 8-0 loss. The two-time Silver Slugger Award-winner wasn’t just bothered by the defeat, but by his fielding mishaps — a pair of errors that led to four Cardinals runs.

Always honest and forthright about his performances, good and bad, Desmond made sure he was available to the media late that night.

“As bad as I want to run and hide… (I’ve) got to stand here and answer the questions, and be a man about it,” Desmond told reporters. “This is something I’ve done to myself. I can’t blame anybody else or anything. I’ve been here before — I’ve proved to people I can play, and I’ve proved to myself I can play. I’m going to do it again. The errors in the past have made me who I am today. These are going to make me a better man, too. I’ve just got to keep fighting through it.”

Make me a better man. Those words are seldom heard in a clubhouse, where machismo and defiance usually follow tough defeats. Desmond is an exception to that rule, offering fans and reporters an introspective into his psyche on the bad nights and heaping praise on his teammates on the good ones.

Just a week earlier, Desmond deflected credit after he hit a game-clinching grand slam to give the Nats a 7-1 lead, saying middle reliever Aaron Barrett came through more than he did by getting a key strikeout when the score was still 2-1. It’s just part of who he is.

Desmond’s regard for others extends far beyond the walls of Nationals Park.

He supports as many charitable causes as he can, the vast majority of which are behind the scenes, with no fanfare. He prefers it that way. Causes he has publicly backed include the campaign to end Neurofibromatosis (NF), which generated more than $30,000 in donations during the month of May, and the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy (YBA), which opened in March. (For more details on Desmond’s quest to End NF click here.)

As a 28-year-old professional ballplayer with a wife and two small children, Desmond could not be faulted if he simply opened his checkbook for various causes and left the work of managing them to others. Instead, he voluntarily became the face of the End NF campaign and serves on the Youth Baseball Academy board of directors, going out of his way to provide more than just financial support.

Rarely do athletes take that kind of approach, but Desmond has a deep appreciation for where he came from and what it took to reach this point.

Mag2_300x390To continue reading “The People’s Captain” on Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond, along with more great content from Nationals Magazine, please visit nationals.com/publications, or pick up a copy at the Main Clubhouse Team Store at Nationals Park, as well as inside Nationals Park on gamedays.

Nationals Magazine preview: Gio Gonzalez; Line in the Water

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The following is an excerpt from the April/May issue of Nationals Magazine. To read the full story, visit nationals.com/publications to find out how you can subscribe. The April/May issue of Nationals Magazine is on sale now, can be purchased at the Main Clubhouse Team Store at Nationals Park and is also available inside Nationals Park on gamedays.

by Amanda Comak

Gio Gonzalez, the Nationals’ affable left-hander, is at peace as he begins his third season in Washington, a demeanor he’s arrived at with time spent with a fishing pole in hand. 

gio line in the water1There is a spot just off the Pineda Causeway, before the bridge reconnects with U.S. Route 1 and just far enough into the Indian River, where it’s easy to feel like you’re away from the rest of the world for a while. The waves crash against the base of the bridge and the breeze tempers the late afternoon sun.

It is a spot that Gio Gonzalez found during his first Spring Training with the Washington Nationals, now three camps ago. He used to come to this small pull-off with teammates. Sometimes Michael Morse, other times Edwin Jackson or Yunesky Maya, whose knack for fishing Gonzalez still hasn’t forgotten. They’d park their cars mere feet from the water and spend a few hours letting their minds focus on the fish.

On one idyllic afternoon this February, Gonzalez came here with his father, Max. They pulled off the causeway and dropped a few lines into the water. Max lit a cigar. They gazed into the horizon and relaxed.

“Any problem you have, you come out and fish and it’s like it disappears,” Gio said.

He smiled easily as his father joked with him and told stories.

There was the time Max took Gio and his brothers to the Florida Keys for a few days when they were kids. They slept in a tent right on the shore and spent the days fishing and swimming. One afternoon, moments after they’d gotten out of the water from a swim, “the biggest manatee I ever saw swam by,” Max recalled, separating his arms to emphasize his point. “They flipped,” he added with a chuckle.

Not 10 minutes after he’d told the manatee story, Max, standing about 15 feet from his son, spotted a familiar creature and shouted excitedly to Gio. Three manatees swam by, playing with one another as they went.

“Wow,” Gio said as they passed, a smile crossing his face. “You can’t beat that with a stick.”

Just as he seemed on that afternoon, Gonzalez begins his third season in Washington with a sense of peace about him. He has put a tumultuous 2013 season — the first in his career in which he did not improve upon what he’d done the year before — behind him. The potential for greatness remains ahead.

Asked if he’s excited for the upcoming season, Gonzalez is firm.

“I am,” he said without hesitation. “We just look focused — even our young guys in camp. Everyone has a focus about them… It just feels right.”

Cover-Mag1-webTo continue reading “Line in the Water” on Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez, along with more great content from Nationals Magazine, please visit nationals.com/publications, or pick up a copy at the Main Clubhouse Team Store at Nationals Park, as well as inside Nationals Park on gamedays.

Nationals Magazine preview: Jayson Werth; Speaker of the House

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The following is an excerpt from the April/May issue of Nationals Magazine. To read the full story, visit nationals.com/publications to find out how you can subscribe. The April/May issue of Nationals Magazine is on sale now, can be purchased at the Main Clubhouse Team Store at Nationals Park and is also available inside Nationals Park on gamedays.

by Mike Feigen

Three short seasons ago, Jayson Werth leaned on his experience as he adapted to a new organization. Today, the Nationals outfielder has become a fan favorite, the catalyst in a dynamic and talented lineup, and one of the most vocal leaders in a close-knit clubhouse.

Following the Nationals’ first full workout of Spring Training, Jayson Werth looked out from his locker at Space Coast Stadium as the throng of reporters huddled around him. He deftly answered questions with his trademark dry wit, commanding the tone of the session with a few well-timed jokes and several well-reasoned responses.

Cover-Mag1-webSuch is life for Jayson Werth in 2014, often a go-to spokesman for a team with worlds of talent and championship dreams to match. When the bearded 34-year-old says he’s optimistic about the upcoming season and points out how close last year’s club came to making a postseason run, it’s only natural for everyone to nod their heads along with him.

“The way we played in the second half last year coming down the stretch, there’s still some meat on the bone,” Werth says. “The season just wasn’t long enough. It’s something to build on going forward. We’re excited to get things going.”

As Werth looks forward to the promise of a new year, it’s easy to forget just how far he and the Nationals have come since he signed with the club on December 5, 2010. Year One of the Werth era brought a major leap forward for the entire organization, with an 80-81 record and third place finish in the National League East, then the highest placement in the division since the franchise moved to D.C. in 2005.

In spite of the team’s dramatic improvement, Werth’s up-and-down season did not live up to his own lofty standards, and he knew he could do more. At the time, he spoke at length about how he battled just to find his swing, even as his 2.3 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) would have ranked in the top three among qualified Nats hitters each of the previous three seasons.

What was less apparent, beneath the surface, was how his leadership had slowly begun to transform the Nationals into a group that expected to win by the end of 2011.

“(Last season is) water under the bridge now,” Werth told reporters upon reporting for camp before the 2012 season. “I don’t think it’s a fair assessment to judge my career or my time in Washington on last year. We’ve got lots of time to make good. We’re going in the right direction.”

Proven prophetic as the wins poured in throughout his second season with the Nationals, Werth wasn’t able to be as integral as he’d hoped, sidelined by a broken wrist for much of the summer. Even upon his return, when he slashed an excellent .312/.394/.441, he did so from the leadoff spot because his home run power had yet to fully return. Still, he continued to put the team first, setting the table for the rest of the offense while he healed.

Then, with one mighty swing on October 11, 2012, everything changed.

Cover-Mag1-webTo continue reading “Speaker of the House” on Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth, along with more great content from Nationals Magazine, please visit nationals.com/publications, or pick up a copy at the Main Clubhouse Team Store at Nationals Park, as well as inside Nationals Park on gamedays.

Nationals Magazine preview: Doug Fister; A Monumental Addition

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The following is an excerpt from the Spring Training issue of Nationals Magazine. To read the full story, visit nationals.com/publications to find out how you can subscribe. The Spring Training magazine is on sale now, can be purchased at the Main Clubhouse Team Store at Nationals Park and is also available inside Space Coast Stadium on gamedays.

by Mike Feigen

Standing tall at 6-foot-8, Doug Fister should be hard to overlook. Instead, the Californian with the worm-killing sinker has twice been traded, including an offseason deal that earned the Nationals plaudits in baseball circles. No stranger to sharing the spotlight — he’s pitched alongside four Cy Young Award winners — Fister is ready to make a big splash in a star-studded Washington rotation.

A monumental additionThe last time Doug Fister stepped onto a Major League mound, the stakes were high and his mission clear: with his Detroit Tigers trailing the Boston Red Sox two games to one in the 2013 American League Championship Series, he needed a big performance to knot the series.

Fister came through, holding the eventual World Champions to just one run over six magnificent innings, striking out seven batters in a 7-3 Detroit victory.

It would be the Tigers’ final win of the 2013 season, and the final time an opposing starter would limit the Red Sox to fewer than two runs in the postseason.

It was the kind of display that usually earns pitchers national notoriety and the “big game” label — particularly when they’ve led their team to six wins in seven career postseason starts, as Fister has done. Instead, it simply helped validate what fans, scouts and members of the statistics-based community had been saying for years: this guy is the real deal.

Just six-and-a-half weeks later, Fister became a Washington National.

STCoverThumbTo continue reading “A Monumental Addition” on Nationals right-hander Doug Fister, along with more great content from Nationals Magazine, please visit nationals.com/publications, or pick up a copy at the Main Clubhouse Team Store at Nationals Park, as well as inside Space Coast Stadium on gamedays.

Nationals Magazine preview: Matt Williams; Trust the Process

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The following is an excerpt from the Spring Training issue of Nationals Magazine. To read the full story, visit nationals.com/publications to find out how you can subscribe. The Spring Training magazine is on sale now, can be purchased at the Main Clubhouse Team Store at Nationals Park and is also available inside Space Coast Stadium on gamedays.

by Amanda Comak

The spotlights bore down on Matt Williams as he sat front-and-center on the main stage. To his left was Washington Nationals President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo. To his right, Mark D. Lerner, one of the Nationals’ Principal Owners.

trust the processIn front, throngs of red-and-white-clad fans waited pensively as Williams brought the microphone to his mouth.

“You have no idea,” Williams said, “how happy I am to be here.”

Applause followed.

The Nationals will enter the 2014 season with a new manager, the fifth in the organization’s history. And while the reception that Williams received at NatsFest in late January was one of rousing approval, the reception he’d been preparing for more happened roughly 900 miles to the south.

In early February, Williams stood inside the Nationals’ clubhouse at Space Coast Stadium and looked around. The men who’ll make up the first Major League team he’ll ever manage sat around him. From the Minor Leaguers getting their first taste of big league camp, to the most wily of veterans inhabiting their usual lockers in the back left corner, they gathered together.

Williams thrust one message upon each of them: trust the process.

Williams doesn’t shy away from the fact that while his team is among league heavyweights in preseason predictions, flush with talent and driven to do better than they have, he is a rookie manager. A decorated and championship player, well-liked and respected coach, former broadcaster and one-time front office member, Williams has finally found the role that he’d searched for since retiring from playing.

He knows questions remain, because until a challenge presents itself — whether on the field or in the clubhouse — there is no iron-clad answer for how the manager will respond to it. He’s ready, make no mistake, but he also expects to learn a great deal this season.

STCoverThumbSo the one thing he wanted to impress upon his team in that first meeting was simple.

Trust the process.

Believe in the work they’re putting in, and they’ll get to where they want to go.

“Day one,” he said, “we have to understand the process.”

To continue reading “Trust the Process” on Nationals Manager Matt Williams, along with more great content from Nationals Magazine, please visit nationals.com/publications, or pick up a copy at the Main Clubhouse Team Store at Nationals Park, as well as inside Space Coast Stadium on gamedays.

Highlights: 9.28.13

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9.28.13: Nationals 2, Diamondbacks 0

Stat of the Game: Dan Haren was in command in his final start of the season, scattering four hits over seven scoreless frames.

Under-the-Radar Performance: Another former D-Back, Chad Tracy, went 2-for-3 with a walk and a solo shot, his first homer since June 17.

It Was Over When: Rafael Soriano got the final three outs to record his 43rd save, second-most in the National League.

Highlights: 9.27.13

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9.27.13: Nationals 8, Diamondbacks 4

Stat of the Game: Jayson Werth and Wilson Ramos each blasted three-run home runs in the victory.

Under-the-Radar Performance: Stephen Strasburg worked 7.0 solid innings in his final start of the year to earn his ninth victory, lowering his ERA to an even 3.00 for the season.

It Was Over When: Ramos’ blast doubled Washington’s lead, providing the final margin.

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