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State of the Nats: Harper leading offensive surge

May 11, 2015, 1:17 PM EDT

May 10, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) at bat against the Atlanta Braves during the first inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Top storylines:

Harper leading Nats offense – The Nationals enter this week having scored at least five runs in five of their last six games. They have won 10 of 12 and have seen an offensive surge along the way, particularly from players like Bryce Harper and Wilson Ramos.

Their inconsistency overall at times has been mind-boggling, but they do currently rank ninth in baseball in runs scored and fourth in the NL. They are top 10 in baseball in home runs, walks and doubles and rank 11th with a .718 team OPS.

Harper, Ramos and Yunel Escobar are all hitting .300 or better. Harper (28) and Ryan Zimmerman (22) place third and sixth in the NL in RBI, respectively. Harper leads the NL in homers (11) and walks (27). He is also second in runs with 26 and slugging percentage at .655. He places third in OPS at 1.089.

Harper has obviously been the straw stirring the drink, but the Nationals lineup has benefited greatly from Denard Span’s return and the steadiness of Ramos and Zimmerman. The play of Escobar and Danny Espinosa has been an added bonus, now they just need Jayson Werth and Ian Desmond to come around.

Strasburg to return After a brief injury scare when he was removed from his Tuesday start against the Miami Marlins, Stephen Strasburg is good to go for this Tuesday in Arizona after having work done on his back by a chiropractor. Strasburg was compensating in his pitching mechanics for his left ankle, which he had injured back during spring training. He worked with pitching coach Steve McCatty through the weekend by watching film and throwing at Nationals Park and says he’s all set to rejoin the Nats rotation and move forward.

With Strasburg pitching Tuesday, that means Max Scherzer will move up a day and pitch Monday. Gio Gonzalez will then go on Wednesday. That makes the Nationals’ rotation order as follows: Scherzer, Strasburg, Gonzalez, Doug Fister, Jordan Zimmermann. Not that it matters in May, and not much separates them one through five, but there you go.

West Coast road trip – The Nationals go on their first West Coast trip of the 2015 season this week with a series at the Arizona Diamondbacks up first and a four-game set at Petco Park against the San Diego Padres to follow. Both teams have been pretty average so far, as the Diamondbacks are 14-16 and the Padres are 17-16.

Against Arizona the Nationals will miss their best starter, Chase Anderson, who has a 2.97 ERA through six starts this season. They will instead see Josh Collmenter (3-3, 3.40), Rubby De La Rosa (3-2, 4.38) and Jeremy Hellickson (1-3, 5.85).

The Diamondbacks and Nationals will be a matchup of the ninth and 10th best offenses in terms of runs scored. The big name to watch is of course Paul Goldschmidt, who is batting .345 with nine homers, 27 RBI and a 1.090 OPS.

The Padres look much different than they have in years past with the fourth-most runs scored in MLB. They are being paced by Justin Upton, who has eight home runs, 24 RBI and a .919 OPS.

Here are the pitching matchups for Nats-Padres:

Doug Fister (2-1, 2.87) vs. Tyson Ross (1-3, 3.98)
Jordan Zimmermann (2-2, 4.20) vs. Andrew Cashner (1-6, 3.07)
Max Scherzer (2-3, 2.11) vs. Odrisamer Despaigne (2-1, 5.13)
Stephen Strasburg (2-3, 4.73) vs. Ian Kennedy (2-1, 5.03)

NL East Standings

source:

Offensive game of the week: Bryce Harper 5/6 vs. Marlins – 3-for-4, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 3 R

Pitching game of the week: Gio Gonzalez 5/8 vs. Braves – 7.0 IP, 2 ER, 5 H, BB, 8 SO. 103 pitches, 67 strikes.

Quote of the week:

Harper after hitting three home runs in one game on May 6…

“That’s how I should be, plain and simple. That’s how I should be. That’s how I expect myself to play. If it’s hitting homers or hitting doubles or anything, that’s what I need to do. That’s what I expect out of myself. Of course, you’re not going to do that every single day. You’re not going to hit three homers, or whatever, and drive in five. But that’s the type of player I need to be.”

Tweet of the week:

Nationals and Capitals united as one…

source:

source:

Road ahead

MON – 9:40 p.m. at Arizona Diamondbacks (Scherzer)
TUE – 9:40 p.m. at Arizona Diamondbacks (Strasburg)
WED – 3:40 p.m. at Arizona Diamondbacks (Gonzalez)
THU – 10:10 p.m. at San Diego Padres (Fister)
FRI – 10:10 p.m. at San Diego Padres (Zimmermann)
SAT – 8:40 p.m. at San Diego Padres (Scherzer)
SUN – 4:10 p.m. at San Diego Padres (Strasburg)

  1. Nats Fan Zee - May 11, 2015 at 1:38 PM

    The Mets look like they want to hang around a while. They don’t have the most challenging schedule for the rest of May but neither do we. I think they will still be in the mix by Memorial Day unless we ignite and go something like 14-4 for the rest of the month

    It’s all good …. It’s going to be fun … Go Nats!

  2. nats106 - May 11, 2015 at 1:44 PM

    Yep, wore my “Bryce Knows” shirt this weekend. I had put it in abeyance during 2013, because I wasn’t so sure he did know, but after Wednesday’s game (that I missed) and Friday’s game (that I didn’t). I felt compelled to bring it out of it’s state of suspended animation and wear it because:

    If Bryce doesn’t know, he’s pretty damn close to figuring it out. I was well rewarded Saturday. It’s awesome to see the Braves get back into it, sordid Braves fans doing the hated “chop” then having their hopes dashed by the big guy.

    He is turning into a franchise player.

  3. Ghost of Steve M. - May 11, 2015 at 2:27 PM

    After the slow start , it will take a while for the Nats to climb up the offensive leader boards.

    If the Nats can continue to stay North of 4 runs scored a game this team will continue to win with this pitching staff.

    • rayvil01 - May 11, 2015 at 2:30 PM

      Agreed. That’s especially true if the defense stays clean…which it was not early.

      I’ve often wondered about the true cost of giving a team “an extra out.” Gonzalez was having a fit about the dropped ball on Harper in the first yesterday. “It cost us three runs.” That seems to be a common number after one of those. Sure seemed like it every time the Nats booted one early on.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 11, 2015 at 2:37 PM

        Pitching, defense, and 5 runs on offense and can I add smart baserunning.

      • Eugene in Oregon - May 11, 2015 at 3:08 PM

        Obviously some hyperbole there. In 2014 in the NL there were 1455 errors and 841 unearned runs. So every error is not leading to three runs (even if some percentage of the subsequent runs are considered earned).

        And even with the Nats in 2015, 26 errors have led to 25 unearned runs. Too many, I agree. You can, of course, point to mistakes that weren’t recorded as errors that led to ‘earned’ runs, but those numbers aren’t readily available.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 11, 2015 at 3:15 PM

        So every error is not leading to three runs (even if some percentage of the subsequent runs are considered earned).

        So an error correlates to about one and three-quarters runs, if I’m dividing that right. I’m thinking mistakes that aren’t errors have to just as bad, so three runs might be high, but not by all that much.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 11, 2015 at 3:22 PM

        In fact, somebody who cares about these things a lot more than I do probably has said this already, but if they can set cameras and software to track outfielders, it seems like they ought to be able to keep track of plays that everybody knows should have been made, but weren’t, that don’t get scored as errors for no better reason than scoring conventions: botched double plays, “I GOT IT I GOT IT YOUTAKEIT!” fly balls, dropped throws on stolen bases, pooched rundowns, throwing to the wrong base … the list goes on and on.

      • sec105rowwseat28 - May 11, 2015 at 3:38 PM

        Actually it looks like a run correlates into about 1-3/4 errors, or about 4/7ths of a run per error.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 11, 2015 at 4:48 PM

        So I got it bass-ackwards. To no one’s surprise.

        :-/

        But thanks for the correction.

  4. Ghost of Steve M. - May 11, 2015 at 3:11 PM

    http://atmlb.com/1FZLPBh

    Nats are ranked 8th in the MLB Network Power Rankings.

  5. Guapo - May 11, 2015 at 3:12 PM

    If the season ended today, Nats are on the playoffs as the 1st wildcard. That’s obviously irrelevant and so far away, but it does give you some perspective on how far out of the hole this team has climbed so far. The division leaders are so far ahead of everyone else at this point, that above .500 gets you in right now.

    Also, if the season ended today, Bryce would be a top 5 MVP candidate. should be fun the rest of the way.

  6. Ghost of Steve M. - May 11, 2015 at 3:16 PM

    Remember those who wanted Roughned Odor in a trade? He’s only batting .144 and his OPS is .486 He just got sent down to AAA. Mookie Bets is batting .242. Some guy named Yunel Escobar is batting .311.

    Maybe Rizzo is smarter than the fans that suggest trades? I think Betts will figure it out.

    • zmunchkin - May 11, 2015 at 3:18 PM

      +1E6

      And so far it looks like Rizzo is also right about keeping Danny.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 11, 2015 at 3:22 PM

        As much as I was down on Danny, I believe Rizzo tried to trade him and was offered very little back in return. With the lack of depth in AAA, it made sense to retain him with the hopes he can excel. His stats are still a mixed bag but he is improving.

        Needs to get that RISP BA up as that’s the one area he has not improved.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 11, 2015 at 3:31 PM

        And so far it looks like Rizzo is also right about keeping Danny.

        FWIW, I was among those who had no expectation Danny would improve. I gave up when he went back to switch-batting, but there was no reasonable option besides keeping him. I think his stock bottomed out after 2012 sometime, and never came back, so there was no real market for a worthwhile trade.

        I’m am glad to see he’s finally put it together. Ironically, now he probably getting some interest, but he’s still worth more to Rizzo than any offer he’s likely to attract.

      • zmunchkin - May 11, 2015 at 6:11 PM

        Agreed Ghost and Sec 3. I am sure Rizzo tried to trade him, but could not get what he deemed to be reasonable value. Contrast that with all the comments that the Nats should just get rid of Danny (and I am not saying you two thought this, but many did).

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 11, 2015 at 3:24 PM

      Remember those who wanted Roughned Odor in a trade?

      Some of that was just because they thought his name was ROUGHNECK Odor, and the team needed someone to kick some butts in the clubhouse.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 11, 2015 at 3:26 PM

        LOL, I think he is all of 5’8″

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 11, 2015 at 3:40 PM

        Hey, Nails was only 5-10, 160 #.

        “It’s not the size of the dog…”

      • natsfan1a - May 11, 2015 at 4:05 PM

        It *is* a pretty awesome baseball name, but something about the trade rumors just didn’t smell right.

    • Nats Fan Zee - May 11, 2015 at 3:34 PM

      I remember those that wanted to trade the farm for Adrain Beltre …. 36 years old and hitting a whopping .236

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 11, 2015 at 3:39 PM

        I’m one of those that wanted him if the trade bait was just eating his salary plus a low level prospect. I really thought the Nats needed his bat for the 2014 postseason.

      • therealjohnc - May 11, 2015 at 4:20 PM

        And there were commenters who wanted the Nats to pry Chase Utley away from the Phillies to play 2b with Rendon at 3b, also giving the Nats another LH bat. Well, that non-move by Rizzo is looking like genius, too. People talk about getting your average “off of the interstate” (i.e., over .200). Utley got a couple of hits over the weekend to get his average onto the interstate (now batting .116/.194/.221/.415). While being paid $15M a season this year and next year.

        It’s sad, because I’ve always respected Utley as a player. He nearly (and perhaps should have) won MVP honors in the 2009 WS even though the Phillies lost. But time wins all battles, and the ball just isn’t flying off of his bat so far this year. At 36, you have to wonder if he’s done.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 11, 2015 at 4:31 PM

        I liked the players on those Phillies teams. They were menschen. Now the phans … I don’t think the players even liked them all that much.

    • masterfishkeeper - May 11, 2015 at 4:02 PM

      Betts has an fWAR of 1.1 and a bWAR of 1.7, so he’s doing fine, slightly low BA notwithstanding. I’d trade Zimm or Stras for him right now, if Boston would do it.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 11, 2015 at 4:10 PM

        They won’t trade him for JZim. Betts is young and controllable and learning. The question is how he does in the short-term as I do like him.

        Betts also plays well in Fenway as players adapt to that park.

  7. ArVAFan - May 11, 2015 at 3:16 PM

    And he’s NL Player of the Week.

    Anyone who is surprised was probably in Antarctica last week with no Internet.

    • Theophilus T.S. - May 11, 2015 at 3:27 PM

      Imagine the cost of a DSL line in Antarctica.

      • Eugene in Oregon - May 11, 2015 at 3:45 PM

        I’m guessing they throw in free internet for anyone willing to take a gig in Antarctica.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 11, 2015 at 4:00 PM

        But can you imagine how long you’ll wait for the cable guy? And then they still don’t show.

      • Eric - May 11, 2015 at 4:18 PM

        I think the “cable guy” here would be NASA or similar, and the “cable” would be some satellite whose solar panel array was cracked by space debris. They’ll be right on it!

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 11, 2015 at 4:27 PM

      OK, well then, imagine this: You think opposing pitchers must feel like Harper comes up every inning? Imagine if he played cricket, and they had to keep pitching to him until they got him out.

      • ehay2k - May 11, 2015 at 5:54 PM

        Reminds me of Werth in the 2012 NLDS game 4.

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