May 28, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT
Each week this season, we’ll take the temperature of the Nationals roster to see whose stock is rising or falling.
Team slash: .220/.275/.403
Team ERA: 3.53
Runs per game: 2.3
Max Scherzer, SP: 2-0/ 19 K/ 0.60 ERA
Who knows if there’s any way a player can truly justify being worth a $210 million contract, but Scherzer is clearly doing everything he can to try. The 30-year-old righty has been everything the Nats could have hoped for and then some. He notched a pair of wins this past week to raise his record to 6-3 and has lowered his ERA to 1.51, good for fourth in the NL. More than anything, Scherzer’s ability to command all his pitches and know what to throw in every count is what makes him stand out. Sure, he can reach back and hit above 95 mph with his fastball at times, but he’s a pitcher’s pitcher in terms of setting up hitters to chase in two-strike counts. It’s one of the reasons why he leads the majors in strikeouts with 85.
Bryce Harper, RF: .316 AVG/ 3 HR/ 1.300 OPS
Okay, this is getting a little ridiculous. Harper’s insane hot streak rolls on, and he’s done nothing to show that it might stop any time soon. It’s near the point where we’re running out of ways to describe his historic month of May. He’s in such a zone that you wonder why opposing pitchers would even want to pitch to him at all anymore. His plate coverage — particularly on pitches on the outer half — has been superb; of his 18 home runs this season, seven have been to the opposite field. That goes to show not only his ability to wait on outside pitches, but also the strength he has to consistently drive the ball the other way. What else can you say? The guy’s simply the talk of sport right now.
Drew Storen, RP: 4 GP/ 4 Sv/ 0.00 ERA
Closers, as Mark Zuckerman recently wrote, are more often remembered for when they mess up rather than when they get the job done. That seems to be the story of Storen’s career, with his few big blown saves sticking in Nats fans’ memory more often than his consistent stretches. Storen leads the NL in saves with 16, and has an ERA of 0.84 — fourth best in the NL for relievers who have pitches at least 20 innings. He also hasn’t allowed a run since April 21, and has allowed just two all year. That’ll work.
Denard Span, CF: .292 AVG/ 2 HR/ .917 OPS
Span is back to his 2014 self, being everything you’d expect a prototypical leadoff hitter to be with one exception: He already has five homers on the season, which matches his total from all of last year. He’s pacing for 17 home runs on the season, which would obliterate his career-best eight in 2009. For as good as Span is, if he’s able to bring additional power to his game, that’d make an already dangerous Nats lineup even more lethal.
Stephen Strasburg, SP: 0-1/ 3.2 IP/ 12.27 ERA
For all that’s gone well with the club over the last month, Nats fans are still trying to find the answer to the million dollar question: What’s wrong with Stephen Strasburg? Unfortunately, no one really knows. It’s clearly not his health, nor is it a lack of quality stuff. For all that’s been said about his struggles, at some point you have to wonder if this is all in his head. You can talk about issues with mechanics or whether or not his fastball has have enough movement, but none of that fully explains why someone whose career numbers were among the better pitchers in the game over the last few years is suddenly unable to get out of the fourth and fifth innings of many of his starts.
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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