Jul 29, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT
Each week this season, we’ll take the temperature of the Nationals roster to see whose stock is rising or falling.
Team slash: .254/.346/.381
Team ERA: 4.50
Runs per game: 3.83
Ian Desmond, SS: .400 AVG/ 3 HR/ 1.350 OPS
Nats fans must be hoping and wishing that Desmond, after an albatross of a first half, is finally rounding into form. Of course, one week doesn’t mean he’s finally turned it around, but this stretch is the closest he’s looked to the guy who’s won three Silver Slugger Awards. As Mark Zuckerman notes, Desmond isn’t just mashing; he’s looking more comfortable at the plate, seeing the ball better and less pull-happy than he was when he was struggling.
Michael Taylor, LF: .333 AVG/ 2 HR/ 7 RBI
Perhaps one of the biggest positives to come out of the lineup being banged up for most of the season is that it’s given Taylor an opportunity to get regular at-bats and develop at the major league level. And if this past week is any indication, he’s progressing at a rate that likely has the Nats’ front office thrilled for the future. The 24-year-old had a monster series in Pittsburgh in all facets of his game; he showed range and speed in the outfield, patience at the plate and power to all parts of the ballpark. He’s a world away from the player he was earlier in the season, and is giving fans a glimpse of what the post-Span era might look like.
Max Scherzer, SP: 5.0 IP/ 9.00 ERA
Scherzer turned in a bad outing by his standards in the Pittsburgh series, surrendering five runs and serving up three long balls Friday night. By itself, that one start wouldn’t be a big deal, especially considering it was against one of the best teams in the NL. However, it was the continuation of an alarming trend of un-Scherzer-like starts recently; he has an ERA of 4.13 in July — the highest of any month this season. The Nats have been monitoring his workload as the season has gone on, making sure to keep him fresh for the home stretch. But you wonder if logging so many innings earlier in the season is catching up to him a bit. He’s 77 2/3 frames away from setting a new regular season career high for innings pitched. And assuming he has about a dozen or so starts left, it seems realistic that he could reach that number by the time the postseason starts.
Doug Fister, SP: 0-1/ 5.0 IP/ 7.20 ERA
For whatever reason, Fister has been unable to match his 2014 form thus far this season. But it goes beyond just that — he’s flat-out struggled lately. He’s lost five of his last seven decisions, raising his ERA on the year to 4.50. Part of the reason why people thought this staff would be elite back in spring training was because of its depth. Fister and Gio Gonzalez as the “back of the rotation” guys? That was supposed to be enough to make most teams envious. But instead, now there are only two starters Matt Williams can legitimately rely on in Scherzer and Jordan Zimmermann.
Wilson Ramos, C: .111 AVG/ .105 OBP/ .216 OPS
People have harped on Desmond’s struggles for some time, but Ramos has quietly been scuffling at the plate as well. He’s has a .436 OPS in July, by far his worst of any month this season. And like Desmond, there’s not much the Nats can do but let him try and hit his way out of his funk. The biggest shame of it all is that this is one of the few times he’s been healthy for an extended period of time, so fans were hoping to see him finally blossom into the power-hitting catcher they hoped he could be. There’s still plenty of time for that to happen, but it has to start with a solid August.
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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