Each week this season, we’ll take the temperature of the Nationals roster to see which player's stock is rising or falling.
Team slash: .221/.275/.385
Team ERA: 2.44
Runs per game: 3.57
Daniel Murphy, 2B: .333 AVG, 5 RBI, .889 OPS
So it's been a month now, and Murphy has shown no signs of slowing down yet. Is this just who he is? Time will tell, but the longer his hot streak keeps going, the more inclined the Nats are to believe this might be the real deal. If so, they might have gotten one of the best bargains of the offseason.
Murphy now leads the team with a 1.044 OPS on the season, and is second only to Bryce Harper with 15 extra-base hits. Ever since he changed his approach late last year with the Mets — crowding the plate more and focusing on pulling the ball rather than going the other way — it seems he's become a different hitter, and one opposing pitchers have had a tough time adjusting to. Can he really keep this up?
Max Scherzer, SP: 1-0, 0 ER, 9 K, 0 BB
Now that's the Max Scherzer Nats fans remember. After scuffling in a few of his previous starts, Washington's ace looked like himself against the Cardinals, tossing seven shutout frames while striking out nine batters and walking none. With the rest of the rotation in a groove right now, Scherzer picked a good time to find his early-2015 form.
Bryce Harper, RF: .077 AVG, 13 K, .277 OPS
After winning NL Player of the Month for a spectactular April, who'd have thought Harper would find himself listed here in the first week of May? That's baseball, and it shows that even the best players in the game aren't immune to a slump or two. That said, Harper's mired in the type of funk we haven't seen from him in quite some time: He has just one hit in his last 23 at-bats, has struck out 13 times in the last week alone compared to four walks. And in the last nine games, his batting average has fallen from .323 to .256. Ouch.
Harper will start hitting again, probably sooner rather than later. But with the rest of the lineup starting to get on track, it'd be nice to see what this offense could be if he starts looking like the reigning MVP.
Jonathan Papelbon, RP: 0-1, BS, 2.18 WHIP
Papelbon blew his second save of the young season Tuesday night in Kansas City, a frightening sight for Nats fans who are worried their closer may not be reliable. The 35-year-old reliever is still 9-of-11 in save opportunities, and while that's the most important metric, there are a few other things to consider.
The phrase du jour about Papelbon these days is how he's "not missing bats" the way he did earlier in his career. That's true; per Fangraphs, his induced swing-and-miss percentage this season is at 8.3, down from 12.4 in 2015. One of the probable reasons for the decline is because his average fastball velocity has steadily fallen from 94.8 mph in 2011 to 90.8 this year. As a result, his strikeout numbers down, making him eminently more hittable. He's allowed base runners eight of his 13 outings, so even when he does earn a save, he usually doesn't pitch a clean inning.