Each week this season, we’ll take the temperature of the Nationals roster to see whose stock is rising or falling.
Team slash: .251/.345/.422
Team ERA: 4.97
Runs per game: 5.42
Daniel Murphy, 2B: .467 AVG, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 1.233 OPS
At what point can we just say that what Murphy is doing at the plate is not a mirage? We're a month-and-a-half into the season, and the veteran second baseman is showing zero signs of slowing down. In the last week alone, he's logged five (!) multi-hit games, including a pair of four-hit efforts. Per Fangraphs, Murphy is making contact on 87.5 percent of the pitches he sees — a team high. Conversely, his 5.4 swing-and-miss percentage is lowest among Nats regulars. In short, when he finds his pitch, he rarely misses. As a result, he owns the best batting average in the majors at .398 and looks about as locked in as any hitter in the game.
Tanner Roark, SP: 6.0 IP, 0 ER, 7 K
Who has the best ERA among Nats starters this season?
It's not Stephen Strasburg. It's not Max Scherzer. It's Roark, who's off to a bit of an unexpected start with a 2.03 ERA over seven outings. Though he didn't earn a decision the past week, he impressed as he managed to out duel NL Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta, tossing six shutout frames in Sunday's series finale against the Cubs.
The great news for the Nats is that Roark is starting to resemble the pitcher who surprisingly won 15 games in 2014 en route to the team claiming the NL East crown. The 29-year-old right hander's performance has been especially fortuitous considering that one of the big questions heading into this season was how the rest of the rotation would perform behind its top two starters. It's early, but so far, so good on that front.
Mac Scherzer, SP: 1 GS, 7 ER, 3 BB
Scherzer's home run problem reared its ugly head again in Chicago, as the veteran right hander yielded five long balls in what was perhaps his worst outing since he joined the Nats. He now has allowed nine home runs on the season, a mark he didn't reach in 2015 until mid-July.
So what's the issue? It doesn't appear to be health, nor a dip in velocity. For whatever reason —mechanics, perhaps — his breaking pitches are flattening out and his fastball command isn't where it once was. The result is an abundance of mistake pitches, ones which opposing hitters continue to feast off of. That's not to mention his continuing problem with walks (he's almost tallied half of the free passes he issued throughout all of 2015).
It should go without saying, but the Nats are going to need their $210 million man to start pitching like the ace he was for most of last season.
Joe Ross, SP: 2 GS, 0-2, 7 ER
Ross may have suffered a bit of a tough-luck loss last week in Chicago, but he was uncharacteristically out of sync Tuesday night vs. the Tigers. He allowed a season-high five earned runs (including his first home run of the year) and was charged with his second loss in as many starts. It was just the second time in his 19 career outings that he's yielded that many runs, so the Nats have to hope Tuesday was nothing more than a blip on the radar.