Each week this season, we’ll take the temperature of the Nationals roster to see whose stock is rising or falling.
Team slash: .316/.391/.516
Team ERA: 3.66
Runs per game: 7.42
Ryan Zimmerman, 1B: .524 AVG/ 9 RBI/ 1.452 OPS
Though Bryce Harper is closing out an MVP-caliber season, he actually might not be the best hitter on his own team in the second half. Since the All-Star break, Zimmerman leads the Nats in home runs (11), RBI (38) and OPS (1.024). Throughout the season when then offense was struggling, the club believed that its veterans would eventually put up numbers similar to their respective track record. It took some time, but Zimmerman has done just that.
Bryce Harper, RF: .333 AVG/ 3 HR/ 1.390 OPS
Of course, Zimmerman's hot second half doesn't mean that Harper has been slumping -- not by a long shot. The 22-year-old phenom showed off his power this week, homering in three straight games against the Braves. He may not be getting as many pitches to hit as he did earlier in the season, but he's still feasting on mistakes. What's made Harper's season so incredible is that it seems like he hasn't gotten into a rut at the plate; pitchers may have become increasingly careful when facing him, but he's refused to expand his strike zone. There have been plenty of at-bats where the Harper of old may have tried to swing for the fences, but now he seems content with taking a bloop single to the opposite field. That's a sign of a maturing hitter, and one opposing pitchers are going to have to deal with for a long time.
Jayson Werth, LF: .313 AVG/ 2 HR/ 5 RBI
It's safe to say at this point that the move to bat Werth leadoff has done him well. It took an entire season, but the 36-year-old veteran is finally back to looking like his old self. It's hard to believe that simply going to the top of the lineup would do the trick, but he has a slash line of .333/.393/.617 since Matt Williams made the change, so it's pretty hard to argue that it wasn't the right decision. The only problem with Werth's reemergence (much like the rest of the lineup) is that this might be a case of too little too late, and that's because.....
Blake Treinen/Felipe Rivero, RP: 8 ER
Two outs, a man on first with a 7-1 lead. That's the situation the Nats were faced with Tuesday night. If the bullpen could get just one more out, it's likely that the NL East deficit is cut to four games. Instead, what happened was the start of the worst sequence of the season: Walk, run-scoring single, walk, walk. A lot of fans have given Williams a lot of grief in recent weeks with how he's handled the bullpen. But the bottom line is that he's not the one on the mound, and at some point pitchers have to get outs. So with the bases loaded and the season on the line, the Nats' skipper went to his set-up man.
Drew Storen, RP: 4 GP/ 3.1 IP/ 2.10 WHIP
There's really no other way to say this: Storen's rough outing against the Mets may have very well cost the Nats the season. By allowing a bases-clearing double to Yoenis Cespedes and three consecutive walks -- all before getting an out -- this team's fate might be sealed. They're still mathematically in it and anything's possible, but if and when they're officially out of contention everyone will likely look back at the seventh inning of Tuesday's gut-wrenching 8-7 loss as the clincher. What's stunning about this is that prior to being named the team's set-up man after the Jonathan Papelbon trade, Storen was among the best relievers in the game. And for his season to unravel as it has is just as unfortunate for him as it is for the team. The irony of Tuesday's loss was that fans had been upset that Storen and Papelbon weren't used in the prior series against the Mets at Citi Field. But in a cruel twist of fate, it was Storen who gave up the lead and Papelbon that later allowed the go-ahead home run in the eighth inning.