Each week this season, we’ll take the temperature of the Nationals roster to see whose stock is rising or falling.
Team slash: .293/.363/.478
Team ERA: 4.52
Runs per game: 4.85
Ryan Zimmerman, 1B: .321 AVG/ 4 HR/ 11 RBI
There's a decent chance that it might be a little too late to make a run, but if the Nats are to have a magical September they'll need Zimmerman to continue to be vintage Zimmerman. Before he went to the disabled list with a foot injury, he hit .209/.265/.346 with five home runs and 34 RBI in 211 at-bats; since his return, he has a slash line of .272/.351/.596 with 9 homers and 30 RBI in just 114 at-bats. So he's not just been good in the second half, he's been arguably the best hitter on the team: His .947 OPS is tied with Bryce Harper for highest on the club since the All-Star break.
Jayson Werth, LF: .321 AVG/ 2 HR/ 1.067 OPS
It's been almost an entire season, but he's has finally made it here. For all of his struggles throughout the season (and considering how complicated the game of baseball is in general), it seems silly to suggest that Werth moving to the top of the order was all that was needed to get him out of his funk. But if you take a look at his splits, the numbers are pretty staggering: He's hitting .347/.429/.633 in the leadoff spot, easily dwarfing his production when batting lower in the lineup. Was that really the trick? Who knows, but the Nats will gladly take this version of Werth the rest of the way.
Casey Janssen, RP: 3 GP/ 0-2/ 7 ER
It's been nightmarish last few days for Janssen, who played a critical role in back-to-back crushing losses to the Cardinals. Between the two games, he allowed seven earned runs on six hits in just 1 1/3 innings. Ouch. Obviously, Nats fans are still wondering why Janssen was even in the game Tuesday night in the ninth inning with the score tied, a day after he threw 26 pitches and with a rested Jonathan Papelbon still waiting in the bullpen. Regardless, it's hard to say the pitcher is completely blameless -- even if he was running on fumes.
Max Scherzer, SP: 0-1/ 7.0 IP/ 4 ER
Scherzer's last start in and of itself isn't troubling, but it's that his season has seemingly spiraled out of control since the All-Star break. In the second half, he's inexplicably 1-4 with a 5.04 ERA in eight starts. Somehow, after establishing himself as one of the leading contenders for the Cy Young in June, he's all of a sudden 11-11 -- he hasn't lost that many games since 2010 -- and has seen his season ERA balloon to 2.88 (considering it was once 1.76, it feels like a big jump). His sustained slide makes you wonder what exactly is troubling him. Is it health? Workload? Hitters' adjustments? It's hard to nail down the answer, so it's shocking to witness one of the best pitchers in the game have such a dramatic fall after a tremendous first half.