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: .209/.280/.346
Team ERA: 2.00
Runs per game: 4
Stephen Strasburg, SP: 8.0 IP, 1-0, ER
Will Strasburg ever lose? With the way he’s been going this year, it’s a legitimate question to ask.
The 28-year-old right hander raised his record to 13-0 last Friday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates, becoming the first National League starting pitcher with that mark since 1912. But while wins are nice, they don’t always tell the story of how a pitcher’s performing. And if you throw away the record, Strasburg is still up there with some of the best arms in the game. His 2.51 ERA is good for seventh in the majors — ahead of Jose Fernandez, Jake Arrieta and Johnny Cueto — and he ranks sixth in the majors in strikeouts with 138.
It’ll be a tough taks for Strasburg to beat out the likes of Madison Bumgarner and Clayton Kershaw for the NL Cy Young Award, but considering what he’s done, he’s clearly put himself in that discussion.
Tanner Roark, SP: 8.0 IP, 1-0, 0 ER
Not only is it possible that Roark has regained his 2014 form as a starter — he might be better. The 29-year-old right hander was dominant Saturday night against the Pirates, tossing eight shutout frames to raise his record to 9-5 and drop his ERA to 2.82.
What is it that makes Roark so effective? He doesn’t have an overpowering fastball, nor does he throw a knee-buckling breaking pitch. And yet he’s among the best starters in the game when it comes to avoiding hard contact, averaging an exit velocity of 87.8 mph per BaseballSavant.com. His stuff may not wow you on the radar gun, but for whatever reason, hitters are having a tough time squaring him up this season. Either way, the result is that he's become one of the better under-the-radar starters around the league.
Bryce Harper, RF: 2-for-17, .328 OPS
The reigning MVP’s slump has now extended into its third month, and it’s fair to wonder if he’ll be able to recapture his April form before the season is over.
Since April 27, Harper has a slashline of .227/.380/.372 with 10 home runs and 28 RBI. What’s so bizarre about his season is that it doesn't appear as if he's lost great deal of plate discipline, which was his biggest strength last season. In fact, according to Fangraphs.com, his swing-and-miss percentage this year is actually down compared to his MVP campaign, dropping from 10.8 percent to 8.4. So what’s the issue? Well, he’s making more contact on pitches outside of the zone (60.9 percent in 2015 to 67.9 this season), and more often than not it’s resulting in weak grounders or shallow fly balls.
While Harper has shown glimpses here and there of his prodigious power — he still leads the team in home runs with 19 — he simply hasn’t been able to string a long ball barrage together like he’s shown he can.
Ben Revere, CF: 1-for-9, 2 K, .311 OPS
It’s almost August, and the Nats have yet to see the Revere they hoped they’d be getting when they traded for him last winter. Part of that is due to the oblique injury he suffered on Opening Day, but the team may not be able to afford to wait for him to resemble a guy who’s hit .288 in his career.
With Revere struggling, the Nats have opted to turn their centerfield spot into a platoon situation, inserting Michael Taylor into the lineup whenever the team goes up against a left handed starter. But now comes rumors that the front office might be shopping for more outfield help before the non-waiver trade deadline. If a move is made, where does that leave Revere?