Nationals

Quick Links

Are Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto the league’s best offensive duo? The numbers say yes

Are Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto the league’s best offensive duo? The numbers say yes

WASHINGTON -- For three more days -- then three more games next week -- two of the best offensive duos in the major leagues will be head-to-head.

Maybe they are the best pairings, not just among them. Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto have an argument as the best offensive coupling in the sport this season. Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuña Jr. can fight for the same claim. The four will play out a series between the Nationals and Braves in Atlanta the rest of the weekend, giving viewers a direct view of their multifaceted talents.

Start with the Washington pair. Rendon from the right side is in the MVP race. Soto from the left side has become even better in his second year in the major leagues. They are currently third and fourth, respectively, in OPS among National League players. Only one other set of teammates is also in the top 10: Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon of Colorado.

They, like Rendon and Soto, cover both sides of the plate. However, their home park has done its typical work to bloat their numbers. The gap between them and Washington’s duo is significant when OPS-plus, which accounts for a player’s ballpark, is brought in to consideration:

Rendon: 160

Soto: 144

Arenado: 125

Blackmon: 123

Advantage, Nationals.

There’s another set of teammates just outside the top 10 in OPS: Pittsburgh’s Josh Bell and Bryan Reynolds. Bell was an All-Star this season. Reynolds will finish second to Pete Alonso in the Rookie of the Year race. He’s quietly had an outstanding offensive season. Both carry a 141 OPS-plus -- better than Arenado and Blackmon.

In Los Angeles, Cody Bellinger and Max Muncy combine to produce one of the league’s best offensive pairings. Bellinger is second in OPS -- one of three NL players over 1.000. His OPS-plus is a whopping and league-leading 175. He also leads the league in total bases. He’s second in wRC+ (weighted runs created adjusted for external factors like the park, etc.). Muncy’s 135 OPS-plus helps make a case for him. However, his OPS is just .899. Far behind either Soto or Rendon.

Which brings us back to Atlanta. Freeman is having a standard year for him. A 142 OPS-plus, .968 OPS, a clean .300 average, plus a career-best 38 home runs. He’s seventh in the NL in wRC+. 

A recent slump for Acuña preceded his two-hit night in the series opener Thursday. It also dragged down his overall numbers. His OPS-plus is 122, OPS .885 (20th in the NL) and wRC+ 16th. 

So, Miami manager Don Mattingly may be on to something. When the Marlins were in Nationals Park last weekend, he suggested Rendon and Soto were the league’s best offensive duo. What does Rendon think?

“Well if I agree with him then we're being boastful and we're arrogant, but then if I deflect it then we're just being nice,” Rendon said. “I just think we’re trying to win ballgames here, we're not trying to do too much, we both have a great passion for the game but we understand what we're trying to do as hitters up there at the plate. The situation’s going to dictate how we're going to handle the [at-bat]. So we don’t want to let any moment get too big for us.

Soto?

“I don’t know,” Soto said. “I can’t say that. But we’ve been feeling really good. We’ve been doing a lot of good things helping the team. It’s amazing what we’ve been doing so far.”

They can be hesitant in their answers because the numbers speak for themselves. One of the great questions coming into the season was how the Nationals’ offense would operate without Bryce Harper. It’s third in runs and second in OPS in the league. Look directly in the middle, where the National League’s best offensive duo works, to understand why.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS:

Quick Links

Astros wade through first boo-filled night of many to come

Astros wade through first boo-filled night of many to come

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The only agreed upon factor of Saturday night’s spring training opener was affinity for Dusty Baker. 

Baker, alone at home plate to receive a ceremonial first pitch, raised his hand to the crowd when announced. Both sides cheered. Those in red stood, some shouted his name. Others on the Houston side could unabashedly applaud Baker. He represented what’s next, not what was.

But the past chased the Astros from the second the ballpark opened. Any Houston highlights were followed by hefty boos. “FOR THE H” flashed on the right-center field video board during the evening on what was supposed to be an Astros “home” game. However, there was nothing warm and fuzzy about the location for the Astros, an experience sure to track them outside of Houston throughout the season.

The Astros were booed en masse since Baker did not play any of his regulars. Myles Straw, Jeremy Pena and Taylor Jones began the game against Max Scherzer. It’s difficult to let Nos. 3, 89 and 79, respectively, have it on the first night of spring training. But, those on the team in 2017 remained safely in the dugout, prompting an expansion of targets.

Before Scherzer began his night, the Astros’ mascot, Orbit, ran across the face of the Washington dugout with an oversized Houston flag. He, too, was booed -- with fervor. Anything representing the Astros was in play since their main facets were not on the field.

Two signs carried by Nationals fans were taken by a ballpark employee. Some Washington fans banged on their seats during the game to mimic the Astros’ prior method for stealing signs. Scherzer thought something colorful had a chance to leak into the setting.

“I figured something like that was going to happen,” Scherzer said. “I got a good taste of what it’s like [when] facing [Bryce Harper] last year when we had our whole crowd going. I thought our fans would boo. I didn’t realize it was going to be that loud when I face Harp. That was a playoff atmosphere. Everything gets turned up a notch when the fans get into it.”

Scherzer threw 22 pitches, 13 for strikes in two innings. He allowed a single and struck out two batters he’s unlikely to ever face again. Otherwise, he was nonplussed to face the Astros in a game rain forced to pause, then stop, after two innings and a head-scratching delay.

“We won the World Series,” Scherzer said. “It wasn’t like I have a vendetta to hold. So, for me, over here we’re just trying to move forward and get ready for our season.”

Baker thought the reception went as expected.

“There were a lot of Nationals fans here,” Baker said. “We had a lot of fans here, too. You could tell who was for us and who was against us. All in all, it wasn’t too bad. You kind of expect to get some. But they weren’t too bad, though.”

So, the night ultimately served as the expected start. Scherzer pitched well. The Astros were booed.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS:

Quick Links

Astros booed, fans' signs taken in spring training opener against Nationals

Astros booed, fans' signs taken in spring training opener against Nationals

As if this week hadn’t already been bad enough for the Houston Astros, it got a bit worse on Saturday afternoon when they faced the Washington Nationals in the spring training opener. 

The Astros took the field at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches and were welcomed by the fans with an eruption of boos. The two teams share the facility, but it was Houston's home game. 

Since 2017 Washington and Houston have shared their spring training facility in West Palm Beach and made it a tradition to kick off their respective Grapefruit League schedules against each other. They will play six times this spring - though Saturday's opener was postponed by rain after a scoreless two innings. 

One courageous fan really got into the act, holding up a sign reading "Houston *'s" that was eventually confiscated by ballpark personnel, according to the Associated Press.

If this start is any indication of what they will face throughout this season, it's going to be a long 2020 for the Astros. 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS: