Look, we know you've been busy lately. The Caps won the Stanley Cup, and there are certain ... responsibilities that come with that. Parades need to be attended; kegs, stood on.
If you spent the spring choosing playoff hockey over regular season baseball, we can't say we blame you. But with the Caps all on planes headed to a much-deserved vacation, here's what you may have missed from the first couple months of Nats baseball:
1. Juan Soto is for real
If you had to boil down the Nats' first 70 games into one story, you'd be hard-pressed to go with anything other than Juan Soto. The 19-year-old was called up in late May and has since hit .328/.431/.541 with a .972 OPS. He's probably played his way into a roster spot throughout the summer, which is remarkable considering he had exactly 35 plate appearances above Single-A to his name. Here's what we expect from him going forward. There's surely a slump coming, but Soto looks like the real deal.
2. People are all in a huff about Bryce Harper's batting average
It's been a weird year for the Nationals' star. He's "only" hitting .228/.369/.509. That first number is an ugly one, but he is by no means having a bad year. Harper's power has been on full display this year, with an ISO sitting at .281 and a slugging percentage over 100 points above league average. Batting average doesn't account for walks and values singles and home runs equally, so it's easy to see how his low BA could be deceiving. He's also having the unluckiest seasons of his career, running a BABIP (.216) well below both his career and MLB averages. All the different projection models agree (to varying extents) that he's going to finish the season with roughly the same offensive production as he did last year, and the Nats will take that 10 out of 10 times and then once more for good measure.
3. Max Scherzer is solidifying his spot in Cooperstown
At this point in the year, Scherzer is probably the front-runner for NL Cy Young. Again. 3 in a row would put him with the likes of Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson who were, you know, first-ballot Hall of Famers.
He's somehow gotten better this season, improving his K%, BB%, and HR/9, to name a few. He's wrestled the mantle of Best Pitcher In Baseball away from Clayton Kershaw and has become must-watch TV every five days. Enjoy it while it lasts.
4. The Nats' bullpen has been pleasantly stress-free so far
An effective bullpen has been Mike Rizzo's white whale throughout his time with the Nationals. This year, however, their bullpen is just fine (and given years past, they'll happily take just fine). 11th in FIP, 8th in K%, 24th in BB% and 11th in LOB% are all numbers the Nats will happily take. Injuries remain a concern, but their bullpen depth and production has been about as good as they've had in the Rizzo era.
5. Matt Adams!
If bullpens are Rizzo's weakness, bench bats are his strength. This year's edition is Matt Adams, who's absolutely crushing the ball. He's already over halfway (13) to reaching his home run total from last season (20). He's posted a laughably-high .311 ISO so far. That won't be sustainable, but his plate discipline numbers and contact stats most certainly are. His homers are getting all the attention, and rightfully so, but he's putting together a strong all-around season.
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