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Doctor confirms trapezius strain for Strasburg

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Doctor confirms trapezius strain for Strasburg

A follow-up exam by the Nationals’ team doctor on Stephen Strasburg confirmed the club’s initial diagnosis when the struggling pitcher departed his last start after only one inning: He has a strained left trapezius muscle.

Strasburg hasn’t thrown since leaving Friday night’s game in Cincinnati, and he won’t be cleared to resume throwing until the muscle in his lower neck/upper back is healed, manager Matt Williams said Tuesday morning. The timetable for that development is unknown at this point.

“He will not throw until that’s taken care of,” Williams said. “But it could be within days that it feels better and he’s able to get back out there and do all the things he needs to do to get prepared to pitch again. But for right now, it’s there again, so they’re working on it.”

Strasburg has not made himself available to reporters since being placed on the DL on Saturday.

The strained left trap muscle emerged only a couple weeks after Strasburg left a previous start with discomfort under his right shoulder blade. The Nationals don’t know whether the two are related, but it appears obvious that something has caused Strasburg physical discomfort for several weeks now, playing at least some role in the worst prolonged stretch of his career.

“We have to make sure we determine what it is and fix it,” Williams said. “Whatever’s causing that in his back, we have to see if we can fix it, then get him back out there and allow him to be free and easy and pitch and do what he does best.”

Strasburg, who has a 6.55 ERA and is averaging only 4.5 innings per start this season, has been plagued by poor fastball command throughout this slump. The Nationals, though, have no evidence of significant mechanical issues by the right-hander.

“We’ve looked at it extensively,” Williams said. “[Pitching coach Steve McCatty] has looked at it, all the video. There’s minor adjustments that guys make during the course of a season, but nothing that glares at us that he’s changed or that’s drastically different, no.”

Some have wondered whether time off would benefit Strasburg, not only physically but mentally, providing him an opportunity to clear his mind. Williams doesn’t view this situation that way.

“It’s never good to go on the disabled list,” the manager said. “Nobody wants to go there. Does it give him a chance to reset? Yeah, if he’s doing stuff. If he’s doing what he needs to get back to pitch, yeah. But for right now, he’s idle. And until that calms down, he can’t get back to it. Then he can make the adjustments he needs to make, if any, and go from there.”

Strasburg’s next turn in the rotation comes up Wednesday. The Nationals haven’t announced his replacement yet, but Williams suggested Taylor Jordan would get the nod if he’s not needed during Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Blue Jays.

Meanwhile, fellow injured right-hander Doug Fister is making progress in his return from a strained forearm. Fister threw roughly 20 fastballs off a bullpen mound Monday and experienced no discomfort.

“I think it’s pretty much subsided completely,” he said, “and that’s a good thing.”

Fister will throw another bullpen session in the next few days, adding breaking balls to his repertoire. He said he was never terribly worried the injury was serious, though the condition got worse during his final start in San Diego two weeks ago.

“You know, it was really just more tight than complete, utter mayhem,” he said. “So I mean, it wasn’t a bad issue. It was more of just: ‘I really need a break for some reason, there’s so much tightness going on that we really need to address it.'”

MORE NATIONALS: WHAT'S THE STATE OF THE NATS BULLPEN?

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Bryce Harper will compete in Home Run Derby, but only on one condition

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USA Today Sports

Bryce Harper will compete in Home Run Derby, but only on one condition

It’s happening.

When the 2018 All-Star Weekend comes to Washington, D.C. in the middle of July, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper will compete in the 2018 Home Run Derby, but only on one condition: He has to be a member of the 2018 National League All-Star Team.

Though Harper is having a down year, only hitting .213 thus far, he leads the NL in home runs with 19.

In the June 18 update of All-Star game voting, Harper sat second among all outfielders with just north of 1,000,000 votes.

That means he’s not only going to make the All-Star team, but he’ll likely start in the outfield.

Harper, a five-time All-Star, competed in the Home Run Derby once before. He was the runner-up to Yoenis Cespedes in 2013, losing by just one long ball, 9-8.

The 2018 Home Run Derby will take place on July 16 at Nationals Park.

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It's time to start paying attention to Trea Turner's sneaky-great season

It's time to start paying attention to Trea Turner's sneaky-great season

Remember when the Nationals put Trea Turner in centerfield so they could keep Danny Espinosa at shortstop?

Two years later it's Turner who leads all N.L. shortstops in fWAR, as you surely know if you follow the Nationals on literally any social media platform. 

So while Juan Soto and Bryce Harper continue to dominate all of The Takes, it's Turner who's been the Nats' best position player this season. 

We'll start with some basics: 

Did you know that Trea Turner leads all N.L. shortstops in fWAR? He's currently sitting at 2.4 WAR, above the likes of Brandon Crawford, Addison Russell, and Trevor Story, to name a few. (We'll ignore the fact that the top six shortstops in the A.L. all have a better fWAR.) He's a top-10 shortstop in baseball during one of the strongest eras in the position's history.

Even after a dreadfully slow start, Turner's still on pace to have the best season of his career. He posted a WAR of 2.9 last year and -- barring injury -- will realistically eclipse that by the All-Star game. 

At the plate, two stats jump off the page in regards to explaining Turner's stellar season. 

First, Turner is drawing a *bunch* of walks. His current BB% clip (10.6 percent) would be far and away the best of his career and up four percentage points from last year. It's a factor that helps explain - partially, at least - why his on-base percentage has risen and his BABIP has dropped. More walks mean fewer swings, fewer swings mean less contact, less contact means lower BABIP, etc. It's not the whole picture, but it's a big part of it. 

Secondly, Turner is making impressive contact on pitches out of the strike zone. FanGraphs calculates out-of-zone contact using a statistic titled O-Contact, which is a blessing considering some of the titles they choose to give their other stats. 

The average O-Contact across MLB in 2018 is 64.7 percent. Trea Turner's career O-Contact is 62.4 percent (although realistically it's closer to the high-50's - a small-sample-size from his abbreviated first season mucks up the number a bit). 

This season, Turner's posted an O-Contact of 69.3 percent. Not only is that 10 percentage points higher than his O-Contact from last season, but a top-50 clip in all of baseball. He's one spot ahead of Mike Trout!  Put both of these together with some encouraging Statcast numbers (rise in HardHit%, already matched his total 'barrels' from last season) and you can see why Turner's been thriving at the plate. 

Defensively, he's improved across the board as well. His UZR and DRS - considered the two most reliable fielding statistics, if such a thing exists - are both up from last year. He has the 10th-best UZR of all major league shortstops and ranks 1st in DRS. 

Last season, he finished 17th in both UZR and DRS (of all shortstops with at least 800 innings; Turner didn't log enough innings to be considered a qualified fielder). He ended the season with both numbers in the negative. 

You may be skeptical of defensive stats, which is fine. But if nothing else, the fact that Turner is turning literal negative stats into positive ones is encouraging. 

Lastly, Turner continues to be an elite baserunner. At this point in his career, his speed is arguably his best tool:

You'll note that purple dot allllllllllll the way on the right. That's Turner! Now, let's take a look at how his speed compares across all positions:

Essentially, Turner is faster than like, 98 percent of baseball. In fact, by Sprint Speed, he's the 6th-fastest player in the game. He also ranks 2nd across all of baseball in FanGraphs "Baserunning" measurements, only behind fellow teammate and mindbogglingly good baserunner Michael A. Taylor. 

So, Trea Turner an elite baserunner (maybe the best if you combine his raw speed with his baserunning stats), a top-5 shortstop in the field, and an All-Star at the plate. 

Juan Soto's been great and Bryce Harper is still extremely talented, but this year, Trea Turner has been the Nationals' best player. 

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