Nationals

Quick Links

Instant Analysis: Nats 5, Mets 3

879575.png

Instant Analysis: Nats 5, Mets 3

Game in a nutshell: A prime pitching matchup between Jordan Zimmermann and R.A. Dickey lived up to the billing; even though Zimmermann labored through much of his five innings, he managed to allow only two runs and keep the game close. Dickey, meanwhile, thoroughly dominated the Nationals through six innings, his only blemish to that point a manufactured first-inning run. But then Tyler Moore came up to pinch-hit in the top of the seventh and crushed a game-turning homer, giving the Nats the lead. Kurt Suzuki and Bryce Harper (career-high four hits) plated a couple of big insurance run in the top of the ninths, and a pieced-together bullpen of Tom Gorzelanny, Christian Garcia, Michael Gonzalez, Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard finished off the Nationals' 88th win of the season (though Clippard allowed a solo homer to Scott Hairston in the bottom of the ninth). At this moment, the Nationals lead the NL East by 7 games, the NL wild card by 13 12 games, with 20 to play.

Hitting highlight: It's been tough for Davey Johnson to find at-bats for Moore since Jayson Werth and Michael Morse came back from early season injuries, but the rookie is somehow finding a way to keep his bat hot despite the lack of action. He stepped to the plate in the top of the seventh inning tonight to pinch-hit for Gorzelanny and wasted no time inflicting damage on Dickey, crushing the first knuckleball he saw into the left field stands. That's nine homers this season for Moore in only 138 at-bats. Do the math: Over a full season, that's quite impressive.

Pitching highlight: While Zimmermann labored through his five innings, Garcia absolutely dominated his one inning of relief. Despite this being only his fifth big-league appearance, the right-hander was entrusted with a one-run lead in the bottom of the seventh, a major vote of confidence from Johnson. Well, Garcia earned even more with his explosive performance. He struck out the side, showing both a high-90s fastball with a devastating changeup and slider. In only 4 23 innings, he's already got seven strikeouts and zero walks. Could a rookie September call-up force his way onto the October playoff roster? It's happened before (remember Francisco Rodriguez with the Angels in 2002?). If Garcia keeps this up, he's going to have a strong case for it.

Key stat: In 32 career plate appearances against Dickey, Werth now has 13 hits and five walks. That equates to a .563 on-base percentage.

Up next: The series wraps up at 7:10 p.m. Wednesday, with New York native John Lannan officially taking over Stephen Strasburg's spot in the Nationals' rotation. Lannan will face Mets rookie Matt Harvey, their top pitching prospect.

Quick Links

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

bryce-harper-usat.jpg
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.

MORE NATS NEWS:

Quick Links

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. 

MORE NATS COVERAGE: