Each week this season, we’ll take the temperature of the Nationals roster to see whose stock is rising or falling.
Team slash: .213/.262/.356
Team ERA: 3.00
Runs per game: 3.14
Drew Storen, RP: 4 GP/ 1-0/ 0.00 ERA
For those concerned about how Storen would take to his new eighth inning role, the past week provided a pretty resounding answer. After the club traded for Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon -- a move that essentially meant a demotion of sorts for the incumbent -- Storen responded with a dominant stretch to show the Nats that he can be effective no matter what inning it is. In his four appearances since Papelbon's arrival, he's retired all 12 batters he's faced, including six strikeouts. Of the 35 pitches he's thrown in those outings, 32 have been strikes, with nine of those being swings-and-misses. Yeah, that's pretty nasty. It's obvious that he's probably not thrilled about his new role, but so far he appears to be making the best of it.
Casey Janssen, RP: 3 GP/ 0.00 ERA
Don't look now, but the back end of the Nats' bullpen is looking more and more dangerous. With a combination of Janssen, Storen and Papelbon, Matt Williams has the ability to shorten each game a la last year's Kansas City Royals. It may not feel like Janssen has been as overpowering as Storen and Papelbon, but his numbers suggest otherwise: In his last nine outings, he hasn't allowed a run and has 10 strikeouts, one walk on just two hits. That'll get the job done.
Bryce Harper, RF: .333 AVG/ 2 HR/ 1.009 OPS
What's amazing about Harper's season is even when it seems like he's "cooled off" for a particular stretch, he still winds up leading the club in most offensive categories. Take this past week for example, where he lead all Nats in average and OPS. Even when the rest of the lineup is struggling, he always finds a way to avoid an elongated slump, which is a credit to a more consistent, patient approach at the plate.
Jordan Zimmermann, SP: 6.0 IP/ 0-1/ 7.50 ERA
Nats fans are still smarting from Zimmermann's most recent outing, one that was highlighted by a third-inning meltdown against the Mets on national television where the righty allowed five runs on three homers in a four-hitter stretch. The sequence was so stunning, so un-Zimmermann-like that it punctuated something most fans had feared: The Mets are a real threat, and this division race is about to heat up. What's troubling for the Nats these days is that, aside from Max Scherzer, they don't appear to have a stopper in the rotation. Before the season, Scherzer and Zimmermann were seen as one of the best one-two punches of any starting rotation in the game. Now it seems like both are scuffling a little more than we're accustomed to seeing. And with the Nats struggling to score consistently, it puts even more pressure on their horses to hold opposing offenses at bay.
Doug Fister, SP: 12.0 IP/ 1-1/ 5.25 ERA
He's been listed in this spot more times than Nats fans would like, but it's pretty clear that Fister just isn't the same pitcher that he was in 2014. The sinkerballer hasn't been able to use his patented formula of working quickly and inducing ground balls to mow down opposing lineups. Instead, that formula has eluded him as his sinker (which averages between 87 and 88 mph) is too often left up in the zone for hitters to feast on. He's allowed 44 earned runs this season -- the exact amount he yielded in 25 starts last year.