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Nats Stock Watch: Storen excelling in setup role

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Nats Stock Watch: Storen excelling in setup role

Each week this season, we’ll take the temperature of the Nationals roster to see whose stock is rising or falling.  

Record: 3-4

Team slash: .213/.262/.356

Team ERA: 3.00

Runs per game:  3.14

 

STOCK UP     

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. 

STOCK DOWN 

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. 

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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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