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Ramos proud of new mark for games caught

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Ramos proud of new mark for games caught

PHILADELPHIA — Wilson Ramos didn't realize it until informed Tuesday afternoon. But upon learning he had played in his 114th game of the season the previous night, establishing a new career high, the Nationals catcher couldn't hold back a wide smile.

"You tell me that right now, and it makes me feel excited," he said. "I've been working really, really hard to be healthy to be behind the plate for a lot of games. And this year I did it well. It makes me feel good, because I'm doing what I was working for. It feels really good."

Since appearing in 113 games as a rookie in 2011, Ramos had been striving to make it through a full season healthy. And he simply hadn't been able to do it, limited to a grand total of 191 games from 2012-14.

At last, though, he has pulled it off, thanks in large part (he believes) to the work he did before ever arriving in Viera for spring training. A rigorous conditioning and strengthening program has allowed him to avoid the kind of leg injuries that hampered him so many times before and allowed him to maintain his weight through the grind of a long year.

"All the work I did before the season helped me for the season," he said. "I think that helped me to be healthy. All I did, I did well."

Ramos on Tuesday was slated to catch his 113th game, a number that trails only the Padres' Derek Norris (a former Nationals prospect) in the NL. (His two other appearances this year came as a DH and pinch-hitter.) If he maintains his current pace, he'll finish the season with 128 games behind the plate, easily surpassing his longstanding goal of 120.

So, how does Ramos feel physically at this point in the season?

"I feel good," he insisted. "It's not easy to be behind the plate for 113 games, but that's my job and I've been working for that. I don't feel anything tired on my body right now. When I get home after the season, maybe I'll feel it. But when I come here every day, I'm mentally strong and ready."

The heavy workload may or may not have had a negative effect on Ramos' offensive performance. He has been inconsistent at the plate throughout the season, resulting in a .237 batting average, 13 homers, 47 RBI and .633 OPS that ranks 22nd out of 24 major-league catchers with at least 300 plate appearances.

"I know I can do better than I did this season," he said. "But it happens in baseball. I'm working hard to be consistent every time. This year, I had some really long slumps, for me. But I didn't put my head down. I kept working. And after that, I had an 11-game hitting streak. That's what I want to do. I want to be consistent."

Offensive inconsistencies aside, Ramos' work behind the plate has satisfied the Nationals. His 44.7 percent caught-stealing rate is tops among all big-league catchers with at least 40 innings played this season. His 10.3 defensive rating, according to Fangraphs, rank second in the NL behind only Yadier Molina.

"It's a demanding position, for sure, and I think he's held up just fine," manager Matt Williams said. "He's done a nice job of throwing guys out, blocking the baseball and making sure he's keeping our guys competitive within the game. He's done great. It's difficult for any catcher, but he wants to play every day. He has desire to do that, and I think he's kept himself in good shape and he's prepared."

MORE NATIONALS: Werth laments "opportunity lost" this season

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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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