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Strasburg throws bullpen, says he does not have shoulder injury

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Strasburg throws bullpen, says he does not have shoulder injury

[Updated 2:53 p.m.]

Stephen Strasburg threw a bullpen session on Saturday afternoon and afterwards took his clubhouse media session as an opportunity to clear the air on what has been ailing him in recent days.

Contrary to some reports, Strasburg does not have a problem with his shoulder. It is instead his ankle, which caused him to overcompensate on his pitching mechanics and as a result his back tightened up. He hurt his left ankle late in spring training and was briefly sidelined before the Nats' opened their regular season schedule.

Strasburg felt fine after throwing on Saturday and believes he can return to the Nationals rotation early next week if all goes well on Sunday.

"I felt good. No problems. I actually threw for the first time without having my ankle taped up. It was more of a mental thing. I felt good, my ankle didn't feel bad and that helped my alignment be better," he said.

Strasburg plans to play catch on Sunday to test his ankle and back once again, but he thinks the back tightness has been alleviated after seeing a chiropractor.

"It was just night and day. I was happy with it. I thought that's what was going to happen and that's was what happened," he said of the appointment.

With his back tightness now cleared up, Strasburg wanted to set the record straight about his injury, that it had nothing to do with his shoulder.

"It's what caused my back tightness. It was never a shoulder issue. What caused my back tightness was I think an extension of a change in mechanics from my ankle. I just started throwing across my body a little more than I have done in the past," he said.

Strasburg has been working on his mechanics with pitching coach Steve McCatty, who initially noticed Strasburg was favoring his ankle while watching film of his recent outings.

"We were looking at a lot of video and he started to notice that. I was landing a little bit more too much from where I need to be. He kind of diagnosed that," he explained.

"It was something where I felt like I could pitch. My arm felt good, my velocity felt good. Then it got to the point where there was a little irritation in my back and I realized it. It was like a light bulb went on. It is such a small adjustment. It's something that you can't really see unless you slow it down and know what you're looking for. I knew what I was feeling. I didn't know what it was."

Strasburg was removed from his previous start on May 5 against the Marlins. He is 2-3 with a 4.73 ERA in six outings 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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