Jul 20, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth (28) is congratulated by teammates after hitting the game-winning RBI double in the ninth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Nationals Park. The Nationals won 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Nationals Week Ends in Hugs, Smiles

Considering that there were only three games this week, it’s a little difficult to assess the week that was with any credibility without sounding reactionary. Why not rate the season on a per game basis if we’re going to go that route? Oh no! The Nats lost 4-2 on Friday! This team can’t score at all. Twitter is good for that sort of commentary, but here at District we like to keep our overreactions to a seven day cycle. So, in that case, I’ll address a few things of note from the Milwaukee series without making too much of it.

Oh my goodness! Did you see Jayson Werth’s game winning RBI double on Sunday?! I bet Werth willed Rafael Soriano to blow the save just so he could flex his muscles and lift the team on his shoulders one more time, just for old time’s sake. He made me believe again. I thought my love for baseball had died.

It was pretty awesome though. In the early part of the season, it seemed like a nightly occurrence when Werth would produce a huge hit, then starting the middle of May he decided to hit one home run for a ¼ of the season, and now he’s hitting like he’s found an especially potent bottle of Geritol stashed away in his locker. Entering Sunday’s game, Werth was batting .383/.491/.936 for July. Yes. That’s a 1.427 OPS for the month, with six home runs, eight doubles, and 19 runs driven in. If you want to get all advanced metrics, he has a wOBA of .587 and a wRC+ of 287. That last number basically means he’s been 187% better than the average hitter during the month.

Ryan Zimmerman also had a nice three game series. He drove in three runs on Saturday, hit a two-run home run to tie the game on Sunday, and went 2-for-4 in each of the three games. In his first 20 games back from the disabled list, Zimmerman batted .184/.250/.263 with no home runs and 10 RBIs. In his next 20, not including Sunday, Zimmerman batted .347/.414/.560 with two home runs, 10 doubles, and 17 RBIs.

You know who’s starting to heat up as well? Bryce Harper. The first nine games, Harper was getting his timing back, hit .129/.250/.161 and struck out in 1/3 of his at-bats. In his last six games, Harper has hit a double, two home runs, and pretends to bunt too much for my liking but when he does swing, look out. Maybe I watched too much British Open this past weekend, but Harper’s swing sometimes has this grace to it that reminds me a little of Phil Mickelson, and then the very next pitch Harper proceeds to swing so violently that I fear he’ll need hip replacement in a few years. Don’t take your career too lightly Harper. Youth is a wonderful thing, but it’s the hip that did Bo Jackson in.

Denard Span was absolutely on fire in the Milwaukee series, tallying seven hits in 13 at-bats. His OBP is now up to .328, and I’m convinced that no player keeps the barrel on the ball as long as he does. I’m in my “I ♥ Span” phase at the moment. I really feel like this time we’re meant to last.

Stephen Strasburg gave up four runs to the Brewers on Friday, and obviously he’s a bum. There’s no other way to explain the disappointing results from the Nationals over-hyped prima donna. No. I mean he allowed two home runs to a free swinging club and a bloop single to All Star starter Aramis Ramirez but he still struck out nine with an array of offspeed and breaking pitches that is unfair for a guy that throws mid-90s. Strasburg leads the NL in strikeouts, K/9, and K/BB, and his FIP of 2.82 is more indicative of his true talent level, especially considering his BABIP is .347, which is way higher than the NL average of .295 for starters.

Doesn’t it seem like this is one of those “Tastes Great/Less Filling” sort of debates? On one side you have people who see the box score and know that Strasburg gave up X runs, and on the other are those who see the numbers that indicate a pitcher already providing real #1 type value. In 2017 we’ll still be debating Strasburg’s relative virtues, wondering if he’s worth the 25+ million it will take to resign him. Personally, I fall into the don’t mess with Scooter Gennett camps if you’re Strasburg. You walk Gennett (two home runs off of Strasburg this season, including a grand slam), pitch to Ryan Braun, and never throw a first pitch fastball to anyone in the Brewers lineup since they’ll chase offspeed. I guess after 21 starts, you expect better than 7-7 with a 3.55 ERA from your ace.

Speaking of heightened expectations, does anyone possibly know what to expect from Gio Gonzalez at this point? When he locates his pitches, mixing speeds effectively, you get a stretch where he allows nine hits in 21 innings, striking out 19 in the process. Then you have Sunday’s outing where he walks three, surrenders five hits, and throws 88 pitches in just 3 1/3 innings. I don’t know if Gonzalez goes out there with his eyelids jammed, but every start is sort of like an adventure. What? You expected another movie quote? Maybe life is like a box of chocolates? As if I’m that cliché.

I won’t mention Tanner Roark other than to say he was impressive again if you think allowing a single run in seven innings to a Brewers team second in the NL in runs scored is sort of impressive. Me? I expect more from Roark. I won’t be satisfied until he overtakes Doug Fister for tops on the team in ERA and WHIP and not a moment before. His 2.0 fWAR is also third for the starters behind only Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann, but things like that don’t impress me. Not one bit.

The Nats were able to sign first-round draft pick Erick Fedde. These things aren’t always givens, such as with the whole Houston Astros, Brady Aiken fiasco, so signing Fedde made the week a little more promising. So, I’m going to get to relievers this week in a more circuitous route by revisiting the Nats own failed signing: 2008 and Aaron Crow. At the time, then GM Jim Bowden got a lot of criticism for the failed negotiations (ESPN Insiders can read Keith Law’s account here), but with the compensatory pick in 2009 (the Strasburg draft) the Nats signed Drew Storen. At the time, Crow was projected as a front line starter, but he’s now in the Royals’ bullpen, doing okay. The thing is, by both bWAR and fWAR, Storen has provided more value, though Storen reached the big leagues a year sooner. I guess my point is that either through player development or dumb luck, the Nats still ended up with the better player and a big piece of the NL’s best (by fWAR) bullpen.

So, you know, thanks Jim Bowden for being you.

The Nats start a nine game road trip this week, beginning with three in Colorado on Monday and moving onto Cincinnati starting Friday.

Tags: Washington Nationals

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