We take a look at the Nationals’ past week, at a glance:
Team slash: .318/.361/.444
Team ERA: 3.74
Runs per game: 5.5
Ian Desmond, SS: .440 AVG/ .462 OBP/ .640 SLG
This past week was a pretty good reminder that when he’s right, Desmond is one of the best hitting shortstops in the National League. After scuffling throughout most of June, he’s put together a quality stretch recently, including his current 10-game hitting streak in which he’s driven in at least one run in seven of those games. As he has for the last month or so, he still leads the team in home runs and RBI, but the hit streak has raised his average to above .250 for the first time since April 11th. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s cut down on the strikeouts lately; he had 40 punchouts in June to just 18 so far in July.
Denard Span, CF: .462 AVG/ .517 OBP/ 2 SB/ 4 R
Every potent lineup needs a spark plug at the top of the order to set the table for the big boppers. Span has been that guy for a good part of the season, yet like most of the Nats’ hitters he’s especially flourishing in July. He’s reached base in every game he’s played this month, and has had multi-hit efforts in six out of the last nine. He leads the team in stolen bases and is second only to Anthony Rendon in both hits and runs scored. It’d be tough to ask for a whole lot more from a lead-off man.
Bryce Harper, LF: .412 AVG/ .524 OBP/ .647 SLG
New batting stance, new haircut, new Bryce? Harper clearly changed up a few things
during the All-Star Break to try to get out of his slump. And while it may be too early to say that the old Harper is back, posting a 1.127 OPS — highest of anyone in the everyday lineup over the past week — is a pretty good way to start a rebound. His power-stroke isn’t all the way there just yet, but the more upright stance allows him to see the ball better and make his swing a little more compact. The Nats certainly hope the new approach works, because with Ryan Zimmerman out of the lineup for the foreseeable future, now would be a really good time for Harper to get it going.
Stephen Strasburg, SP: 0-2/5.84 ERA/1.62 WHIP
Strasburg’s roller coaster season continues to leave Nats fans scratching their heads. It’s been just as confusing to try to pin down exactly why he hasn’t pitched up to expectations, too.
So what gives? His strikeout-to-walk ratio (163-30) is better than it’s ever been, and yet opposing hitters are looking as comfortable as they can be against him at the plate. As Zuckerman mentioned in an earlier post, Strasburg’s fastball velocity isn’t as good as it used to be, so he can’t just rear back and blow hitters away like he used to in 2010. But even if his velocity is down, Strasburg still has other plus-pitches to go to when he needs them, so there’s no reason to think he can’t work around having a good-but-no-longer-great heater. Another troubling trend is the stark contrast between his home and road splits: After Wednesday’s defeat in Colorado, Strasburg is now 1-6 with a 5.09 ERA on the road, compared to 6-2 with a 2.62 ERA at Nationals Park.
Anthony Rendon, INF: .172 AVG/ .172 OBP/ .207 SLG
Rendon’s cooled off a bit since the Baltimore series a few weeks back. Since then, he’s had only two extra-base hits in the last ten games with a pair of RBIs. The good thing about Rendon’s stellar season, however, is that right when it looks like he’s about to go into an extended slump, he emphatically slugs his way out of it in a hurry. We’ll see if he can do it again.