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Span leading the way

Jul 26, 2014, 6:00 AM EDT

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

The Nationals offense has been among the best in the majors in the month of July, and lately we’ve seen exactly how integral Denard Span can be in keying their success.

The Nats center fielder went 4-for-5 in the team’s 4-1 win over the Reds on Friday night, again setting the table for a lineup that has proven dangerous when healthy this season.

Span is now hitting .289/.339/.389 on the year. His .737 OPS ranks fourth among NL center fielders and his batting average leads the Nats.

Span may not draw as many walks or hold the on-base percentage of a prototypical leadoff hitter, but when he is on there are few better at setting the table.

Over his last eight games, Span has 18 hits. Seven of his last 10 outings have been of the multi-hit variety.

Span is batting .387 in July. In 18 games this month he’s gone hitless just twice.

Here are his full July numbers so far:

18 G – 75 AB – 29 H – .387 BA – 4 2B – 15 R – 5 SB – 8 BB – 10 SO

Now look at his rankings among MLB center fielders this season:

.289 average – 6th
.339 OBP – 8th
63 runs – 2nd

115 hits – 4th
29 doubles – 2nd
18 steals – 7th
5 triples – 4th
35 extra-base hits – 5th
153 total bases – 7th

In Friday’s win, Span drove in the Nats’ second run of the game in the fourth inning with a single to score Wilson Ramos. Then, in the sixth inning, he started a rally by singling with one out off J.J. Hoover. Anthony Rendon walked to move Span to second before a single by Adam LaRoche brought him in for the team’s fourth run.

Span has been heating up this month and could just be getting started. Many remember what he did in the second half of last season when he posted a MLB-best 29-game hit streak. But getting hot in July is just par for the course for the 7-year pro.

Span, a career .284 hitter, hits .316 in July. Last season he hit .262 from April through June before batting .295 from July through September.

Span’s 4-hit night on Friday was the 20th such game of his career. He also added a run and a stolen base. The latter contribute to a pace that would give him 104 runs and 30 stolen bases on the year. Given his defense is as good as any in the majors, there’s not much more you could ask for from the 30-year-old.

  1. unkyd59 - Jul 26, 2014 at 6:11 AM

    Nice profile, Chase! Glad Rizzo waited for a good price, in picking him up…

    • Eric - Jul 26, 2014 at 7:12 AM

      +1

      I’ve always liked the guy. Love it when he’s during on all cylinders.

  2. Joe Seamhead - Jul 26, 2014 at 7:26 AM

    So much for watching a lot of pitches, too. In the last two games he’s 8-10 and has seen a total of 23 pitches. The big difference that I see right now is that he has stopped swinging so hard, but instead is putting the ball in play with a lot of flares up the middle.I really love watching this guy play ball, and when the one-two punch of Span and Rendon is clicking it is the best top of the order that the Nats have had.

  3. veejh - Jul 26, 2014 at 8:27 AM

    Coincidence that Span started heating up after Harper called him out?

    • knoxvillenat - Jul 26, 2014 at 8:33 AM

      Perhaps, but I tend to think it is more a case of Span heating up in July as he did last season and as Chase points out Span is a .316 hitter in July.

    • Soul Possession, Sec 3, My Sofa - Jul 26, 2014 at 10:42 AM

      Post hoc, ergo propter hoc.

  4. Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 26, 2014 at 8:56 AM

    I will say it again, once he learns how to be a smart baserunner he will be the full package. He was hot since June but since Bryce suggested the lineup he’s been red hot!

    Another crazy stat is that he hasn’t been caught stealing this season by a catcher. His caught stealings have all been by the pitchers.

    His defense since the brain fart between him and Werth in Pittsburgh has been more aggressive and his defense has been excellent.

    I said a few days ago that the strategies to not pick up Span’s option next year could be premature as he is earning that deal now.

    • Soul Possession, Sec 3, My Sofa - Jul 26, 2014 at 10:32 AM

      “He hasn’t been caught stealing this season by a catcher. His caught stealings have all been by the pitchers.”

      Which makes sense if he is selling out by getting really good jumps.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 26, 2014 at 10:35 AM

        On those, yes, and those caught stealings happen. It’s the ones that are the Pickoffs caught sleeping going back to 1st that you don’t want to see.

      • Soul Possession, Sec 3, My Sofa - Jul 26, 2014 at 10:43 AM

        +1

      • Soul Possession, Sec 3, My Sofa - Jul 26, 2014 at 10:49 AM

        Although … I noticed last year that Span does not seem to have a good burst step to his left, which most good base-stealers need. I thought at the time he might have a right quad or inguinal tweak, because he doesn’t look like Caught Sleeping so much as Caught Leaning. That would be consistent with a strategy of cheating to get a jump.

  5. Theophilus T.S. - Jul 26, 2014 at 9:03 AM

    Span’s hot streak has nothing to do with Harper. He’s too focused on his tradecraft to pay attention to a flap-jawing baseball neophyte. On the other hand, it makes Harper look even more of an ass, who ought to work as hard on his tradecraft for the next 18 months before he opens his yap again.

  6. scnatsfan - Jul 26, 2014 at 9:16 AM

    If Harp calling out Span got him motivated then when does someone call out Harp

    • Hiram Hover - Jul 26, 2014 at 9:29 AM

      Not a coincidence. Because Harper didn’t really “call out” Span.

      Can we please please just let it go?

    • Doc - Jul 26, 2014 at 9:45 AM

      Good point!

      It’s time that Harper started doing his part.

      • David Proctor - Jul 26, 2014 at 10:25 AM

        He did single, walk, score a run and make a great defensive play.

  7. Drew - Jul 26, 2014 at 9:36 AM

    Span has been terrific of late. The question about his option will not be an easy call.

    Michael Taylor is having a tremendous breakout year, but I wonder whether he fits as a lead off hitter given that he could finish with 30 homers and he strikes out a lot. Then again, he has great wheels.

    The team hasn’t given up on Goodwin either, despite his troubling struggles. Again, I think it messed up his development when the Nats vaulted him from Hagerstown to Harrisburg.

    On the bright side, how about Tanner Roark? In 181.3 career innings he now has a 2.43 ERA and a dandy 17-7 record. And he’s under team control until 2020. Wow.

    If J. Zimm does not leave as a free agent, it will be fascinating to watch Cole and Giolito try to break into this rotation.

    I think Fister’s the next potential FA after Zimmn. Gio and Stras aren’t up until 2017.

    • David Proctor - Jul 26, 2014 at 9:47 AM

      Gio has club options that keep him under team control until 2019.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 26, 2014 at 10:41 AM

      Drew, winning teams go with the sure thing. Michael Taylor and Souza still need to prove themselves and their tryouts will come in limited opportunities in September.

      When Span had that .285 OBP it was an easy decision, now he’s hitting .289 and an OBP approaching the zone you need.

      Easy decision as of right now, pick up the option but there is a lot more baseball to play before you have to decide.

  8. Doc - Jul 26, 2014 at 9:50 AM

    Don’t know all the times for FA’s, but Fister’s contract is is up after next year—I think.

    Good teams get expensive in a hurry.

  9. Section 222 - Jul 26, 2014 at 9:57 AM

    Is it possible to do the same kind of analysis of Span vs other leadoff hitters, as opposed to other CFs?

    Roark is a stud, and once again on 5 days rest. It was great to hear Span interviewed about him after the game. “Strategic” was his summary of Roark’s pitching. Great questioning by Kolko too. No way any of our previous sideline reporters would have teased out that kind of interesting analysis.

    http://www.masnsports.com/media.php?show_id=2263776&p=

    Anybody see that “throw” by BJ Upton last night? Ouch.

    • Joe Seamhead - Jul 26, 2014 at 10:43 AM

      I never get tired of saying that I’m glad we didn’t get BJ Upton. I also notice that though Span makes so few mistakes in the OF, that the few he does make are what some people remember most. And say what you want about his screw ups on the basepaths, when you are as aggressive as he is there are going to be glaring mistakes, but he is still a very good baserunner. He has a lot more positive results with his aggression than negatives. He also makes a ton of smart moves that seemingly go un-noticed, and I’m not talking about steals.As an example, he has had several times when he tagged up and advanced from second on caught balls to the outfield when most others would have been scurrying back to the bag because they went too far.

      As far as his future on this team, many here want to see him gone and seem sure that Michael Taylor can make the next step, but I am of the mindset that Michael has a ways to go. There’s no question that he’s a talent in the OF, and yes, he has wheels. But his most glaring weakness is that K rate is not good. He still needs to shorten his swing. I’m telling you, he looks an awful lot like Justin Maxwell at the plate. As to Brian Goodwin? He is approaching “bust” status. Personally, I wish that it was him that was traded for Jerry Blevins.

    • 6ID20 - Jul 26, 2014 at 11:03 AM

      The previous sideline reporters didn’t have time to frame analytic questions. They were too busy just trying to get a question in at all before the horn dogs in the bullpen started the wet t shirt contest. Notice how no one gets dunked with Kolko interviewing them? That’s because it was never about giving the hero of the game a Gatorade bath. It was always about dousing the sideline bimbo.

    • NatsLady - Jul 26, 2014 at 11:16 AM

      Here are the leadooff batters (220+ PAs). You can sort or fiddle with it as you please…

      • Section 222 - Jul 26, 2014 at 11:42 AM

        Awesome. Thanks NL.

  10. stoatva - Jul 26, 2014 at 10:03 AM

    Giolito, last night for Hagerstown: Six shutout innings, one hit, seven K’s… NO WALKS.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 26, 2014 at 10:42 AM

      And a monkey on his shoulder! Seriously!

      • 6ID20 - Jul 26, 2014 at 11:06 AM

        Did he remove the monkey from Strasburg’s back? Because someone sure needs to!

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 26, 2014 at 11:15 AM

        LOL The pictures of Giolito are funny.

      • natsfan1a - Jul 26, 2014 at 11:25 AM

        Was it a cowboy monkey, by any chance?

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 26, 2014 at 11:26 AM

        Yes!

      • natsfan1a - Jul 26, 2014 at 11:31 AM

        Thanks re. the monkey pics. My husband wants to see them at the P-Nats in August. LOL.

      • NatsLady - Jul 26, 2014 at 11:41 AM

        Can you link to the pictures?

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 26, 2014 at 11:42 AM

        Wish I knew how to do that from my phone. Check his Twitter pix

    • NatsLady - Jul 26, 2014 at 11:21 AM

      18 straight batters after he gave up a leadoff single. Glad he got the no-hitter out of the way so there was no pressure to leave him in. ;)

      http://www.milb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20140725&content_id=86298854&fext=.jsp&vkey=recap&sid=t487

  11. Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 26, 2014 at 11:30 AM

    Can you say Andrew Miller? I’d rather go for Ziegler but upgrades are upgrades.

    “@AdamKilgoreWP: Per @Ken_Rosenthal, the Nats had a scout at last night’s Red Sox-Rays game. They also had a top evaluator in Boston last weekend.”

  12. unkyd59 - Jul 26, 2014 at 11:32 AM

    Hmmm…. Jake Peavy to the Giants, for prospects…. Good get, for them….

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 26, 2014 at 11:48 AM

      4.72 ERA. Now everyone is hoping for a quick reclamation like Brandon McCarthy. Peavy should pitch better just based on park adjustments alone but I don’t expect Ace results.

  13. Doc - Jul 26, 2014 at 11:55 AM

    Speaking of Kenny Rosenthal, we haven’t heard from him lately on Span.

    Probably working on improving his understanding of UZR stats!

  14. natsfan1a - Jul 26, 2014 at 12:02 PM

    Let’s see if this link shows up.

    NatsLady – Jul 26, 2014 at 11:41 AM

    Can you link to the pictures?

    • NatsLady - Jul 26, 2014 at 12:06 PM

      Got it! Thanks much!

    • nats128 - Jul 26, 2014 at 12:10 PM

      Thanks!

  15. NatsLady - Jul 26, 2014 at 12:05 PM

    So, I was curious about the “Magic Four.” And, in fact, the Nats have lost the fewest games (4) of any MLB team when they have scored 4 or more runs. The White Sox have lost the most, 22! MIN and COL are next with 21.

    They have lost only two games where they had 12 or more hits in nine innings, but are in a tie with Miami for having lost four extra-inning games where they had 12 or more hits. Atlanta has lost three.

    I need to get off Play Index…

  16. micksback1 - Jul 26, 2014 at 12:10 PM

    very proud of Span and any talk of him not being a starter is simply comical. I hope young harper learns a lesson from this, he needs to worry about himself and not swinging like caveman at the 3rd strike.

    Overall, Tanner is simply a great storyline for this team and MLB! Maybe Stras can humble himself and ask for tips from Fister and others on pitches the way Roark has, but I doubt it.

  17. Section 222 - Jul 26, 2014 at 12:14 PM

    So thanks to NL for the help in manipulating Fangraphs, here’s how Span ranks vs. other MLB CFs, and then vs. the 27 MLB leadoff hitters that have 200 or more PAs:

    .289 average – 6th, 10th
    .339 OBP – 8th, 16th
    63 runs – 2nd, 2nd (to “All Star” Matt Carpenter)
    115 hits – 4th, 2nd (to Markakis)
    29 doubles – 2nd, 1st
    18 steals – 7th, 6th
    5 triples – 4th, 5th
    35 extra-base hits – 5th, ? (can’t figure out how to do this, NL?. His SLG is 15th if that tells you anything.)
    153 total bases – 7th, ? (ditto)

    So still pretty good. He’s also tied for 14th among leadoff hitters in wRC+, and 13th among CFs.

    Interesting that Carpenter leads the majors in runs scored by a leadoff hitter, yet the Cards are second to last in NL in runs scored. (The Nats are 5th).

    • micksback1 - Jul 26, 2014 at 12:18 PM

      also note, Span was a 286 htiter when he came to Nats in 2013, that is pretty darn good. What we take for granted is his defense. Span may be MLB’s best center fielder defensively, what the heck was Harper thinking, or was he???

    • NatsLady - Jul 26, 2014 at 12:22 PM

      I could do extra base hits, but I would have to use Play Index. Also, would you include homers? I’ll do it on my next break (no, I won’t, have to go to Staples on my break.)

      • Section 222 - Jul 26, 2014 at 1:19 PM

        Thanks for the help. Simply by suggesting Play Index I was able to figure out how to do it on B-R. (I didn’t go to law school for nothing.) Span leads the majors in XBHs (B-R includes homers). He’s second in TBs (to Charlie Blackmon, who has 14 homers to Denard’s 5).

        That’s impressive. When you add his extra base hits to his steals, I’d say he’s a very productive top of the order bat regardless of his mediocre OBP.

      • NatsLady - Jul 26, 2014 at 2:01 PM

        Denard has 5 homers? When did this happen?

      • NatsLady - Jul 26, 2014 at 2:09 PM

        Span has led off an inning 159 times. Here is what he’s done for the season, with bases empty, none out====> ..302/.362/.434

        He’s had 14 doubles and 3 triples (and one homer) leading off. When your first batter gets an XBH that is a tremendous advantage to scoring a run because you don’t have to “waste” an out getting him into scoring position.

        Leading off an inning

      • NatsLady - Jul 26, 2014 at 2:10 PM

        Bah, the link disappeared.

        Leading off an inning.

    • nats128 - Jul 26, 2014 at 12:56 PM

      On one hand his BA and OBP for leadoff batters isnt elite but on the other hand hes currently the best in the Majors. Slow starts are tough to overcome.

      The runs scored is encouraging.

  18. micksback1 - Jul 26, 2014 at 12:15 PM

    Hope Gio has a good outing today. The Reds remind me of the 2013 Nats, who seemed lost at the plate most of the time. Nats are in a really good place right now and have to give MW credit, even though I am not totally sold on him due to some of his moves. I would give MW the letter grade of a B+ right now

  19. NatsLady - Jul 26, 2014 at 12:17 PM

    One more, and this is not unexpected. The teams that have won the most game where they scored four or more runs are all pretty much post-season bound. LAA and OAK (52), MIL (50), DET (49), WSN (47), SFG (46) TOR? LAD and BAL (44), etc.

    The Nats have only won 9 games where they scored 3 or fewer runs. That’s exactly middle of the pack (16th). ATL’s won 16. However, I should probably do this on a percent basis, because the Nats haven’t had as many games with 3 or fewer runs as some teams, e.g., the Padres, who have won 9. The Dodgers have also won 9 games like that. Personally, I’d rather just have the four runs. WAY less stressful.

    OK, gotta eat lunch… :)

    • micksback1 - Jul 26, 2014 at 12:19 PM

      very interesting stat.

      Oak and CA may actually be the 2 best team sin all of baseball and the funny thing is, one of those 2 teams will not be in the ALCS because of the way post season is designed

    • NatsLady - Jul 26, 2014 at 12:19 PM

      oops sorry, Padres and Dodgers have won 13 games with scoring 3 or fewer runs. Same two teams have won 9 games with TWO or fewer runs…

  20. Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 26, 2014 at 12:19 PM

    “@AdamKilgoreWP: Span’s OBP the past 68 games is .359. Credit him, credit Williams for staying with him at leadoff when many (raises hand) questioned it.”

  21. micksback1 - Jul 26, 2014 at 12:25 PM

    One year ago today, on July 26, the Nats were 49-54 and had just lost 11-0 to Mets at Nats Park. What a difference 1 year later!

    • ArVAFan - Jul 26, 2014 at 12:44 PM

      +1 gazillion (or something like that)

  22. Joe Seamhead - Jul 26, 2014 at 1:04 PM

    Though this goes back a few years, this is an example, three times over, as to why I never wanted BJ Upton:

    http://m.mlb.com/video/v9422017/aritb-longoria-confronts-upton

  23. Eric - Jul 26, 2014 at 1:14 PM

    “Maybe Stras can humble himself and ask for tips from Fister and others on pitches the way Roark has, but I doubt it.”

    Pretty sure Stras has cited Fister as a positive force for living batter to batter instead of mistake to mistake. He also said he practiced in the off season with another pitcher who helped him in the same regard. Personally, I think it really shows, especially over the last month or two.

    I still think Stras will put it all together and reach or at least approach his potential by late this season or the middle of next. I think his last frontier is commanding his fastball now that he’s no longer blowing it by people.

  24. Section 222 - Jul 26, 2014 at 1:31 PM

    What a difference a year makes is right. Incidentally, Every team that led the division on July 26 last year won it. The Pirates and Reds would have been the WC teams in the NL. and the Rays and Rangers would have been the AL WC teams. The Indians ended up inching out the Rangers. The Dodgers had just pulled ahead in the NL West, and won it going away. But the postseason lineup was pretty much set.

    May the same thing happen this year. :-)

  25. natsfan1a - Jul 26, 2014 at 1:39 PM

    I second that emotion.

    “May the same thing happen this year. :-)”

    • NatsLady - Jul 26, 2014 at 1:50 PM

      Nah, I don’t want the Barves in the playoffs AT ALL, not even as the WC team.

  26. natsfan1a - Jul 26, 2014 at 1:53 PM

    Yeah, only if there’s an infield fly repeat.

    “Nah, I don’t want the Barves in the playoffs AT ALL, not even as the WC team.”

  27. David Proctor - Jul 26, 2014 at 2:04 PM

    Ken Rosenthal ‏@Ken_Rosenthal 24s
    Talk among #Nationals is that Zimmerman will be out 6-8 weeks. Team could add 2B (with Rendon at 3B), but Rizzo long supportive of Espinosa.

    • Section 222 - Jul 26, 2014 at 3:24 PM

      I.e., KR has no idea what Rizzo will do

Archives

FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
x-WASHINGTON 96 66 --
ATLANTA 79 83 17.0
NEW YORK 79 83 17.0
MIAMI 77 85 19.0
PHILADELPHIA 73 89 23.0

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NL WILD CARD GAME
WED: Giants at Pirates, 8:07 p.m. (ESPN)

NLDS
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OR Giants at Nats, 3:07 p.m. (FS1)
SAT: Game 2, PIT/SF at Nats, 5:37 p.m. (FS1)
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