Thursday, April 11, 2013

Nationals: Who's hot/who's not

Photo by USA Today

By Michael Huberman

Entering Thursday’s game against the Chicago White Sox, the Nationals stand at 6-2, a game and a half behind the scorching hot Atlanta Braves. When a team wins six of eight, chances are a number of players put up some impressive stats. Each week, we’ll look at five players who were hot, and five players who were not so hot.


Bryce Harper, OF – 13-33/4 HR/6 RBI/1.182 OPS
Harper’s first eight games served as an excellent start to his campaign for NL MVP. After hitting home runs in his first two at-bats on Opening Day against the Miami Marlins, Harper hasn’t let up, hitting .394 with 4 homers and 6 RBIs. After eight games Harper is 7th in slugging percentage and tied for third in the league with his four home runs.

Wilson Ramos, C – 6-13/2 HR/3 RBI/1.486 OPS
It was an emotional week for Ramos, as he made his return to Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, the sight of his unfortunate ACL injury last May. It was clear Ramos wasn’t fazed, as he tore through Reds pitching, going 4-9 with two home runs, including an insurance homer in the Nationals' 7-6 extra-innings victory on Saturday.

Ian Desmond, SS – 9-31/2 HR/5 R/4 2B
Entering the 11th inning of Saturday’s game against the Reds, Desmond was 2-16 and had just made two costly errors that allowed the Reds to tie the game. But Desmond led off the 11th inning with his first homer of the season, giving the Nationals the 6-5 lead. Since then, Desmond is 6-12 with a homer and three doubles and has gone three games without making an error.

Gio Gonzalez, SP – 1-0/0.82 ERA/11 IP/12 K 
After homering and shutting down the Marlins in his first start, Gonzalez labored through his second effort Tuesday against the White Sox, throwing 99 pitches in just five innings. But he held the White Sox to only one run, and struck out seven. On the season, he’s 1-0 with a 0.82 ERA and 0.909 WHIP over eleven innings. All in all, pretty good.

Jordan Zimmermann, SP – 2-0/2.08 ERA/13 IP/5 K
Despite the distinction of giving up the Nationals first run of the season last week against the lowly Marlins, it’s been another productive and efficient start to the season for Zimmermann. After Wednesday’s start in which he held the White Sox to two runs over seven innings, Zimmermann is 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA over thirteen innings and has yet to throw more than 90 pitches in either start.


Rafael Soriano, RP – 5 SV/7.20 ERA/5 IP/1 BS
It’s been an up and down first five appearances for Soriano as the new Nationals’ closer. The 33-year-old started off hot, saving two games against the Marlins in which he struck out three and gave up just one hit and one walk. But he blew a save in his next outing against the Reds (a game which the Nationals would eventually win) and made Tuesday’s appearance against the White Sox far more interesting than most would like, giving up a two-run homer to Alex Rios to cut the Nationals lead to 8-7. He looked much better last night giving up just one hit while earning his fourth save, but so far Soriano has been inconsistent.

Dan Haren, SP – 0-1/13.50 ERA/4 IP/5 K
When the Nationals signed Haren this offseason, the hope was that he would be able recapture his 2011 form, when he went 16-10 with 3.17 ERA and finished 7th in the American League Cy Young voting. So far, not so good. Haren was roughed up in his first start, giving up six runs and four home runs in just four innings of work against the Reds. Haren will look for his first win as a member of the Nationals Thursday night against the White Sox.

Adam LaRoche, 1B – 3-21/2 HR/3 RBI/.182 OBP
LaRoche is a notoriously slow starter, so his two-homer outing Tuesday night against the White Sox had to be a relief for the 33-year-old first baseman, especially after sitting out two games against the Reds with lower back pain. However, he’s still hitting just .143 through six games and his health looks to be a storyline to watch over the next few weeks.

Danny Espinosa, 2B – 6-30/0 HR/4 R/4 2B
Though he showed signs of life Wednesday night when he went 2-4 with two RBI, Espinosa’s slow start shouldn’t be too surprising. Last April he hit .205 with just one home run while striking out 27 times. Through eight games, he has only four extra base hits, all doubles, and he’s struck out five times. Though Espinosa has struggled at the plate, he’s been solid in the field as he’s yet to commit an error.

Ryan Zimmerman, 3B – 6-27/0 HR/5 RBI/.333 SLG
Like Espinosa, Zimmerman also struggled mightily out of the gate last year, largely due to his shoulder issues. So far this year, Zimmerman is hitting only .222 with no home runs and just two extra base hits. But his fielding has made up for his struggles at the plate, as he’s been spectacular as usual at the hot corner.


Faraz Shaikh said...

"Harper’s first eight games served as an excellent start to his campaign for NL MVP." Really?

TimDz said...

The "scorching hot" Braves have played The Cubs, Marlins and a (tick tock tick tock) Phillies team that is getting older by the second...

I think the superlatives need to be withheld for a bit...

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Looking at trends in the smallest of sample sizes isn't much but since the column has been written, I'd say Who's Not: just Haren and Ryan Zimmerman.

Again, Haren has only had 1 start. Go Dan and make Rizzo look like a genius!!!

Theophilus T. S. said...

LaRoche, Espinosa and Zimmerman are all streak hitters. It's not beyond the realm of possibility that they will have 25 HRs between them by the end of may.

Harper has the appearance of a hitter who is consistent every day -- maybe not en fuego every day but no long gaps in his resume. Not sure we have seen enuf of Ramos or Desmond to draw a conclusion.

Strasburg ought to be on the "not hot" list, if only to ignite a candle under his butt. The last start was what you would expect from a AA stopgap rotation filler. Put along side what he did in ST, the Opening Day start begins to look like an outlier. I don't expect him to continue that way but I have no explanation for his inconsistency except, possibly, he caught the Drew Storen "my stuff's too cool to fail" virus.

3on2out said...

The Braves have been playing major league clubs that, no matter how awful, will still win nearly 40% of their games. Seven wins in eight games is, indeed, scorchingly hot, regardless of the opposition.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Theo, good points about the streaky guys.

TimDz said...

3/2: Calling the Marlins a major league club is a bit of a stretch at this point...most teams will pitch around Stanton and take their chances with the young kids and retreads (kind of like the Nats of a few years back).
7/8 is hot, yes....but it is April for crying out loud. If the Braves/Barves come in this weekend and sweep the Nats, I'll buy in to the fact that they are off to a great start.
I'll check in on Monday and see what folks have to say then...

Sec. 3, My Untucked Sofa said...

The Marlins are a major league club. Games against them count exactly the same as games against Cincinnati or the Giants. That said, they'll probably win 50+ games, but not if they had to play the Braves 162 times.

Sec. 3, My Untucked Sofa said...

But the whole "hot/not" thing is sort of a gambler's fallacy. You're hot until you aren't. You're not, until you are. Yeah, games won in April stay won all season, so it's a good start, but it's early.

A DC Wonk said...

Re: Strasburg: Put along side what he did in ST, the Opening Day start begins to look like an outlier.

I gotta say, I chuckled at that. When you have two observations, how in the world can you call either one of them an outlier?!

Why isn't it equally valid to say his _second_ start was the outlier?

(And, if you want to take into account the talent that we all know he has -- which, essentially, means more than two observations: indeed, it's the second start that's the outlier!)

We all know how Stras pitches after a bad start. The Braves will be facing a _very_ motivated pitcher Saturday!

SCNatsFan said...

I suspect if Haren gets lit up tonight the magical back/hip issue will resurface. Lets hope that is not the case.

Section 222 said...

I like these hot or not posts because they collect some stats and remind us of events that occurred before the game just played. But it's kind of silly to nitpick about the conclusions. It's not like anyone's winning a prize or something.

Hope it's not too hot for Stras tomorrow. Remember that scorcher in Atlanta last year when everyone was hydrating and Stras had to leave the game after 3 innings?

Sec. 3, My Untucked Sofa said...

Meanwhile, in the Kick Them When They're Down Department:

Miami Marlins Now Literally Turning Fans Away (Bloomberg Business Week)

Next Time, Charge The Bullpen; They Have Bats In The Dugout
Cubs prospect Soler tossed for bat-wielding incident

Sec. 3, My Untucked Sofa said...

It's not like anyone's winning a prize or something.

Yes, but I was first to say there's no prize.

JD said...

Theo et al.

This is Stras's 2nd full year. I posted a table last week of superstar pitchers 1st year and Stras stacks up very well against all of them.

Consistency is the last thing a superstar pitcher achieves so it's not totally unexpected that there are some stinkers throughout the season even if at the end of the season the numbers look Cy Young worthy.

I am not sure why we have this need to attribute attitude whenever the results are less than perfect especially as I'm pretty sure that the evidence of same is more of an unsubstantiated guess.

A DC Wonk said...

Hope it's not too hot for Stras tomorrow.

Haren today, Detwiler tomorrow, Stras on Saturday, no? Saturday's high is around 70 or so.

Faraz Shaikh said...

I think all these stats can be discarded with one argument of small sample size but what we actually see on the field is difficult to discard.

If you ask me, Span would probably top my list of hot players. He may not be hitting .400 but getting on base at .457 clip is pretty awesome. He has 8 walks I think. In addition, he has made OF plays look easy in CF. He has been every bit as good as advertised by Nats FO.

JD said...

The fact that Jeffrey Loria is allowed to own an MLB team is a huge blemish on Selig's resume. After screwing Montreal and Miami while lining his pockets one wonders who he will shaft next.

Take my word for it. There will be someone else.

Sec. 3, My Untucked Sofa said...

I am not sure why we have this need to attribute attitude whenever the results are less than perfect especially as I'm pretty sure that the evidence of same is more of an unsubstantiated guess.

My unsubstantiated guess is, it's harder to criticize someone if you can't point out something they are putatively doing wrong, and if we don't criticize, we can't control the outcomes of the games from our seats. Just my guess.

peric said...

Still need to wait for 40 games and how the Nats stack up against the Braves. We've seen them against the Reds. The Reds weren't intimidated. We need to see them against the Dodgers and Giants and the Mets as some early prognosticators surmised are surprising people.

Without Halladay the Phils are basically done. Like the Marlins "rebuilding".

peric said...

This is Stras's 2nd full year. I posted a table last week of superstar pitchers 1st year and Stras stacks up very well against all of them.

Uh first full year JD. He got shut down early remember? Rizzo getting excoriated by every news organ on the planet for doing it? It was in all the papers.

peric said...

And yes the September stretch is what separates the men from the boys so-to-speak so it is important.

NatsLady said...

Here is a look at the injured Barves and how they are being replaced.

Delicate Flowers - Atlanta version

NatsLady said...

Oh, look, it showed up in the blog roll with the most recent post, after showing an old post for three days... Life's mysteries.

baseballswami said...

About Stras- I watched Randy Johnson pitch when he was new. He was much more like HRod than Stras. Stras is still very young and inexperienced , and at times is his own worst enemy. Experience and maturity should work wonders- might take it's toll on McCatty though- the man is a saint!

Tcostant said...

If you want an interest read on fan outrarge, read this:

natsfan1a said...

From the Where Are They Now Department (sort of):

I am contemplating a trip to Denver this summer, as my Chicago baseball buddy is now my Denver baseball buddy (and she remains an honorary Nats fan as well). The Rockies are celebrating their 20th Anniversary Season with a series of bobbleheads. One will feature an original Nat. If you've been paying attention, you know which one it is (in best WWE announcer voice - Viiiinnnny Castiiiilllla).

Sadly, I can't be there for that series, but maybe we'll make the Nats June series. Any tips on places to stay, where to sit, etc. are welcome.

Scooter said...

You should stay with my aunt & uncle. They're very nice people, some of my favorites in the world.

A DC Wonk said...

About Stras- I watched Randy Johnson pitch when he was new. He was much more like HRod than Stras.

Indeed, I posted on this a number of times in defense of "patience for HRod". Johnson, Nolan Ryan, Koufax -- all of them had troubles, and in particular, troubles finding the plate before age 27. It wasn't until Koufax starting taking something _off_ the ball that he became absolutely unhittable. I note with interest that HRod has dialed back his fastball a bit this year.

natsfan1a said...

Awesome. :-)

Scooter said...

You should stay with my aunt & uncle. They're very nice people, some of my favorites in the world.
April 11, 2013 3:22 PM

PDowdy83 said...

While Espinosa is struggling a bit at least he is putting the ball in play. If he continues at his current K rate over a 600 plate appearance season he will only strike out 120 times. That would be a remarkable improvement over his 1st 2 season and with his contact rate being higher that leads to more oppurtunities for good thins happening.

As far as Strasburg's 2nd start, he got dinked and dunked for the first couple of runs. It wasn't like they murdered the ball off of him. While it wasn't his best start it also wasn't anything like Dan Haren's. Hopefully Haren turns it around tonight and puts up a quality start.

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