|Photo by USA Today|
The Nationals' past week, at a glance:
Team slash: .305/.388/.470
Team ERA: 2.80
Runs per game: 6.0
Opponent runs per game: 3.0
Opponent slash: .244/.294/.339
Tanner Roark, RP: 2-0/0.00 ERA/0.67 WHIP/6 IP/1 K
Welcome to the big leagues, Mr. Ro-ark. The rookie reliever made his first three career appearances this week, picking up the win in the most recent two. He doesn't have overpowering stuff -- he's thrown two-thirds of his 70 pitches for strikes, with only two swings and misses -- but he's gotten the job done in fairly high-leverage situations. Working two innings in each of his appearances, he's been able to serve as a very effective bridge to Rafael Soriano, who has saved both his victories. Without more swinging strikes, his .190 BABIP will rise -- along with his ERA -- but Roark has had a dream start to his career.
Jayson Werth, OF: 10-19/2 HR/6 RBI/.591 OBP/1.486 OPS
Put simply, this is what we've been waiting for from Jayson Werth. Not the video game numbers of the past week, or even the past month -- but his incredibly hot tear has brought his season numbers (.327/.399/.529, 17 HR) in line with his pay grade for the first time since he donned a Nats jersey. In fact, the 34-year-old is exceeding even those expectations: the batting average, if it holds up, is the highest of his career, though his .444 BABIP since the All-Star break portends a looming regression. The Nats are likely playing for bragging rights and to set the table for next season; if Werth can continue to swing a hot bat, both he and the team can end the year on a high note, which will bode well going forward.
Stephen Strasburg, SP: 1-0/0.00 ERA/0.55 WHIP/9 IP/10 K
Thanks in part to the pitch counts and innings limits that dominated his early years, Stephen Strasburg notched his first shutout -- and first complete game -- this week, blanking the Phillies with a four-hit, 10-strikeout masterpiece. It's not showing up in the win-loss column (neither his, nor the team's), but this has been the finest season of the young hurler's career. His strikeout rate is down from the other-worldly 12.2 and 11.1/9 numbers from 2010 and 2012, respectively, but he's also giving up fewer hits, baserunners, and runs than he ever has. Strikeouts are nice, but keeping opponents off the basepaths and away from home plate is the name of the game.
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B: 3-19/1 HR/.304 OBP/.673 OPS
On the other side of the coin, Ryan Zimmerman is unfortunately slogging through one of the worst seasons of his otherwise stellar career. On pace for his lowest batting average since he hit .266 as a 22-year-old, the third baseman has come up particularly short of late, hitting .158 and driving in only one run (himself, on a solo homer) on the month. The silver lining is that his misadventures in the infield have tamped down somewhat -- he recorded his last error on August 2.
Ryan Mattheus, RP: 0-1/7.71 ERA/1.71 WHIP/2.1 IP/1 K
Ryan Mattheus may be the cautionary tale that Tanner Roark and observers may want to take heed to. Sporting an identical swinging strike rate (3%) to Roark over the past week, Mattheus has been burned, giving up two runs in the loss to Atlanta and allowing two baserunners while recording just one out in last night's win over the Giants. Aside from failing to miss bats and giving up runs of his own, Mattheus has allowed 50% of inherited runners to score -- not what you're looking for when summoning a reliever in the seventh and eighth innings.
Bryce Harper, OF: 2-16/1 XBH/.300 OBP/.488 OPS
Much like Zimmerman, Harper has fallen dead silent in the last two weeks, hitting just .167 since the calendar flipped to August. It's a testament to the recent prowess of the Nats' other bats that the team sports such a prolific batting line while the top two hitters languish in notable slumps. Both Zimmerman and Harper have continued to get on base well above what their batting average would suggest, adding value even when failing to make significant contact at the plate, but the team needs more from these guys. Harper was able to come off the bench last night despite sitting out most of the game with the flu, so the heart and desire is obviously there -- not that anyone would ever question Harper in that way -- the hits just need to fall.