|USA Today Sports Images|
— By almost every measure other than won-loss record, Stephen Strasburg has been better this season than in either of his two previous "full" seasons: 2010 and 2012. (Yes, I know neither of those actually was a full season, but I'm just trying to refer to everything other than his abbreviated 2011, when he made only five starts after returning from Tommy John surgery.)
Strasburg's ERA (2.83), WHIP (1.039) and hits allowed (6.7 per nine innings) all are better this year than in '10 or '12, but perhaps the most significant sign of his progress is this simple one: He's throwing more innings than ever before.
Indeed, Strasburg is average 6.36 innings per start this season. Compare that to his 5.69 mark in 2012 and his 5.67 mark in 2010. And Strasburg's number this year is skewed a bit by a pair of two-inning starts (May 31 when he strained his lat muscle in Atlanta, and July 12 when he was roughed up in Miami).
Here's the best evidence of Strasburg's increased workload: He has made 21 starts in his career of at least seven innings. Fourteen of those have come this season, capped by Sunday's nine-inning shutout win over the Phillies.
Even more impressive: Strasburg gets better the deeper he pitches into games. His ERA from the seventh inning on this season is 0.47. He has 19 strikeouts and one walk in those innings.
— Wilson Ramos is catching nearly every single day for the Nationals right, and for good reason. He's crushing the ball, proving to be the Nationals' most consistent offensive threat outside of Jayson Werth.
Ramos has started 12 of the Nationals' last 14 games and 25 of 33 games since returning from the disabled list on July 4. In that time, he's hitting .316 with five homers, 21 RBI and an .853 OPS.
Not bad for a guy who mostly hits seventh or eighth in the lineup.
— At the other end of the spectrum is Bryce Harper, who despite a few notable blasts in big moments has mostly been silenced since returning to the Nationals lineup. In 35 games since his activation from the DL, Harper is hitting .235.
Harper is drawing walks (17) and that gives him a respectable .327 on-base percentage. But overall, the 20-year-old hasn't performed at the plate the way he hoped, especially against left-handers.
Against righties, Harper is putting up MVP-caliber numbers this season: a .303 average, .397 on-base percentage, a 1.008 OPS and 15 homers in only 195 at-bats. But against lefties, he's hitting a paltry .172 with a .270 on-base percentage, .546 OPS and only two homers in 87 at-bats.
— Shifting attention to the minor leagues, Drew Storen has bounced back from a rocky start to his time at Class AAA Syracuse with a pair of dominant relief outings. Storen struggled early on after his demotion, giving up five runs (four earned) on seven hits in his first four innings with the Chiefs. But he has tossed two perfect innings of relief since, retiring the last six batters he has faced, including four via strikeout.
Storen's teammate in Syracuse, Danny Espinosa, also is getting himself back on track after a dreadful start to his minor-league tenure. Espinosa was awful in June, hitting .107 with a .333 OPS. But he improved in July (.241 average, .658 OPS) and has been very good so far in August (.310 average, .753 OPS).
— Perhaps the most-glaring stat about the Nationals since the All-Star break has been the disparity in their record against teams with losing records (9-3) vs. teams with winning records (1-11).
This has been going on all season, though. The Nats are now 40-27 against losing clubs this year, 17-33 against winning clubs.
The good news (if you're trying to find a sliver of hope): Thirty of the Nationals' final 45 games come against teams currently sporting sub-.500 records.