Happy Baseball! Now don't blow it Nats.
Bryce Harper has hit .350 /. 455 / .650 since May 29th. Why is that random fact of interest to me? Because May 28th marked the end of his remarkable 3 week run where Bryce hit .460 / . 570 / 1.175. So since he's "cooled off" he has a line that would put him t1st in batting average (w/ Cabrera), maybe t2nd in OBP (Cabrera, Goldschmidt), and 1st in slugging in the major leagues. Bryce is awesome.
I got in a little Twitter discussion yesterday about the state of the team in the future. I'll admit I'm a pessimist. I see the Nats offense led by Bryce, yes. But I also see the 2nd-5th most valuable bats this year being gone in 2016 (Span), connected to an unsustainable BABIP (Escobar), with a guy Nats fans were ready to run out of town a year ago he was so bad (Espinosa), and a 30 yr old career minor leaguer (Robinson). That's the thread holding this offense together. I'll give you it could continue in 2015, there's less than half a season left. But come 2016 there has to be an expectation of this motley crew not carrying the team again. So who does? Rendon, ok, I'll buy that. But who else? 37 yr old Werth? Zimmerman, 2 years removed from a full season? If they don't come through. That puts a lot of pressure on MAT and Turner to be good next year. Not to mention the Nats losing ZNN and Fister and Thornton. Anyway the Nats will have money freed so there is room to spend/trade to fix these issues. But if they don't do anything there is potential here for a crash that hasn't existed since the window opened.
Will they do it through FA (The "Greinke" scenario)? Reason to be optimistic - the Lerners have cleared, however painfully slowly, all money hurdles so far. They signed someone to a big deal (Werth). They showed they'd do it again and for homegrown talent (Zimm). They showed they'd do it for a pitcher and raise their payroll to that "below the biggest spenders" range for a year (Max). The next question is will they remain in that 170 mill range? Reason to be pessimistic - the Lerners were bitching at 130 million about being "topped out" and although they did sign Max it was a funny contract that pushed money out over the next century. It also seemed like the issues with the pen (trading Clippard, Blevins) were money related.
OK enough about next year. I talked about the potential contenders yesterday. When you get down to the last few month SoS is important to consider. How does that break down? The NL East means that the Nats and Mets should both cruise for the rest of the year (12th and 11th easiest). That's also why I give the Mets an edge over the Cubs for the 2nd WC. Meanwhile the Pirates have a little rougher road than the Cards, the Giants a rougher road than the Dodgers which makes catching them a bit tough. The Giants in particular must survive this stretch (@TEX, @ATL, @CHC, HOU, WAS, @STL, @PIT, CHC, STL, @LA) That's a month with no patsies. Twist my arm and I'll say Cards, Nats, Dodgers, Pirates, Mets. so Nats play Dodgers first round. That'd be my guess today, but injuries and trades can change everything.
We're on the last legs of "Wilson Ramos can be a star" aren't we? Wilson gets to hide behind all the bigger problems and surprise solid players but it's been a disappointing year for him. Finally healthy we hoped for a decent bounce back and we haven't gotten it. His walk rate has dwindled over time to a terrible 4.3%. His K-rate is going up each year. But the Nats don't have anyone close to ready to replace Wilson (Lobaton really isn't an improvement, Keiboom is middling in High-A). So Wilson it is.
I expressed my concerns with a Yuney/Danny/Clint led offense but in all honesty, I kind of like Clint's chances to stay productive for a few years. He never failed in the majors previously, just didn't get the chance, so we can't say that what we're seeing now is odd. He doesn't have crazy K numbers in the minors that suggest he'll be overwhelmed by major league stuff (see: Moore, Tyler). There's no unsustainable numbers helping him out. He isn't death against lefties (he's hit them quite well this year actually). With regular at bats in June and July his numbers have been relatively consistent. I just don't see any warning signs. I don't know where exactly he'll fall (above average or below are both reasonable) but I don't see him being so bad he couldn't sit on a bench for another couple years and he may actaully be a good bat there.
I'm also very curious to see Felipe Rivero more. His issue in the minors, which he arguably never solved, was he was too wild. And yet he's walking no one in the majors. His zone numbers suggest more pitches thrown in the zone (not a good or bad thing pitching wise if you are wondering - there are great pitchers on either end) so I'd guess it is an improvement that can be kept up, but I want to see more. I don't know if a trust that it just clicked when he hit the majors after not getting it in the minors since 2012 - including in Nats org.
xFIP suggests* that the Carpenter, Janssen, and Thornton all should get worse. It does however like Treinen and Barrett. So trade for someone I guess, I'm tired of these guys.
BABIP suggests Escobar will dip (Bryce is up there but he's doing something special, Taylor is up there but we don't know his level). Zimm and Werth would both be candidates for improvement if we didn't think that the BABIP issues could be injury related. So the best hope for a rebound 2nd half? Desmond. Nothing huge though - he is hitting the ball weaker.
Also read this on Desmond. It's a lot of what we were saying over time but put together nicely.
*Why do I say suggest? Relievers pitch so infrequently these things can last the 30 IP or whatever they have left. xFIP is more of a year to year thing to look at, but a glance now isn't completely without value.