Pittsburgh rookie Josh Bell homers against Washington’s Tanner Roark on May 18th at PNC Park to lead the Pirates to a 10-4 victory over the Nationals. The home run was one of ten hit against the Nationals so far on their road trip to Pittsburgh and Atlanta.
A Major League baseball season is full of peaks and valleys for all teams, and the Nats experienced some valleys over the past week. This week’s “Nationals by the Numbers” looks at some of those unsightly results, the work of a Nationals stalwart who is aging well and the top level performance Washington is getting from its best hitter off of the bench.
The Nationals are 1-4 so far on their road trip, and the team has struggled in many facets of the game. The poor record on the trip is not hard to understand when one looks at how three important Nationals players have fared at the plate in those games. Bryce Harper (3-20), Ryan Zimmerman (4-18) and Anthony Rendon (2-15) are hitting a combined .170 in the five contests, with only four extra base hits and four RBI between them.
One Nationals hitter who is not slumping recently is centerfielder Michael A. Taylor. Despite going 0-4 in yesterday’s contest, Taylor is hitting .354 with two doubles, two homers and five RBI over his past 31 at bats. Taylor is still striking out at a high rate, however. Among players with fewer than 100 at bats so far this year, Taylor’s 36 strikeouts in 90 at bats is the fourth highest total in the Major Leagues. Only Tampa’s Rickie Weeks (40 strikeouts/77 at bats), Matt Davidson of the White Sox (39 strikeouts/98 at bats) and Kansas City’s Brandon Moss (38 strikeouts/96 at bats) have worse results than Taylor in this category.
Jayson Werth turned 38 on Saturday, but his .869 OPS so far in 2017 shows that he might be getting better as well. He’s put up a higher OPS figure than that number only three times in his long career. Werth’s career best was a .931 mark that he had for the Nationals in 2013. While playing for the Phillies, Werth had a .921 OPS in 2010 and a .879 OPS in 2009. So far in May, Werth has been red-hot. He has hit .315 with a .422 on base percentage and a .519 slugging percentage figure for an impressive .940 OPS.
Weather permitting, Washington’s Stephen Strasburg looks to end the Nats’ skid today against the Braves in Atlanta. If the Nats’ all-star’s last four games in Atlanta are a guide, we very well may see a curly W being put in the books this afternoon. In those four starts, Strasburg is 4-0 with a 1.04 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 26 innings pitched.
While Harper, Zimmerman and Daniel Murphy have grabbed most of the headlines associated with the Nationals’ hot start at the plate in the 2017 season, the contributions of bench player Adam Lind should not be overlooked. Lind, with three, is the only player in the Major Leagues with more than one pinch-hit home run so far this year. He is hitting a robust .333 in 45 at bats, with four doubles and 14 RBI (the seventh highest total on the team) to go along with his three round-trippers.
Saturday’s loss was Washington’s fourth in a row, the longest losing streak through the first quarter of the year for the first place Nats. While some overly nervous fans may be ready to push the panic button, such streaks are common place even among top level teams. In their 2016 National League East championship year, the Nats had four streaks of four or more losses in a row. Washington dropped four straight at Wrigley Field against the Cubs from May 5th through May 8th last year. From June 18th through June 25th, the Nats lost a season high seven games in a row on a road swing to San Diego, Los Angeles and Milwaukee. In August Washington dropped four straight games against Atlanta and Baltimore, and the Nats also finished on the wrong end of the scoreboard four in four straight games in September while facing the Braves and the Marlins.
With 10 home runs allowed in five games on their current road trip, the Nats have allowed more home runs this year than only two National League teams (the Phillies have permitted 62 long balls, with San Diego surrendering 60). The National League average for home runs allowed this year is 50. The last time Washington was not above league average in home runs permitted in a season was back in 2010, when the Nats permitted 151 home runs against a league average of 150.
Their has not been a lot of top level starting pitching on display during the Nats’ road trip, but an exception to that rule came on May 18th in the Pirates 6-1 victory over the Nats. Pittsburgh’s Gerrit Cole allowed only one run and three hits in seven dominant innings to pace the Pirates to victory. Cole’s pitching game score of 68 in the contest was the second highest of the year so far against the Nats, trailing only Mike Leake’s 76 from St. Louis’ 6-1 victory over Washington on April 12th.