All stats current as of games played through 8/29
The Washington Nationals have not gotten off to the start they had hoped, to say the least. Having played half of their 60-game schedule, they sit at 12-18, dead last in the NL East and 14th overall in the National League. With just 30 games left in this shortened season, let’s grade the performances by different units so far.
Overall, the offensive production doesn’t look too bad. The Nats rank 2nd in MLB in AVG, 3rd in xAVG, and top 8 in all of SLG, wOBA, xSLG, and xwOBA as a team. The problem is they have padded those stats in a few blowouts and struggled to win low-scoring games. In their 7 highest scoring games, the Nats have totaled 75 of their 144 runs (52.1%), compared to league average of 63.7 runs and 43%. Take those games out and they are averaging exactly 3 runs/game. In 16 games in which they have scored 3 or fewer runs, the Nats are just 1-15.
Normally a strength, the starting rotation has been a major disappointment this year. As a rotation, the Nationals’ starters have the highest ERA in the NL (5.39). Max Scherzer has been spotty, Patrick Corbin has struggled, and Stephen Strasburg is out for the year. Anibal Sanchez has been downright bad this year, with a 6.90 ERA in 6 games this year (highest among qualified NL pitchers). Austin Voth and Wil Crowe have combined to go 0-4 with a 7.11 ERA over the other 6 games. This group is a far cry from the rotation that was 2nd in the majors with a 3.53 ERA last year.
On the other hand, the bullpen has been the biggest positive surprise so far this season for the Nats. In past years, the bullpen has always been a weakness, but this year, they rank as one of the best in the National League. Their 4.23 ERA is 5th in the NL and their FIP (4.19) is 4th. The bullpen success has been led by rookie Kyle Finnegan and a breakout season from Tanner Rainey, but more on them in a bit. If last season’s postseason heroes Daniel Hudson and Sean Doolittle can turn it around, this could potentially be one of the best bullpens in MLB.
TEAM MVP: Juan Soto
Not only is Soto the team MVP, but he has also placed himself squarely in the conversation for National League MVP. He finally got the necessary number of PA to qualify on league leaderboards yesterday and his name is at or near the top in almost every category. In 22 games, Soto is slashing .358/.447/.765, and his OPS of 1.212 leads the majors. He also leads MLB in xAVG, SLG, xSLG, wOBA, xwOBA, and % of swings that result in a Hard Hit (95 mph+ EV). Soto’s fWAR of 1.3 would be 9.6 over 162 games, which would be the most ever by a National. In a season with very few bright spots so far, Soto has definitely been one.
Runner up: Trea Turner
PITCHER OF THE YEAR: Kyle Finnegan
With almost identical stats this year, this was a hard choice between Rainey and Finnegan, but Finnegan gets the nod due to better expected stats. He’s pitched 13 innings in 13 games and allowed just 2 runs and 7 hits while striking out 14 and walking 7 (2 intentional). His xwOBA and xERA are each 2nd best among qualified NL pitchers, his xSLG is 7th, and xAVG is 12th. Finnegan is also one of 10 NL pitchers who have yet to allow a Barrel this season. If he continues to pitch this well, he could start seeing some more high leverage situations.
Runner up: Tanner Rainey
PLAY OF THE YEAR
Victor Robles is no stranger to playing spectacular defense and he’s already had a couple of plays worthy of this spot. Last year, he led all MLB outfielders with 23 Outs Above Average (OAA). His offense has struggled a bit this year, but his defense is as good as ever. He’s got the top 2 defensive plays for the Nats this year, including the top one in which he made a leaping catch on the warning track and then threw to first to complete the double play.
Runner up: Robles HR robbery in ATL
Other Notes & Facts
– Nats vs LHP: 8-2 (.800), t-1st in NL
– Nats vs RHP: 4-16 (.200), Last in MLB
– Nats are 6-13 at home, tied for most losses at home with the Orioles
– Nats have used the same batting order in consecutive games just once so far this season (August 11-12 vs Mets), no other lineup has been used multiple times at all.
– Nats players 25 and younger are slashing .277/.364/.458 with 12 HR and 41 RBI and an sOPS+ of 129
– In Late & Close games (PA in the 7th or later, either tied, up by 1, or the tying run at least on deck), Nats are hitting .121/.227/.164 with 5 RBI and 35 K’s in 132 PA (sOPS+ of 14)
sOPS+ compares to the league average OPS in the same split, where 100 is league average, above is better, and below is worse.
Featured Photo: @Nationals / Twitter