Nationals: Who's hot, who's not

Nationals: Who's hot, who's not
September 11, 2013, 12:15 pm
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The Nationals' past week, at a glance:

Record: 5-1
Team slash: .264/.335/.529
Team ERA: 3.06
Runs per game: 5.5
Opponent runs per game: 3.0
Opponent slash: .235/.281/.286

HOT

Ryan Zimmerman, 3B: 5-25/5 HR/6 RBI/.286 OBP/1.086 OPS

What an odd line -- just five hits and three walks, but all three hits left the park, giving Zimmerman an eye-popping .800 slugging percentage. It has been a trying season for the $100 million man, but his recent burst has brought his home run total to within four of last season's mark, and his batting average is just eight points behind what he put up last year. The big difference is in RBI -- he currently has 69, and there's no way for him to approximate the 95 from a year ago. If he keeps mashing like this, though, he could do a lot to make things interesting for the Nats over the next couple weeks.

Jayson Werth, OF: 11-25/2 HR/5 RBI/.481 OBP/1.361 OPS/1 SB

Maybe Werth isn't even really hot anymore -- maybe this is just what we get from him now. Nats fans rejoice at the thought of Werth paying the team back for their overpayment of the past two seasons, but given his advancing age and injury history, it's more likely that this is a tantalizing glimpse into what the outfielder can do when conditions are perfect. Like Zimmerman, the veritable tree trunk that Werth is swinging is adding some drama to the wild card chase, and with six games to make up in an 18-game span, the Nats are still alive. Crazier things have indeed happened.

Gio Gonzalez, SP: 1-0/0.00 ERA/0.33 WHIP/9 IP/8 K

Gio came within a seventh-inning Zach Lutz pinch-hit single of recording the majors' third no-hitter of the 2013 season. Instead, he had to settle for the big leagues' fourth one-hitter, and the satisfaction that when he's on his game, he's one of the most unhittable pitchers in baseball. Though his season totals are nowhere near those of his 2012 career season, a strong finish can set the tone for a return to dominance in 2014.

**Hat tip to Denard Span, who last night ran his career-best hitting streak to 21 games, and to Tanner Roark, who won his first major league start, has done absolutely everything asked of him, and who now sports a 5-0 record and an 'is-this-thing-broken?' 405 ERA+.

NOT

Anthony Rendon, 2B: 4-12/2 XBH/1 RBI/.385 OBP/.968 OPS

Rendon, who ceded some playing time to Steve Lombardozzi this past week, may be wearing down at the end of his first full professional season. The heralded prospect played in just 43 games across four minor league levels in 2012, and has blown way past that this season by appearing in 121 total contests (36 in the minors, 85 with the big club). Though he was a shot in the arm during the time of his call-up, Rendon has been one of the least productive regulars in the Nats lineup for some time now.

Dan Haren, SP: 0-1/15.00 ERA/2.67 WHIP/3 IP/5 K
The Nats have now dropped Haren's last three starts, with the starter taking the loss in the most recent two -- each time failing to progress past the third inning. Though it feels as though he's been around forever, Haren is just 32; the sad reality of the (so-called, at least) post-steroid era, though, is that pitchers are aging extremely fast. Though not as bad as NFL running backs just yet, many major league starters are often struggling to maintain even a modicum of consistency much past their 30th birthday. If Haren continues pitching as he currently is, he no longer belongs in a first-division rotation.

Bryce Harper, OF: 0-3/0 XBH/0 RBI/.333 OBP/.333 OPS

This isn't just about Harper's lack of production over the past week -- he mustered a walk in three plate appearances in his only game -- nor should he be blamed for sitting out with injury. In fact, sitting out is what he should be doing. Harper recently admitted that his hip is bothering him, despite him playing through it for weeks. This season could serve as an important lesson in self-maintenance as his health is too important for the Nationals.