Nationals: Who's hot, who's not

Nationals: Who's hot, who's not
September 18, 2013, 12:45 pm
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The Nationals' past week, at a glance:

Record: 6-1
Team slash: .302/.353/.459
Team ERA: 2.00
Runs per game: 5.9
Opponent runs per game: 2.1
Opponent slash: .236/.283/.310

HOT

Tanner Roark, SP: 2-0/1.38 ERA/0.77 WHIP/13 IP/9 K

The 2013 Nationals are a tale of two different teams: at first, the most talented and complete major league team on paper, the World Series-or-bust favorites that were going bust; and then the resurgent longshots trying to turn-and-burn for the postseason. If Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman are emblematic of the Nationals' rebirth, a squad of underachieving stars suddenly overachieving, then Tanner Roark is the wild card who doesn't quite fit the narrative but is buoying the team as effectively as any trade acquisition the team could have hoped to make. A bit of a non-prospect as a 26-year-old rookie, Roark has quickly moved from effective swingman to rotation stalwart, allowing just two runs over his first three starts. His latest performance was a masterful one: Roark spun seven innings of two-hit, shutout ball against the Braves in the second game of a series that they badly needed to take from Atlanta. 

Wilson Ramos, C: 9-24/3 HR/9 RBI/.400 OBP/1.150 OPS

Ramos' knees finally got a break in the nightcap of yesterday's doubleheader sweep of Atlanta, and while the catcher has shown remarkable durability and become one of the Nats' most important bats, a break like that should only serve him well. Ramos' streak of consecutive games caught was the longest in the majors this season: 24 straight games, four more than Yadier Molina's streak earlier this season. During that time, Ramos has swung a seriously big bat, making the Nationals' lineup that much more dangerous from top to bottom -- a big reason that they have been so hot this month.

Ryan Zimmerman, 3B: 12-32/10 R/4 HR/5 RBI/.438 OBP/1.304 OPS 

And we thought Jayson Werth's midsummer outburst was a power surge. Zimmerman started September with a paltry 15 home runs but has tacked on 10 more in the past two-plus weeks, leaving the yard every 7.5 plate appearances. One interesting and anomalous note: Zim has only driven in 13 runs during that time, meaning he's plated only three teammates in addition to driving in himself. It hasn't cost the Nats any, though, as his extremely high on-base percentage has lead to him coming around to score 10 times in the last week, a gigantically huge one-week total.

NOT

Jayson Werth, OF: 4-23/2 XBH/3 RBI/.333 OBP/.594 OPS

Werth's numbers this past week were actually somewhat a shock to me. I knew that he'd cooled off, obviously, but seeing the batting average (.174) was still a surprise. After the truly torrid pace that he has been on, I think we can forgive Werth for one poor week -- especially because it truly is his first downturn after catching fire at the end of June. The rest of the lineup has picked up the slack and masked the mini-slump, but for this team to complete an unlikely (and still remote) run at the second wild card, Werth is likely going to have to heat back up in a hurry.

Tyler Clippard, RP: 1 BSv/6.00 ERA/1.33 WHIP/3 IP/2 K

Clippard has only had one bad outing in the last week, and it came yesterday, allowing four baserunners and two runs to briefly blow the lead against the Braves in the opening half of the doubleheader. However, take a look at the team stats above -- collectively, the Nationals have played like an All-Star for the past couple weeks, and especially in the last seven days. On the hottest team in the game, "cold" becomes a relative term, and unfortunately for the Nationals' eighth-inning ace, a subpar outing in an overall winning effort is really all it takes. It's a wonderful problem to have.

Gio Gonzalez, SP: 0-1/6.00 ERA/1.83 WHIP/6 IP/5 K

Gio is in the same boat -- on the Clippard ship? -- as Clippard: at about room temperature, he's the coolest part of the Nationals right now. Gonzalez started and received the L in the Nationals' only loss in the past 11 games, so his listing here is almost by default, even if his outing wasn't particularly poor. He clearly didn't have his best stuff that day against the Phillies, as he induced about half as many swinging strikes (6) as usual, and the four earned runs he allowed over six innings falls outside the (very lenient) definition of a 'quality start', but even so, if this the worst showing by your starting rotation each week...I think every fanbase in the country would take that.