Giants jump out to 5-0 lead over Cardinals

Giants jump out to 5-0 lead over Cardinals

Aided by a Pete Kozma error on a Ryan Vogelsong grounder, not to mention the intentional walk that came before it, the Giants built an early 5-0 lead in the second inning against Chris Carpenter and the Cardinals in Sunday night’s Game 6. The Giants scored once on the first on a Marco Scutaro walk,…

Nats Stock Watch: Strasburg establishing himself as one of game's top arms

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Nats Stock Watch: Strasburg establishing himself as one of game's top arms

Each week this season, we’ll take the temperature of the Nationals roster to see which player's stock is rising or falling.  

Record: 4-3

Team slash: .256/.326/.415

Team ERA: 2.61

Runs per game: 4.42 

 

STOCK UP 

Daniel Murphy, 2B: .393 AVG, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 1.076 OPS

It was just another ho-hum week for the sizzling Murphy, who posted five multi-hit efforts in the last seven games. In fact, in 46 games played this season, he's now logged more than one hit an astounding 24 times. So we're way past the point of this being considered merely a hot streak; this is nearly two months' worth of consistency from the Nats' second baseman. Dusty Baker said recently that he believed Murphy has been the acquisition of the year in baseball. There's not much room to argue. 

Ben Revere, CF: .450 AVG, 5 RBI, 5 R, 2 SB

You know things are going well for Revere these days when he's trotting around the bases after hitting a rare home run. His solo shot in Tuesday's 7-4 win over the New York Mets was just another sign that the Nats' leadoff man is starting to regain his pre-oblique injury form. But aside from the long ball, he's starting to do all the things a prototypical table-setter is supposed to do: see pitches, hit line drives into the gaps and be a pest on the base paths. That's what the Nats thought they were getting when they acquired Revere last winter from the Torono Blue Jays, and it looks like that's what he's becoming once again. 

Stephen Strasburg, SP: 2-0, 12.2 IP, 3 ER, 21 K

He doesn't get mentioned with the likes of Jake Arrieta and Clayton Kershaw, but Strasburg is putting together the type of season that unequivocally cements his status as one of the game's top arms. He's now 8-0 with a 2.79 ERA, and his 86 strikeouts on the season are second in the majors to the aforementioned Kershaw.

So what's the difference for the 27-year-old right hander this year? For one, he's stayed healthy and continued the momentum that was established late last year after he came off the disabled list. He's also added a slider/cutter to his repertoire to keep hitters off balance, especially in fastball counts.

However, you don't get to 8-0 without a little bit of good fortune, either, and Strasburg has certainly that: In his 10 starts this season, the Nats offense has averaged 6.7 runs per game. Still, he's undoubtedly pitched well, so there's not much one can do to try to cheapen his fast start.

STOCK DOWN

Bryce Harper, RF: .190 AVG, .507 OPS

When the Nats' skipper feels the need to give Harper a "mental rest day" against a chief division rival like the Mets, that's a telltale sign that things aren't going so well for the reigning NL MVP. Harper's frustration has been quite evident for the last week; he apparently took extra batting practice immediately following Monday's 7-1 loss, and then the next day went out onto the field early — a rarity for 23-year-old slugger — to take even more hacks.

Harper's slump is unique in that, despite his struggles, opposing teams are still pitching around him. He's hitting .195 in May despite a .454 on-base percentage, a very Barry Bonds-ian gap between his average and OBP. And like Bonds, Harper is only getting about one or two pitches he can work with per game, but he's been unable to take advantage of those of late. 

Bradley Beal stands out among free-agent field en route to max salary

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Bradley Beal stands out among free-agent field en route to max salary

Bradley Beal isn't going to waver, nor should he, and he hasn't for the last year. He’s a max player. Though the Wizards have been given pause with his extensive injury history, they're expecting to pay him as such and that's unlikely to change when free agency opens July 1.

In talking to multiple persons with knowledge of the situation as recent as Wednesday afternoon, the Wizards remain determined to keep their core intact which means Beal stays put with John Wall, Markieff Morris, Marcin Gortat, Kelly Oubre and Otto Porter.

They didn’t reach terms with Beal on an extension (four years maximum) before the 2015-16 season began and was hoping he'd finally make it through a full season in his fourth year but that didn't happen. Now that he’d get a new contract, not an extension of his rookie scale deal, Beal is eligible for more years (five).

And despite the repeated stress reactions – not fractures but dark spots on the bone that are precursors to a fracture – in his lower right leg, Beal hasn’t required surgery which is a major plus. The team also believes it has gotten a handle on how to manage him better to prevent a recurrence

The Wizards will enter free agency with a cap hold of $14.5 million on Beal’s salary slot unless they were to renounce his rights and make him unrestricted. There is zero chance of that happening.

Instead, with the salary cap rising from $70 million for 2015-16 to approximately $92 million because of the league’s new TV contracts, the Wizards will have more room to re-sign Beal. The luxury tax level will be around $111 million and after the Wizards rework their roster this summer they can come to terms with Beal and exceed the cap because they own his Bird rights.

The cap hold represents significantly less than what Beal is expected to command in the open market, even after a disappointing season despite career-highs of 17.4 points and 45% shooting. When the math is complete, he'll be north of $20 million per.

With so much money flooding the market, the best of the free-agent class at shooting guard is extremely thin:

  • DeMar DeRozan (Raptors) has an early-termination option that he’s expected to exercise to renegotiate for more money which is the prudent thing to do and there's a good chance he stays put. Good scorer (23.5 points) because he gets to the line a lot more than Beal, but he's a high-volume shooter, shoots 28.3% from three for his career and in the postseason he’s hit or miss. For context, John Wall is about 4% better from long range.

  • Dwyane Wade (Heat) is expected to remain with the Miami Heat for a 14th season. Not really available. Plus he's 34.

  • Kent Bazemore (Hawks) is coming off his first year as a starter and produces less (11.6 points) than Beal and isn’t as good of a three-point shooter (35.7%).

  • Evan Turner (Celtics) hasn’t lived up to his No. 2 draft status but showed signs under Brad Stevens, who got more quality production out of the guard/forward than anyone but he was still a reserve and isn't a long-distance shooter (24% from three) to spread the floor. A good backup on a good team.

  • Jamal Crawford (Clippers) is the Sixth Man of the Year because he can score (14.2 points) but he’s not a better shooter than Beal (34% from three), doesn’t have nearly the defensive capability and is 36.

  • Courtney Lee (Hornets) is a solid two-way player but has never averaged more than 12.5 points. He shoots in the high 30s from three but he’s a great pickup to backup Beal.  

  • Gerald Henderson (Blazers) can score though he was a backup last season (8.7 points) and shoots 32% from three for his career. Like Lee, a great backup for Beal. Wouldn’t start over him.

  • Eric Gordon (Pelicans) was a 20-point scorer early in his career and a very good three-point shooter for his career (38.3%) but multiple injuries and surgeries have ruined his momentum as he has missed at least 20 games in six of his last seven NBA seasons.

DeAngelo Hall on DeSean Jackson's OTAs absence: 'You want him here, but...'

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DeAngelo Hall on DeSean Jackson's OTAs absence: 'You want him here, but...'

DeSean Jackson’s teammates would prefer that the star receiver join them for OTAs, but one prominent Redskins veteran said this week that the locker room is confident Jackson is working out on his own.

“You want him here, but like I was telling someone else, you understand he has things going on,” safety DeAngelo Hall said. “He has a newborn and he lives all the way on the west coast. It’s not like his home is an hour-and-a-half away like mine, where I can jet down to Atlanta every now again and be around the family. He has to go a long way.”

“We understand that D-Jac is going to work,” Hall continued. “Same thing with Trent [Williams]. Trent went to Houston [to work with his personal trainer], just got back [on Wednesday] and he’s probably in the best shape I’ve seen him since I’ve been here. As long as guys are working, I don’t think we mind too much.”

Jackson has attended some of the Redskins’ offseason program, but he has not been present for this week’s OTA practices—the first group of 10 voluntary sessions. And, according to Coach Jay Gruden, it’s not clear when exactly Jackson will return. Gruden joked that Jackson will “probably show up next week, or it could be whenever.”

Jackson missed a portion of last year’s offseason program, as well. And while there was some speculation that his absence contributed to the hamstring injury that hampered him early in 2015, Gruden has consistently denied that there was any connection.

As for the team-building aspecct of OTAs, though, there’s little doubt that Jackson’s absence could have an impact in that area. 

“Obviously, you want guys around,” Hall added. “You want that camaraderie.You want to build that team unity. But that’s what training camp is for and [mandatory minicamp in June] is for. Yes, you want him here, but this is an offense he knows and he knows himself. When you’ve got a guy who knows himself, you want them to train the way they want to train.”

But Hall—and new teammate Josh Norman—want Jackson back at work for selfish reasons, too. They are eager to test themselves against the fastest wide receiver on the roster.

“I’m just excited about getting him out here,” Hall said. “Josh is excited about getting him out here. We want to go against him. We’re juiced up to get him out here.”