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Handicapping the Nats' award hopes

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Handicapping the Nats' award hopes

The regular season has long since ended. The postseason is now over, as well. And the offseason is about to kick into high gear.

But sandwiched in between all of that is another season, one that Nationals fans will need to pay attention to more than any previous year: Award season.

Yes, the time has come to hand out plaques, statues and bats and gloves made out of precious metals. The fun begins tonight with the Gold Glove awards, then concludes Nov. 15 with the MVP awards.

Plenty of Nationals are going to be in the mix for all of the honors. Let's run through each award and handicap everyone's chances...

GOLD GLOVES
Announced: Tonight, 9:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Previous Nats winner: Ryan Zimmerman (2009)
Who votes: NL managers and coaches
Two Nationals infielders were named finalists: Ian Desmond and Adam LaRoche. Desmond faces stiff competition from three fellow shortstops: Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins and the Zack Cozart. Desmond has a strong case, but remember that managers and coaches tend to vote based on old-fashioned stats (errors, fielding percentage) and what they see with their own eyes. Rollins had the best fielding percentage (.978) and errors (13) of the group, with Cozart (.975, 14 errors) right behind him. Desmond committed 15 errors but spent five weeks on the DL, so his fielding percentage is a lower .970. Reyes had the most errors (18) with a .973 fielding percentage. LaRoche seems to have a better chance of winning. His .995 fielding percentage was second only to Carlos Lee's .996 among NL first basemen, and his seven errors were second only to Joey Votto (another finalist) and Lee's six. Freddie Freeman (12 errors, .991 fielding percentage) is the other finalist. What distinguishes LaRoche from the rest is his superb ability to scoop up bad throws from his fellow infielders.
Chance of Desmond winning: 25 percent
Chance of LaRoche winning: 50 percent

SILVER SLUGGERS
Announced: Nov. 8, 6 p.m. (MLB Network)
Previous Nats winners: Alfonso Soriano (2006), Ryan Zimmerman (2009, 2010)
Who votes: NL managers and coaches
There are several potential candidates off the Nationals roster, with Desmond and LaRoche in the mix as well as Ryan Zimmerman and ... Stephen Strasburg. (Yes, they give out a Silver Slugger to the best-hitting pitcher in the NL.) LaRoche has a strong case, having led first basemen with 33 homers and 100 RBI. His .510 slugging percentage was solid, too, though he trailed Joey Votto (.567), Allen Craig (.522), Garrett Jones (.516) and Corey Hart (.507) in that department. Votto's .337 batting average lapped the field, but the Reds slugger will be penalized for having played in only 111 games. Desmond has an almost air-tight case at shortstop, leading his position with 25 homers, a .292 average and .511 slugging percentage. Hanley Ramirez (24 homers, 92 RBI) and Jimmy Rollins (23 homers, 102 runs) present some worthy cases, but neither matches Desmond in overall offensive production. Zimmerman would have been a shoo-in to win his third Silver Slugger (and perhaps his first NL MVP) had he produced all season the way he did after receiving a June 24 cortisone shot in his shoulder, but managers and coaches aren't going to take that into consideration. There are plenty of worthy third baseman, from Chase Headley (31 homers, 115 RBI, .498 slugging percentage) to Aramis Ramirez (27 homers, 105 RBI, .540 slugging percentage) to David Wright (21 homers, 93 RBI, .306 average). Then there's Strasburg, who led all NL pitchers with seven RBI and five extra-base hits while finishing third with a .277 batting average behind Mike Leake (.295) and old pal Jason Marquis (.281).
Chance of LaRoche winning: 50 percent
Chance of Desmond winning: 75 percent
Chance of Zimmerman winning: 15 percent
Chance of Strasburg winning: 75 percent

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Announced: Nov. 12, 6 p.m. (MLB Network)
Previous best Nats finish: Ryan Zimmerman (2nd place, 2006)
Who votes: Baseball Writers Association of America
Bryce Harper certainly is among the favorites for this prestigious award, his 98 runs and 57 extra-base hits leading all NL rookies. He ranked second in homers (22) and stolen bases (18), third in slugging (.477) and fourth in OPS (.817). Harper's chief competition: Reds third baseman/outfielder Todd Frazier (.273, 19 homers), Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario (28 homers, 71 RBI) and Diamondbacks left-hander Wade Miley (16-11, 3.33 ERA).
Chance of Harper winning: 50 percent

MANAGER OF THE YEAR
Announced: Nov. 13, 6 p.m. (MLB Network)
Previous best Nats finish: Frank Robinson (4th place, 2005)
Who votes: BBWAA
Davey Johnson has as strong a case as anyone for this award, having guided a Nationals club that had never posted a winning record to a 98-win season that led the majors. His chief competition will be Dusty Baker, who also led the Reds to 98 wins, though that team had higher expectations entering the season. Historically, the BBWAA gives the Manager of the Year to the skipper whose team most exceeded preseason expectations, which makes Johnson the front-runner.
Chance of Johnson winning: 67 percent

CY YOUNG
Announced: Nov. 14, 6 p.m. (MLB Network)
Previous best Nats finish: Chad Cordero (5th place, 2005)
Who votes: BBWAA
Gio Gonzalez is in the running for his first Cy Young Award, his case built behind the fact he won an MLB-best 21 games while posting a 2.89 ERA, leading the league in strikeouts per nine innings (9.3) and fewest hits allowed per nine innings (6.7). But Gonzalez is going to have a tough time overtaking knuckleball sensation R.A. Dickey, who won 20 games with a 2.73 ERA, a league-best 230 strikeouts and a league-best 27 quality starts. Clayton Kershaw (13-9, 2.58 ERA, 221 strikeouts) also has a case, as does dominant Braves closer Craig Kimbrel (1.02 ERA, 42 saves, 113 strikeouts in only 61 innings).
Chance of Gonzalez winning: 25 percent

MVP
Announced: Nov. 15, 6 p.m. (MLB Network)
Previous best Nats finish: Alfonso Soriano (6th place, 2006)
Who votes: BBWAA
There's really no legitimate chance of a Nationals player winning the most prestigious of postseason awards, but both Desmond and LaRoche should find their way on plenty of ballots (voters are instructed to list their top 10 players). It'll be interesting to see who gets more votes between the two; LaRoche was a more consistent presence all season, but Desmond carried the club for a good stretch over the summer before he was sidelined with a strained oblique muscle. As for the actual winner of the award, as the season wound down, it appeared to be a showdown between batting champ Buster Posey and reigning MVP Ryan Braun.
Chance of Desmond winning: .001 percent
Chance of LaRoche winning: .001 percent

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Podcast - 'Baseball in the District' - Harper's slump, trade deadline

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Podcast - 'Baseball in the District' - Harper's slump, trade deadline

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It's a busy time of the year for the Nationals as they approach the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline. Will they make a deal and who are they willing to part with?

Tim and I went in-depth on that subject and more including Bryce Harper's slump and how it may affect his contract future with the Nationals. Does this change either side's thinking when it comes to a long-term contract extension?

Feel free to share your opinions with us on Twitter @ChaseHughesCSN and @1TimMurray.

You can listen to the show on ESPN 980's website or download the show on iTunes.

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Nationals prospect roundup: Best pitching performances

Nationals prospect roundup: Best pitching performances

Triple-A Syracuse

Reynaldo Lopez: 9 inn, 4 H, 0 R, 7 K, 0 BB

Surprise, surprise: Lopez threw a gem last Sunday. The righty threw 96 pitches, 66 for strikes as he went the distance and shutout Rochester. He'll be back in DC, in some form or another, soon. 

Double-A Harrisburg

Phillips Valdez: 7 inn, 6 H, 2 R, 2 K, 2 BB

Slimer pickings in Harrisburg. Valdez pitched well enough to get the win against New Hampshire. A week ago, he went 7 inn, 8 H, 2 R, and 4 K in a win against Richmond, if you prefer more walks hits to less walks. Still, Harrisburg is feeling the pinch of no more Giolito/Lopez. 

High-A Potomac

Whit Mayberry: 6 inn, 5 H, 1 R, 4 K, 3 BB

Mayberry, whose 3-1 on the year with a 4.00 ERA, pitched one of the best games of his season yesterday. It was only the second time this year he's held a team under two runs, and his 4 strikeouts were one shy from his season best (7) on June 30th. 

Low-A Hagerstown

Everyone who pitched for the Suns on 7/24: 9 inn, 7 H, 2 R, 7 K, 2 BB

It was a group effort in the Suns win against Charleston last Sunday. It was also a Nats reunion, with rehabbing starter Joe Ross getting the start and Sammy Solis continuing to rehab as well. It was James Borque, however, who got the win, pitching 4 innings while allowing one run on two hits. 

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Nats Stock Watch: When will Bryce Harper break out his funk?

Nats Stock Watch: When will Bryce Harper break out his funk?

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

Record: 2-4

Team slash: .240/.307/.410

Team ERA: 4.56

Runs per game: 4.1

 

STOCK UP

Trea Turner, 2B/CF: .320 AVG, 4 RBI, 4 XBH, 4 SB, 5 R

It’s going to be hard for Dusty Baker to keep Turner out of the lineup, isn’t it?

In a short period of time, the recently-promoted 23-year-old infield prospect has already shown he deserves to be the Nats’ leadoff man for the foreseeable future. In the last nine days alone, the speedster notched three triples (two away from tying the team lead), two doubles and five stolen bases. That’s the kind of production Washington has sorely missed atop the lineup.

When the Nats played at Progressive Field in Cleveland, an American League ballpark, they had the luxury of playing Turner in center field, putting Ben Revere in left and making Jayson Werth the designated hitter. But when they begin their upcoming series in San Francisco, they’ll lose the DH, essentially forcing Baker to choose between Turner and Revere.

Are the Nats ready to make Turner the everyday center fielder over Revere?

Wilson Ramos, C: .478 AVG, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 1.346 OPS

For those who thought Ramos might come back to earth after the all-star break, think again. The 28-year-old catcher’s career year rolled on with another big week, raising his average to .336 — second-best in the NL to teammate Daniel Murphy.

Ramos now leads all big-league catchers in average, RBI, OPS and is tied for the top spot in home runs. Not too shabby.  

 

STOCK DOWN

Bryce Harper, RF: .050 AVG, 7 K, .180 OPS

At what point does an extended slump simply become a down season? Because after nearly three months of under performance, that appears to be where the Nats are with the reigning NL MVP.  

It's hard to explain why Harper hasn't quite looked like himself for so long — have pitchers found a weakness in his swing? Is he dealing with an unknown injury? Something else entirely?—but the 23-year-old phenom hasn't given any indication that he's going to get out of his funk anytime soon. He has just seven hits in his last 54 at-bats and a paltry .491 OPS over that span, which has dropped his average below .238 for the first time this year. For context, he's never finished below .270 for a season. 

So how do the Nats handle this? They've already tried moving Harper to the cleanup spot, and later bumped him up to the two-hole. Neither move has worked so far. So it looks like all they can do is keep putting him in the lineup and hope that his bat can somehow reignite during the stretch run.   

Jonathan Papelbon, RP: 4 GP, 2.2 IP, 1-2, 6 ER, BS

It seems fairly obvious that the Nats might have second thoughts about their closer. That’ll happen after someone allows the game-winning runs to score in consecutive losses, as Papelbon did earlier this week.

But even if the Nats openly admit they have an issue at the back end of the bullpen, then what?  

Well, in a weird way, Papelbon’s struggles have actually come at a fortuitous time. With the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline fast approaching, the Nats still have time to acquire an additional ninth-inning option. The problem is that the top arms that are available like New York Yankees setup man Andrew Miller or Kansas City Royals closer Wade Davis will cost prospects that the Nats are unlikely willing to part with. 

In the meantime, the club still needs Papelbon to rebound down the stretch — whether that's in the closer role or not.