Nationals Stock Watch: Fister becoming Nats' ace

Nationals Stock Watch: Fister becoming Nats' ace
August 13, 2014, 12:00 pm
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We take a look at the Nationals' past week, at a glance: 

Record: 4-2
Team slash: .257/.313/.462
Team ERA:  2.82
Runs per game:  5


Doug Fister, SP: 2-0/ 14.1 IP/ 0.00 ERA 

As he has for most of this season, Fister continues to be the rock of the Nationals' rotation. In fact, it might be time to start calling him the staff ace, because all he does is string together quality outing after quality outing. He did so again this week, posting 14.1 shutout innings in two wins against the Mets, raising his record to 12-3 on the season with a 2.76 ERA.
It's been mentioned before about how Fister's quick-paced, ground ball-inducing style has worked to near perfection for most of the season. But what might be underrated in all of that is his control, especially among Nats starters: He's walked just 13 batters in 111 1/3 innings of work. By comparison, Gio Gonzalez has walked 45 in 108 innings. Fister's now gone seven innings or more in six of his last seven starts, including four straight. With the way he's going these days, there's no reason to think that streak will end any time soon. 

Adam LaRoche, 1B: 3 HR/ 4 RBI/ .720 SLG 

LaRoche cooled off quite a bit in July, hitting .159 while notching only one homer. But if August is any indication, it looks like he might be back in his early season form. So far this month he has a .310 average to go along with an OPS of 1.015. Like a number of Nats hitters, he's found his home run swing again in the last week, giving hope that this offense can survive without Ryan Zimmerman.  

Tyler Clippard, RP: 3 GP/ 1-0/ 0.00 ERA

Even though other members of the Nats bullpen have had a few struggles over the last month, Clippard has been Mr. Reliable, showing no signs of wear and tear. He's allowed just three baserunners (two hits, one walk) in his last ten outings and hasn't allowed a run since July 12th. After earning the win in Saturday night's 13-inning victory over the Braves, Clippard is now 7-2 with a 1.62 ERA and is tied for fourth in the majors in holds with 25. 

Bryce Harper, LF: .292 AVG/ 2 HR/ .912 OPS

The past week had what was probably one of Harper's most cathartic moments of his young career. A day after Matt Williams had to passionately squash talk of Bryce getting sent back down the minors because to his recent struggles, the 21-year old responded by delivering a walk-off two-run bomb to give the Nationals a 5-3 win and a series victory over the Mets.
Make no mistake, Harper was definitely slumping prior to that, and it's something we noted here on Stock Watch. But the idea of demoting him to the minor leagues? That's preposterous. Whatever funk he is/was going through, the only way for him to get better is at the major league level. He still has his ups-and-downs, but that comes with the territory when you're a young hitter. He may not be Mike Trout -- there's only one --  but he doesn't have to be at this point of his career. 


Stephen Strasburg, SP: 0-1/ 5.0 IP/ 12.60 ERA 

Here we go again. Just when it looked like Strasburg showed signs of his dominant form against the Phillies, he turns in one of the more perplexing performances of the season. He allowed a career-high four home runs to a struggling Braves team Friday night, putting the Nats in a seven-run hole they nearly climbed out of, eventually losing 7-6. Unfortunately for Strasburg, all of his familiar shortcomings came to bear yet again in Atlanta. He allowed runs early (six in the first two innings) in a road start and his fastball command continues to be an issue. It's just been that kind of year for Strasburg, who now has ten losses -- the most he's ever had in a single season.