Each week this season, we’ll take the temperature of the Nationals roster to see which player's stock is rising or falling.
Team slash: .276/.321/.444
Team ERA: 4.02
Runs per game: 4.9
Max Scherzer, SP: 2-0, 16 IP, 1.13 ERA, 21 K, BB
Remember when Scherzer was yielding home runs at an alarming rate? It hasn’t been that long since then, but with the way he’s pitching these days, it sure seems like it. Since June, the 32-year-old right hander has recaptured his dominant form, so much so that he’s put himself in the NL Cy Young conversation. And he has a pretty darn good case, too; Scherzer leads the NL in innings pitched (190), strikeouts (238) and WHIP (0.91) while ranking second in wins (15) and eighth in ERA(2.89).
In his performances against the Baltimore Orioles and Philadelphia Phillies over the last week, he’s looked very much like vintage Mad Max: flirting with no-hitters, pumping the fastball in the upper-90s, posting double digit strikeouts and going deep into each game. That’s the guy the Nats gave a $210 million contract to, and it’s a reminder why he’ll be taking the mound in Game 1 of an October series.
Daniel Murphy, 2B: .345 AVG, 2 HR, 8 RBI, .987 OPS
Speaking of postseason accolades, what’s Murphy got to do to be considered the NL MVP favorite? In the minds of national pundits, he appears to be trailing Chicago Cubs’ third baseman Kris Bryant, despite owning an edge in average, RBI and OPS. While Bryant's numbers are impressive, voters may already view him as the best player on baseball’s best team, so it may be difficult to sway them into digging deeper into Murphy's numbers.
It also doesn’t help Murphy that his defense hasn’t been considered above average at his position, while Bryant’s glove is lauded at multiple spots. Add in the mystique of the Cubs, a big market team, and it will be tough for Murphy to outshine Bryant without a monster September. But given what he’s done in his first year in D.C., it’s certainly possible.
Trea Turner, CF: .455 AVG, 4 SB, 1.000 OPS
The major leagues aren’t supposed to be this easy for rookies. But game after game, the 23-year-old Turner is making “The Show” look like a cakewalk in his first opportunity as an everyday player. As a result, the 23-year-old speedster has quickly turned himself into one of the most dangerous leadoff men in baseball right now.
Of NL hitters who have at least 175 plate appearances atop the lineup, Turner is leads in average (.343) while ranking third in slugging (.531) and OPS (.889). Additionally, he’s two hits shy of tying Murphy’s club record for hits in a month, not to mention a current 20-game on-base streak, a stretch that includes multi-hit efforts in seven of his last eight games. Not too shabby.
Ryan Zimmerman, 1B: .042 AVG, 8K, .122 OPS
After posting a few good games following his return from the disabled list, Zimmerman has once again found himself in a bit of a rut. He has one hit in his last 24 at-bats with eight strikeouts to just one walk. While it's tempting to say it's been only one bad week, it’s hard to ignore that Zimmerman's struggles have been season long. His average has dropped to .216, which by far would be a career-low if he finished 2016 anywhere near that mark. He’s traditionally been a streaky hitter, but he’s running out of time to make a big impact.