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Looking at Harper and the Rookie of the Year race

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Looking at Harper and the Rookie of the Year race

As the MLB playoff race began to heat up after the All-Star break, and as Bryce Harper cooled down, comparing Harper and fellow rookie Mike Trout faded away as the seasons biggest storyline. Trout ascended to a prime MVP candidate and Harper started looking like the 19-year-old rookie that he was.

But though Trout has continued to outpace Harper over the course of the entire season, recently it has in fact been Harper with the better numbers. Over the last month the Nationals outfielder has outplayed Trout in nearly every statistical category, including batting average and runs.

Take a look at their statistical splits over the last 28 days:

Harper (831 to 927)

25 G - .305 BA - .988 OPS 6 HR 23 R 13 RBI - 4 3B 4 SB

Trout (831 to 926)

24 G - .247 BA - .750 OPS 3 HR 18 R 4 RBI 0 3B 5 SB

Notice Harpers batting average is over .50 points better and his OPS is higher by more than .200. Not only are the differences significant, but so is the timing. Both players bat at the top of the order on teams in playoff races with the Nats looking for a division title and the Angels chasing the wild card.

Harper may not be in consideration for the National League MVP award, as Trout will be in the A.L., but he has perhaps turned into a favorite for N.L. Rookie of the Year. The two other players most consider to have a chance are Todd Frazier (26 years old) of the Reds and Wade Miley (25 years old) of the Diamondbacks. Frazier is the easiest to compare directly as a position player, but his stats just dont stack up.

Harper

133 G - .264 BA - .799 OPS 21 HR 94 R 58 RBI 9 3B 17 SB

Frazier

123 G - .278 BA - .845 OPS 19 HR 55 R 65 RBI 6 3B 3 SB

Harper has more homers, 14 more stolen bases, and nearly 40 more runs scored than Frazier does. Both players are on first place teams, but Harper has made more of an impact on his teams success.

Miley has been the favorite for the award for much of the season after going 9-5 with a 3.04 ERA in the first half. But since being named an All-Star he has gone 7-6 with a 3.65 ERA. His numbers still look good for a rookie with a 16-11 record and 3.32 ERA in 187.0 innings, but Harper has contributed to a much better team. The Diamondbacks are a .500 club, but won't be participating in the playoffs.

One other player that could have a say is Colorado Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario. Rosario has come on strong in September and leads all rookies in homers (27) and RBI (70). He does, however, play on the second worst team in the majors and has not displayed the variety of tools Harper has shown. Harper has been one of the best defensive center fielders in the game and also ranks second among N.L. rookies in stolen bases.

It could come down to Harper and Miley who likely has one more start before the season comes to a close. The Nationals have six games left on their schedule so Harper will need to continue his surge. But whether he earns the award or not, his pick up in play couldnt have come at a better time for Washington.

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Nationals, without their big guns, fall to Mets

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Nationals, without their big guns, fall to Mets

NEW YORK -- Travis d'Arnaud hit two home runs and the New York Mets ended a three-game skid, rallying past a watered-down lineup of Washington Nationals 7-6 on Friday night.

Washington manager Dusty Baker said he needed to "give my big boys much needed rest" with the playoffs nearing, and not a single regular started for the NL East champions. Star Daniel Murphy pinch hit in the eighth and flied out.

MORE NATS: RATHER HAVE THE CUBS, BREWERS, OR CARDINALS IN NLDS?

The Nationals begin the Division Series in exactly two weeks. If the current standings hold, they would host the World Series champion Chicago Cubs to open the best-of-five matchup.

Adam Lind hit a three-run homer for Washington. It was the Nationals' 203rd home run this season, matching the franchise record dating to 1969 when they were the Montreal Expos.

Howie Kendrick had an RBI double and prized prospect Victor Robles lined a two-run triple in the fifth that put Washington ahead 6-1.

Nationals reliever Shawn Kelley exited in the eighth inning because of an apparent injury. He' has struggled this season and missed more than two months because of back problems.

Nori Aoki had three hits for the Mets, including a go-ahead double in the sixth inning off Joe Blanton (2-4).

Chasen Bradford (2-0) pitched a scoreless inning for the win.

Jeurys Familia, the Mets' third pitcher in the ninth inning, came on to strike out Robles with runners on first and third for his fourth save -- his first since May 5. Familia, who missed three months after surgery to repair a blood clot, entered as part of a double switch, with Kevin Plawecki taking over at catcher for d'Arnaud.

D'Arnaud hit a solo homer in the second and connected for a tying, three-run drive in the fifth that finished starter Edwin Jackson. That gave d'Arnaud a career-best 15 homers and marked his second multihomer game, the other coming in April against Washington.

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Mets starter Robert Gsellman allowed six runs in five innings. He moved up a day to pitch in place of ace Jacob deGrom, who was moved back in the rotation until Sunday because of a stomach illness this week.

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Cubs, Brewers, or Cardinals: potential postseason opponents for the Washington Nationals

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Cubs, Brewers, or Cardinals: potential postseason opponents for the Washington Nationals

The regular season is winding down and there is no drama in the nation’s capital.

With a stranglehold on the National League East for the entire season, the Washington Nationals were the first team in baseball to earn a playoff spot and their division. Since June, the Nationals’ lead has been hovering around 20 games. Their record against the division is 44-26 with three NL East series forthcoming.

Beyond that, positioning has not been a factor in the National League either. It was a near forgone conclusion that the Nationals were going to earn the No. 2 seed in the NL side of the postseason. There was a slight chance last week that Washington could pass the Los Angeles Dodgers with them losing 16 of 17 games. Alas, the Dodgers took two out of three in their series, solidifying their No. 1 seed hopes.

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Dusty Baker then basically threw in the towel for that race. He spread out his rotation to six pitchers and gave his players consistent rest. Focusing on the postseason more than the playoff race, he does not appear to care about their positioning.

With that, the Nationals are all but guaranteed to finish second behind the Dodgers. Floating between four and six games back, there is no sense of urgency.

There is no worry about the team in third either. The Chicago Cubs, as of September 22, sit seven games behind the Nationals and are in the thick of a Divisional race.

Either way, even if the Nationals were to collapse and the winner of the National League Central was to rocket up to second, the Nationals will play against whoever wins the division in the No. 2 vs. No. 3 match-up.

The Central has actually been the Nationals Achilles heel this year. They finished with a 17-13 record vs. NL Central teams. It is not the whole division the Nationals have to worry about though, just the one that comes out.

Entering Friday’s action the Cubs are well on their way to winning the division, according to fangraphs.com. Below are the current odds to win the division:

Chicago Cubs                     97.8%
Milwaukee Brewers          0.9%
St. Louis Cardinals            1.3%

This is slightly misleading though, because the Central could completely flip before the postseason. The lead is 4.5 over the Milwaukee Brewers and 5.0 over the St. Louis Cardinals. However of their final 10 games, three are against the Brewers, four against the Cardinals, all seven on the road.

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In the five-game NLDS the Nationals will face one of these teams. Even if it is the defending World Series Champions, you have to like the Nationals’ odds.

CHICAGO CUBS PREVIEW

Current record: 85-67
2017 Record vs. Washington: 2-4
Last head-to-head postseason series: Never
Starting pitchers: Jon Lester (11-8), Jake Arrieta (14-9), John Lackey (11-11), Kyle Hendricks (7-5), Jose Quintana (6-3)
Top position players: Kris Bryant (.292 BA, 28 HRs, 69 RBIs), Anthony Rizzo (.278 BA, 32 HRs, 107 RBIs)

If these two teams were to meet up, it would be easily the best starting pitching match-up in the National League. Likely the Cubs would only go to four guys, maybe three if they get desperate. With Jake Arrieta on the mind, that would be a dicey move to start the postseason. They have not played to the level that the 2016 did a year ago, but a majority of the position players are still in place and can still put together a run.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS PREVIEW

Current record: 81-72
2017 Record vs. Washington: 3-4
Last head-to-head postseason series: Never
Starting pitchers: Zach Davies (17-9), Chase Anderson (11-3), Brandon Woodruff (2-2), Brent Suter (3-2)
Top position players: Domingo Santana (.281 BA, 28 HRs, 80 RBIs), Travis Shaw (.274 BA, 30 HRs, 96 RBIs)

As one of the hottest teams in the first half of the season, the Brewers are only relying on their early success. Their team has quickly cooled off and their number two starter Jimmy Nelson is out the remainder of the season. The rest of the roster is shaky at best as they are trying to stay relevant in the postseason chase. If the Nationals are fully prepared for the playoffs there should be no worries if Milwaukee represents the Central.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS PREVIEW

Current record: 80-72
2017 Record vs. Washington: 3-3
Last head-to-head postseason series: 2012; Cardinals won 3-2 in NLDS
Starting pitchers: Adam Wainwright (12-5), Carlos Martinez (12-11), Lance Lynn (11-7), Michael Wacha (12-8), Luke Weaver (7-1),
Top position players: Yadier Molina (.276 BA, 18 HRs, 82 RBIs), Tommy Pham (.311 BA, 21 HRs, 168 RBIs)

With both the Brewers and Cubs you know what you are getting, with the Cardinals it could be anything. The starting pitchers have a history of success, just not in 2017. Also how Wainwright comes back will be a huge factor in how the Central race will play out and how their odds in the postseason increase. With a mix of a young and aging line-up, the Cardinals can both win with the long ball and piece runs together by playing small ball. St. Louis is easily the most interesting team of the three and could be the scariest if the Wainwright comes back at 100%.

Both the Brewers and the Cardinals have to rely on each other to win the NL Central. They cannot do it on their individual series's alone.