Nats by the Numbers- September 2016 Review

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On September 24, 2016, the Nationals clinched the National League East with a 6-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The victory gave Washington three division titles in five seasons, and assured that post-season baseball would be played in the Nation’s Capital in again.  That division clinching game was the most memorable event in a month full of them.  In this edition of “Nats by the Number”, we look at some of the other highlights of the last month of the regular season (thanks as always to baseball-reference.com’s play index for allowing easy access to statistical information on the Nats and all other baseball-related topics).

5.1

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Rookie Reynaldo Lopez was the winning pitcher in the game that won the East for the Nats, throwing 5.1 innings of shutout relief to earn his fourth victory in seven decisions on the year.  Lopez struck out six and allowed only three hits to become the second pitcher in Nationals’ history to throw 5.1 or more scoreless innings in relief in a game.  The first time it happened came all the way back in 2005 under much less dramatic circumstances than did Lopez’s effort in the title clinching win.  On May 13th of the Nats’ first season, Tomo Ohka stopped the bleeding with 5.2 scoreless innings pitched out of the pen in Washington’s 8-2 loss to Milwaukee.

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Slender Trea Turner is known more for his speed and all around ability than he is for his power, but the rookie’s home run hitting ability was on display in a big way in the season’s final month. Turner hit eight home runs in the month to pace the Nationals and finish behind only Atlanta’s Matt Kemp (who had nine) for the most homers in the National League in  the final month of the regular season.

Turner’s power outburst included two multi-home run games. On September 9th at Nationals Park, Turner hit a two run homer off of Philadelphia’s Colton Murray in the bottom of the seventh to give Washington a 4-1 lead and ended the contest with a game winning, ninth inning round tripper off of the Phils’ Frank Herrmann to put the Nats in the win column by a 5-4 score.  Eight days later in Atlanta, Turner hit a pair of solo homers off of Atlanta’s Josh Collmenter.

On the season, Washington players had eight two run home run games.  Like Turner, Ryan Zimmerman and Danny Espinosa had two such games each.  Other Nationals with two homers in game in 2016 where National League MVP runner-up Daniel Murphy and outfielder Michael A. Taylor.

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In an 11 game home stand in early September against the Phillies, Braves and Mets, the Nationals did what they had done all season long to their divisional rivals-  they dominated them.

Washington won nine of the 11 contests to cement its spot at the top of the National League East. Included in the stretch were walk-off victories over the Braves on September 7th (on a Wilson Ramos hit) and the Phillies on September 9th (on a Trea Turner solo home run).

The Nationals also had two shutouts in the month. On September 10th, Washington defeated the Phillies 3-0 on the strength of excellent pitching by Max Scherzer and the Nats’ bullpen plus Bryce Harper’s eighth inning three run home that broke a scoreless tie.

Four days later, Tanner Roark won his 15th game of the year as he shut the Mets out over seven innings and got all the support he needed when Ramos hit a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh inning as the Nats won 1-0.

On the season, Washington was an amazing 41-16 in contests against the Braves, Phillies and Mets.

10.1

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Closer Mark Melancon was the key pitcher in the Nats’ bullpen down the stretch but he received a lot of help from his bullpen mates, including righty Shawn Kelley.

In the season’s final 27 regular season games Kelley threw 10.1 scoreless innings, striking out 11 and allowing only one hit to finish his season with a flourish.   Kelley won his only two decisions in the month and finished the 2016 campaign with an impressive WHIP of .897.

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Jayson Werth’s two run pinch-hit home run off of former teammate Felipe Rivero helped Washington to a comeback 10-7 win at Pittsburgh on September 25th, and also helped Washington improve on its team record total for pinch-hit home runs in a season.

Werth’s dramatic blast was the 12th home run by a pinch-hitter in 2016 for the Nats, as the team easily shattered the 2006 squad’s record of eight.  Washington’s total was the third highest in Major League Baseball, trailing only St. Louis (17) and the New York Mets (13).

Werth was one of three Nationals with more than one pinch-hit homer on the year. The veteran outfielder had two, while bench stalwarts Stephen Drew and Chris Heisey had three each. Other Nationals with pinch-hit homers in 2016 were rookie Pedro Severino, Clint Robinson, Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy.

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Nats’ ace Max Scherzer was 5-0 in his six decisions in the season’s final month and ended up with 20 wins on the year. Scherzer became the second pitcher in Nats’ history with 20 or more wins (Gio Gonzalez won 21 in 2012) en route to his second Cy Young Award.

Scherzer struck out 46 batters in 39.1 innings pitched in his final six games, and ended with a National League high 284 punchouts on the year.

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Third baseman Anthony Rendon hit only .247 in the season’s final 27 games, but he certainly made the hits he did have count.  The talented Texan drove in a team high 23 runs in the month, tying Daniel Murphy (who had 23 in both May and July) for the most RBI in a month by a Nationals’ player in 2016. Bryce Harper led the way with 24 RBI in April.

Nats by the Numbers- August 2016 Review

MLB: AUG 15 Nationals at Rockies

Nationals’ rising star Trea Turner was named the Nationals League’s Rookie of the Month for August as he hit .357, stole 11 bases and posted a .938 OPS while giving Washington a dynamic force at the top of its lineup.

The Nationals were 17-11 (.607 winning percentage) in August 2016.  The team’s win rate was the second best in the season, trailing only the squad’s April total when Washington won a blistering 16 of 23 games (.696 percentage).  With the help of Baseball Reference’s amazing play index, this edition of “Nats by the Numbers” looks at some of the highlights, and a lowlight, of the NL East Division winner’s August 2016 performance.

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The major acquisition for Washington at the 2016 trade deadline was closer Mark Melancon, and the veteran wasted no time showing his new team why Mike Rizzo acquired him to anchor Washington’s bullpen.

Melancon posted a .732 WHIP in August as he picked up seven saves, allowed only one earned run and struck out 14 in 14 innings pitched.

Melancon’s first save as a National was perhaps his best of the month. On Sunday August 14th, Tanner Roark and San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner matched zeroes until Wilson Ramos’ solo home run in the bottom of the seventh gave Washington a 1-0 lead. Shawn Kelley relieved Roark and pitched a scoreless eighth, before Melancon took center stage in to try to close things out in the ninth.  The new Nationals shut the door on the Giants, fanning the last two batters he faced to preserve Washington’s narrow win.

2

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Washington Nationals

22-year-old rookie righthander Reynaldo Lopez showed signs of his exceptional talent in August in two starts against divisional rival Atlanta.

On the 13th at Nationals Park, Lopez allowed only one run in seven innings pitched with a mere five hits allowed as he earned his first Major League victory as Washington held on for a 7-6 victory over the Braves.

Five days later in Atlanta, Lopez was even more dominant.  The fireballer struck out 11 and allowed one earned run and in seven innings pitched as Washington won 8-2 .  Lopez’s 11 punchouts in his fourth Major League game trailed only Stephen Strasburg (14 strikeouts in Major League debut in 2010) and Joe Ross (11 strikeouts in his third Major League game in 2015) among Nationals’ pitchers since the team began in 2005.

4

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For most of the 2016 season, the Washington Nationals played solid defense.  The team allowed more than one unearned run in only 11 games on the season, but four of those came in an ugly stretch in August when the team’s defensive performance dropped significantly.

On the 19th and 20th Washington won back to back games at Atlanta, but allowed two unearned runs in each contest due to sloppy defense.  In the finale of the series on the 21st, Washington’s season high five errors in the game allowed Atlanta to tally a pair of unearned runs as the Braves avoided a sweep with a 7-6 win.  The iron glove routine continued on the 23rd in Camden Yards, as a pair of Washington errors led to two unearned runs for the O’s in an 8-1 Baltimore victory.

8

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Jayson Werth played at a high level in August 2016, putting up a season high .902 OPS in the month.  After hitting 12 home runs in 341 at bats from April through July Werth went on a tear in August, as he went deep eight times in only 94 at bats on the month.

Werth’s eight homers was the most he’d hit in a month since September of 2010 when he hit nine.   His previous high for homers in a month as a National was seven, set in July 2013 and equaled in September 2015.

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Anthony Rendon was truly “Tony Two Bags” in August, stroking 13 doubles as he hit .324 and drove in 20 runs in the month.

Rendon’s 13 two baggers tied the Major League high for doubles in a month in 2016, equaling the 13 doubles hit by San Francisco’s Brendon Belt in June.  He also tied  Nationals’ record for most doubles in a month, equaling the 13 hit by Brad Wilkerson in May 2005, Ryan Zimmerman in June 2006 and Denard Span in June 2014.

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The Nationals most impressive offensive showing in the month came in August’s first three days, as the team put up 32 runs and swept the struggling Diamondbacks in Arizona to start August out with a bang.

In the series opener on the 1st, Stephen Strasburg allowed only one run in six innings pitched and went 3 for 4 with a RBI at the plate to lead Washington to a 14-1 victory.  Anthony Rendon drove in three runs, Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy scored three times each and Wilson Ramos went 3 for 6 with two runs and two RBI in the rout. The game was the second in Nats’ history where the team has scored 14 or more runs without hitting a homer. The first time that happened was on July 13, 2007 when the Nats won at Florida by 14-10.

The Nats’ bats were almost as hot in the following game, as Washington won 10-4.  Rookie Wilmer Difo went 3 for 5 with a run scored, a RBI and a stolen base and Jayson Werth, Wilson Ramos and Chris Heisey homered to help Tanner Roark pick up his 11th win of the year.

In the afternoon finale of the series on the 3rd, Daniel Murphy homered, starting pitcher and winner Max Scherzer drove in two runs and Clint Robinson had a two run single to lead Washington to an 8-3 victory.

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Speedy rookie Trea Turner spent a lot of time on the base paths in August, as he had 45 hits (including six doubles, three triples and five homers) to earn the National League’s Rookie of the Month honor.  The dynamic rookie also had 11 steals, a .938 OPS and scored 27 runs in the month.

Turner had hitting streaks of 10 games and eight games in August, and his 45 hits was the most by a first or second year player in a month in the Major Leagues since Chris Coghlan had 53 for the Florida Marlins in September/October of 2009.

Nats by the Numbers- July 2016 Review

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Stephen Strasburg held Cincinnati hitless in 6.2 innings on July 3 as the Nationals routed the Reds 12-1.  The start was the first of a month where the All-Star righthander would perform at an elite level.

NATS BY THE NUMBERS- July 2016

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The Nationals won 13 of their 25 games in July, and their .520 winning percentage for the month was their lowest in the 2016 season.  In the Nationals’ three division winning seasons, the only month where the team had a worse winning percentage was in May of 2014 when the Nats went 11-15 for a .423 mark.

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Stephen Strasburg was arguably the Major League’s best starting pitcher in July 2016.  The Nats’ stalwart went 4-1 with a 2.08 ERA and struck out 37 batters in 34.2 innings pitched.  Among starters, Strasburg’s .779 WHIP in July was the best in the Majors ahead of Aaron Sanchez of Toronto (.824), Brandon McCarthy of the Dodgers (.835),  San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner (.861), Cincinnati’s Dan Straily (.861) and his teammate Max Scherzer (.882).

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Daniel Murphy continued his hot hitting ways in July, putting up a 1.116 OPS with a .346 batting average, six homers and 23 RBI.  Murphy had a 13 game hitting streak from July 7th through July 27th, and was particularly hard on his former teammates in New York during a crucial four game set at Citi Field in the early part of the month.  In that series, Murphy went 7 for 17 with three homers, four runs and a whopping 10 RBI to lead the Nats to a 3-1 series win.

3/7

Top prospect Trea Turner was called to the Major Leagues for good in July, and his top level speed was on display immediately. Turner had three triples and seven steals (in seven attempts) in July as he served notice that the Nats’ search for an electric leadoff man was over.

4

After losing 9-7 to the Mets in the first game of a four game set in New York in the final series before the All-Star game, the thoughts of many Nats’ fans turned to 2015 when Washington was swept at Citi Field in late July in a series that changed the landscape at the top of the National League East.

With the Nats’ divisional lead down to three games the team’s superb pitching staff took over to give the Nats a six game cushion heading into the All-Star break,  holding the Mets to a paltry four runs in the process.

On Friday the 8th, Strasburg allowed only two hits and fanned nine as he outdueled Noah Syndergaard in a 3-1 Nats’ win. The big blow at the plate for Washington came from Clint Robinson, who hit a two run homer off of the Mets’ ace.

It was Scherzer’s turn to excel on Saturday the 9th, as the veteran allowed only three hits, no earned runs and fanned nine to lead Washington to a 6-1 win.  Murphy was the chief tormentor of the Mets among Nats’ hitters, as he went 3 for 4 with a double, home run and four RBI.

On Sunday the 10th, Gio Gonzalez (5.2 innings), Tanner Roark (2.1 perfect innings) and Jonathan Papelbon kept the Mets at bay while Murphy hit a two run homer as Washington won 3-2.

6

The July 4th fireworks spectacular is a staple of summertime in Washington DC and it is always an impressive show, but a show of equal impressiveness was put on by the Nationals one day before the Nation’s birthday celebration.

In a Sunday afternoon game at Nationals Park, Washington hit a season high six home runs in a 12-1 rout of the Reds.  Wilson Ramos got the long-ball party started in the second with a solo homer off of John Lamb, and Danny Espinosa rocked the Reds two innings later with a grand slam off of Lamb that put the Nats up 5-0.   One inning later, Bryce Harper’s solo off of Lamb gave Washington a 6-0 advantage.  Anthony Rendon and Espinosa hit back to back homers off of Reds’ reliever Keyvins Sampson in the seventh inning to make the lead 11-0, and Stephen Drew provided the final homer of the game in the eighth with a solo shot off of Jumbo Diaz.

The contest was the fifth six homer game in Nationals’ history, and the first since August 29, 2014 when Washington hit six round-trippers in a 8 -3  win at Seattle.

Not all of the numbers were good for the Nats in July.  Twice during the month the Nats’ pitching staff did something that had not been done by a Washington staff since 2010 by walking nine opponents in a nine inning game.

On July 7th, the Nats gave nine free passes to the Mets in a 9-7 New York win.  On the 30th in San Francisco, Washington walked nine Giants’ batters as the Nats fell 5-3.

The most walks for a Nats’ staff in a nine inning game is 11, set on August 13, 2008 in a 12-0 loss to the Mets and equaled in a April 30, 2009 9-4 defeat at the hands of St. Louis.

Nats By the Numbers- June 2016 Review

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Wilson Ramos douses teammate Jayson Werth with Gatorade after Werth’s RBI hit gave the Nationals a 12th inning 5-4 victory over the Chicago Cubs on June 15th.

The Nats posted a 16-11 record in June, a month that featured both highs and lows for a team that would end up with 95 wins on the year and its third National League East title in five seasons.  In this edition of Nats by the Numbers, we look at some of the big moments and accomplishments from that month.

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Left-handed Sammy Solis was picked by the Nationals in the second round of the 2010 Major League Baseball draft with the thought that he would someday find his spot in the team’s starting rotation.  Injuries caused Solis’s career to go in another direction, and he made his debut in 2015 as a reliever. In June 2016, the Nats saw that Solis has the potential to be more than just another body in the bullpen.

Solis posted a 0.71 ERA in 12.2 innings in June, striking out 17 batters and allowing opponents a .947 WHIP in the process.  Perhaps Solis’s shining moment in the month came on June 5, 2016, when he struck out six and allowed only one run in three innings to earn the win in Washington’s 10-9 win at Cincinnati.

2

Since his signing in the off-season before the 2011 campaign, Jayson Werth has been a leader in the clubhouse and on the field for the Nationals.  In June, he showed that he still had some life left in his bat as he put up a .926 OPS with two homers and 14 RBI.

Werth also had two walk-off hits to give Washington thrilling comeback victories in June.

On June 12th, a Makiel Franco ninth inning home run off of struggling Nats’ closer Jonathan Papelbon put the Phillies up 4-3 and left Nats’ fans anxious.  Werth put those fears to rest one half inning later, driving home Bryce Harper and Danny Espinosa with a two out single that gave Washington a 5-4 win.

Three days later, the Nats entered the bottom of the 12th inning down 4-3 to the eventual National League champion Chicago Cubs.  After Michael A. Taylor tied the game with a hit, Werth performed some more two out magic as he scored Taylor from first on a booming blast that hit the scoreboard in right center and sent Nationals Park into a frenzy.

7

June saw the Nationals lose a season high seven games in a row, all on the road, from the 18th through the 25th of the month.  Losses in the final two games of a four game series at San Diego were followed by a three game sweep at the hands of the Dodgers in Los Angeles, with two of the defeats coming in one run games. Two more losses followed in Milwaukee, before the Nats hung on to beat Milwaukee 3-2 on June 26th to right the ship.  That win sent the Nats on a six game winning streak, including three in a row against divisional rival New York, and the Nats’ train was quickly back on the rails.

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Shortstop Danny Espinosa hit .309 with a 1.122 OPS and nine  home runs and 21 RBI in June.  Espinosa’s biggest game came on the month’s final day, when he had a grand slam, a three run homer and drove in a career high seven runs in Washington’s 13-4 win over the Reds. The seven RBI performance was the second highest RBI total in Nats’ history, trailing only Josh Willingham’s eight runs driven in during a 2009 Nats’ win at Milwaukee.

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The Nats tied a team record by scoring 10 or more runs in three consecutive games from June 5th through June 8th.

On the 5th, Daniel Murphy had three hits, three RBI, a homer and three runs scored and Wilson Ramos chipped in with three hits and two RBI as Washington beat the Reds 10-9.

Two days later in Chicago against the White Sox, Anthony Rendon and Bryce Harper drove in three runs each as Washington won 10-5.

On June 8th, Werth had three hits, four RBI and a homer, with Stephen Drew, Ryan Zimmerman and Espinosa also going deep in Washington’s 11-4 win over the ChiSox.

The only other time Washington has scored double digit runs in three or more games in row came in 2012, when Washington did the trick in a three game series at Coors Field against the Rockies.

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Whether it was his off-season surgery on his eyes, overall general good health throughout the year or simply a result of hard work and determination, 2016 was a breakout campaign for Nats’ catcher Wilson Ramos.  In May of the year Ramos posted a career high for hits in a month with 30, and he exceeded that mark in June by putting up 32 hits while hitting a robust .364 with six doubles, six home runs and 19 RBI.

Included in the month was a career tying four hit game at Milwaukee against the Brewers. The four hit game came during an 11 game hitting streak for the Nats’ catcher, a stretch where he went 18 for 47 and drove in seven runs.

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Max Scherzer tied a Major League record with 20 strikeouts in a nine inning game in May of 2016, and he continued to punch batters out with regularity in June.  Scherzer fanned 58 hitters in his six starts in the month, putting up 10 or more strikeouts in five of his six starts.

Included in the month were two of the best pitching performances of the year by a Nats’ hurler. On June 13th, Scherzer fanned 11 Cubs and registered an 80 pitching game score as the Nats won 4-1.  At the end of the month on the 29th during Washington’s three game sweep of the Mets, Scherzer allowed only two hits and no runs while striking out 10 in Washington’s 4-2 win.

Nats by the Numbers- May 2016 Review

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On May 11th at Nationals Park Max Scherzer did something that had been done only four other times in Major League history, striking out 20 batters in a nine inning game to lead Washington to a 3-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers.

After shooting out of the gate with an 18-9 record in April, the Nats faced stiffer challenges in May as they faced 2015 playoff teams Kansas City, the Chicago Cubs and the New York Mets.  The Nats navigated through the challenges with a 16-14 record and ended May in first place in the NL East, a position they would maintain for the rest of the 2016 season.

NATS BY THE NUMBERS- MAY 2016

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Stephen Strasburg was 5-0 in May and struck out 50 batters in 37.2 innings pitched, and won some of the biggest games of the month for Washington.

On May 4th in Kansas City in the rubber game of a three game set between the Nats and the defending World Series champion Royals, Strasburg allowed only two runs and struck out seven in six innings pitched to lead Washington to a 13-2 victory over Kansas City.

Later in the month, the California native won back to back showdowns with New York’s Matt Harvey. First at Citi Field on May 19th, Strasburg struck out 10 Mets and allowed only one run in six innings pitched as the Nats won easily 9-1. Five days later at home Strasburg bested the struggling Harvey again, as he registered 11 punch-outs in 6.2 innings pitched in a 7-4 Washington victory.

In his last start of the month on May 29th, Strasburg bested St. Louis by a 10-2 score. The victory gave the Nationals a one game lead over the Mets in the National League East. They would remain in first place in the division for the balance of the season.

7

MLB: Washington Nationals at Chicago Cubs

After facing the defending champion Royals in Kansas City in the first week of the month, the Nats traveled to Chicago to face the team that many thought would replace the Royals as baseball’s best team in 2016.  The trip was not a pleasant one for Washington.

The Cubs powered their way to a four game sweep of Washington, hitting seven home runs and scoring 25 runs in the four game set.   Nats’ off-season target Ben Zobrist was particularly effective for the Cubs in the series, hitting three round-trippers and driving in nine runs.     Tommy LaStella, Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Javier Baez joined in the long-ball fun for the Cubs, with Baez’s shot coming in the bottom of the 13th of the final game of the series to give the Cubs a walk-off win.

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Max Scherzer’s performance in 2015, which included two no-hitters and a one hit gem in which he struck out 16 Milwaukee Brewers, showed Nats’ fans that there was always a possibility they’d see something special when #31 took the mound. On May 11th, the nearly 36,000 fans at Nationals Park saw that Scherzer’s 2015 magic wasn’t a one-time thing.

Facing his former team and with former National Jordan Zimmermann as his mound opponent, Scherzer struck out 20 Detroit Tigers to tie a Major League record for most strikeouts in a nine inning game.  Scherzer struck out the Tigers in order in both the third and eighth innings and fanned the dangerous Miguel Cabrera and Justin Upton in the ninth, before catcher James McCann grounded out to second to end the game and leave Scherzer one strikeout short of tying a Major League record (the Washington Senators’ Tom Cheney recorded 21 strikeouts, albeit in 16 innings pitched, in September 1962 against the Baltimore Orioles).

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A player who wins a league Most Valuable Player award one year is generally treated with great respect in the subsequent season, and May proved that was true in a big way for Washington’s Bryce Harper. The Nats’ slugger walked a Nats’ record 31 times in the month, including 13 times in the four game series against the Cubs.

No Major Leaguer was walked more times in a month than Harper was in May 2016.  Harper’s total easily beat the Nats record of 26 walks in a month, a mark he set in September/October of his 2015 MVP campaign.

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April showers brought not May flowers but May bombs in Washington, as the Nationals hit a season high 43 round-trippers in May. Daniel Murphy and Ryan Zimmerman led the way with seven homers each, with Danny Espinosa hitting five and Harper, Wilson Ramos, Anthony Rendon and Jayson Werth picking up four a piece.

The most dramatic home run of the month was provided by bench player Clint Robinson, whose walk-off homer on May 10th gave Washington a 5-4 victory over Detroit.

Washington hit 24 of their 43 homers in the month at Nationals Park, the most the team had at home in any month during the 2016 campaign.

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From the start of the season, it was apparent that the Nationals and General Manager Mike Rizzo made a good move in signing Daniel Murphy as a free agent following the team’s disappointing 2015 campaign.

Murphy’s talents with the bat were on full display in May, as the infielder set a Nationals’ record with 47 hits in the month and hit .416 with seven homers and 23 RBI to pace Washington’s offense.  Murphy was particularly effective against his former teammates in Queens, going 10-23  in the Nats’ six games against the Mets at the end of the month.

The 47 hits by Murphy shattered the Nationals’ record of 40 for safeties in a month, held by five players with the last being Denard Span (who had 40 hits in August 2014).

Nats by the Numbers- April 2016 Review

against the at Nationals Park on April 24, 2016 in Washington, DC.

Chris Heisey is mobbed at home plate by his Nationals’ teammates following Heisey’s 16th inning game-ending home run that gave the Nationals a 6-5 victory over the Minnesota Twins on April 24th.

With only three Major League Baseball team fan bases left with hopes of seeing their teams go all the way, the rest of us are left to look back at what was an interesting 2016 campaign.

For the 95 win Washington Nationals, the season featured plenty of superb performances and magical moments.  Our “Nats by the Numbers” series will look at each month of the 2016 season to highlight some of the memorable events of the Nats’ season.  We begin with the season’s opening month, a month where the Nationals showed the Major League world that the up and down play of the 2015 season was a thing of the past.

APRIL 2016- NATS BY THE NUMBERS

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The Nationals spent much of the time between the 2015 and 2016 seasons looking to upgrade their offense, with particular attention being paid to finding someone to take over the second base job. Failed attempts to land Ben Zobrist and Brandon Phillips frustrated many fans, but they proved to be blessings in disguise when the Nats ended up “settling” on signing free agent and 2015 post-season star Daniel Murphy.

Murphy came out of the gate in April as hot as the Washington DC weather is in July, hitting .370 with seven doubles, two triples, a pair of homers and 11 RBI to let the baseball world know that he may have only scratched the surface of his ultimate potential in his amazing late-season run in 2015.  The fact that the Nats’ gain in signing Murphy helped to weaken the arch-rival Mets’ chances of repeating as divisional champions only made the signing of the veteran infielder even sweeter.

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The Nationals were 16-7 in April 2016, and the team’s .696 winning percentage in the month was the third best in a month in Nationals’ history.  In their inaugural season of 2005, the Nationals had a June to remember as they went 20-6 and posted an amazing .769 winning percentage.  The 2014 division-winning Nats’ team finished that season playing great ball, going 19-8 (.704) to put up the second best winnings percentage in a month in Nats’ history.

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It wasn’t all cherry blossoms and gentle breezes for the Nats in the first full month of spring, and a home series in late April against the Philadelphia Phillies proved that.  The Phillies swept the Nats in DC in a weekday three game set, holding the Nationals to a measly three runs in the process.  The late April success against the Nats proved to be fluke for the Phillies, who won only five of 19 games against Washington on the season.

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In all three of their division winning seasons, the Nationals have been blessed to feature very strong starting pitching. Two members of the 2016 staff, rightys Stephen Strasburg and Joe Ross, started the season off on the right foot as they combined to go 7-0 during April. Strasburg was 4-0 with a 2.25 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 36 innings pitched in a year that would see him make the National League all-star team.  Like Strasburg, Ross fell victim to injuries as the year progressed but he was special in April.  The Northern California native went 3-0 with a sparkling 0.97 ERA in the season’s first month.

The Nationals showed they were intent on regaining their National League Eastern division crown from the start of the year in 2016 winning nine of their first 10 games (all against divisional opponents) under new manager Dusty Baker to start the year on the right foot.  The Nationals would win 67% of their games against divisional foes on the year in route to their third divisional title in five seasons.

15 

2015 was, in many ways, a lost season for Nationals’ pitcher Tanner Roark.  Despite performing admirably in the 2014 campaign as a starter, Roark lost his spot in the 2015 Nats’ rotation when the team signed Max Scherzer, and he had an up and down campaign while working out of the bullpen.

Roark regained his spot in the rotation in 2016 and on April 23rd at Nationals Park against the Minnesota Twins, he showed the Nats that he was staking a claim to stay there.  Roark struck out a career high 15 in seven innings to lead the Nats to a 2-0 victory.  Only teammate Max Scherzer (20 against Detroit on May 11th), Colorado’s Jon Gray (16 against San Diego on September 17th) and Philadelphia’s Vince Velasquez (16 against San Diego on April 14th) had more strikeouts in a game than Roark’s 15 among National League pitchers in 2016.

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Fans who attended the Nationals-Twins game on Sunday April 24th at Nationals Park certainly got their money’s worth. The game featured a lead off home run in the bottom of the first by Nats’ outfielder Matt den Dekker, 10 strikeouts by Strasburg, a Minnesota rally keyed by All-Star Brian Dozier that derailed Strasburg’s bid for a win, a dramatic ninth inning pinch-hit homer by Bryce Harper to tie the game in the ninth, a wild 15th inning that saw the Nats’ rally to tie the game on a Twins’ error and a dramatic ending when Chris Heisey blasted a shot over the wall in left-centerfield to give Washington a 6-5 win.

Heisey would prove to be a valuable power source off of the Nationals’ bench in 2016, hitting nine homers in only 139 at bats.

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The 2015 season had its bad moments for the Nats and their fans, but the campaign did feature a season long story line that was tremendous to follow; the emergence of Bryce Harper as a superstar.

Harper’s outstanding 2015 season carried over to the start of the 2016 campaign, as he had 24 RBI, nine homers and a 1.121 OPS in the season’s first month.

Nats by the Numbers- NLDS Edition

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As the visiting Dodgers celebrate their National League Divisional Series win on Thursday at Nationals Park, Bryce Harper and the Nationals are left to wonder what might have been.

The 2016 season was a joyride for the Washington Nationals and their fans. New manager Dusty Baker oversaw a squad that erased the bad feelings from the disappointing 2015 campaign by taking control of the National League East and finishing with the second best record in the Senior Circuit.  In the end, however, the 2016 season ended in the same fashion that the 2012 and 2014 seasons did; with a bitter defeat in the post-season.

Here’s our post-season edition of “Nats by the Numbers”, powered as always by Baseball-Reference.com’s amazing Play Index.

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Although he pitched effectively for the most part (particularly in Game Five), Max Scherzer saw his Nationals lose both games the Cy Young Award candidate started in the 2016 NLDS.     During the regular season, the Nationals only had two times when the team lost back to back games started by Scherzer.

In April, Scherzer fell to the Marlins 5-1 in Miami in a game where he surrendered five runs in five innings pitched while recording a season low three strikeouts.  Five days later at home against the Phillies, Scherzer picked up a no-decision while throwing six relatively effective innings (three runs allowed, seven strikeouts) but the team lost 4-3.

In June at San Diego, Scherzer struck out 10 Padres and allowed only one run but got a no decision when the bullpen imploded in a 7-3 Nats’ loss.  Six days later in Milwaukee, the Brewers beat Scherzer and the Nationals by a 5-3 score.

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The Nationals lost game one of the NLDS by a 4-3 score despite picking up nine walks in the contest.  There have been only three nine inning games in LDS history where a team has lost while having nine or more walks in the contest.

You have to go all the way back to 2000 to find that last time it happened before the 2016 Dodgers-Nationals series opener.  On October 3, 2000, the Atlanta Braves lost 7-5 to the St. Louis Cardinals despite getting nine free passes.  One year earlier, the Cleveland Indians walked nine times but were trounced by the Boston Red Sox 23-7 in Game Four of the teams’ ALDS.

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A point of emphasis for Nationals manager Dusty Baker when he took over the team’s reigns was to cut down on situations where Nationals’ batters failed to put balls in play. While some progress was made in that category during the regular season (the Nats struck out 92 fewer times in 2016 than they had in 2015), the problem came back to haunt the team in the post-season.

The Nats struck out 1o or more times in all five games of the 2016 NLDS, including 12 in the decisive game of the series on Thursday at Nationals Park.  15 of the team’s 63 strikeouts in the series came with runners in scoring position.

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Chris Heisey’s dramatic seventh inning pinch-hit home run in Game Five was only the 25th pinch-hit home run in LDS history.  Los Angeles’ Carlos Ruiz also had a pinch-hit home run in the series (in Game Three), making the series only one of two in LDS history that has included more than one pinch-hit home run.  In a 2002 LDS match-up between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Dusty Baker-led San Francisco Giants, St. Louis’ J.D. Drew had a pinch-hit round tripper in Game One of the series, with teammate Eduardo Perez matching him with a pinch-hit homer in Game Two.

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During the regular season, the Nats posted a 77% winning percentage in games where their starting pitchers threw 6.1 or more innings.  In games where the starters threw six innings or fewer, the percentage dropped 34 points to 43%.   The Nationals did not have a starter with more than six innings pitched in any of the NLDS games against Los Angeles.

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Nats’ fans will be left to wonder what might have been had one of their team’s best hitters against left-handed pitching would have been available for the series against a heavily left-handed Dodger pitching staff.

In 103 at bats during the season, Wilson Ramos posted a .631 slugging percentage while hitting nine homers and driving in 23 runs. Ramos’ slugging percentage was the sixth highest in the Major Leagues for players with at least 100 at bats against left-handed pitchers.ten