159 down, three to go in 2016 the regular season for Jayson Werth and the Nationals, who look to wrap up the home-field advantage in the NLDS this weekend as they take on the Miami Marlins.
October is a day away, and the start of the National League Divisional Series begins one short week from now. With help from Baseball-Reference.Com’s amazing Play Index and with playoff baseball right around the corner, here’s another edition of “Nats by the Numbers” for what has turned out to be a very special 2016 season.
The casual baseball fans in this area may not have been familiar with Arizona’s Jean Segura before this week, but they certainly are now.
Segura was the driving force behind the Diamondbacks’ wins against the favored Nationals in the teams’ split of the four game series, and the infielder’s 1.474 OPS against Washington is the highest for any opposing hitter with 20 or more at bats on the year. Segura had 10 hits in 21 at bats with a double, three homers and four RBI against the Nats this year. Colorado’s D.J. LaMahieu was next at 1.435, followed by the Cubs’ Ben Zobrist (1.359), Segura’s teammate Yasmany Tomas (1.323) and San Diego’s Wil Myers (1.223).
No NL East opposing hitter is above the 1.000 mark so far, with Miami’s Derek Dietrich’s .988 OPS leading way among Washington’s divisional opponents.
After stealing only 57 bases in 2015, the Nationals have brought the stolen base back as a weapon in their arsenal in the 2016 season. The team’s 116 steals on the year ranks second in Nats’ history, only seven steals behind the 123 bags that were swiped by the 2006 Nationals. This year’s Nats have been more efficient in their steal attempts than the 2006 squad was, as they’ve been caught stealing only 39 times v.s. 62 failed attempts for the 2006 team. It is no coincidence that the 2006 and 2016 teams have the most stolen bases in Nats’ history. The link between the two teams is stolen base guru Davey Lopes, who coached first base for both squads.
Washington has five players who have double digit stolen base figures this year, tying the 2011 team for the most players with 10 or more steals in a season. Speedy rookie Trea Turner leads the way for the Nats with 29 followed by Bryce Harper (21), Ben Revere (14), Michael A. Taylor (13) and Anthony Rendon (12). Back in 2011, Ian Desmond led the way with 25 steals, with Jayson Werth (19), Roger Bernadina (17), Danny Espinosa (17) and Rick Ankiel (10) also posting double digit stolen base totals.
Anyone who follows the Nationals regularly knows that Jayson Werth is in many ways the heart and soul of the squad. Whether it is watching him lead the charge out of the dugout in last weekend’s squabble with the Pirates or seeing him grind out at bats in tough situations, it is easy to see that #28 is a driving force behind the Nats’ success.
This year’s division title brings to eight the number of times the veteran outfielder has been part of a division winning team in his 14 year Major League career. Werth was on the 2004 NL West winning Los Angeles Dodgers, played a major role in the Philadelphia Phillies’ four straight NL East crowns from 2007 through 2010 and has been a fixture on the Nats’ NL East champioship teams in three of the past five seasons.
Max Scherzer’s 277 strikeouts so far in 2016 not only set a career high for the National League Cy Young Award front-runner, but has also put him in very select company. Since 1961, only 22 other National League pitchers have recorded 277 or more strikeouts in a season. Clayton Kershaw had 301 strikeouts in 2015 but before that, Randy Johnson of Arizona was the last to do so with 290 back in 2004.
Scherzer’s feat is made more special by the fact that he has posted his total with the fewest innings pitched among the pitchers who have had 277 plus strikeouts in a season. Going into his last start on Sunday, Scherzer’s innings pitched total is 223.1. The next fewest innings pitched among players on the list is Kershaw’s 232.2 last season.
The low point of the past week for the Nats was seeing All-Star catcher and fan favorite Wilson Ramos leave Monday’s game with a season ending injury that may have ended his time in Washington. Ramos’ season ended on a sour note, but we should not sleep on the fact that we have witnessed a remarkable offensive season by someone playing at the game’s most demanding defensive position.
Since 1961, Ramos is only the 33rd player who played at least 80% of his games at catcher with more than 20 home runs, 80 RBI and a .300 plus batting average. The Buffalo hit 22 homers, drove in 80 runs and put up a .307 average in what was truly a special season.
Prior to Ramos’ special 2016 campaign the last catcher to reach these totals was San Francisco’s Buster Posey, who hit .336 with 24 homers and 103 RBI in a season where he won the National League’s Most Valuable Player award.
Nationals’ third baseman Anthony Rendon makes everything look easy on the baseball diamond. Whether it is diving to make a great defensive play, hitting a home run with a batting stroke that is as smooth as silk or speeding around the bases with ease, Rendon’s top-level talent is evident.
This week, Rendon picked up his 500th hit with a clutch three run homer in Washington’s 4-2 win over Arizona on Tuesday and ended the Diamondbacks series with 503 career hits. Since his coming into the league in 2013, only 30 National Leaguers have more hits in that time period than Rendon.
Four players who either play, or have played, with Rendon are on the list. Teammate Jayson Werth with 504 hits is one ahead of Rendon, with Bryce Harper two ahead with 505 base knocks. Former top of the order mate Denard Span has the 17th highest total with 576 hits, and current teammate Daniel Murphy has the highest hit total in the National League since 2013 with a whopping 684.
It’s early and three exhibition games don’t mean much, but there are things to like coming out of Washington’s first few days of competition in 2016.
-In those three games, Dusty Baker’s team has shown a commitment to the running game that has yielded 10 stolen bases. Baker’s professed need for speed, first base coach Davey Lopes’ expertise in all things related to the art of stolen bases and a roster with a decent number of fast players should allow the Nats to use the steal much more often than they did in 2015 when only one team (the Mets) finished behind Washington in stolen bases.
-It was nice to see Tanner Roark and Gio Gonzalez throw well in their first outings. Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg are near guarantees in the one and two spots in the pitching rotation, but I believe that Washington needs the 2014 version of Roark and the 2012 version of Gonzalez in the rotation for the team’s pitching to be truly elite. Gonzalez in particular is one of the keys to the season, as having a top-level left-handed starter in the rotation can only serve to help the entire staff.
-Reading about it was exciting enough, but what an experience it must have been for the few lucky Nats fans in attendance at yesterday’s game to see Lucas Giolito go up against Major League competition and more than hold his own. The Nats’ top prospect threw two scoreless innings with three strikeouts and only one hit allowed against the Marlins. I suppose that in a perfect world Giolito won’t be needed to make his Major League debut this year, but thoughts of the tall, powerfully built righty providing the type of boost Noah Syndergaard did for the Mets in 2015 are hard to shake.
-Sunday’s game with St. Louis will be available on the MLB Network at 1pm, but I suspect that most Nats’ fans regret that today’s is not as well. This afternoon at Space Coast Stadium, one time rotation mates Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann will square off as the Nationals take on the Tigers. While it will be difficult for some fans (and probably some players as well) to see Zimmermann in the opposition’s colors, it will be interesting to watch Zimmermann work against a lineup that is expected to include most of the Nats’ projected regulars. For those who can’t be in Florida for today’s game, relax…there’s a potential shot at seeing Zimmermann in action at Nationals Park in May when the Tigers visit.
-Finally, happy birthday to former Nationals Jeffrey Hammonds and Mike MacDougal. Hammonds (who turns 45 today) played briefly for the Nats in 2005, hitting .219 in 32 at bats. Hammonds’ top moment as a National came on May 18th of the 2005 season when his walk-off single plated the game’s only run as Washington defeated Milwaukee 1-0. MacDougal, who was an American League all-star for Kansas City in 2003, turns 39 today. The slender reliever served as the Nationals’ closer for most of the difficult 2009 season, saving 20 games in the process.