The Nats leader in OPS the last 5 weeks was Trea Turner. Who do you think the Nats leader is in the last 4 weeks? Without looking at the answer, let’s see if you can identify him from his photo that was taken after he hit a home run in Cincinnati. A hint, he has played in 14 games in the past 28 days with 34 plate appearances.
Did you guess Stephen Drew? Sure you did.
We all know that Danny Espinosa has been smoldering hot, and so has Stephen Drew in limited action. It is Stephen Drew who actually leads the Nats in the last 4 weeks with a 1.190 OPS and is actually on an almost identical HR/AB pace as Espi, and Stephen Drew has a higher XBH/AB pace than Espi.
As mentioned yesterday, the solution to trying an upgrade could be to ride the hot bat of…. Stephen Drew. It might not reap benefits, but you don’t know unless you try. Where would Stephen Drew play you might ask? Stephen Drew would play at 2nd base, and Daniel Murphy could shift to 1st base. Stephen Drew can play all the infield positions actually including 1st base which is not optimal. You probably would not want Drew playing against lefty pitchers, but it could be time to use the assets you have.
All Nats fans are rooting for Ryan Zimmerman. We hear about exit velocity and bad luck, and plantar fasciitis and a degenerative shoulder and the need for warm weather and on and on. The fact is that in the normal line-up, no position player is as bad as Ryan Zimmerman, and in the past four weeks, that includes pitchers like Joe Ross and Tanner Roark who are hitting better.
Dusty Baker believes Ryan Zimmerman will turn the corner, but the damage is being done in the middle of the order still. When people say that Dusty stood by Danny Espinosa, that was true, but not really an apples-to-apples comparison. Espinosa was batting 8th, was finding a way to get on base, was getting hits with RISP, and was playing Top 5 defense of all Major League shortstops and was a positive WAR. Even on May 1st when Espinosa was batting .188 his on-base-percentage was .313. While not great, Espinosa has never been the weakest link in the chain.
Ryan Zimmerman is not the only issue on this team. Bryce Harper occupies the key 3rd spot in the batting order and is it time for a lineup shake up. Last night with bases place, Harper watched a borderline 3rd strike go by. It was perhaps a wake-up call to start to question what the bleep is going on with Harper as we have had to question his lack of hustle that has been displayed the last two weeks coupled with poor defensive reads and effort last night. Harper has dropped to a .261 BA over the past 4 weeks although he is still taking his walks and has a .382 OBP. That type of offensive output is more of a #2 man in the batting order.
Every month it seems like a different player has stepped up to carry the team. It was Bryce Harper in April, Daniel Murphy in May, and Danny Espinosa in June with Wilson Ramos as the consistent force behind them. Jayson Werth has also stepped up his game in June.
Chances are that Dusty Baker will make no changes. Chances are that Ryan Zimmerman will run into another hot streak. Right now the math is 60÷278=.216 in batting average in 73 games which is where Zim is currently at. Ryan Zimmerman would need to get on a 1.4 hits per game average pace for the rest of the season which would be hitting at a .350 average to get him back to his pre-2016 career norm of a .284 batting average. He needs to hit better than 1-3 every game for the remainder of the season. Can he do it? We sure hope so.