Defense in baseball is the combination of pitching and fielding. The Nationals are #1 in the least amount of fielding errors. Right now the Chicago Cubs lead the Majors in pitching ERA, DRS (defensive runs saved) and defensive BABIP (batting average on balls in play). The Nationals are not far behind as they rank #2 in team pitching and #3 in defensive BABIP in the entire MLB.
The good news is that the Nationals new defensive configuration of right-side defense for Dusty Baker has been impressive, and has the team trending up. So impressive that Trea Turner is already 11th in the Majors in defensive UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) and he has only logged 200 innings at the position this year and is a cumulative +2.9 and is already ahead of the Cubs two 2nd baseman (Ben Zobrist and Javier Baez). You can extrapolate and interpolate and do some fancy math to see that Turner would easily be #1 in 2nd base defense in MLB if he had played the position all year as the numbers are cumulative.
Daniel Murphy, as a 2nd baseman, ranks way down that same list at #31 with a -3.5 UZR which was caused by a step back in range rating from Murphy’s 2015 rating of a -1.3 UZR and most of that decrease is due to Murphy’s drop in range rating this year. The good news is Murphy’s error rate is much improved this year. Now when Murphy is playing 1st base, the range required for that position is far less than 2nd base, and Murphy has improved that position for the Nationals, and should trend as a positive defender soon as his range ratings went from a -0.8 to a -0.1 quickly, and he has only logged about 150 innings this year at 1st base and had to shake the rust off. He made plays just yesterday like this and this that show his tremendous range at 1st base.
This current defensive configuration has also allowed Dusty Baker to put Ben Revere in centerfield who has made plays like this Web Gem that Statcast calculated, and this was the play in the 1-0 win against the Giants that saved at least two runs which was the play of the year with that ‘Willie Mays’ type catch. Revere is 17th in centerfield defense with only 539 innings accumulated rating as a +2.1 UZR. By the way, Trea Turner is a +0.8 with only 57 innings in centerfield.
At shortstop, Danny Espinosa is rated 12th in the Majors in defense. Danny has slipped from where he was before the All Star break at 4th in defense as his range rating has dropped. The good news about Espinosa’s defense is that there are 19 shortstops ahead of him on the errors list, and there are few shortstops with Espinosa’s arm strength. Espinosa is 4th in shortstop doubleplays turned while the Nationals are tied for 9th best in the Majors for most doubleplays recorded on defense, but keep in mind that doubleplays are a matter of circumstance. The teams that allow more baserunners with less than 2 outs have more opportunity to turn doubleplays.
Bryce Harper has the best rating of any Nats defender, and is 4th in the Majors in rightfield defense with a +10.4 UZR.
Anthony Rendon is 8th in the Majors at 3rd base defense, and is the Nationals largest upgrade from last year in positional defense as he has a +6.5 UZR compared to Yunel Escobar who had a -7.7 UZR last year for the Nationals at 3rd base.
Here is your defensive player ratings for all the Nationals players on this link.