In the continuing search for the elusive answer of ‘what is wrong with the Nats’ I tried to look at the players and see how they compare to their normal performances and really try to answer if they are playing up to their expected levels. If you focus on the regular lineup and you take away all those who were/are injured and Bryce Harper, and you are left with Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner.
By any standard both of these players are doing well, Rendon is on his way to a little over 5.0 WAR season and Turner something near a 6 WAR season. These are excellent performances and both players have been prominent in key wins this season. Is this as good as we should hope for? Let’s examine a little. Rendon who at 28 should be just about at his peak; his best years were 2014 (6.4 WAR) and 2017 (6.8 WAR). My conclusion is that Rendon is playing at a slightly lower level this year than we would have wanted to and subjectively it feels that way too as he is in a prime RBI spot in the order which helps pad those WAR stats. It’s very good but it could be a little better and more consistent at least and much better if he was still in an upward trajectory. Rendon also missed some time on the DL which also affected his WAR in the first half.
Turner is a little harder to evaluate because he doesn’t have as much historical data to fall back on. In his rookie year in 2016 he produced 3.3 WAR in just 73 games, this extrapolates to around 7 WAR. 2017 was an injury plagued year which ended with a 2.9 WAR over 98 games (extrapolates to about 4.8 WAR) . This year he is at 2.9 WAR for 92 games (extrapolates to 5.1) WAR. So, he is a tad better this year than last. Again, subjectively, do we feel that we are getting as well as can be expected from Turner? Is he moving in the right direction? I would say based on 2016 it has been a bit disappointing.
There is a lot of focus around these parts on the running game especially where it relates to Turner, and I would suggest that we are barking up the wrong tree. I fully support that one should use all the weapons at one’s disposal and I would never suggest that Trea stops running, but the idea that he should run indiscriminately, and all the time is the wrong idea IMO. Remember, getting caught stealing is a much greater negative than a stolen base is a positive. If you aren’t successful 75% of your attempts, you aren’t helping the team. The 2 caught stealing in Philadelphia were a very major downer. I think people want to miscast Turner as a table setter when I think he has much better potential as a run producer. Finally, I think someone needs to get in his ear and explain to him that playing umpire with 2 strikes is a foolish idea regardless how unfair the umpires have been. My favorite at bat of the year was Daniel Murphy’s 12 pitch at bat on Tuesday where he spoiled 5 or 6 2 strike pitches. No, not all of them were strikes but all of them were too close to take.
I think that the fact that the team’s best 2 players (3 if you want to count Harper) aren’t quite playing up to their potential is an indictment on the coaching staff whose job description involves getting the best out of their players. As I have said many times I am not smart enough to know if Kevin Long is a good coach or not (He came with a huge reputation) I do know the results aren’t good.