Happy Opening Day, every one! We survived another long offseason.
The Washington Nationals threw away 2015 and Bruce Harper’s magnificent season in late 2013 when they hired Matt Williams to succeed Davey Johnson as manager. Now, they hope hiring one of Williams’s mentors will reverse the trend. Dusty Baker has a reputation of poor pitching management, but also being a strong clubhouse manager. After last season, the former seems more important.
Stephen Strasburg is in his walk year and seems to have put it together in the second half of 2015 – if he’s healthy he probably wins more than Opening Day starter Max Scherzer who seems likely to regress a bit in his second NL season. It’s an enviable top two, but looming in the East is a powerful, young New York Mets rotation with a pennant on the resumes.
The biggest issue for that Nats and every one of course is health. Last year the optimum lineup played TWICE in 162 games. Leadoff man Denard Span is gone with Ben Revere. If Anthony Rendon can stay healthy and play like he did in 2014, that should be a solid top of the lineup for Harper and Ryan Zimmerman I’d he can avoid chronic injury.
I like the Nats to improve over next year overall just by the addition by subtraction of Matty. I’m saying 90-72. I don’t know if that’ll be enough to win the division, but they will be a factor.
Bryce Harper was voted most valuable player of the National League for 2015. It was self-evident. How self-evident? Even baseball writers voted him unanimously.
Harper joins Roger Peckinpaugh as the only baseball player awarded MVP in D.C. and as Frederic Frommer noted in his Washingtonian piece, teammate Goose Goslin probably should have won in 1925. We’ll just have to guess that Goslin lost because he name, while pretty good, isn’t as cool as PECKINPAUGH. Then again, Peckinpaugh had 8 errors in the 1925 World Series which the Washington Senators (or Nationals) lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Has anybody asked Harper what it’s like to be in the same company as Mark Moseley? There’s a good Bog post in that question.
Joe Theismann also won that award for the 1983 season, and had a Peckingpaugh-esqe championship appearance, but even with that the Super Bowl XVII win, he’s still best remembered for his leg getting broken.
Back to the modern day the question is — does Harper stick around past 2018? Thomas Boswell invokes the comparison to Alex Ovechkin, another D.C. wunderkind thought to be a goner after he left club control.
Ovechkin, by the way, just became the NHL’s all-time leading Russian-born goal scorer.
Would have been nice if the Capitals had won…
Maybe we ought to just enjoy having the two-best players in two different sports in the same era for now.
Watching Ryan Zimmerman hit walk off home runs has been an important part of being a Washington Nationals fan. I gave him his Mr. Walk-Off nickname (DC Sports Bog, The Post) back in 2008 after he beat the Atlanta Braves on Opening Night at Nationals Park.
Zimmerman was about the only joy we had as Nats fans for several seasons it seems and I think the a high percentage of DC fans have dreamed of him hitting a game-winning homer to win the pennant/World Series, etc. He’s OUR guy – he grew up with the franchise. I want him to succeed more than anybody else in Washington uniform, any sport. Is it too much to ask for a little divine providence?
There’s one problem though – check out the years Zimmerman has hit walkoffs:
There are two years missing there, two pretty notable years:
To date, those are the only two years that the Nats have made the playoffs, winning the division both times.
From xkcd 552: Correlation
Oh and Bryce Harper thinks he has a bone-bruise and the Nats are 2.5 back of the New York Mets with a finale in L.A. against Clayton Kershaw followed by road trips to San Francisco and Colorado.
Bryce Harper is doing his part to keep the Washington Nationals winning percentage above his on-base percentage. He’s not making it easy though as he keeps getting on-base with a league leading 26 walks over 29 games. Of course, it isn’t walks that make Harper who he is — it’s power. Yesterday, he hit 3 home runs in his first 3 at bats. His fourth at bat was a sacrifice RBI. He did it all without batting gloves, a rarity in modern baseball. The Nats beat the Miami Marlins 7-5.
I watched the second homer over and over again while waiting for a meeting to start:
For most of the season, Harper’s OBP has exceeded the Nats winning percentage. He’s now at .416 and the Nats are 14-15 which is .482. The hope is the winning percentage will remain higher than Harper’s OBP for the rest of the year. I think it will.
Also, let’s remember that Harper is 22 years old and has never faced a pitcher younger than him. He’s in his fourth season. He’s really good. Even Nats manager Matt Williams (who left Max Scherzer in too long) knows it. Finally.