It’s easy to look at Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin atop the rotation and assume the dominant trio has carried the Nats, but Scherzer’s been hurt some and Strasburg’s ERA is a good-but-not-great 3.63. What’s really the biggest deal is the dynamic offense.
Asked recently about whether or not this was the best Nationals offense he’s had, general manager Mike Rizzo replied that it is the most “dynamic” and man, that’s a good way to put it. This Nationals offense has everything you could ever ask when it comes to well-roundedness.
In the middle of all this is MVP candidate Anthony Rendon. Rendon is hitting .329/.407/.617 (155 OPS+) with 35 doubles, three triples, 29 homers, 104 RBI and 94 runs. Thanks to a keen batting eye — Rendon only swings at 24.1 percent of the pitches he sees outside the zone, which is 20th out of 146 qualified hitters this season — he has been a situational monster this year. He’s hit .348/.444/.652 with runners in scoring position. In “late and close” situations, he’s hit .356/.441/.678. Fifty-seven of his hits have come with two strikes.
- R: 3rd
- H: 4th
- 2B: 6th
- 3B: 6th
- HR: 7th
- SB: 1st
- BB: 6th
- AVG: 2nd
- OBP: 1st
- SLG: 4th
- OPS: 2nd
In this 80-game stretch of dominance, the Nationals’ offense has averaged 5.99 runs per game (the league average is 4.85). The thing about their offense is, in this era of over-reliance on the home run, the Nationals are well rounded. Check out their NL rankings: They have two players with 29 homers, nine in double digits and that’s what the offense is worst at doing. In ranking seventh in the NL in home runs, it’s still above average in the 15-team league, so we could very simplistically say that the Nationals’ offense is good at everything. Regardless, the Nationals are incredibly dangerous. What a difference a few months make.
The Nationals are on fire right now. They are averaging 7.18 runs per game in August. They’ve won 12 of their last 14 games and in that span, they’ve hit .319/.397/.575 as a team with an average of 8.6 runs per game. In those 14 games, they have 43 doubles, a triple, 30 homers and 15 steals.
Basically, if you want to slap a clutch label on someone, starting with Rendon wouldn’t be a bad choice. That team speed translates to extended innings thanks to beating out infield hits (which happened in several big spots over the weekend sweep at Wrigley; the first for a road team all season) and leads to things like the Nationals ranking fifth in baseball in going first to third on a single.
That’s about as dynamic as it gets. Team that with their three-headed monster in the rotation and this team will go as far as its bullpen allows. Though they’ll have to get through a wild card, they might well be the biggest threat in the NL to the Dodgers, given that they likely only have to win three of five instead of the four of seven the Braves would have to win.
Take note of two things in particular here and those would be where Washington ranks first. The Nationals are the best team in the NL at getting on base and once they are there, they steal the most bases. That’s quite the combo. Team speed doesn’t pay off just in stealing bases, either. Check out Juan Soto’s go-ahead hit on Sunday with two outs:
Put him in the middle of a batting order that is the best in the NL at getting on base and has tons of team speed, and it’s a recipe to avoid major slumps. The home run ball can leave you for a few games. Getting on base and running fast really doesn’t. Not for long, at least. We have to repeat this because it bears repeating: The Nationals were 19-31 at one point this season, looking like they should be left for dead. Since that low point, the Nationals are 54-26, sporting the best record in baseball in that span and a 162-game pace of 109 wins. Yes, the Nats have played like one of the best teams in baseball history since late May.