Monday, July 11, 2011

Nats at the Break: First-Half Surprises

Not many expected the Nats to be at .500 (46-46) at the All-Star Break this year, especially after how the season started. But a few winning streaks here and there, and some fundamentally sound baseball to boot, has the Nats flirting with .500 this late in the year for the first time in 6 years. So what were the surprises that helped (and hindered) the Nats progress to this point? Let's go over our top 5.

Jordan Zimmermann - Most everyone expected JZimm to be a great pitcher, but we're not sure anyone expected him to be this good, this quickly. He's already thrown more than 115 innings and posted a 2.66 ERA so far. In his first full season back from Tommy John surgery, he's earned a 3.3 WAR and is striking out 6.42 batters per 9 innings. JZimm is back and ready to dominate as a #2 starter in the Nats rotation. Maybe one day, he'll actually get some run support. Too bad he's got an innings limit to deal with this year, unless Davey Johnson has any say in the matter.

Jayson Werth - Werth has to be high on this list and not for fun reasons. He's been so bad, it's actually scary. The $18 million man is hitting just .215 with 10 homers and 31 RBI. He looks lost at the plate, and no moment was worse than when he grounded into a double play with runners on 1st and 2nd with one out in the 9th inning on Saturday night against the Rockies. The boo's were never louder; that was Werth's low point. Let's just hope he figures out over the 3-day break, because NatsTown patience is running very thin.

Michael Morse - Coming out of spring training, everyone expected big things from Morse, and at first, he disappointed. But after a rough April, he broke out in a huge way in May, June, and July. Now, he's hitting .306 with 15 jacks and has turned into a well-above average 1st baseman in Adam LaRoche's absence. Here's hope he can continue after the break.

Roger Bernadina - The Shark has developed a cult following like none other in the Nats organization. He's solidifying himself as an extremely solid lead off hitter by having an extremely high BABIP (.315) due to his extreme speed and numerous infield hits. Bernie is coming into his own before our very eyes, and it's a lot of fun to watch.

Danny Espinosa - It might seem crazy that the NL's #1 Rookie of the Year candidate would be #5 on our list here, but that's because we're talking about surprises here. Those of us that got to watch Espi at the end of 2010 aren't surprised to see him competing for the RoY honors. That said, Espinosa has been a team leader both offensively and defensively, and is going to make a significant push toward 2nd base Gold Glove honors as well. He and Morse have, without a doubt, been the strongest all-around players on the Nats roster this season, and we hope that's just the beginning.

Those are our top 5 first-half surprises. What are yours, CapBallers?


  1. Livo and Marquis have eaten lots of innings and given the team a chance to win most of the time (notwithstanding this week's disasters). I'm willing to bet these vets have also contributed to the success of J-Zimm, Lannan, and other young pitchers.

    Jayson Werth is by far the biggest surprise. If he doesn't turn things around soon, I'm gonna toss out two frightening words: Barry. Zito.

  2. Two more surprises: Tyler Clippard and Joel Hanrahan in the All-Star Game!

  3. It was so cool to hear about those guys there together. Who woulda thought?