On June 29th, after Trea Turner unsuccessfully tried to turn away from a 96 mph 2-1 fastball up and in from Pedro Strop of the Cubs, a lot of things happened: First, Turner walked slowly to first on a hit by pitch, the Nationals scored three runs that inning and took the lead, and the (then) horrific bullpen coughed up that lead in the top of the 9th. The other thing that happened was Turner’s right wrist was broken, sidelining him for what appears to be an approximately 8-week stint on the disabled list (Turner is currently rehabbing in AAA Syracuse).
(Author’s note: All stats as of 08/07/17, he has had two walks while I wrote this…..so, yeah)
“…any other man stops and talk, but the walking man walks.” — James Taylor
What happens when a baseball player is one of the best in the league at a certain skill set, a career building skill set, and then suddenly he stops doing it? Perhaps the answer is that a baseball demi-god becomes mortal.
That’s clearly how Ryan Zimmerman felt about launch angle discussion back in mid-May. He made jokes, he made snarky comments, and after a while he just didn’t want to talk about it anymore. He kept saying over and over it wasn’t about the change in his launch angle, it was that he was finally healthy again. It was his health that had Zimmerman having a career year and a career resurgence with whispers that Comeback Player of the Year was his floor, and maybe MVP was his ceiling.
The Washington Nationals are doing impressive things in the first half of the 2017 season. The offense has been particularly dynamic, with standout performances from Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Daniel Murphy, and Anthony Rendon placing the Nationals in the top five in multiple offensive categories such as wRC+ (4th), wOBA (2nd), average (2nd), on base percentage (2nd), runs (2nd) and stolen bases (5th).
It’s Sunday afternoon under a bright June sun. Bryce Harper is jogging towards the right field bullpen fence as a fly ball from Scooter Gennett sails 391feet over his head into the Nationals pen with one out in the top of the second inning.
On the mound, Tanner Roark, just a few months removed from his performance as a national baseball hero in the World Baseball Classic, is rubbing up a fresh baseball as the Reds diminutive second baseman is rounding the bases, probably wondering what went wrong. Again.
I know what you thought. The date was May 14, 2017. Thirty-four games and 154 plate appearances into his season, Bryce Harper was on an unholy tear through the 2017 season. His slash line of .384/.500/.752 with 12 HRs wasn’t unbelievable. In fact, it was very believable if you were one of those people waiting for Harper to repeat his 2015 monster season. On that day, you sat back in your chair, blithely put your hands behind your head, started off into the distance, and smiled. Once again you, learned prognosticator of baseball, were right again. Bryce, without a doubt, was back.
That is, until he wasn’t.
If you’re reading the pages of this website, it’s hard to believe that you missed the fracas that broke out in the 8th inning of the Nationals 3-0 win against the San Francisco Giants on Memorial Day. Well today, the news broke that Hunter Strickland was suspended six games for his beaning of Bryce Harper, who himself got four games from his helmet chucking charge of the mound.
The date is May 16, 2017, and over the last 15 games Trea Turner has been worth -0.3 Wins Above Replacement. If that sounds bad, that’s because it is bad. For Turner it’s not just a slump, a ding, a blip, it’s literally the worst fifteen game stretch of his entire Major League career. If you look at the linked graph, the next worst time in his career was his first fifteen games, where he was worth -0.1 WAR. Yet if you just waited two more measly games, Turner had upped his rolling average to an even zero, and from then on he has never been worth less than a replacement level player for any 15-game stretch in his entire career. That is, not until the first game of Sunday’s double header, where his rolling value (despite hitting a home run) dipped below zero for the first time since his 17th game in the bigs.
“Joe wasn’t Joe.”
It seemed like a pretty classic case of manager double talk when you first looked at Dusty Baker’s quote to Jamal Collier over at MLB.com That could mean a myriad of things: It could mean Joe Ross wasn’t his normal effective self (Ron Howard Narrator Voice: He wasn’t). It could mean Joe Ross wasn’t tantalizing Nationals fans with his promise and potential (He wasn’t). It could mean Joe Ross was no longer the handsomest member of the entire organization (He wa— Shut your damn mouth, that man is still beautiful).