Seven months in the past, I boldly declared that the Washington Nationals could be simply advantageous, thanks, with out Bryce Harper. It seems they have been greater than advantageous.
After lacking the playoffs in 2018, Harper’s last marketing campaign in D.C., the Nats are again within the postseason for the fifth time prior to now eight years. It is the primary time they have been there with out Harper, and it is proof optimistic that there’s, the truth is, life after Bryce.
Listed below are 5 causes Washington has been in a position to transfer on with out its former franchise face:
1. Rendon is raking
Though he has one fewer MVP award than Harper, the soiled little secret within the District is that Anthony Rendon has been the workforce’s greatest and most full participant for a number of years now. It is a secret lastly beginning to make its manner across the league.
In July, after being an All-Star snub on a number of events prior to now, the 29-year-old third baseman made the Midsummer Traditional for the primary time in his profession. Batting virtually solely in Harper’s previous No. Three spot, Rendon has put up enormous numbers. He is hitting .322 with 34 homers and leads the league with 124 RBIs and 43 doubles. He is additionally within the high three in runs, slugging and OPS. Mixed together with his reliable glove work on the scorching nook (plus-Three runs saved), it is the form of marketing campaign that has him on the quick listing for a sure piece of hardware, together with names similar to Christian Yelich, Cody Bellinger and Ketel Marte.
“For me, Rendon is the MVP,” supervisor Davey Martinez mentioned of the participant who completed 11th in final 12 months’s balloting and sixth the 12 months earlier than that. “What he means to this group, this metropolis, our lineup, it is great. He is earned all of the accolades he will get.”
Relying on how these final video games shake out, it is attainable that Rendon may wind up tied with Harper within the awards column.
2. Soto is an excellent soph
When Juan Soto exploded onto the scene final season as a 19-year-old rookie and did issues that few if any youngsters had accomplished, he immediately turned a strolling and speaking insurance coverage coverage for if/when Harper departed through free company. Though some questioned if the younger outfielder would regress in his second huge league marketing campaign, he has accomplished the other.
Who has clinched a postseason spot, and who may very well be subsequent?
2019 postseason schedule
Whereas the plate self-discipline has been simply nearly as good (his 106 walks are second within the NL), the ability numbers have spiked (34 bombs). Between that and determining how you can deal with off-speed pitches, Soto has turn out to be a Harper-esque middle-of-the-order thumper. Mentioned hitting coach Kevin Lengthy: “He understands his abilities and can be prepared to strive just a few minor issues to get even higher.”
Maybe essentially the most vital upgrades in Soto’s recreation don’t have anything to do with the dish.
In spring coaching, the Dominican product mentioned he spent the offseason making an attempt to enhance his pace and protection. By all appearances, the work has paid off. After swiping 5 bases as a rookie, Soto, whose minor league teammates referred to as him Gamba (Spanish for bowlegged), is 12-for-13 in steals this 12 months. That is a 92% success fee, and it is tied for third amongst NL gamers (minimal 10 stolen bases). In left area, the place he is nonetheless very a lot a work-in-progress, he has accounted for zero runs saved, an enchancment on the minus-5 he posted a 12 months in the past.
A lot for that sophomore hunch.
Three. Robles is roaming heart area like a vet
If Soto was Washington’s insurance coverage coverage, then Victor Robles was the addendum. The flashy rookie, who entered 2019 because the 10th-best prospect in baseball in response to ESPN’s Keith Legislation, took over because the Opening Day heart fielder and hasn’t regarded again. Really, that is not true.
Each contender’s greatest transfer
Legislation: Gamers I used to be incorrect about
A house run mark for all 30 groups
Olney: Alonso’s defensive positive aspects
Again in April, it appeared that Robles was in over his head defensively, as he repeatedly misinterpret and/or misplayed balls within the outfield. However he has discovered on the fly and shortly turn out to be one of many higher heart fielders within the recreation.
“That form of arm you do not see fairly often,” Soto mentioned of his teammate, whose 12 assists lead heart fielders and whose 21 runs saved rank second amongst all outfielders.
Because of the speedy Robles, the Nationals did not suppose twice about sliding veteran Adam Eaton to proper area to fill the void created by Harper’s departure. Collectively, Robles, Eaton and Soto have helped Washington’s outfield lead the majors in outs above common (their 26 OAA are greater than twice as many as that of the following greatest group).
Offensively, although Robles hasn’t been as productive as Washington might need hoped and has made greater than his share of errors on the bases, supervisor Davey Martinez will gladly take 17 homers and 26 steals from the rookie — particularly on the backside of the order.
Four. The Huge Three resides as much as the hype
Rick Sutcliffe explains why he’d take Max Scherzer over the Nationals’ different pitchers to start out in a wild-card recreation.
When Washington inked lefty Patrick Corbin to a six-year, $140 million contract in December, it just about signaled the top of the Harper period in D.C. It additionally gave the Nationals’ rotation a 1-2-Three punch nearly as good as any within the recreation.
Corbin, ace Max Scherzer and deputy ace Stephen Strasburg all rank among the many NL’s high six in strikeouts. And FIP. And WAR. Collectively, they’ve led Nats starters to a Three.51 ERA that ranks second within the majors, behind solely that of the Dodgers.
“They have been phenomenal,” Martinez mentioned of his three-headed mound monster. “The explanation why we’re doing what we’re doing.”
Maybe most significantly, Washington’s troika has logged greater than 550 innings mixed, which has helped the workforce overcome a traditionally dangerous bullpen — and Harper’s historic free-agent exodus.
5. Their foes are pleasant
The NL East was speculated to be the NL Beast. Aside from the Marlins, each different workforce within the division was anticipated to be stout. Whereas the defending champion Braves have been nearly as good as marketed (after which some), New York and Philly — a pair of golf equipment that have been billed as markedly improved — have upset.
Sure, the dysfunctional Mets appeared to have Washington’s quantity this 12 months, profitable 12 of 19 matchups, together with a number of in dramatic comeback vogue. However towards the remainder of the league, the Mets have been primarily a .500 membership. As for Harper’s new workforce, the Phillies? Decimated by accidents to the bullpen and outfield, they have been eradicated from the playoffs Tuesday … by the Nats.
In terms of cooperative competitors, no person has been extra magnanimous than Miami. Towards the Marlins, Washington coasted to a 15-Four file. However that was at all times going to occur.
Similar to the Nationals have been at all times going to be advantageous with out Bryce Harper.