Think back to June or July. What were you thinking about this team? If you are like most fans, you were relishing the success of the starting pitching while lamenting the complete lack of offense. Well, some of that pitching has disappeared, due to trades, end of season shutdown, regression or whatever. But just as that evened out a bit, the hitting has roared back. Sure, this team isn’t the Bronx Bombers, but I seem to recall in early summer only Laynce Nix had an OPS+ over 100. Now look what we’ve got with only 3 games to go.
A late season slump probably preventing him from getting serious rookie of the year consideration, but Danny Espinosa is finishing out the year on a high note. Not only is he hitting .239/.324/.420 right now, giving him an OPS+ of 104, the 24 year old rookie is hitting .298/.384/.471 in his last 140 PAs. His rough stretch in July and the beginning of August brought those total numbers down, but he’s still had a great season for a rookie middle infielder, and those 21 home runs look awfully nice.
A 23 year old catcher hitting .269/.335/.449 should probably be getting a bit more national attention, considering Ramos has the 5th best OPS among NL catchers with 350 or more PAs. Not bad for a rookie at this position, either. One of the reasons people having been talking about him is that before September he was just having a pretty good offensive season. But in his last 102 PAs he’s hit .344/.396/.624, making those totals look quite a bit better. Oh, and those 4 catchers ahead of him on the OPS chart? The youngest is McCann, who’s 4 years older than Ramos.
There’s nothing about a .293 OBP that’s nice, unless you want to mention that Ian Desmond was sitting at .256 back on July 5. He had a terrible start of the year that didn’t improve after several months, but he’s finally hit some, even if it hasn’t been enough to fix those numbers. Post-July 5th lowpoint, he’s hit .288/.333/.417, which is admittedly nothing spectacular. But, that .750 OPS would rank him 5th among the 19 shortstops in the NL with 300 or more plate appearances. If he can do it for a full season next year, the Nats would certainly take it.
Speaking of many months slumps, Jayson Werth at the very least didn’t do what Adam Dunn did, which was forget how to hit and never remember. Werth finally remembered in late July, although since it wasn’t a super hot streak, many didn’t notice at first. However, he’s subsequently put together more than a third of a season of very good numbers. Because they weren’t great, his overall numbers still look like crap, but he’s hitting .264/.352/.457 in his last 236 PAs, a season line you’d be perfectly happy with (unless you’re one of those people who thought he’d reproduce his Phillies numbers here).
Ryan Zimmerman missed about 1/3 of the season, and while his numbers weren’t spectacular this year, hitting .289/.354/.445 while playing excellent defense is still very good. His power was down this season, probably in no small part to a strained abdoment that was still hurting even when he did play. Despite these issues, he still ranks 4th among NL third basemen in terms of OPS and OBP.
Of course, the true story of this year’s Nats hitting was Michael Morse. He went from a power, semi-platoon player who had a good 2010, to one of the best hitters in 2011. This while having a completely horrendous April in which he lost his starting job. He is currently hitting .304/.362/.544, which ranks him 6th among NL outfielders, behind Holliday and ahead of Justin Upton, and 4th among NL first basemen, just behind Albert Pujols. Remember, Morse was hitting .211/.253/.268 on the last day of April with 79 PAs already stuck on his stat sheet. Since then he’s hit .319/.380/.588, with an OPS that would rank first among NL 1Bs, and 3rd only behind Braun and Kemp in the entire league.
Morse has had a truly great season, even when counting that April (as we must) and helps round out a lineup that is starting to look pretty impressive. Only next year will we see if these guys can keep it up, but there is certainly reason for hope that they will.