Nearly 2 weeks ago, the Washington Nationals came into Coors Field, sitting proudly in 1st place of the NL East division, and represented one of the youngest and toughest competitors in Major League Baseball.
Game 1 of the series was the only one really worth mentioning, as the Rockies inexplicably beat Stephen Strasburg en route to a 4-2 victory in the Monday opener. Jeff Francis got the win, effectively holding Washington bats to 2 runs and 5 hits while striking out 5.
The rest of the series was pretty poor, as the Rockies lost 5-12 and 5-11. It happens when one of the worst teams in baseball plays one of the best.
Since that point, the Nats have gone 6-2 and the Rockies have gone 3-6, and the Nationals are still sitting in 1st and are among the best competition in MLB. Again, it's not that surprising, but the Rockies have shown some decent fight these past 10 games, but they still kind of stink. And that's OK. While nobody likes to watch their team lose, it's a rebuild. It happens.
Meanwhile, there's a new sheriff in Washington.
#20 / Short Stop / Washington Nationals
Sep 20, 1985
|2012 - Ian Desmond||78||330||43||92||24||2||14||47||15||68||8||4||.279||.309||.491|
Desmond's season line may not be that impressive, but he's played as an above-average bat for the Nationals, and is quietly rising in the ranks of "SS you don't want to take for granted". While the Rockies still have the sluggingest-SS in MLB in their organization in Troy Tulowitzki, Desmond is starting to make some noise in this respect.
Out of MLB SS with 200 or more PA this season, Houston's Jed Lowrie leads SS with a .213 ISO (SLG-AVG) and a season line of .255/.341/.468, 14HR, 35 RBI, good for a 122 wRC+. Lowrie's plus fielding has garnered him a 2.5 fWAR on the 2012 campaign.
Third on that list is Tulo, who had just managed to start to get on a hot streak before his injury, and his 1.6 fWAR is being supplied by average fielding (technically a smidge below) and a .287/.360/.486 batting line with 8 HR and 27 RBI (117 wRC+).
But sandwiched between the two, and really, he's more of a 1a as far as this ISO ranking goes, clubbing a .212 ISO and also playing plus SS defense. .279/.309/.491 with 14 bombs and 43 RBI (114 wRC+) plays at SS in nearly every organization, and the Nationals are definitely getting some mileage out of their SS. He is leading NL SS in fWAR (2.7, 2nd overall to Texas' Elvis Andrus at 2.8 fWAR), and he's doing all of this with a .313 BABIP and a 20% K rate, and he's hitting over 18% line drives. Dude's having a solid season.
More on Desmond, Pitching Matchups, and stats and stuff after the jump.
Colorado is catching Desmond at just the wrong time as well. Over the past 2 weeks, Desmond has led the team (30+ PA) in SLG (.706) and fWAR (0.9), and is 2nd in wOBA and wRC+ to Tyler Moore (186 wRC+), and 2nd in AVG to Michael Morse (.370 AVG). Very appropriate that Desmond has been this hot these past 2 weeks, given that the Nationals are the best hitting team in baseball over that span (136 wRC+).
The reason this timing is so frustrating is purely because the Rockies' pitching has begin to get into a bit of a groove. Jeff Francis and Christian Friedrich have become the Colorado version of a "decent 1-2 punch", Drew Pomeranz had a promising debut, Jeremy Guthrie even had a solid outing, and as a result, Jim Tracy has loosened the leash a bit on the 75-pitch count - Not much, mind you, but somewhat. To celebrate this improvement, the Nationals are throwing a 3-day party for Colorado pitching that will pretty much consist of the Nats beating the hell out of Colorado pitchers with their bats.
But who knows? This is the kind of series that tends to happen to the Rockies: need to pick up some momentum, lose to a near-last-place team, make us all look like fools. Then again, the Nationals are much better right now than the Rockies have ever been, outside of September of 2007 and June of 2009, so maybe that doesn't apply.
(For what it's worth, the 2nd half of the 3rd poll option was cut off. It reads as follows:
3. I have no evidence to support this pick, but my gut says that this team can violate all concepts of probability. Truly, a state of baseball zen have I reached that I might still be able to promote the Rockies as a team that could sweep the Nationals. Truly have I lost all shame or self-consciousness toward my given baseball team and I now see with the eyes of the universe. Rockies take 3 from Washington in Washington.
I thought it was funnier.)
Expected Matchups (again, these are probably wrong, just knowing me):
Friday, July 6, 2012 5:05 PM MT
Drew Pomeranz vs Stephen Strasburg
Saturday, July 7, 2012 2:05 PM MT
Jeff Francis vs Gio Gonzalez
Sunday, July 8, 2012 11:35 AM MT
Jeremy Guthrie vs Jordan Zimmerman