It’s been said many times many ways, but the Nats are a first-place team thanks to their pitching and … not much else. I haven’t seen it said this way, though:
Of baseball’s top 80 offensive players, as ranked by Wins Above Replacement (WAR), only one is a National. That’s hard to do while you also have the best record in the National League.
The Nats are doing it, though, on the strength of that great pitching plus Ian Desmond, who entered the season as a bit of a whipping boy, at least for those that cared about things like getting on base.
Here’s what the Nats’ top 10 offensive players of 2012 looks like, as ranked by WAR, which accounts for both baserunning and fielding as well as hitting. And, yes, that’s a pitcher at No. 6.
1. Ian Desmond: 3.6
Dez is the most productive shortstop in MLB this year, which is remarkable, especially when you consider that he posted just 2.7 combined WAR his first two full seasons. Unfortunately, he’s now struggling with an oblique injury. Of course he is.
2. Adam LaRoche: 1.6
After last year’s injury-plagued campaign, AL Smooth is a revelation of sorts for Nats fans, but he posted 2.3-2.5 WAR in ’06, ’07 and ’09.
3. Bryce Harper: 1.5
That’s only in 70 games. Not bad for a rookie, let alone a 19-year-old.
4. Ryan Zimmerman: 1.4
Remember three weeks ago when Zim stunk on ice? Now he’s back on track and hitting like the monster that posted 14.5 WAR in ’09-10.
5. Danny Espinosa: 1.3
This is down considerably from what he did last season (3.5). He has been hitting better in July (.869 OPS), though.
6. Stephen Strasburg: 0.9
A lineup has to be pretty bad, and one of its pitchers pretty damn good at hitting, for a hurler to rank No. 6 in WAR. That’s certainly the case here, where Stras has a .385/.448/.654 slash line and is No. 1 among all pitchers in WAR.
7t. Tyler Moore, Wilson Ramos and Jayson Werth: 0.6
Moore has hit the ball well in 93 plate appearances (.912). Fielding and baserunning, though, not so much.
Ramos and Werth haven’t played in over two months.
10. Steve Lombardozzi and Jordan Zimmerman: 0.5
That’s a poor showing for Lombardozzi, even for a rookie, but it’s still better than other Nats regulars/semi-regulars Roger Bernadina, Jesus Flores, Mike Morse and Rick Ankiel.
As for ZNN, I don’t really understand the math behind it, but he is a good-hitting pitcher so far (.229/.270/.371).