On Strasburg, Espinosa and Span

Stephen Strasburg’s ERA this season - a miniscule 2.24 - is 24 points lower than his rotation mate Jordan Zimmermann’s.

Somehow, Zimmermann has 12 wins on the season, and Strasburg has one-third that many.

Yet there are those who still view pitchers’ wins as a crucial statistic. Doesn’t make much sense to me.

The Nationals are scoring an average of 4.71 runs per game when Zimmermann gets the start. When Strasburg pitches, that total is nearly cut in half. Strasburg has gotten 2.44 runs per game.

If the Nationals had put up the 4.71 runs that Zimmermann gets per game in every Strasburg start, the 2009 No. 1 pick would, like Zimmermann, have 12 wins right now.

That’s just the way this game works. Zimmermann dealt with low run support in past seasons and now he’s getting some help from his friends. Strasburg isn’t, and what might otherwise be a surefire All-Star first half is quietly flying under the radar nationally.

Here’s your latest update on Danny Espinosa, who continues to post numbers down at Triple-A Syracuse that make you wonder whether something is really bothering him, either physically or mentally:

Espinosa went 0-for-8 with a strikeout in a doubleheader yesterday, dropping his average at Syracuse to .094. He has just six hits in 64 at-bats and has struck out 33 times.

I’ve said it before, but regardless of your opinion of Espinosa being given a long leash at the big league level this season before being sent down, you have to feel for the guy and what he’s going through lately. Players talk about how getting sent down to the minors for the first time after they’ve spent an extended stretch in the big leagues can be incredibly tough to deal with, and it certainly doesn’t help matters that Espinosa has been struggling so mightily in his time at Triple-A.

On a more positive note, Denard Span picked up two more hits yesterday, raising his average to .265, the highest it’s been since June 12. Span has reached base at least once in 12 of his last 13 games, with five multi-hit games in that stretch.

You look at Span’s spray chart this season, and you can tell where he does most of his damage. The vast majority of Span’s extra-base hits this season have come to the pull side. In fact, I count only six of Span’s 24 extra-base hits that have been to the left side of center field.

Is that evidence of Span’s offensive struggles for much of this season? Davey Johnson seems to think so.

“Sometimes guys, when they go the other way, they have a different stroke than they do when they pull,” Johnson said. “And really (it should be) the same stroke when you go the other way. And his stroke when he goes the other way is a little longer and it’s deeper. And that’s not the way you want to hit the ball. Left-handers, breaking ball away, it’s same swing as the pull swing. And he’s been more consistent with that.”

Span has struggled with his swing since spring training. He hasn’t been able to get into any type of consistent groove, but said the other day that he’s starting to feel a little more locked in. A part of that might have to do with his opposite-field approach.

Last night, Span rifled a single to left-center in the first inning. Back on Sunday against the Mets, he ripped a double the other way that brought in a run and then slapped a single to center later in the game. That ability to get to pitches on the outer half of the plate and do more with them than just roll them over to the right side can help Span do a better job of settling the table and keeping the lineup moving.

“His best strokes this year have been when he pulls,” Johnson said. “And when he went up the middle and the other way, they weren’t as short and to the ball, as direct. And here lately, I think it was last road trip in New York, he took a ball on the outside part of the plate and rifled it to left. And that’s the stroke he needs. And that’s gotten a little out of sorts, as a lot of guys have this season.”

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