You wonder whether hitting is contagious?
Through their first 114 games of the season, the Nationals were averaging just 3.67 runs per game. They were batting a collective .240 as a team, had a lowly .299 on-base percentage and were slugging just .384.
Over the last three weeks, things have turned in a major way.
In their last 19 games, the Nats are averaging 5.53 runs per game, a jump of nearly two runs per night over their previous season average. They’re hitting .300 as a team, have posted a robust .373 on-base percentage and are slugging .455.
The baserunners have been there. The power has been there. The runs - most importantly - have been there.
Denard Span currently has a 12-game hitting streak going, during which he’s batting .388 and getting on base at a .444 clip. Ryan Zimmerman has hits in 12 of his last 15 games, and has a .328/.406/.492 line during that stretch.
Bryce Harper is riding an 11-game hitting streak, with two homers and six doubles in there. He’s reached base in exactly half of his 52 plate appearances during that time. Ian Desmond has been pretty solid all season, but he’s really gotten hot over the last few weeks, batting .370 with four homers in his last 18 games.
And Jayson Werth, well, do we even need to delve into details on how hot Werth has been?
He has a quiet little .412/.505/.671 slash line in August. No big deal.
Yeah, I’d say hitting can be contagious.
“One guy has a good AB or whatever, I think everybody starts having good ABs,” Harper said after last night’s 9-0 Nats win. “One guy hits, everybody hits.”
It’s sure seemed that way of late.
The Nats scored eight runs or more in a game 11 times over their first 114 contests. They’ve now done it six times in this red-hot 19 game stretch.
Health has certainly played a part in things. Werth and Harper have battled various ailments but appear to be feeling pretty good right now. Desmond missed a couple games with back and hamstring issues, but he hasn’t been limited by those issues recently. Wilson Ramos is back in the starting lineup on a everyday basis after multiple hamstring problems this season.
A few mechanical adjustments have also been made. Werth is putting his hands higher before the pitch to help get a better swing plane. Harper is standing more upright, decreasing the tension in his swing and allowing things to be more fluid.
But it’s more than just that. Guys don’t seem to be pressing right now, or, as Davey Johnson loves to say, they’re not trying to do too much. You don’t have guys trying to hit grand slams when there’s no one on base. You don’t see as many poor swings at 3-1 pitches of late.
There seems to be a faith that if one guy takes a walk in a big spot, the guy behind him will get the job done. When the Nats were struggling earlier this season, Johnson feels certain hitters might have been trying to carry the team on their back as opposed to just doing their part and trusting that everyone else will chip in, as well.
Regardless, the Nats are going good right now, and with a couple teams coming up who are struggling in the pitching department (the Mets and Phillies), there might be more crooked numbers getting posted in the days ahead.