Some positive early-season developments (non-bullpen division)

You know what the dominant storyline of the Nationals’ season has been to date. It’s been the overriding narrative in nearly all of their 14 games so far.

Which sometimes pushes other players and facets of this team out of the spotlight, through no fault of their own.

So as a new week begins and the Nationals prepare to host the Giants for three games, let’s talk about some players and some performances without resorting to using the “B word” ...

* Though individually they haven’t all hit their stride quite yet, the Nats rotation collectively has been very good so far. The group sports a 3.69 ERA, ninth-best in the majors. Perhaps more impressively, Nationals starters are averaging 6.10 innings per game, most in the majors.

Yes, some of that may be a reflection of Davey Martinez’s hesitance to turn to his bull... er, non-starters until he absolutely has to. But Nats starters are pitching well enough, and efficiently enough, to merit staying in the game.

They’ve recorded at least one out in the seventh inning in six of 14 games. And they’ve completed at least seven innings four times, including all three games over the weekend against the Pirates. All of this while topping the 100-pitch mark only three times.

* The lineup, despite some individuals still trying to find their rhythm at the plate, has been very productive, especially in meaningful situations.

The Nationals are batting a collective .317 with runners in scoring position, best in baseball. Their .960 OPS in those situations ranks second only to the Phillies (1.021).

rendon-watches-homer-blue-sidebar.jpgLeading the way with runners in scoring position: Adam Eaton (.400, 6-for-15), Yan Gomes (.400, 4-for-10), Victor Robles (.333, 3-for-9), Anthony Rendon (.333, 5-for-15) and Juan Soto (.316, 6-for-19). And that doesn’t even take into consideration Kurt Suzuki, Howie Kendrick, Trea Turner and Max Scherzer, all batting .500 with runners in scoring position but with six or fewer at-bats.

* There’s still work to be done to clean things up on the bases and in the field, but here are two specific areas where the Nationals are doing very well: Stealing bases and preventing stolen bases.

Nats baserunners are 9-for-10 on stolen base attempts so far. And though the injured Turner is responsible for four of those steals, the others are contributing in his absence, taking extra bases when the time is right. The team’s 90 percent success rate is second-best in the majors, trailing only the Rays (94 percent, 15-for-16).

And on the flip side, Nationals pitchers and catchers have combined to catch 56 percent of would-be basestealers (5-of-9). That’s the second-best rate in the majors, behind only the Orioles (71 percent, 5-of-7).

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