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Nationals' pitchers: They can hit, too

By Dayn Perry | Baseball Writer
Stephen Strasburg, flashing his other skill. (Getty Images)

We already know that the pitching staff of the first-place Nationals is very good at, you know, pitching. But they're also dominating at the plate, at least by the standards of, you know, pitchers.

Consider that the Nats' hurlers right now have an OPS of .507, while the second-place staff, that of the Mets, has an OPS of .408. In other words, in terms of getting on base and hitting for power, Nats pitchers are about 100 points of OPS better than their closest competitors. To put a finer point on it, Washington pitchers have a 2012 slash line of .188/.240/.267, while the average NL pitcher is hitting .130/.166/.164. That's a significant difference.

In historical terms, the Nats are also faring well. If you take a Fangraphs stat called weighted runs created and adjust it for park and league (wRC+) and compare the 2012 Nationals to every NL pitching staff in the DH era (i.e., from 1973 onward), we find that the Nats rank 16th in wRC+ over that span, just behind the 1980 Phillies and just ahead of the 1996 Braves.

Is this likely to last? Maybe. However, it's worth noting that much of the success of Nats pitchers at the plate this season is owing to Stephen Strasburg's outstanding numbers.

Coming into 2012, Strasburg had only one hit in 26 career at-bats. This season, however, he's 12-for-35 with an OPS of .953. That's a small sample size, of course, but the same goes for his prior struggles at the plate. It's certainly unlikely that Strasburg is a "true" .953-OPS hitter, but he could be a genuinely productive bat as pitchers go. So perhaps that's another hidden cost to the much-discussed innings limit.

In any case, Nationals pitchers thus far are excelling at everything an NL hurler is supposed to do. It's just one more reason the Nats have legitimate designs on the pennant.

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