Don’t look now, but some of the guys on this team are actually hitting. Throughout the season, Mike Morse has been a great hitter, but nobody else has done it consistently. Danny Espinosa started out great, but hasn’t really hit since the beginning of July. The same relative time frame can be said about Laynce Nix. But all of sudden, if you are paying attention, you’ll notice that some other guys are actually hitting for this team.
Ian Desmond has experienced a resurgance of hitting in the last few weeks. Since July 6, about a week before the All Star break, he is hitting .292/.373/.446. Even if you don’t include last night’s game with the HR, his OPS was .753 over that span. It’s probably nothing more than a hot streak, but it has raised his OPS 48 points in that time. If he can do it for another 20 games, or even more, he’ll finish the season with numbers that aren’t SO bad for a starting SS.
Jayson Werth is also in the midst of a hot streak. His dates back to the All Star break on the dot. Since his return from the time off (no, he did not get selected this year) he has hit .288/.400/.475, but he’s looked even better in his last 12 games. From July 19, he’s hit .341/.442/.591. That can defined as a legitimate hot streak, I think, and unlike the numbers Desi has put up, is even hot for a GOOD hitter. Whether this is because of the time off, or just pure luck, we may never know. But we can certainly count this as a good sign that Werth never completely lost his ability to hit. With its return this last 2 weeks, I have some confidence that it won’t disappear permanently.
Of all the hitters on these hot streaks, Rick Ankiel is the most remarkable to me. It is both because of the length of the streak, the production, and who it is. I never doubted that Werth would emerge from his slump, the question was just “when?”. As for Desmond, he is young enough that I held on hope that all wasn’t lost with his bat. But Ankiel is a 31 year old who has never gotten on base in his career. His value was always from his power (and fielding) but that power hadn’t been present since 2008. Yet, he has been downright great since the beginning of July.
In the month of July, he started 12 games, and played in 25 total for 63 plate appearances. In that span, he hit .327/.387/.491. That OPS of .878 would rank him 4th in all of baseball among the 17 qualified CFers. Expand that list to the 32 guys who have 225 PAs or more, and it still ranks 4th. This is all well and good, but then August happened. 3 home runs in 2 games has raised his rates since July 1 all the way up to .328/.380/.609. Not surprisingly, that .990 OPS ranks tops in the majors (although just barely over Matt Kemp’s .987 – man that guy is good) among all center fielders.
The problem with Ankiel’s great display is that it is of course, temporary. It is good to see he still has some power, and it is possible he could finish the year continuing to hit home runs, which would be terrific. But his track record is long enough that he isn’t going to turn into another person. This hot streak will die, and the big question will be what kind of hitter he will be when it does.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Ryan Zimmerman, who has also been hitting well of late. Coming back from injury in mid-June, he was hitting .219/.303/.362 for the season after an 0 for 7 (with 2 BBs) in a double header on July 2. Since then, he’s played in 25 games, had 106 plate appearances, and hit .351/.406/.474. It’s not the most powerful of his hitting streaks, but he is still hitting the ball plenty.
Despite the lack of solid pitching the last few weeks, the hitting has come around a bit. They’re still towards the bottom of the league in runs scored, but it’s something. And its an indication that at some point, when the whole team is hitting at once, they could have a formidable lineup (ok, probably not including Ankiel, but you never know).