When you talk about Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker, he has had a great impact on this club over the last year or so. After Matt Williams’ disappointing tenure in D.C., Baker has gotten the team to the postseason once and they are off to a strong start in 2017 (17-8).
Nationals’ skipper Dusty Baker explained today, Taylor will get the first opportunity with Eaton out.
While the Nationals called up Rafael Bautista, ranked No. 13 on MLB.com’s list of the Nats’ top prospects, who impressed in Spring Training and got off to a good start at Triple-Syracuse early this season, it’s going to be Taylor getting the first shot in center with Eaton out as Baker explained when asked how he saw things playing out with Eaton unavailable.
“You see it on who plays the best,” Baker said, “probably it’s Michael gets one more opportunity or two, but you’ve got to realize that it could take a while to get your timing, get everything together because you’re not playing.”
“Plus we’re playing some pretty good pitchers here,” Baker added.
We face Taijuan Walker, and then we face Robbie Ray and we face [Zack] Greinke, so those are guys that are tough on whoever is out there, so I’m going to give him a few days and then we’ll make an assessment, but this is an opportunity with Michael.
“I told him this morning he’s been very blessed to keep getting these opportunities, because you’ve got to capitalize on them, because this is a lifetime of opportunity for him. He’s arbitration-eligible, he’s trying to get an every day job back, so just play ball, that’s the main thing, just play.”
“Our lineup is absolutely dumb,” Bryce Harper said Friday afternoon. “It’s insane how good it can be.” Next-level analysis from the right fielder aside, he’s right. Roll out the numbers and take a moment to study them, even before April ends.
The Nationals entered a weekend series against the going-the-other-way Mets leading all of baseball in batting average (. 284), on-base percentage (. 361) and slugging percentage (. 481). They’re on-base-plus slugging percentage of .842 not only makes it seem like every hitter in the lineup is Carl Yastrzemski, whose career OPS of .842 is worthy of the Hall of Famer he is, but entering Friday it was 49 points better than the next-best team. A 49-point gap covers the teams that ranked second through 11th.
“We’ve all been swinging the bat ridiculously,” first baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. “I’m not going to hit .390, and Harp’s not going to hit .430. We all understand. But I think besides the numbers, the at-bats we have, and the thing we’re able to do throughout the entire lineup is to put pressure on pitchers in a way we haven’t before.”
Zimmerman’s point is correct: these stats aren’t sustainable. The Nationals’ current OPS would be the second-highest this century, and even after Friday’s series opener against the Mets, there are 139 games remaining. We’re just getting started.