30 in 30: The Washington Nationals
2016 Record: 95-67
2016 Finish: 3rd in MLB, 2nd in NL
2016 in Review
Daniel Murphy put together one hell of a year in 2016. He had Career Highs in RBIs with 104, 2Bs with 47, Home Runs with 25, and he was hit by more pitches than another year in his career! HOORAY! In all seriousness, Daniel Murphy was the signing of the year. Washington took a gamble on a guy who got hot in October and it paid off. Murphy hit an incredible .347 and an boasted an OPS of .989. At the end of 2016, Daniel Murphy’s WAR was 4.6.
Daniel Murphy is the reason, besides Max Scherzer, the Nationals got to playoffs. HE MURDERED THE NL EAST. In 2015 the Nationals were a not great against the NL East posting a 44-32 record, however, in 2016 the Nats were 51-25 against their division, one of the main reasons they took the division as easily as they did. Murphy is the reason they did. Murph hit .370 against the NL East and 50 of his 104 RBIs came within the division. Daniel Murphy was a lightning rod for the Nationals this year and down south, they hope it continues.
But if there's someone who hopes it doesn't continue it's Bryce Harper. No matter where Daniel Murphy hit, be it in front of Bryce or behind Bryce, Murphy saw the great pitches. Bryce Harper's .243 2016 is in direct correlation to Daniel Murphy and the potency of the Nationals offense.
In 2015, Bryce Harper was the Nationals offense, the poor guy was doing it all by himself. In the follow-up to his MVP season, Harper had help from his surrounding teammates. Wilson Ramos, Anthony Rendon, Trea Turner, even Jayson Werth got in the mix, but Daniel Murphy helped the most. When Bryce Harper began his intentional walk streak early in the season, Daniel Murphy kept on chugging away. In fact, once Dusty Baker moved Murphy to the cleanup spot behind Harper, Murphy exploded.
Murphy's offensive explosion also came at a time when pitchers began to figure out Bryce Harper's weakness. Bryce Harper has a hard time hitting "Hard Stuff." Harper saw a significant spike in Four Seam Fastball, Curveballs and Sinkers in 2016. Pitchers found that if they went after Harper they could get him out easier. Plus there's also the thought that Murphy was bound to regress at any point. Going right at Harper and then trying to figure out Murphy is the best course of action when faced with the 2016 Nationals lineup. Murphy has to bat after Harper for this lineup to work, because if it's the other way around his happens:
The Nationals made an all out effort to get every top free agent that was available this winter and came up with Adam Eaton, who they had to trade their future away for. Eaton wasn't even the top Centerfielder they could have gone with, but they still traded away the top pitching prospect for him. A day after the trade went through, a very upset and angry Danny Espinosa reportedly left the Winter Fan Fest for the Nats and it was soon announced he was being shipped out as well. Is Danny Espinosa the guy who would take you to a World Series? No, hell no, but he still gave everything he had to the Nats while he was there and he deserved better than to be kicked out, because you need to make room for Trea Turner at Shortstop, because you traded for Adam Eaton. These moves have forced written all over them, much like the move to acquire Jonathan Papelbon in 2015, and they have a quiet desperation attached as well. These moves don't exude confidence, they smell of worry. And you can read about all of that worry HERE.