Inbox: Who has been Nats' biggest surprise?

Beat reporter Bill Ladson answers questions from fans

September 15th, 2016

Who do you think is the most pleasant surprise on the Nationals this year

-- Renee R., Springfield, Va.

I have to pick , because of the way he changed his swing and helped the Nationals off the bench. When the Nats signed Drew last December, my reaction was "Why?" I thought we would see a lot of strikeouts and inconsistency at the plate. All I've seen is consistency off the bench.

How far do you think the Nationals could go in the postseason?

-- Daniel J., Washington

I want to say the Nationals can go all the way to the World Series, but I can't right now. I want to see how the bullpen and offense perform the rest of the regular season before I make my prediction.

The Nats' bullpen doesn't scare opponents, and it's not a shutdown bullpen like the Royals had last year. Who are Washington's lefties out of the 'pen? has been inconsistent, and is currently on the disabled list. We don't know if he is going to be ready for October. I hope gets a chance to pitch in the postseason.

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Unlike 2012 and '14, one hopes that the Nationals' offense can do a better job in the playoffs. It helps that Washington has as a table setter and to help carry the offense.

Do you think will be ready to pitch in the postseason?

-- Neil P., Washington

It's hard for me to see how Strasburg would be able to pitch in the postseason. If you look at the Nationals' history under general manager Mike Rizzo, they have never rushed an injured pitcher to be ready for the regular season or the postseason. The organization handles arms with care. They did it with , and many other pitchers in their system.

Look at what the Nats did in 2012. Strasburg was on an innings limit and wasn't going to pitch in the postseason, even though he was having a good year.

Why do you call "The King" on Twitter?

-- Jerry B., Washington

I gave him that nickname because he helped turned the clubhouse from unprofessional to first class. Prior to Werth joining the Nationals in 2011, going into that clubhouse was like walking on eggshells. Most of those players acted like they were superstars, and they weren't. I felt winning wasn't the top priority until Werth came along.

What do you think of the job has done this year?

-- Christen B., Washington

On a scale of 1-7, I would give Espinosa a 6 1/2, mostly because of his glove. He deserves the National League Gold Glove Award at shortstop this year. Espinosa will be the first to say that he needs to improve his offense, which I think he will.

Was Murphy what you expected this season?

-- Vinnie R., New York

What Murphy has done is far more than what anyone expected. He never had a season like the one he is having now. Murphy is clearly the MVP of the team. I don't know where the team would be without him. If Murphy wasn't on the team, the Nationals would have a tough time scoring runs.

What do you think of Dusty Baker as a manager? I know you often said Davey Johnson is the best manager you ever covered. Where does Baker rank as far as Nationals manager go?

-- Harvey L., San Francisco

Johnson is still tops in my book, but I have to put Baker as second best. The players are more relaxed than they ever were under Matt Williams. After a loss, there isn't a panic in the clubhouse. It's like tomorrow is another day. The only criticism I have of Baker is that he sticks with slumping players too long. The way he kept using Michael Taylor and was baffling, in my opinion. It reminded me of how Frank Robinson kept playing Vinny Castilla and Cristian Guzman.