Stephen Strasburg is one of three Washington Nationals starting pitchers… (Greg Fiume / Getty Images )
Here's something few predicted in spring training: The Washington Nationals are the first team to reach 70 wins this season.
Armed with a pitching staff that had the National League's lowest earned-run average, 3.21, the Nationals' record through Friday was 70-43. They were atop the NL East — where they've spent most of the season — 41/2 games ahead of the Atlanta Braves.
Three of their starting pitchers — Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg and Ross Detwiler — have ERAs under 3.00. And Gio Gonzalez leads the team in wins, with a record of 14-6, and has an ERA of 3.32.
Strasburg notched his 13th win Friday in Washington's 9-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Nationals' seventh consecutive victory.
Washington's offense is led by Adam LaRoche, who has 23 home runs and 74 runs batted in, followed by Ian Desmond (17 HRs, 53 RBIs) and Ryan Zimmerman (16 HRs, 62 RBIs).
Then there's Bryce Harper, the ballyhooed 19-year-old rookie. After making this year's All-Star team, Harper has batted .173 since the break.
After Harper got into a heated argument with plate umpire Angel Hernandez on Wednesday, Manager Davey Johnson kept Harper out of the starting lineup the next day, saying his young outfielder was "pressing a little bit."
Mike Trout's value
The Angels are struggling to stay close to the Texas Rangers in the American League West, and imagine the challenge if the Angels didn't have heralded rookie Mike Trout.
Actually, there's a statistic for that scenario. Called "wins above replacement", it's one of the numbers sabermetric folks use to summarize a player's overall value, and it combines hitting, base running and defense.
We'll spare you how it's calculated — and pitchers are calculated a bit differently than position players — but in effect WAR answers this question: If the player was lost, how much value would the team lose?
It's expressed in wins, as in how many wins does the player add to the team above what a replacement would bring.
Trout, who turned 21 last week, had the highest WAR in the AL through Friday: 7.0 wins, according to baseball-reference.com.
Trout was more than one full win ahead of the second-place player on the list, Robinson Cano of the New York Yankees at 5.4.
Ready for some November baseball?
Major League Baseball said this year's World Series is scheduled to start Oct. 24. If a Game 7 is necessary, it's scheduled for Nov. 1.