Maybe. We'll see. It's no secret Bryce Harper is struggling mightily even when Angel Hernandez isn't behind the plate trying to draw attention to himself by screwing over a popular player with terrible calls. Not only has he hit .176 / .276 / .541 in the second half, his monthly trending has been straight down since he started playing:
May: .271 /.355 /.505
June: .274 / .336 / .443
July: .222 / .306 / .313
August: .188 / .297 / .281
Hidden is that is a drop in power along with the average. isoSLG that went from .234 (for a season that'd skirt the Top 25) to .169 to settling in the .090s in July and August (for a season that'd be among the worst for everyday players).
The comparisons with Trout, who's hitting nearly .100 pts higher, are over and done; and what once seemed like a slam dunk ROY case is now up for grabs. Bryce needs something and a day off is as good as any place to start.
Davey had been avoiding this like the plague. Bryce's started pretty much every game for the Nats since he's been called up and in the rare ones he hasn't started he's been used to pinch hit. Unless I messed up (always a possibility) there are only two games he didn't participate in, one-half of a double header and a game where he was scratched due to a stomach bug. I'm in the "let good players play out of slumps" camp so it's hard for me to say this, but I think Davey is a couple weeks late on trying this.
What's gone wrong with Bryce? It's hard to say. Sure he's striking out a bit more now than in May, but he struck out the most in June and that month was ok. you might say he's getting unlucky with BABIP (.212 so far in August) but he's also hit 0 line drives so far this month. The nearest I can tell it's two things, the same two things you've heard before, he's getting no fastballs to hit and he's getting no strikes to hit. Based on the numbers Kilgore put out and where they stand now he's been getting even fewer fastballs (that percentage is down to 45.1%) but a few more balls in the zone (up to 39.2%), so the key seems to be the lack of fastballs. He's seeing junk, junk and more junk and even seeing it more in the zone now and he can't hit it. Take a look at this daily graph of GB/FB/LD. Bryce relied a lot on crushing deep flyballs early on, now he's hitting everything into the ground. Anything with a break he's getting over top of.
Would I be worried about this? Hell no. He's NINETEEN. It's his rookie year. Sorry he's not perfect. Worry about this... I don't know... in 2015, when he's 22? There will be growing pains but everyone is buying into the kid. Better yet the Nats have proved they don't need Bryce to be a stud to win. The pitching is that good.
What would I do? Last night marked Bryce's 110th game of this season (combined minors and majors). Last year he played 109 and THAT was the most he played in a single year. The Nats don't need Bryce to win so every 10 games or so, give the kid a breather, a full day off. No PH. No defensive replacement. Let the kid rest.
As for the team, they are still winning ugly games. They aren't scoring as many runs vs the Astros as you'd like but you'll trade W's for runs anytime. I'm sure they'll face SF next week and win three straight 13-12 slugfests just because it's been that kind of year. Anyway, pitching is still that good. Rinse. Repeat. Pennant.