The Nats won a MLB-leading 98 games in 2012 and were the favorites to win it all this year, but they’re 26-24 with a -20 run differential through the first 50 games, 4.5 games behind Atlanta. After two months of scuffling, they seem lucky to be on the good side of .500.
It’s kinda hard to be a winning club when you hit like shit:
— 28th in batting average (.230)
— 29th in on-base percentage (.294)
— 28th in slugging percentage (.367)
— 28th in runs (3.5 per game)
— 23rd in home runs (43)
And when you have individual performances like this:
— Stephen Strasburg is 3-5.
— Denard Span’s OPS is .670, which would be the lowest of his career.
— Adam LaRoche’s OPS is .743, which would also be the lowest of his career.
— Dan Haren’s ERA is 5.43, which would be the highest of his career.
— Rafael Soriano has blown three saves.
— Drew Storen has also blown three saves.
— Danny Espinosa’s slashline is .163/.196/.291.
— Tyler Moore’s slashline is even worse (.147/.207/.240).
— And Roger Bernadina’s slashline is even worse (.113, .191, .145).
Also when you’ve had several injuries to key players:
— Bryce Harper has missed six games.
— Ryan Zimmerman has missed 14 games.
— Jayson Werth has missed 23 games.
— Wilson Ramos has two trips to the DL.
So what’s their saving grace? Well, the starting pitching. Despite Strasburg’s record, Haren’s ERA and the bullpen’s struggles, the Nats are still seventh in ERA (3.48) and tied for fourth in WHIP (1.22). As expected, the rotation is awesome, or at least four-fifths awesome.
Jordan Zimmermann is a Cy Young candidate. Gio Gonzalez is basically the same studly bro we know and love. Ross Detwiler doesn’t go deep, but he does keep runs down (though he is on the DL). And Strasburg is the same as he ever was, if not better (23 IP his last three starts).
That pretty much has to continue, and the offense has to rebound. The good news is, aside from Bryce Harper and Ian Desmond, no one in the lineup is playing up to expectation, and there doesn’t seem to be any real reason for it. This is a team that scored the fifth-most runs in the NL last year after all.
The bad news is the bench has turned into a pumpkin. Mike Morse isn’t walking through that door. Espinosa doesn’t look like a rebound candidate. And Harper says his knee “probably won’t get better until the offseason.”
So maybe the bats don’t come around, and it’s on ZNN, Stras and Gio to carry them. With a start like this, they’ll be thankful for those 26 wins, three games off last year’s team at the 50-game mark.