21 July 2013

Are the Nationals going to get it together this year?

Manager Davey Johnson
A preseason darling of many, including myself, the Washington Nationals may just be the biggest disappointment in baseball this year. After coming out after the All-Star Break and getting swept by the Dodgers of Los Angeles, they are now sitting at 48-50, in third place in the NL East and seven games out of the Wild Card. Are they going to be able to avoid having 2013 be labeled a disappointment and make the playoffs?

As for the club's chances of putting together a run to make the postseason, they are all but nonexistent. Sports Club Stats puts it as just a 2.6 percent. Considering how tremendous the top three clubs in the NL Central, with the Pirates and the Reds in firm hold of the Wild Card race, and how well the Braves have played even with injury issues, I doubt that anybody is surprised that their chances are slim.

But how have the Nats gotten to this point? The biggest reason has been their disappointing offense, which has generated only 362 runs this year, tying them with the White Sox for the second worst in the majors. They have the fourth lowest batting average at .240 and the third worst on-base percentage at an even .300. It has not helped that Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper, their top two weapons in their lineup, have been disappointments this year, relatively speaking as both were All-Stars.

What has compounded the problem is that while the pitching staff as a whole has been very good, it has not been as sterling as it was one year ago, when the case could have been made that it was the finest staff in baseball. Statistically speaking, they are a little worse across the board and while the top of the rotation (Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez) has been strong, the back-end has been subpar, especially Dan Haren who has been awful. When the offense is struggling like it has, it puts a lot of pressure on a pitching staff that has not been as strong as hoped.

Now, you can never say never but it will be a mighty task for the club to make it to October. In order to do it, they may have to swing a deal to get a strong back to bring some punch to a mediocre lineup, but would they be willing to deal with one of their hurlers to do so?

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