The Washington Nationals have found themselves in a very unfamiliar position of looking way up at the National League East standings. The Nats, who currently sit at 7-9, are six games back of the division-leading New York Mets and are two games under .500 for the first time since mid-2015. Other than that, things are great for Nats rookie skipper Davey Martinez, right?
What has to happen for the Nationals to break out of this odd early season slump? Don’t blame Bryce Harper, who has blasted 7 home runs already, and has an on-base percentage of .479. Don’t blame ace Max Scherzer either, who has 3 wins, an 1.33 ERA and 38 strikeouts.
Harper is on pace for over 70 home runs, but Nationals are 7-9. Even though Scherzer is 3-1, 1.33 ERA.
Can't even blame the Murphy injury because Kendrick and Difo have been hitting decently.
Bullpen is 0-4 though.
— (((tedfrank))) (@tedfrank) April 15, 2018
Who does the blame fall upon then? Look to the “slow starters” off of the bats of Ryan Zimmerman (.122 BA), Trea Turner (.203 BA) and Michael A. Taylor (.193 BA). Those batting averages are abysmal at best, especially when you consider Max Scherzer is batting .300. These trends likely won’t continue throughout the entire season, and the Nationals need to figure out a way to grind out close games when the bats continue to go silent.
Surely GM Mike Rizzo (fresh off a contract extension) can’t be the sole person to blame when the team is showing its flaws early on and making weak contact almost with every at bat. The starting pitching has been fairly solid, with the exception of the rough early season debut of A.J. Cole (12.00 ERA)
— WashTimes Sports (@WashTimesSports) April 14, 2018
Alright, Nats fans, where are the bright spots that we can look to outside of Bryce Harper, Max Scherzer, and Stephen Strasburg? Daniel Murphy has yet to join the team this season, which should provide a spark for when he does re-enter the lineup. Adam Eaton (.345 BA) should be available to the team again soon after a scary-looking injury that ended up being a bone bruise that the Nats are being extremely cautious with. Also, Howie Kendrick (.314) has been a pleasant surprise for the Nationals in left field, and he seems to mesh well with the rest of the team. Anthony Rendon also seems to be coming around, as he has had at least one hit in all but two his games played.
Sean Doolittle said he thinks Nats are close to turning things around. Stephen Strasburg said they just need to stay together and find a way to grind through this tough stretch.
— Dan Kolko (@masnKolko) April 15, 2018
Injuries and slumps are a part of any baseball season, and the Nationals appear to have the talent to bounce back from this early season drought. However, the large number of divisional games that the Nationals have lost early in the season are concerning, since many experts felt that these would be the “easiest” games of the entire season. The aspects the Nationals have on their side are that they have a ton of games left to play, a rookie manager who is smart enough to figure out how to tinker with this loaded lineup, and solid starters who will make the adjustments in order to get back on track. The panic button is a tad premature to push at this point, but let’s at least not forget where to find it, just in case.