The Washington Nationals lost another game on Thursday afternoon; they were swept by the Detroit Tigers in a 8-3 loss. Nats fans all around were excited for the promise of this season early. Strasburg was going to come up at some point, the team was 5 games above .500 a month into the season, they were competing with every team.
Then, all of a sudden, the offense stopped scoring. The pitching stopped getting outs (with a 2 game Strasburg exception). The defense's errors skyrocketed. The fun atmosphere in the clubhouse seemed to decrease, which have a tendency to happen when you start losing. But it begs the question... what happened to the Nats from April and May?
Starting with the good, the Nats as a team have the 2nd most saves in all of baseball with 22. This is a more important stat than people realize, because it means when our closers get the lead, they keep it most of the time. Unfortunately, the closers aren't getting the lead too much.
The Nats bats haven't been doing it lately. To be clear, they're not bad. They're just not good, either: 13th overall in batting average, 15th in home runs, 18th in RBI, 16th in hits. A strong showing of mediocrity. I posted earlier about the Nats struggles to score runs, and they're on a skid now with the same problem. Although Adam Dunn is certainly doing his part. He's hitting .288 with 16 home runs (2nd in the NL). He's hit homers in 6 of his last 9 games.
The pitching is what you'd expect from out rotation as well, and using a 2-game old rookie as your "stopper" for losing streaks isn't going to cut it for long. Strasburg can't do it all, as much as we all would like to believe he's the Baseball Messiah of the 21st Century. The Nats are 18th in ERA, 21st in WHIP, and 29th (ouch) in strikeouts.
So I think what it comes down to is: the Nats aren't very good, but they're not terrible, and that's what we're seeing in their 31-36 record. They'll certainly move closer to .500 again this year, and then they'll fluctuate back down. But one thing is for sure. As disappointing as their performance has been this month, they're record puts them at 21st out of 30 teams in the MLB. A far cry from where they were last year at this point in the year (dead last, in case you've forgotten that pain). And they'd have to have an historic losing streak in order to get back to where they were last season.
There is hope for Nats fans, in the long run. This is a marked improvement over the last two seasons 205 losses. As I predicted, the Nats have just come down to earth, and it is so hard to watch now because they were playing so well. It's hard when you're frustrated to feel good about this year, but just remember where they were just one year ago.
The future of Washington's rotation, SS, is pitching tomorrow against Gavin Floyd to try to be the stopper yet again in only his 3rd MLB start. The Nats are expecting another great crowd, so stay tuned to see if Strasburg can stay relatively perfect this year. Eventually, he's got to blow one, right? Right? I hope not...