Thursday, June 23, 2011

Satisfied with .500? The Nats Aren't.

During the game last night, when Drew Storen struck out Chone Figgins, Nationals Park erupted with another Curly W that brought the Nats home record to 21-13 on the season and a 37-37 record overall. Throughout the clubhouse, though, you hear players from Lannan to Zimmerman saying that they're not satisfied with a .500 record. Mac talked about that a bit on CapBall this morning.

But should you be satisfied with .500? In some ways, it feels sad and just a bit crazy to be so jazzed to simply be average. In the grand scheme of this Nationals franchise, though, a .500 record in late-June feels like a World Series victory compared with the last 5 seasons of relative ineptitude.

In other ways, you have to look at what got the Nats to this spot. The Nats are 14-6 in June and have won 10 of their last 11 games. They're going for their 3rd sweep in 4 series this afternoon against the Mariners. Not to mention, they're getting out-of-body pitching from guys like John Lannan and the entire bullpen. To focus on Lannan, his BABIP in June has been an outstandingly low .207 and has left 97% of runners on base. His season averages for those stats are .279 and 78.2%, respectively. These are just a few reasons why this current pace and record might not be sustainable.

But there are lots of things that this team has that no other Nationals team has had yet. There's a different kind of confidence with this team, a new kind of swagger. Not to mention, this team has a future together. Unlike the ragged bunch of rentals that the Nats played with in 2005, the key players with this Nats team are here to stay, and they're no slouches: Zimmerman, Werth, Espinosa, Ramos, Storen.

Finally, just remember this. Getting to .500 on June 22nd means that the Nats have the chance to start fresh. It's like having a 0-0 record with an 88-game season ahead. And to the Nats benefit, they're going on a short road trip to play two teams that are playing well below what was expected of them, the White Sox and the Angels. Then they will return to DC for 11 games (including a doubleheader on July 2) against the Pirates (4), Cubs (4), and Rockies (3). The next 17 games before the All-Star Break will really give the Nats the opportunity to show themselves, their coaches, and their fans, that they're ready to put their money where their mouth is and jump above .500 going into the Break. It sure will make for a fun 2nd half if they can.

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