I've seen lots of reaction from people about the Nationals disappointing start this April. With all of the expectations surrounding the Nats entering the 2013 season, people have taken to extreme levels of concern over this season's struggles relative to the feeling of last season's success. The Nationals, as far as record, got off to an extremely hot start in 2012. They were 12-4 by this point last year while they're 10-9 so far this season. However, there are a host of reasons why, despite your inclination to panic, you should step way, way off the ledge.
- Run Support: Last season, Nats scored 74 runs in all of April. So far this year, they've scored exactly 74 runs, and there are still eight games left this month. The Nats are going far eclipse their runs scored last April, and some are still concerned about last of run support. Imagine how concerned they'd be last season, a season when the Nats ultimately won 98 games, if the pitching wasn't quite as good in April.
- Strength of Schedule: Last April, the Nats started the seasons with the Cubs, Mets, Reds, Astros, Marlins, and Padres. Every team except for the Reds finished below .500 out of that crop last season. This April, the Nats started with the Marlins, Mets, Reds, White Sox, Braves, and Cardinals. Of those teams, just the Marlins and Mets finished below .500 last season, and the Mets are off to an extremely hot start this year, scoring 25 more runs already than the Nationals have, and they're currently sitting in second place in the NL East.
It makes sense that the Nats have a worse record than they did last season at this point. They're playing better teams. April is arguably the hardest month on the Nats schedule all season, and May is no slouch either. Things get a lot more friendly as the summer wears on, so unlike last year, the Nats may not blow their competition away with a huge lead early in the season.
- Strengths (Temporarily) Became Weaknesses: The reason the Nationals had such a dominant April was certainly affected by their opponents, but pitching was also historically good and the defense was nothing like it has been so far this season. The offense struggled a whole lot last April, much worse than this year, but they were able to get by on that pitching and defense.
This year, the pitching hasn't met expectations early, and the defense has committed the most errors in baseball. Both of these things will work themselves out as the season wears on. It may not be possible for the pitching to be as good as it was in 2012, but players typically, except for a few outliers, simply don't forget how to play defense. Those numbers will even out in a big way.
Only a few players on the 25-man roster, including Bryce Harper, Ross Detwiler, Jordan Zimmermann, have actually met their elevated expectations this season. With most of the guys on the team, including Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Dan Haren, Ryan Zimmerman, and a bunch of bullpen and other position players, the best is yet to come. Being frustrated after a loss or a string of losses is natural, but claiming the season is over in April with 143 games remaining and a team that has a better than .500 record is not.