The Nationals are currently experiencing a problem they haven’t really had in their years in Washington: Ryan Zimmerman might not be the team’s best player at his position. Sure, there was a time when a prospect named Anthony Rendon was lurking behind Zim on the organizational depth chart at 3rd base, but it was easy enough to relocate Rendon to second for a while. Now, however, they face a situation where backup 1st baseman / injury replacement / homer-robbing outfielder (!!) Matt Adams has really been the best hitter on the team.
My most prized possession in this world is a signed Ryan Zimmerman Nats jersey. I wore it to every home game I attended for a span of years until, two winters ago, I met Zim at an event and he signed it. Now, it holds a special place in my closet until I find the wall space required to hang it on the wall.
About two-and-a-half weeks ago, fellow TNB writer Nathaniel Brose thoroughly detailed Trea Turner’s increased selectiveness at the plate. Like many of us, she was waiting for Turner to start hitting. Trea has been getting on base all year — he has failed to reach base in only six games in 2018. Coming into play on the on April 11, he was slashing a paltry .195/.340/.268. He had just one extra-base hit in that span too, a home run.
It’s no secret that the Nationals have a pretty deadly starting pitching staff. Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Tanner Roark, when they’re all on their game, are enough to upset any opposing hitters. And while the Nationals have gotten off to a shaky start, the starting pitching has put them on their backs, and they’re the main reason the Nationals are treading water.
The season started out great, didn’t it? The Nats won their first four games by a combined score of 29-13. Granted, those games came against the lowly Reds and a team that served as the Nats’ doormat the last few years, the Atlanta Braves (who are….probably better than that now). Then came a five-game losing streak, which turned into a 3-7 homestand, which turned into a 7-16 stretch.
Obviously, injuries and bad luck have played a part in their current record (15-16). It’s still very early, and the schedule could be shaping up nicely the rest of the way. Plus, some light has shone through early this week with wins against the Diamondbacks and Pirates.
Let’s dig a little deeper and have a look at the lineup, the starters and the relievers through the first month-plus, including some players who are standing out and some who are struggling. Obviously, sample sizes caveats are in play throughout.
As of Wednesday morning, the Washington Nationals are in fourth place and 4.5 games back of 1st place in the NL East, a division they were supposed to run away with. Though they have dug themselves something of a hole, all is not lost.
For the first time in what seems like forever, it’s May, and that Washington Nationals aren’t in first place in the National League East.
Why? Well, the bullpen hasn’t helped.
Five to ten years ago, talking heads in baseball may have been calling for 24-year-old phenom Trea Turner to be sent down. After all, the NC State product is hitting just .236 in the first month of the season. Forced into the leadoff spot following Adam Eaton’s absence, it has been frustrating to see him unable to produce base hits. Yet there he is halfway through April, sporting a .368 OBP thanks to a 17.2% walk rate. While nowhere near a guy like Bryce Harper (27%), this is a rate on par with players like Rhys Hoskins, Aaron Judge, or Paul Goldschmidt. Essentially, we are talking about a walk rate prototypical of a slugger, not a leadoff man like Dee Gordon (3.9% career BB%), Ender Inciarte (6.7%), or Adam Eaton (8.2%).
(Update: We regret to inform you that the video was a marketing stunt. Maybe next time, kids.)
Bryce Harper has very good hair. Our compliments to his mom, who is clearly responsible for the golden thread growing out of our unseated MVP’s head. When his baseball career winds down in 237 years, and before he is inducted as the grand master of the Hall of Fame, he could probably have a long and fruitful career as a (hopefully not-creepy) Johnny Bravo impersonator.
In retrospect, riding camels might not have been a good substitute for working on the fundamentals. This a common refrain surrounding the Washington Nationals’ 4-5 start, including streaks of four wins to open the season followed by a five-game losing run. Still, not all is lost (Nats Reddit disagrees, of course), as there have been some positives, most namely that it is still so early that Mother Nature has yet to realize the season has started. Let’s go over a few of the important points thus far.