Let's get past the point that hanging out there. Yes, the Nats have a better record than last year at this point (7-7 vs 3-11). But as has been pointed out before, most nicely over at De civitate sabermetricarum, that's more a product of luck than actual better production. It is even more apparent after last night because even though the Nats have scored more runs than last year through 14 games (69 to 61 by my calculation) they've also given up more (89 to 81).
Ruminate on that for a minute.
Done? I'll give you one more.
The Nats 2009 pitching staff, that bane of every baseball fan that loves a well tossed game, the group that in a mere 3 weeks dug the team into a hole into which the light of hope could not penetrate, was actually doing a better job in some respects through 14 games than the current staff.
Pop quiz hot shot - which National has the second best ERA of any pitcher that has started a game in 2010? That's right Garrett Mock! The guy they sent down for not being good enough. This is amazing. How did it get so bad so quickly? Again!
Well it's fairly simple. Marquis has been incredibly bad. Amazingly so. I know it's probably wrong to put it all on one guy, but this is the only thing this season that has been outside of expectations. Bad 4th and 5th starters? No shock. Bad relief pitching outside a couple guys? Yawn. Both of those would be right in line with last year, meaning we would expect as bad a pitching staff except the Nats changed up something. They brought in Marquis. Marquis, on the other hand, was supposed to be the difference maker that was going to give the pitching some positive momentum. Instead he's been historically bad. Only 7 other times since 1970 has a starting pitcher started his season giving up at least 6 earned runs in his first three games. It's not a great group to be in.
Jack Morris (1993) : Pretty much done at this point.
Jack McDowell (1997) : Pretty much done.
Dan Perkins (1999) : Would never pitch in the majors again
Mike Hampton (2002) : OK, he would have a some good pitching left in his arm... when he could pitch.
Hayden Penn (2006) : converted to reliever, 3 years later made majors and pitched poorly
Edgar Gonzalez (2004) : He actually had 4 such starts in a row. Has since been converted to a long reliever with just enough skill to hang around.
Now if you want to be positive Marquis really doesn't resemble 4 of these guys. Penn, Perkins, and Gonzalez were not anywhere as successful as Marquis has been and Morris was at the end of his career. You are best to compare him to Hampton or McDowell. Of course neither comparison is good news for Nats fans. Hampton would be injured on and off most of his career. McDowell broke in 1997. That's something else to be worried about - outside of Morris and Hampton, I didn't see a single full year thrown by any of these guys. This would make sense though, wouldn't it? No matter how you feel about the signing and Marquis, he is not THIS bad. Years of baseballl have taught us that. He very well could be injured.
Speaking of the signing, despite what I've said so far, what you won't find me saying is that Marquis was a bad signing at the time. The Nats needed to try to get innings. They had to. The cost was fair. The contract was short. And most importantly THERE IS NO MONEY BUCKET! The Nats, and every team, can and should spend on both the majors and minors at the same time. Fans don't need to be encouraging owners not to spend money on both by saying blanket statements like "Why is team X with no hope of the playoffs signing free agents?" People who say that need punches in faces.
If you're counting you'll notice that I only gave you 6 starters for 7 such awful season beginnings. There is a reason for that. The 7th one is ALSO on the Nats roster, Mr. Chien-Ming Wang. Don't get your hopes up there.