Yesterday I pointed out that Boswell's assertion, that the Nats were succeeding because of depth, was crazy. But I can't say something like that and not come up with an alternate reason.
Usually all it takes is a simple glance at the stats. How is the offense doing? 9th in average, 6th in OBP, 9th in slugging. That's alright, I guess, but it wouldn't explain the Nats coming away with a few more wins than last year. Maybe they are just hitting better at the right times? Nope - 9th in average, 11th in slugging with RISP.
What about the pitching? Even less explanation here, a starter ERA of 5.72 (14th in the NL), a reliever ERA of 4.03 (7th in the NL). Nope, there's no simple explanation to be had here.
Now of course there is one thing. The Nats are 6-3 still in one and two run games. I guess I could say "luck" and be done with it, but I don't think that's being fair either.
What I think is going on is that there is two distinct Nats teams out there.
Team 1 is a team that gets a good start, turns the ball over to Clippard and Capps, and closes out the close win.
Team 2 is a team doesn't get a good start and/or gets to the Nats other relievers. The Nats lose.
That's it. I know that may seem simplistic and sure it's in part by design (Clippard and Capps will only pitch in the games the Nats can win), but Clippard and Capps have been so good AND the Nats bad starts and bad relievers have been so bad AND the offense is so unable to crush another team BUT able to score some runs that it really is an either/or situation. Good Start + Clippard + Capps = Win. Anything else = Loss.
How many games have the Nats won out of 10 that didn't feature a good start and Clippard/Capps pitching the majority of relief innings?
Three - Livan's complete game, Livan's first game where Bruney and Bergmann pitched as many innings as Capps (though Bruney almost blew it), and Lannan's win against the Brewers where Bruney and Burnett pitched for more innings than Capps. That last win is the only win the Nats have had when they used the bullpen after a good start and the majority of relief innings worth a damn weren't pitched by Clippard and Capps. There are no bad start wins. There are no other good start wins that feature other relief pitchers.
How many games have the Nats lost out of 10 that feature a good start and Clippard and Capps pitching the majority of relief innings?
Zero. Clippard and Capps have not blown anything.
How many games have the Nats lost out of 10 that feature a good start?
Three. Livan getting outdueled (Bruney pitched in relief), the extra-inning loss to the Dodgers (Capps threw 2 scoreless, Batista lost it but in his third inning of relief), and last nights game where Bruney blew it. Or to look at it another way - the Nats have had one good start where the non Capps/Clippard bullpen pitched more than 2 good innings, that extra inning game with LA.
The Nats don't have the offense to generate enough runs to win a slugfest. They don't have a good enough bullpen to hold down the fort if they get a less than quality start. They don't have the arms to win many games if they can't simplify the pitching down to Clippard and Capps. The Nats have gotten 7 wins out of a formula that has little room for error and in the process have ridden Clippard to the 3rd most innings in relief in the NL (with 14.2) and Capps to a nice 11.1 which is a bunch. It's a formula for success, but for how long, or more the more accurate question, is it long enough to last until Storen and Strasburg can get to the majors... I'm not sure.