Nationals Baseball: The "easy" stretch

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The "easy" stretch

There's not much good coming from this weekend's Clip-splosion, so how about an interesting fact to start us off?

The Nats not only have lost 4 straight one-run games, they have played 6 straight 1 run games, and 8 of their last 9 games were of the one-run variety. That's pretty crazy. A lot has been driven by the offensive slump but whenever they get the bats moving then pen starts breaking down.

Ok, now back to the bad. Back in late May Nats fans were getting excited. The team was sitting at .500, Strasburg was on the horizon, and the schedule, which had been pretty tough up until that point, was going to significantly lighten up. Five of the worst seven teams in the majors; Houston, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Kansas City, and Baltimore, were going to be opponents in June. Throw in middling Detroit and White Sox teams and a good Cincinnati (with only Detroit away of the three) and another month of .500 ball looked certain. More importantly, there was a chance for something even better. Instead, the Nats crashed. After winning that first game in Houston to get back to 26-26, the Nats have gone 7-17 effectively ending the hope of any sort of special run for 2010 and getting the Nats dangerously close to the apathetic, playing out the string baseball of the past 4 seasons. What happened?

The hitting crashed : It wasn't great in April or May but the line in June is scary bad. .250 / .307 / .369. That is a team with no patience and no power. You could blame Ryan Zimmerman (.354 SLG and only 4 XBH in the month) if you like. I would rather look at Pudge (.255/.283/.314), Desmond (.224/.263/.316), Guzman (.238/.286/.321), and Morgan (.262/.292/.298). That's four regulars in the lineup with an OPS of .607 or less. You can work around one, maaaaaybe two weak lineup spots. In June, the Nats have been playing with four holes in their lineup.

The mainstay starters and best bullpen guys struggled: If you look at starter or relief ERA it doesn't look bad, but those numbers are deceiving. Strasburg's 1.78 ERA hides a horrible perfromance from the two guys left in the rotation (at the time) the Nats rely on. Lannan (7.91) was awful enough to get sent down and Livan (5.12) seems to be reverting to form as the month ends. In the pen we see the same thing. Some nice numbers overall, but "the guy" Matt Capps, tossed out a 4.82 ERA blowing three games early in the month. He's levelled out, but now Clippard has blown a couple close ones. Outside of Lannan, these guys haven't been terrible but the timing of their rough patches have cost the Nats dearly.

Their luck turned: After going 10-8 in 1 run games up until June 1, the Nats have gone 2-8 since. A couple breaks here and there and that 7-17 run is 10-14. That's still not good but it would feel like a team slipping, not a team in free fall.

The Nats are now staring at four series against the top 2 teams in the NL East and the NL West. It looks likely that they are about to drop themselves back into the familiar "no hope" scenario they've been in since 2005. Then again, they defied expectations in June, so why can't they do it again? Right? Right?

1 comment:

Kevin Trainor said...

This has been the most frustrating month of baseball I've had since the 1990 Twins season, and at least I had the World Series season after that to make up for it. I'm hoping the team can rise to the occasion and make the Braves and Mets fans miserable (especially the Braves) but after watching Riggleman bumble away three straight against the formerly feckless Birds I have no confidence that they'll actually make it happen.

Post linked at Beltway Baseball.