This seems to happen every year. We assume the Nats have the talent to win X amount of games, then they spend the first month or so going shockingly in one direction, everyone reacts accordingly, but then the team corrects themselves in the second half getting more in line with what they should be. Usually it's starting horribly and bouncing back leading to the oh so annoying thoughts that "next year it'll be different". (Yes, the better finishes didn't matter in 2006, 2007, or 2008, but the better finish in 2009 was different! It had Riggleman and Morgan! 2010 will be a breakout year! My middle-school girlfriend and I, who will be together forever, will be watching them win playoff games soon!) But this year the Nats changed things up by starting hot, a 2+ month flirtation with .500, and then crashing. Maybe next year they'll do us the favor of playing like the low 70 win team they'll probably be all season long.
But the current crash is not necessarily a bad thing for several reasons. It allows the Nats to play Nyjer Morgan, Roger Bernadina and Ian Desmond the remainder of the season. The longer you let these guys play, the better feel you'll have on what the Nats need to do for next year and beyond. Desmond (.262 / .303 / .410) and Morgan (.288 BA, although an empty one) who both might have been given up on if the Nats were pushing toward .500, could be able to set themselves into the 2011 roles the Nats wanted for them if they can keep improving in August and September. July though is exposing would be RF starter Roger Bernandina (.224 / .231 /.327) as the back-up player he likely is keeping the Nats focused on improving that OF spot in the off season.
The crash allows them to take a critical look at what's NOT working, like Pudge (.159 / .169 / .206) Guzman (.231 / .290 / .297) and the back of the rotation No-Stars (Stammen, Martin, Atilano). These players are barely stop-gaps at this point and all of this will need to be fixed. For catcher it means a loooong look at Flores to see if he is ready for next year, else moving on. For Guzman it means finally adressing 2nd base. For the pitching staff it means letting all those injured guys come back into the rotation without a second thought and seeing what they got for you. The Nats aren't going to be fooled into ignoring these issues by some lucky bounces, one run wins, and calls of "but the team has so much chemistry - don't change a thing".
The losses also hopefully make it apparent, with all those holes mentioned above, that the Nats are not a team just one player away from competing. You are talking about being two star players from being a good team, more than that from being a playoff team. Maybe this will push them to decide to trade everyone and gamble on 2013. If it doesn't do that, if they are serious about trying to win in the next couple years, then the losing should make it clear they'll need to be VERY serious in the offseason and any deal made now has to be for guys ready to play next year. They cannot just hope everything will work out.
Losing is no fun, but losing when you are a bad team helps clarify the issues facing the team that can be lost in over performance. The Nats now have clarity. Let's see what they think they know.