Yesterday in the comments I even said
The Nats have moved from losing lots of games because they were bad, to losing not as many games because they have a bunch of little problems. Death by a thousand cuts (and misses)Well, I'm an idiot.
That's not to say there aren't a bunch of little things wrong, there are: the bench isn't good, the lineup is kind of wonky, Pudge plays too much, the most likely scenario for the young players this season is mediocrity... But resolve these issues and you would still have a team struggling for .500. It isn't these minor issues that is driving the Nats bus off the cliff into another season of wins in the 70s, the major issues are. Somehow recently I've lost sight of the forest for the trees. (or is it the other way around?)
The Nats have two big problems looming this year - they don't have proven top of the rotation starters and as Chris pointed out they don't get on base.
I responded to the OBP issue by saying basically "well the power will be better", which I still believe, but even then I thought the end result was an offense that can't crack the top half of the league. You just can't have that many guys on the team who don't get on base.
As for the former, what the Nats have historically had starter ERAs 0.60 or so worse than the NL average. That's terrible. This season is no different. We like to casually think (ok I like to casually think) that a rotation full of #3 and #4s would be average but that's not the case. When you think about it some more it would be bad.
The Nats do have minor issues and they are annoying because they would generally be easy to fix, but clean them all up and you still have a team built with two big holes. Until the Nats can fix those two this team isn't going to surprise anyone.
More on streaks -
I know this only interests me, but suck it. My blog. I mentioned the other day that the reason an 0-5 start was more predicitive than an 5-0 is because more teams miss the playoffs then make them. But I realize there is a second question that is raised in that article. Why do we see long losing streaks for playoff teams, but a long losing streak at the beginning of the season means no playoffs? Why is an 0-5 start more predictive than 0-5 runs at other times in the year? Answer : I don't think it is.
People have thought about it and said things like "an 0-5 start gives you the chance of more streaks later" but I don't think that's the right way of looking at it. I think that if you took any single 5 game segment out of the season and looked at all the teams in history that went 0-5 from, say game 61-65 or 127-131, you'd find something similar to what you find looking at the 0-5 start. A lot of bad teams that don't make the playoffs and one or two good ones that do.
It's the chance of a streak for that specific stretch matching up with a playoff appearence, NOT the chance of a streak at all matching up with playoffs. Trying to look at playoff teams that had similar loss streaks is looking at it sideways.