Sorry if you're looking for strong opinions from me just yet. It's still too early to make any real judgements on how people are performing. The batters are working on 20 ABs, the starters on one start, and the relief pitchers on 3 appearences. That's just too little data to say anything for sure. You have to be careful about applying too much importance to what could very well amount to nothing but random variation. For example, Ian Desmond is hitting .364 / .417 / .545 right now. Last year, just a few games into the season, Ian put up a 5 game stretch hitting .360 / .385 / .600. Has he turned a leaf or is it just one of those 5-game stretches a player will have ten times in a year? You don't know right now. You can't know.
But it's also important to remember that these games count just as much as games won and lost in September. Yes, games won and lost are also subject to random variation. That's why the Red Sox' terrible start last year didn't damn them to a 60 win season. But when you are dealing with playoffs, one game can make all the difference. Assuming nothing else changes - if the Red Sox started last year 3-9, instead of 2-10, they make the playoffs. That makes a nice start by the Nats, and poor starts by other teams, important. If the Nats want to get to 88 they have to win 85 more games. If the Braves want to get there they have to win 87. Those two games could make a difference.
Losing Mike Morse
Mike Morse's lat is not getting any better. Apparently the injury doesn't effect his swing but it does make him unable to throw the ball. This makes playing the field virtually impossible. You could put him at first, but that creates several problems. Where do you play the now healthy LaRoche? Do the Nats have to keep starting these subpar OFs? Most importantly, what if balls are hit to Morse and he has to throw the ball? If I'm the other team I'm bunting down the first base line with any decent runner. I'm sending every runner on second to third on pick-offs to first. It's something you can't hide from.
What does this mean for the Nats? It's not good. Even if you didn't like Morse (like I did...n't) he accounted for A LOT of the offense last year. For those that like fancy stats - those numbers have his wRC at 97, which given the Nats total runs scored last year put Mike as responsible for over 15% of the offense. This kind of loss can be made up. Werth bouncing back should be worth a few more runs. Same with Zimmerman playing a full year. Most importantly a full year of a healthy LaRoche should be worth a bunch more. But remember - that only gets the Nats back to about where they were last year. 624 runs scored. 12th in the NL. That's not where the Nats need to be to make the playoffs.
We're already seeing this play out. With arguably only two regulars struggling (and in a minor way) and against rather unimpressive pitchers, the Nats have been nothing more than
average in the NL. It seems more likely to get worse than better. For the Nats to improve significantly now, in comparison to last year, they'll have to catch some breaks. Maybe everyone else improves slightly with the bat. Maybe one of the young players breaks out. Maybe (and probably most likely) Bryce Harper comes up and is ROY worthy.
If Mike Morse misses significant time this is the scenario the Nats find themselves in. The pitching improved but the offense struggling to provide them the support they need.