.500. May 22nd. Not season ending by any means (the Tigers were 3 games under .500 on July 3rd last year) but they've certainly dug themselves a shallow hole they need to get out of. How did this happen to a team that was the WS pick for like 40% of all predictions?
Before the season I came up with two scenarios. A dream scenario where the Nats challenged for the best record ever, and a nightmare scenario where the Nats miss the playoffs. Since the nightmare scenario is playing itself out (for the first 30% of the season at least) let's take a look at what I said and what is happening.
To summarize I said that assuming the Nats got a full season of Werth (even at diminished expectations) and Bryce continued to develop, they needed everyone else to regress to their normal offensive and pitching production, have Dan Haren fail and have a big injury or surprise flameout. Right away we see one problem. The Nats aren't getting a full season of Werth, so that opens up a door. We also know that Dan Haren is failing. Now we're left with just regression and surprise injury/flameout to take the Nats down. Let's look
Suzuki - 2012 (Nats) 97; 2013 - 95 KEPT UP
LaRoche - 129, 89 FLAMEOUT
Espinosa - 94, 30 FLAMEOUT
Desmond - 127, 112 REGRESSION
Zimmerman - 122, 124 KEPT UP (Was at normal)
Werth - 126, 95 FLAMEOUT
Span - 104, 87 REGRESSION
Bryce - 120, 165
Bench - I don't have to calculate this for you to know FLAMEOUT
Bryce has progressed so that's good. But outside of that only Kurt Suzuki is keeping up a level you might not think he's capable of. Espy is an obvious flameout as is the bench, but both LaRoche and Werth are performing well below expectations taking the year as a whole. Desmond has regressed (and it's more meaningful than just this number as his defense went from surprise plus to his usual negative). Span regressed to normal and good ol' Ryan Zimmerman keeps hitting like Ryan Zimmerman does.
Gio - 136, 94 FLAMEOUT
ZNN - 133, 231 BREAKOUT!
Stras - 124, 141 KEPT IT UP
Det - 115, 136 BREAKOUT!
Haren - 88, 68 FLAMEOUT
Relief - ~120, ~88 FLAMEOUT
Pitching is a mixed bag. Both ZNN and Detwiler have improved, while Gio and the relief core as a whole are well underperforming. The thing is the Nats were so high last year that this kind of mild disappointment still puts them as one of the better staffs in the NL. It's just not team carrying anymore.
What's the current count then?
1 expectedly good performace (factored in) - Bryce
3 unexpectedly good performances - Suzuki, ZNN, Det
3 expected normal performances - Zimm, Ian, Stras
7 unexpectedly bad performances - Espy, LaRoche, Werth, Bench, Gio, Haren, Relief
That'll do it. Up until this point the Nats performances that have been unexpectedly good have been more than doubled by the performances that are unexpectedly bad. I don't expect this to continue. LaRoche is a notorious slow starter. Gio's had a little bad luck (it is ERA we're using) and has pitched much better recently. But at the same time is ZNN going to challenge for a Cy Young? Is Detwiler a below 3.00 ERA pitcher? There's pushback either way. I'm guessing more on the positive side for the Nats than the negative.
But is it enough? If Haren, Espy, and Werth all drastically underperform this year due to injury/flameout that puts the Nats behind the 8-ball. They'll need more than a great year from ZNN to account for that. Strasburg will have to be one of the best pitchers in baseball. Someone offensively will have to break out and have a big year. There will need to be enough big positives to counter these big negatives to keep the Nats in the hunt for a division title. Playoffs? That's low hanging fruit with the 2nd WC now. All these bad things would have to keep happening (or more would have to come up) for the Nats not to be in the hunt come season's end.