The Nats continue on hurtling through the season like an unimpressive comet hurtling through space. They can't seem to get traction, but they have to much talent to simply fade away. They won 2 of 3 from the Phillies, which is what they should have done. They should win 2 of 4 from the Orioles, we'll see, and then go 1-2 vs the Braves.
This sounds like treading water and it is, but that's what happens when a good team plays a team that's as good or better. The Nats are no longer 100 win challengers and the expectations have to change with that. It doesn't mean we won't expect the Nats to win more than they lose, they should go 5-1 over the Mets/Twins stretch, but that they'll lose only a little less than half the time as they inch back toward a 90 win pace.
Again, how did this happen? Well to sum up the last few weeks of columns - the hitting has been disappointing through a combination of injuries and a bench that has come back to Earth with such force it killed the dinosaurs. The pitching is still good, even very good, but it's not "best in the league great", and thus can't carry this disappointing offense. There's hope that it'll change but the Nats need everyone healthy in the lineup and everyone who can't get healthy replaced.
We can keep talking about this over and over but we all know where it stands. Fix the bench (get rid of Moore and/or Tracy and try something new), decide on what to do with Espy (if he can't get healthy enough to hit, you have to DL him and try something else - this offense can't carry an automatic out), make doubly sure that Bryce & Werth are healthy when they return and ready to play for the rest of the year, hopefully.
What's up with Drew?
Drew Storen was pretty unlucky the first month of the year. He didn't pitch all that bad but the hits had eyes and he gave up a couple poorly timed big ones and up went the ERA. In May though he's just pitching badly.
His BABIP has dropped from a crazy .406 to a still pretty high .353. His LD% is up and his GB% is way up which is usually good, but I feel like he's getting hit harder. He's striking out far fewer batters (10.45 K/9 in April, 6.52 K/9 in May) and walking a bunch more (0.87 BB/9 to 3.72) His LOB rate which was at an unlucky 60.6% is not at a more normal 78.3% but his runs given up have still gone up because of all these extra men on base.
I haven't spent enough time digging through the pitch data but a cursory look does tell me that his "K" pitches, his slider and changeup are less effective in May and he's actually throwing them more. Trying to avoid contact after getting unlucky in April rather than trusting his stuff? Maybe. Again - we're drawing hypotheses here, not conclusions.
In an ideal world Drew's ERA would be inching up toward 4.00 and Nats fans would be saying "We gotta watch Drew, I don't like what I'm seeing and we can't afford for the bullpen to go bad, too". But the world is not ideal. Drew didn't get to start with the 3.00 ERA he deserved so he doesn't have that leash. Nats fans should be patient with him. Really it is only one bad month of pitching that happened to get two bad months of results. But at this point I doubt anyone is feeling in a patient mood.