Yesterday I said I thought the Nats were in a good spot. I still do. But the fact remains they are one game over .500 and one game out of the cellar in the surprisingly competitive NL East. (You'd think at least one of the Mets/Marlins/Phillies would be a burning heap of rubble by now). How about a quick looksie at what's gone "wrong"*.
#1 - Ramos got injured Opening Day. Replacements have been terrible.
Hard to fault anyone here. We all knew Ramos was an injury risk and that the Nats needed a quality back-up. Rizzo went out and got one. What we didn't know is Ramos would be down before the first curly anything was in the book. Sandy Leon, as we all expected, has been useless (.172 / .226 / .310) but Lobaton hasn't done what he's needed to. (.238 / .333 / .310). It's not a gaping wound but its an empty lineup spot.
#2 - Bad defense
The 23 errors, most in the majors, stick out like a sore thumb that a ball just bounced off of. You might forgive Rendon his 3 being a 2nd year player shifted around, but Desmond has 8 already, more than 3 teams. They've seemingly come in a bunch lately with the Nats allowing 15 of their 18 unearned runs since April 13th. The Nats have allowed 4.29 runs per game, 3rd worst in the NL. Take out the unearned runs and it would be 3.43 - 2nd best. You aren't going to get 0 unearned runs but even league average (10) would have them in Top 5 in NL (tied with ATL)
Of course it's more than just the errors. Last in defensive efficiency in the NL (turning balls in play into outs), near the bottom in range. They have old guys on the way down on the right side of the field, head cases on the left side of the infield, and young hitters who look like they'll end up being more "passable" than "plus" defensive players in Rendon and Bryce. Span back should help as he is honestly a good defender but that brings up another problem.
#3 - Denard Span has been terrible in the leadoff spot
I know Desmond hasn't been hitting and Bryce isn't doing what he should, but guys slump. This is usually countered by other guys hitting better than they should. Do you think LaRoche will hit .294 with 100 walks? Or that Rendon will finish the year in the Top 10 in XBH? But Span is special because he is doing so poorly and he's getting up so often. A .208 / .283 / .302 shows no discernable offensive skill doing anything. Yet he bats first and is averaging almost 5 at bats per game when he starts, around a half an at bat more than any other National (thanks to Williams tinkering so much in the #2 hole)
#4 - The bench, again, has been mostly a failure
The rebirth of Danny Espinosa has been a very pleasant surprise, but as noted above Lobaton hasn't which kind of cancels out as far as the Nats' injury replacements go. As for everyone else who has gotten 10 PAs or more.
McLouth : .074 / .265 / .111 (welcome back to 2010)
Frandsen : .280 / 357 / .320 (Yes Lombo could have done this)
Moore : .188 / .235 / .438 (stop selling, we ain't buying)
Zack Walters, with one more PA would pop up here and look decent but the guy is all or nothing and those tend to drift toward "nothing" real fast in the majors.
Yes, yes small sample size, etc. And you can't fault anyone for McLouth's slow start. It's just funny how a half-measure once again looks to be a failure.
#5 - Taylor Jordan has failed
This isn't a big surprise. It could happen and then it did. But it did very conclusively and quickly. After a good first start scattering some Braves hits over 6 and a third, Jordan has delivered three awful games in a row. ERA of 8.22 in 3 games, players are hitting .338 / .388 / .554 against him. In all three games the Nats were down at least 3 before their second time at bat. First inning jitters? Perhaps, but the Nats offense** isn't able to handle those right now. They need a new 5th starter. If not Detwiler than someone else.
*A bounce here and there and the Nats could be 13-8 and no one is batting an eyelash. Of course that goes the other way too. 9-12 PANIC could also have happened. In fact pythag has the Nats at 10-11 so it's unlikely they've been unlucky once play has started. Now off the field, sure.
**Zimmerman's last full game was April 11th. In that time the Nats have played 11 games. They've scored:
0 runs : 1 time
2 : 4 times
3 : 4 times
6 : 1 time
9 : 1 time
That averages out to be 3.2 runs a game. That's bad.