You can feel a sentiment rising as the Nats go through this dominant run. This team is special. The clubhouse feels different. When this happens you start to get the explicative stories that are meant to be silly and are, like Matt LeCroy's eating habits, and ones that are meant to be serious but aren't, like Werth getting a text from a friend saying "Feels like 2012".
Why is the latter silly? Well not two weeks ago, as the Nats exited a stretch of play where it felt like they rolled over and died in the face of adversity, everyone was asking "Why does this feel so much like 2013?" Well which is it? The team today is pretty much the team of two weeks ago. Is it a 2013 or a 2012 team? Are they filled with a special camaraderie that will carry them to the best record in baseball or are they chokers who can't handle the pressure of being a target? I'm not sure - let me see if they won last night.
Yes, they've added two players, but are we to assume the clubhouse is so fragile that losing LaRoche and Zimmerman sent Werth, Desmond, Zimmermann, etc. into a tailspin where they could no longer rally the spirit of the team to win games they should win? Is that what you are telling me? That the alchemy of a clubhouse full of grown men is so delicate that the loss of one particular reagent makes sure lead stays lead?
The truth is 2014 is 2014. It's not 2012 and it's not 2013 and looking for off the field answers for what 2014 is silly, just as it was in 2012 and 2013.
2012 was 2012 because the Nats had awesome pitching (thanks to guys in their prime years) and their mild injuries were covered by great bench play.
2013 was 2013 because the Nats had very good, but not awesome, pitching and their normal injuries were made worse by terrible bench play.
There is no need to look off-the-field here. The numbers pretty much explain all. The pitching going from awesome to very good, you have to understand that is just variance. A guy might hit .340 and follow it up with a .310. There's no reason to drag off-the-field things into that. The only place where it might have been applicable is if one was looking for a reason why the bench was so good in 2012 and so bad in 2013. I prefer random variation and crappy players, but the swing was so wild that I admit I'm just guessing. I suppose if a Werth said "we lifted the bench up with our fantastic spirit" at least that would be trying to explain something that isn't clear as day.
What's going on in 2014? A combination of things (obviously). They've had awesome pitching again - thanks to a combination of the Fister acquisition and the Roark revelation. They took a very good rotation and tried to make it better and hey! It is! Not exactly how they expected it but it'll happen more often if you try. They've had more than their share of injuries and mixed results from the replacements. Lobaton was ok when replacing Ramos. McClouth was terrible but picking up. Espinosa was great but is trending down. It has been a very normal bench-like performance.
Awesome pitching + lots of injuries + normal bench = 88/89 win pace so far. Makes sense to me. No reason to look in the clubhouse for something that's obvious on the field.
The story of 2014 will write itself on the field, just like the the ones for 2012 and 2013 did. If the pitching keeps going at about this rate but the Nats keep losing
offensive players for big chunks of time on the edge of the playoff race
is exactly where'd I'd expect them to be. If the pitching keeps going
and the team remains healthy they should play much better, like they
have recently, and win the division. No mayonnaise and banana explanations needed.