"The only question for me is how much of this offense is a mirage and how much is a reality."
Here are Nats fans, standing in the middle of the desert with mouths full of sand.
The Cardinals and the Braves are the Nats two biggest hurdles to climb. Since the Cardinals eked out that NLDS victory the Nats have gone a combined 9-29 versus these two teams. How terrible is that? The Nats have played like an 85 win team since the start of 2013. Take away the games versus STL/ATL and the Nats play like a 95 win team. If they played even ball versus these guys they'd be a 93 win team. They are likely to face one of these two teams if they make the playoffs. They need to get over whatever mental block they have. "Luckily" they have another chance to do it in just a few days.
The offense was garbage over the series, but really it extends back to the Bumgarner game. In the past 6 games (or 54 innings) the Nats have managed 33 hits and 18 walks, (opposing WHIP 0.94) so they aren't getting on base. (And really 8 of those walks came in the Matt Cain game) Worse they are combining that with an inability to hit for power. Only 5 XBH in the past 6 games and only 1 home run.
I had wondered why the Nats had been able to score so many runs while hitting for a fairly pedestrian pace. (.263 / .333 / .448). That's not a bad hitting line. In fact, for a team that's pretty good. You are throwing in all those pitcher at bats and stuff. Certainly good enough for 2nd in the NL if you extend it out for the season (behind Colorado who, as you know, play in Colorado). But you look at a team OPS of .781 and you are probably averaging somewhere between 4.5 and 5.0 runs a game. The Nats were scoring almost 6 a game. Short of it - the offense was hitting well but it was also catching some breaks and making Nats fans a little too confident that they have a top offense without Bryce around. (Note : They don't)
Who's the biggest offenders in the recent slide?
Denard Span is 0-18 with 2 walks. For all you Span defenders who complain when I don't talk about how hot he is, THIS IS WHY. He's not good at the plate and I don't want to give the impression that he is. Should he play? Yes. His defense is good and the Nats have questionable players on the corners. But he's a below average bat - the vast majority of his career has shown this. Don't pretend he's anything else.
Zimmerman is 3-23 with 1 XBH. This isn't too surprising. Ramos started the same way post-injury and Zimm was probably rushed back a little. It's more surprising to me that LaRoche came back on fire. Give it time
Desmond 4-23, 0 XBH. I'm not sure what to think of Ian. He had a very nice 24 game stretch starting in Arizon and ending with his 3-5 game in San Fran. He hit .272, walked 9 times (alot for him) and was a slugging machine - 14 XBH with 9 of them being HRs. Problem is the Nats haven't played 24 games, they've played 68 and in the other 44 he's been hideous - only 9 XBH, hitting close to .200 and not walking at any rate you'd like. I'm hoping that he did get on track and this is just an off week, which happens, and he'll start hitting again. We'll check back after this week.
Espinosa 3-16, 0XBH. Danny is Danny. Should have gotten that surgery.
Rendon 5-23, 0 XBH. Probably nothing to worry about - but it is his second slump in a row where the power has gone completely (from May 7th-28th hit hit .147 and slugged .191). You don't want players to be on-off switches like this. You want more his slump from April 11th-24th. Hit .193, but slugged .368. Rendon is a good bat, whether he'll be a great one depends on if his slumps are the former or the latter.
LaRoche (.235 / .381 / .294) is slumping but still getting on base. Werth (.227 / .320 / .409) isn't really slumping perse - because when you get on base AND hit for power... well .230 isn't terrible. We're talking a week here - one more ball finds a hole and he's hitting .265.
This slide should even out even if you don't trust Span and Espy (and I don't). You only have one guy hitting well (Lobaton) and one guy holding up (Werth). The rest are on some level of slump. That combination will stop sometime soon. Of course with the Braves series coming Nats fans need it to stop now.