It's only been a week or so, but here are the Nats offensive totals for the past few games: 3,2,1,4,2,1. With a little luck and some great pitching the Nats have gone 4-2 in those games but that's not a recipe for success even if the Nats starters were pitching like they should. Now before I get too far into this we need to understand the Nats lead the NL in scoring. Coming from a place of "there's a problem with the offense" is being way, way too negative. So let's make sure we frame the post correctly. What we want to know is how we should define the Nats offense and then how we should look at the recent issues. A great offense that has had a down week? A very good one that got on a roll coming back to Earth? A good one that got really lucky? (I'm not going below that)
The first thing I'll note is that the Nats offense has not been consistent. It's been streaky. It's an odd coincidence but the Nats have followed 20 game patterns offensively so far. In their first 20 games they scored 69 runs or 3.45 per game. For a season that would put the Nats at... 14th in the NL a step behind the 14th place Mets but well ahead of the 15th place Phillies. No wonder they went 7-13 during this time. Game 21 started the recent winning streak and the Nats in the next 20 games would score 133 runs. That's almost double for an amazing 6.65 runs per game. Game 41 begins the streak I noted above - it's early but 2.2 runs per game if you are interested.
The 6.65 is not an impossible number given the entire history of baseball but in recent years, in these offensive conditions it would be close to that (it's around a game above even the steroid era, no humidor Rockies), whereas the 3.45 is poor but far from unprecedented. This tells you the high scoring run streak is more of an outlier than the low scoring run. Fine. The Nats won't score 6.5 runs a game. They won't even score 5.5 runs a game. But they don't need to. They are at 4.7 for the year now. 4.5 will likely be Top 3 in the NL. Can they do that?
Looking quickly (stuff to make up for this Memorial Day week) I'm not sure. Bryce and Denard should both take steps back but that's going down from guys whose hot streaks were big reasons for the 6.5+ runs a game. Bryce will slow but could easily end up around the best Miggy seasons (near 200 OPS+). Denard won't stay on a 30 homer pace but .300+ again with a bit more pop is possible. Those are guys that can be keys to a Top 3 offense.
The rest of the offense gives pause. The next two best offensively are Danny and Yuney. Danny is beginning to drift back to old Danny. His K rate is up over 30% the past week. There's potential here for a breakdown if it keeps up, but even in the past week he's been Danny. If you twisted my arm I'd say lower average still with patience and pop. Pre-injury "old Danny" not post-injury "old Danny" which means about league average type. Yuney I've never liked and the .315 average is hard to buy into. If he doesn't keep his average up, he's not useful at the plate. He was hitting well but has lucked into more hits as the season progressed to keep the average up. (.350 BABIP). It's going to be dicey if he can keep around average.
And that's it for the above average starters. Now we see trouble. If Bryce and Denard and Danny and Yuney all step back (all reasonable guesses - remember a step back for Bryce is still arguably best in decade type season) that's fine. Remember we are coming down from the top of a mountain. Even minor corrections from the rest of the line-up should keep the Nats atop the NL East. Unfortunately the best offense in May after these guys has come from the likes of Uggla and Moore. Guys you don't expect to play or keep up that level of offense if they do. Can't adjust those up. Ramos hit better during the stretch but is struggly mightily recently. I don't see a reason to think he'll be any better than the overall slightly below average we see now. I like Zimm, I think he can do better, but the past week is just dragging him down again after a moderately better May. Michael Taylor is still adjusting, is not hitting, and can't be trusted to.
That leaves the best bet for offense currently healthy as Ian Desmond. It hasn't been a great year for Ian and he's definitely trending down career-wise (those K's are going up and up) but his power is real, has room to return to normal, and there's no injury concerns here. After him its Werth coming back to replace Taylor, which may or may not be better giving how he looked so far, and Rendon coming back which may actually push out Danny, who as I noted above I kind of like to keep up average offense, for Yuney who I kind of don't. There isn't anyone out there that I think - oh yeah this guy is going to pick things up.
I don't know how I feel overall. I know I don't like the Nats to be best in the NL. The only reason they sit there now is because of an insane 20 game run pushed by an insane month by Bryce. But Top 5... Let's look at it another way. They were Top 3 last year, Werth was very good, and Rendon and LaRoche were right behind him. Span, Bryce, Desmond and Zimm (when playing) were all good. This year Bryce could be great and Span should be good and... and... I don't know. There's all those injury returns. If Desmond gets good like I think he could and Espy plays and stays around average and Werth/Zimm are around average and Rendon is back and good... yeah Top 3 is there. If Desmond stays below average and Rendon who struggles, pushes out Danny while Yuney drops below average and Werth/Zimm never get it going... they could drop to something probably right around average. It would be a team carried by Bryce and yeah I'll say it, Span.
There isn't anything here to worry about playoff wise. Max looks great. ZNN looks very good. Enough of the pen is decent. There shouldn't be an absolute hole in the offense just dips. At absolute worst what are we talking about, average pitching and average offense? A .500 type team? .500 from here on out is still playoffs. And that's absolute worst.
I don't know what I'm saying here other than the offensive discussions we had during the offseason still hold. Is this a top offense or not? We don't know. We know Bryce can literally put the team on his back. With just a couple of other guys hitting well he can help carry the team to record type offensive production. Bryce Harper's ascendance pretty much assures to me this offense won't be a below average one. So where will it fall from say 1-9? That I still don't know. I'd bet not 1 or 2 but anything else I think is still in play. There are too many questions for me to feel good about saying anything else.