Back at work and only a couple hundred of email to sort through. So while I do that you ponder the questions facing the Nats over the 2nd half of the year and we can meet back tomorrow to talk more about it.
1) When will all the guys come back from injury and is that even a good thing?
The Nats have five key players out right now in Stras, Werth, Zimm, Span and Rendon. They could all be back by the beginning of August, though there isn't a set timetable for anyone just yet. In theory that would be great but anyone that saw Werth and Zimm hit while they were "healthy" has to have reservations. After a strong start Span had hit an slappy .279 (.315 SLG) in his last 29 games. Rendon looked ok, but was failing to generate power. Strasburg looked good in his brief return but was really bad before that and the Nats have options at SP.
It's not hard to argue that having all these guys back may not actually help the team.
2) In the meantime, and after that, what to do about Desmond?
I like Ian and I don't think this is all about his skills eroding, so I think there will be bounce back, but there is no denying that he's been one of the worst offensive players in baseball for the past month and a half hitting .137 / .179 / .229 since May 29th. That's a bat that is nearly impossible to keep in the lineup. There's an easy out if Rendon can ever come back healthy. As painful as it may be, sitting Ian for a Espinosa, Yuney, Rendon IF makes the most sense. But what if Rendon doesn't come back soon?
As long as the pitching remains strong, the Nats can carry Ian and that seems the likely scenario, but fans will be tempted by the do-it-all promise of Trea Turner sitting in AAA.
3) Any improvement to the bench?
If everyone comes back healthy and hits the Nats have a nice little bench there with Espinosa (let's say Ian is hitting in this scenario), Taylor, and Robinson along with the perfectly usable Lobaton. There's no need for another bat. But the opening phrase "if everyone comes back healthy and hits" is a pipe dream. So do they grab another bat in case everything stops falling in for Yuney and Danny cools and Robinson cools and they are left grasping at straws?
It's a difficult position for Rizzo, because you could be bringing in a guy that plays a couple weeks then rides the pine the rest of the year or he could be asked to bat 5th through the playoffs. The injury and play situations as it is right now leave both as distinct possibilities. Trade big and you could waste a propsect. Trade little and you could waste a season.
4) What about the pen?
The Nats are having a devil of a time finding a bridge from starter to Storen. Going into July it looked like they were settling in on Janssen and Roark having major roles. Which two relievers had the worst July? Roark (ok maybe not fair but true!) and Janssen. Every button Williams pushing ends up not working out. Perhaps that turns itself around by why not just give him a button that only ends up with success when you push it?
5) Can the rotation keep it up?
It was supposed to be potentially the best rotation ever, but it had a terrible time getting out of the gates. From Mid June through the holiday, however, the rotation put together a remarkable stretch that carried an offense that would start to falter again. It had a iffy last week before the break but if you ask baseball followers what they think they'd probably say that that run you saw was something that could easily be repeated. Will it though with Strasburg out and Fister yet to return to form (He and Roark put up the only non-good outings from the 19th of June to July 5th)?
6) Are the Mets legit threat or not?
This will be answered real soon as the Mets and Nats meet six times in the next 16 games. Just when you thought the Nats were pulling away, sweeping SF and putting 4+ games between them and the Mets with only unimpressive Cincy and Baltimore left before the break, they stumble and the Mets streak. The Nats have a dsitinct schedule advantage in the past two months. Outside of a 6 game LA/SF stretch in mid August and a STL series it's nothing but patsies and Mets from August on. Step on the Mets now and they should cruise. Let the Mets in and things may get interesting.
Yes, I will note at this point the Nats have improved to the point they could make the 2nd WC not winning the division, but who wants that?