The Nats have finished beating up on the Braves for a while. 6 games. 6 wins. See you in August.
The next two series might tell us whether the Nats are really good. I say "might" because even with a strong showing it may be that the Phillies and Marlins aren't that good and the Nats are just feasting on bad teams.You know what? That would be great news, too.
Why? Because those bad teams would be in the Nats division. It would be confirmation of what we assumed at the beginning of the year, that there would be no competition from the lower half of the NL East. That the Nats may ride easy to the division crown depending solely on how they match up with the Mets.
Even if the Nats are not a great team that's not important. What's important is that as at least a good team, they make the playoffs. If they beat up on the Phillies and Marlins over the weekend and continue to separate from the pack it sets up a clear delineation between Washington and the bottom of the East. Whether that line marks the difference between great and ok or good and bad is unimportant. A gap would exist. The Nats would feel comfortable in their position, especially so if the Mets continue to spin their wheels.
We want to figure out how good this Nats team really is. In this quasi-transition, sort-of last season of window A, year we want to know if the Nats can reach the heights of 2012 and 2014, or if 2015 signified a definitive change in the talent level of the team. We probably won't be able to figure that out soon. But if all we learn this week is that the Nats seem much better than the Phillies and the Marlins and that they hold a nice lead on both those teams at the end of this stretch, we'll have learned plenty.
Bryce! After a few games behind Bryce reties his nebulous HR opponent "Any Other two Nats" at 3. We're still waiting on our first homers from Rendon, Zimm, Espy, and Taylor. The first two bring up "Has their injuries sapped their power" questions. I'd be more worried about Rendon than Zimm. Zimm showed last year post injury he could still get it going (10 HRs in 35 games). He may have an issue hitting homers but it's more likely to be a current injury than some lingering effect of the last one. Rendon on the other hand only hit 5 homers last year. It may take him a good long time to get back to the ~25 HR type power we thought he could develop. As for Espy and MAT, power and defense is what makes these low AVE guys viable. Without power things get dicey. Espy has a good eye (when he's being encouraged to use it) and can still get on base ok. MAT though does not. He really needs to get hot. Of course if the Nats keep winning no one will care.
Strasburg looked pretty sharp didn't he? One of the things I'm sure that will annoy me this year is that we're likely to see praise for Mike Maddux with little evidence that the pitching staff actually improved. It was 6th in the NL in ERA. It was 1st, 6th, 1st in preceding years. Sub out Fister for a Roark who shows that it was the jerking around last year that messed him up. Add in more reliable bullpen arms picked up in the off-season. Already you are looking at a staff likely to skirt Top 3. All he'd have to do then is luck into a career year from Strasburg (which we've all thought was possible for years now - just been waiting for health, psyche, and run support to align) and Maddux could bask in the praise that comes along with a staff that is best in league. Right place right time matters kids. Get on the right trains in whatever you do. It reflects well on you, if not with a knee jerk talent evaluation, than at least with a realization you can pick winners.