Out of Sync, Out of Rhythm, and Over .500

In the Nats last three series they have made several mistakes on the base paths, errors in the field, and have allowed a staggering 6.44 runs a game. The Nats are playing poorly and in those three series have a record of 4-5. Thanks to starting the season against the woeful Marlins the Nats are 7-5 on the season. There is no denying the fact that the Nats haven't played well at all over their last nine games, but playing as poorly as they are and still being 4-5 over those nine games is indicative of the type of talent the Nats have.

Those looking for a reason for why this slow period has found the Nats can blame their youth and inexperience with expectations, a hangover from an early playoff exit, or the quick and sudden regression of several players. None of these are quite right. The only thing that happened to the Nationals in getting swept by the Braves this past weekend was baseball. The Nats are playing poorly and the Braves are red hot. The Nationals just happened to play them while they were at their hottest. Consider that only two playoff teams in 2012 had winning streaks of ten games (Yankees, Reds), and the Braves are at nine right now. This could be the best that the Braves play all season, and they happened to run into the Nats at this opportune moment when the Nats look sloppy and lost.

The good news is that current streaks have little to no predictive value. How the Nats played against the Reds, White Sox, and Braves has nothing with how they will play against the Marlins and Mets. Last season the Nationals were swept five times. From April 27-29 the Nats lost three straight to the Dodgers and then went 6-4 in their next ten games. From May 28-30 the Marlins took three of three from the Nats and in their next ten games the Nats were 8-2. June 15-17 the Nats ran into the Yankees while they were the best team in baseball and responded to that sweep by going 5-5. In August from the 24-26 the Nats dropped three straight to their most bitter of rivals the Philadelphia Phillies and then went 8-2 in their next ten. The final sweep of the season came at the hands of the Atlanta Braves who did it to the Nats September 14-16 and in their next ten the Nats were 6-4.

All last season the Nats responded to adversity. That is a product of both talent and having a manager like Davey Johnson to keep the team level. The Nats haven't played well and the 13 they got outscored by in the series against the Braves is the worst run differential of a single series since the Cardinals outscored the Nats by 14 in St. Louis in September of last season. The Nats happened to not get swept in that series, they were lucky not to. If you remember the Nats September 29 6-4 win happened much the same as the Nats 6-4 loss to the Braves this past Friday. The Nats took an early 4-0 lead on a Michael Morse grand slam and then didn't score again until Kurt Suzuki doubled home Adam LaRoche and Danny Espinosa in the top of the tenth inning after Jordan Zimmermann and Drew Storen had combined to give all four runs back to the Cardinals.  

The Nats have played poorly in their last three series. The bullpen has a season ERA of 5.90, three of five starters have had games allowing at least six runs, and the Nats have made several mistakes on the bases and in the field, and yet they are 7-5. The Nats will play better as the season goes along. In baseball there are hot streaks and cold streaks. The good teams and players have more hot streaks than they do cold. Baseball is a sport of attrition. Teams are built to play 162 games and survive the ups and downs that come with a season. The 2013 Nats have hit an early speed bump. Think about this nine game stretch with a 4-5 record and how bad the stats look for the Nats, and then imagine what the team is going to do when it gets hot. The Nats have looked out of sync, out of rhythm, and yet are over .500 with six games coming against the Marlins and Mets.  

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