The Narrative is Waiting

Baseball is a season of ebbs and flows, ups and downs, cliffs and valleys. The Washington Nationals are not loose. They are playing tight, making mental mistakes, looking like they are trying to win 98 games before April is over. This has all been said before. The Washington Nationals are not playing their best ball and if they were to play like this all season they would be lucky to make the playoffs, but the thing about baseball is that they won't play like this all season, and at some point soon or before the season is over the Nationals will start to click and roll off a long winning streak, and everyone in the media will look for a turning point.

That is what is known as a narrative. Baseball is a sport where all streaks end, all players regress to the mean, and people attempt to prescribe meaning where there is none. Baseball happens. Teams win or they lose and better teams win more often than they lose. Talent finds its level and the rosters with more talent end up scoring more runs and having better numbers when the season comes to an end. Look at the talent on the Nationals and how they have performed.

Does anyone expect Gio Gonzalez, a career 3.67 ERA pitcher, to finish the season with a 4.50 ERA? Or how about Rafael Soriano with his career 2.82 ERA; is he going to finish the season with an ERA more than double that? Or Strasburg, who has struck out 10.9 batters per nine innings, is it expected that he will settle into this season at a 7.6 K/9? How about Adam LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman? Career .818 and .831 OPS hitters respectively, are they both going to finish with an OPS south of .800 giving the Nats a weak middle of the order?

The likelihood of any of these things happening is slim. These players will start to preform to their career levels while others in the Nationals line-up regress to their career levels. Denard Span isn't going to get on base at a .421 clip and Kurt Suzuki isn't a 1.074 batter, but those regressions won't affect the Nats to the negative in the same way as all the other players preforming below career averages returning to those averages will to the positive.  

When it happens it won't be for any reason. It will just be baseball. The Nats are in a slump in the bullpen, in the field, and on the bases, and all of it is going to even out. The Nationals are going to play looser and better. The reason won't be because of some mental stimulation brought on by an outside event. It will be because the law of averages says that good players will play well for most of the season. It is going to happen and when it does people will want to give it more meaning than it deserves.

The Nats were never going to win 98 games in April. Dan Haren said after his third bad start of the season that he is searching for something and the rest of the Nats look like they are as well. As I said on Monday they are out of sync and out of rhythm. They are looking to get going and the only answer is patience. Talent will eventually play to its level and it cannot be forced to happen. The season is 162 games long and the Nats are now 10% of the way to the 60+ losses most predicted for them. They are going to get on a winning streak and when they do there will be a narrative waiting for them.

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