A Strange Point in the Season

 

We've reached the point in the season where we look back with melancholy, longing for what was supposed to be, but at the same time it is too early to look ahead to the off-season. In just over a month there are going to be six months to discuss off-season moves and even then it is too early. October will be playoff baseball and nothing happens for November and most of December. The 2013 Winter Meetings begin on December 9th and as we've seen in past years this is more about setting up moves than any moves actually happening. While we all have thoughts on what we'd like to see happen it is too early to really discuss anything.  

I may already be more optimistic than most for 2014. I think a lot went wrong this season and a lot was odd. Strasburg has some low run support and the Nats have been awful in games he's pitched, but his run support is nearly a run below what the team has averaged overall. That is just odd and even with that Strasburg has allowed an average of 2.37 runs a game pitching six innings while the Nats have scored 3.03 runs a game when he pitches. That works out to at least a .500 record when you figure the bullpen is going to allow some runs, but that isn't how it has worked out. The Nats have a .375 winning percentage with their best pitcher on the mound. That is odd. 

There are other odd things about the season and then there are the bad things. The main bad thing has been the bench. Some want to look at the overall offensive numbers like they are meaningful of the production of the entire team, but only one of the eight regulars has an OPS below league average and that is Denard Span. Span has been an upgrade over Michael Morse on the roster and in the outfield mainly because of his defense. He has gotten way too many plate appearances, but that isn't his fault. A manager that pays attention would have removed him from the lead-off spot and had him batting seventh or eighth for most of the season.  

That really is another thing that has gone wrong. The players haven't performed in the spots they are put in but some of them have been put in spots where they shouldn't be or at times they shouldn't be put in those spots. Reliever slump just like batters and when they are slumping they shouldn't be used consistently in tight games. A lot of Drew Storen's issues this season are on Davey Johnson. That isn't to say Drew Storen hasn't struggled this season, but when he was struggling at his worst he was still used like he was a reliable set-up man, and he wasn't. Then the other issue with Davey and the bullpen is he demands the reliever he puts in finish an inning. It is hard to recall a time this season when a reliever has been put into a game, not had it, and then quickly removed. That is also something a manager should be paying attention to. Look at the fifth inning last night. The Nats entered leading 6-1 and Ohlendorf gave up a homer and was removed. Roark then was not good and having an off night, but Davey Johnson made him finish the inning. The game ended up tied. That really isn't how these things are supposed to work. When someone is brought in to put out a fire and they instead pour gasoline on it you stop them, not sit back and watch the neighborhood burn down.   

It has been a strange season. In many ways a very strange season. The Nats pitching was at its best when the offense was at its worst and when the offense became competent the pitching dove off a cliff. Since July 1 the Nationals have averaged 4.1 runs a game but have allowed on average 4.3 runs a game. I don't know if things would be better record wise if the pitching was that bad when the offense was at its worst or if the hole would have been even deeper, but it is just another example of how the stars haven't aligned for the 2013 Nats as they did for the 2012 Nats.  

I do not think this is an untalented bunch of players. A core of Harper, Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Zimmermann, Zimmerman, Desmond, Rendon, Ramos, and Werth is a core that can be built around. It is a core nearly any team would wish to have, and for the most part in 2013 that core has performed as expected. It is up to the Nats to not panic and not do something rash like the Diamondbacks did. If they still had Justin Upton they could be in the lead in the Wild Card or fighting the Dodgers for the NL West. Instead they are quickly falling to the same position as the Nats. Don't make more of a disappointing season than just that, a disappointing season. There are reasons the Nats didn't perform and a lot of them have to do with them simply not performing. There is still baseball to be watched and still games to enjoy, and who knows what the future holds perhaps more of those games will be enjoyable than not. It is likely that the Nats season ends with the end of the regular season, but if they can at least be entertaining between now and the end it will at least be fun to watch and won't have us begging for it to be over. 

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