Over and Ovi again, we have been hearing about the problems with the Nationals’ offense. And it’s justified in many ways. Their two best hitters are sitting on the bench right now, with Ryan Zimmerman possibly joining Mike Morse on the DL soon. Even when Zim was in, he wasn’t hitting like Zim. And that production out of LF has been a complete black hole – the team is hitting .103/.218/.132 from that position. Danny Espinosa isn’t hitting at 2B yet either, and although Ian Desmond has done well, he’s down to .280/.321/.413 from his super hot start. These are still very good numbers for a SS, but it’s not enough to carry Espinosa.
But all is not despair in the batters box for this team. They are, in fact, ranked 9th in the NL in runs scored per game with 3.78, the first team under the league average of 3.96. Combined with the best pitching staff in the league right now, it has allowed them to win quite a few games so far. But even if the pitching drops off a bit, they’d still have a positive run differential. They’re pitching has allowed 2.67 R/G (against very poor competition) which means they could allow another entire run per game and still be on the winning side of the math with runs.
If you look game by game, although we remember a bunch of squeakers, they’ve also had a few where they’ve actually scored quite a bit. In the 18 games played so far, they’ve scored 5 or more runs in five games, 4 or more in eight games. This isn’t spectacular, but it’s really not that bad. They also have yet to be shut out, and they’ve only scored less than three runs four times.
The absence of Zimmerman appears to be temporary, and those who have watched the games can see Espionsa looks fine at the plate (well fine in that he struck out in 25% of his PAs last year so 30% doesn’t seem so much worse this year, and that he has hit the ball hard recently). Wilson Ramos also seems to have emerged from an early season slump. Meanwhile, Adam LaRoche and Jayson Werth continue to be the best hitters in the lineup, carrying the team, while Rick Ankiel has returned from the DL on fire. Ankiel won’t last, but if used mostly against RHP, he could be very effective, and there’s no reason to think LaRoche and Werth won’t hit well for the year, even if it’s not this well.
The Nats are in the top half of the NL in OBP, but near the bottom in SLG. They don’t need any big changes, other than figuring out a way to plug in something of value in the LF spot, waiting for Espinosa to wake up and Zim to return to form.