…so is the pitching! Right now the Nationals rank very low in the NL in most important pitching categories:

Runs Allowed per Game – 14th
ERA – 14th
BB/G – 12th
HRs – 15th
Ks -3rd

The only thing they look good in is Ks, but that has alot to do with this weekend, in which Tim Redding and Odalis Perez this weekend combining for 17 strikeouts. Before Friday they only ranked 10th in the league. The poor pitching numbers come along with very good starts from those two, Redding has an ERA of 3.27, and Perez is at 3.38, both better than most people probably expected. It’s the relievers and the other starters that seem to be an issue. As impressive as Redding and Perez have been, I’m not sure they will stay this effective, and I really don’t their their ERAs will get even better. I think with Chico’s propensity for giving up HRs, this may be his streaky self. Lannan has been effective at times, he may be able to pitch well consistently, which would be a boost. The relievers should do better, which would offset any dip from Perez and Redding, but with this group of starters, I think we’re going to be seeing this with them all season. So unless Shawn Hill is going to pitch all year (please pitch all year Shawn Hill), and Lannan can be consistently good, it’s hard to see them improving here.

In terms of the hitting numbers, so far it has been a similar story:

Runs Scored per Game – 14th
HR – 13th
Hits – 16th
BBs – 7th
AVG – 16th
OBP – 14th (tied)
SLG – 15th
OPS+ – 16th (tied)

First of all, Guzman and Johnson are hitting well, and Guzman hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down from last spring. Until he does, let’s assume he isn’t going to. Milledge started out strong but has tapered off a bit, his OBP is still great, but on Saturday his SLG dipped below .400. He is still better than the rest of the offense, where everyone else is playing pretty poorly. But there is some good news here. Belliard is usually the picture of consistency – he’s hit between .272 and .290 each of the last 5 years (of course 6 years ago he hit .211, but let’s not think about that) – so I’d be surprised if he doesn’t get back around .270 before all is said and done. Zimmerman looks completely lost at the plate, he’s swinging at the first pitch every time, and I watch him swing at stuff 3 feet outside a few nights ago. This is actually good news – he’s too good of a hitter for that to be anything permanent. He’s just pressing now and the smart money says he’ll be fine. Kearns should come out of his slump sooner or later as well, but he’s not there yet. Despite hitting 2 HRs in the last week, he still only went 4 for 20 in those games with 1 walk. Wily Mo has really just starting swinging, so he will probably need a few weeks to get on track. So, unlike the pitching, there are reasons to believe these hitting woes are nothing more than a slump.

Finally, let’s not try and panic too much. It’s been a total of 19 games. Sure, you don’t like what you see so far from all but 3 hitters. But Kearns hit a HR yesterday and his SLG jumped 50 points. The sample size is just very small right now. Give them another couple of weeks, I truly believe the hitting will come around to respectability. If it doesn’t, then management should look into making changes with the coaching staff, and the most likely candidate for such a change would be the hitting coach Lenny Harris.

By Charlie