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Still not hitting at the quarter pole

May 14, 2011, 10:26 PM EST

US Presswire photo
Jayson Werth and the Nationals haven’t been making solid contact all season.

There’s a prevailing belief in baseball that no real conclusions can be drawn about a team until Memorial Day. By that point, the season is about 33 percent complete, and typically a team’s performance through late May is going to be fairly representative of its performance by season’s end.

So the Nationals still have time to change the narrative of their 2011 season, to establish themselves as something more than a club that gets good pitching and great defense but simply can’t produce at the plate.

But not that much time.

Saturday’s 1-0 loss to the Marlins, as frustrating a game as they’ve played to date, came in their 39th contest of the year. They’ve just about reached the quarter pole, and Memorial Day is only two weeks away. It’s tough to imagine a team hitting a collective .222 in the final week of May suddenly breaking out and becoming an offensive force over the remainder of the season.

Yet inside the home clubhouse at Nationals Park, there remains an overwhelming vibe that this run-producing funk won’t last forever.

“Obviously, we’re working hard and the results just aren’t there,” right fielder Jayson Werth said. “But it’s a long season. It’s a game of averages. We play 162 games in six months, and that’s why they decided to make the season that long.”
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  1. Anonymous - May 14, 2011 at 10:54 PM

    Back in last place in the NL East. Home sweet home. Tell me more about how hard we're trying, Jayson. That always makes it better.

  2. Cwj - May 14, 2011 at 10:54 PM

    I still say that it's just very unlikely that the hitting wont improve.It has to. Werth isn't going to hit .225, plus he's still on pace for 25 home runs. Also, remember that the Nats have a very deep bullpen all of a sudden (even Coffey has been outstanding!), with the subtraction of Broderick and the promotion of Kimball.Go Nats!

  3. Anonymous - May 14, 2011 at 11:11 PM

    Get rid of Matt Stairs. LaRoche is playing hurt, thus his paltry stats. Werth will come around. Give Bixler a chance. Let him start a couple games in a row at third base. It'll be the Mets and Nats battling for last place — that's the reality of it. Next year, it'll be Harper in CF, Werth in RF, and Bernie in LF. And, Strasburg will return! Maybe the team needs a new manager, especially if they're 15 games under .500 by July 4th.

  4. Manassas Nats Fan - May 14, 2011 at 11:24 PM

    The Nats have this terrible misunderstanding. They confuse working hard with working smart, It doesn't matter how hard you work, it matters how much you produce. Gary Clark long time Redskin receiver almost never practiced, He didn't work hard. He though always produced in the game. he worked smart. That I call successful.

  5. Anonymous - May 14, 2011 at 11:40 PM

    It's a little disturbing that Riggleman says that he has no problem with anyone's approach at the plate. No problem with Desmond's approach? He hasn't drawn a walk this month and has 5 on the season. That is inexcusable for a guy who doesn't have that much power and is capable of doing damage when he does get on base. Worse yet, I seem to recall comments from Desmond when he was moved to lead off before the seasons that he was not going to change his approach and would let high OB percentage guys like Werth and Zimmerman worry about getting on base. Here's hoping that it is just manager-speak and Rigs really does have a problem with Desmond's approach and aims to do something about it.

  6. Luqman - May 14, 2011 at 11:41 PM

    I think that the Nationals' offense needs to be patient with their balls and strike when they face the pitcher. They look like they want to hack on every pitch. They do not need that, they need to be patient and determine when to hit the bal, and they have to time them. The pitching staff needs to improve, especially the bullpen. They need to find out if they want to be with the team. Because today, one pitcher in the bullpen is not with the team, because he allows many earned runs. I am impressed with the new pitcher who pitched in the 9th inning.

  7. JD - May 15, 2011 at 12:06 AM

    Riggleman isn't gonna trash his players in public. I do agree that there is a fundamental problem with the approach; too much aggressiveness; especially on the 1st pitch and not enough defensive hitting with 2 strikes. I disagree with not moving the runners to 2nd and 3rd in the 9th; if LaRoche can't bunt they should pinch hit for him and I could see the Ramos result a mile away; someone should have calmed him down and told him to wait for a pitch in his zone at least until he had a couple of strikes; I really think we bailed Nunez out today.

  8. masnstinks - May 15, 2011 at 12:18 AM

    Isn't the hitting approach on the hitting coach? And do you really think this manager is going to trash his players and coaches in public? You have no idea what is said in the clubhhouse. We are losing games by inches, by ones and twos and in extra innings – despite our terrible stats. Wow. How in the heck are we staying so close? We have actually won some of those games – not with big batting averages but with situational hitting. LaRoche and Werth need to improve their hitting, Stairs needs to go, the young guys need to take a deep breath.

  9. dj in Fl. - May 15, 2011 at 12:21 AM

    There just does not seem to be any calvary to call up to save us. Batting averages in the minors do not seem to be much better.Except for Harper, who hit hit a homer for a Suns 1-0 win today, who should not be expidited.This group is going to have to solve this problem themselves.

  10. Harper_ROY_2012 - May 15, 2011 at 12:24 AM

    Working hard has nothing to do with winning or success, if Werth truly believes that there is a correlation he is an idiot!I can work as hard as humanly possible but I will never be an astronaut and the same can be said of the Nats being major league hitters!Here are the hitters worth keeping for the 2012 season:NixZimmermanLaRoche (please shut him down now so he can get well and contribute later this season and in 2012!)BernadinaRamosEveryone else is expendable and most are AAA players at best…they are an embarrassment to the city!

  11. CBinDC - May 15, 2011 at 12:30 AM

    Until someone says that the play of this team while better in some categories is again lacking in those that produce wins …..and so lacking that they lead the league in lacking . Defense and pitching prevent runs ….but they do not give you extra runs if you look good in those areas ….the runs sadly come from being at bat. I am dumbfounded to the reaction of the last three games. It would seem they are happy with the play and results.I know that they work hard ….hard work is not what people see is missing ….scoring runs and getting hit is what people see as not happening .The clock ticks and the season will be lost once again before it ever had a chance much like the last three games. The Fetalnom and the Phenom are not going to turn this around even if they were ready and just waiting for their arrival is a huge waste of time and effort for both players and more importantly the Fans.I wish someone on the team would bust up a watercooler just to show they care enough ti get angry at the results

  12. Doc - May 15, 2011 at 12:37 AM

    LaRoche needs to call Kevin Long for hitting help over at the Evil Empire, and Manny Mendoza for sympathy!

  13. Unkyd - May 15, 2011 at 1:14 AM

    Somebody who knows better than me (NatsJack?), help me understand: I've read where pitchers try to throw strikes on first offerings. Would it be feasible for batters to utilize a particularly compact swing, on first pitches, in an effort to make solid contact, since they know the odds are good for a hittable pitch? Is it even possible for batters to alter their swings, situationally? Seems a shame to waste all those strikes, and it seems like, if you knew a strike was coming, a short stroke wold be more likely to find the ball. Sorry if it's a stupid question…

  14. Manassas Nats Fan - May 15, 2011 at 1:27 AM

    Apparently Nats work too hard the first 6 innings and get tired. average first 6 innings .232 from inning 7 on .211 (only Pirates .202 worse)

  15. Manassas Nats Fan - May 15, 2011 at 1:28 AM

    My favorite stat though average with RISP and 2 outs .143. Contrast that with the Cardinals .333

  16. Unkyd - May 15, 2011 at 1:36 AM

    Interesting list, Roy. Obviously Zim is a keeper, but Nix and Bernie are hot, right now, and Ramos was hot a few weeks ago. Why do they make your list?CB, I don't need to see any watercoolers busted ip to know these guys care. The haynesworths of the sports world are few… Most of these guys are good precisely because they are so competitive, by nature. Baseball is about nothing, more than patience. I reckon it's tougher to turn things around in this game than most others, as they get no days off to practice… Every swing they take, counts, and even if they are very successful they fail more often than when they succeed. The hits will come, but we're not gonna win many more than we lose, this year…. Why the ire? I'll bet there'll be 5 or 6 different faces on the active, by the end of the season. Why not wait and see? And, if you're thinking clearly, you must know that some of these guys will wind up hitting MUCH better, later on, no? Let's see who…..!

  17. Big Cat - May 15, 2011 at 1:38 AM

    Who was it earlier in the year that kept preaching that 3rd base coach Porter would take over the team as manager? JD? I'll tell ya, I just love his aggressiveness, his attitude out there. I think you had some inside info.Eckstein is workin hardLove Ray Knight

  18. Anonymous - May 15, 2011 at 1:43 AM

    Runners in scoring position with 2 outs….Nats at .143…..worst in the big leagues. I repeat…..WORST IN THE BIG LEAGUES!!!!!!!!!!!

  19. Manassas Nats Fan - May 15, 2011 at 1:49 AM

    Big Cat I work hard too. If I decided to wait until after a quarter of the year to start working I believe my employer would toss my rear out the door.You know I love Eck as much as you do.

  20. Big Cat - May 15, 2011 at 1:56 AM

    Unkyd:When I was 13 years old I had an old coach with a tattered hat come up to me as I warmed up before a game. My arm felt great….the ball was exploding in the mitt. The old coach limped over and whispered in my ear…"Big Cat, I read in a book that if you raise your leg higher you can get more speed on your fastball." I said, "Thanks coach" The old guy went over to his lawn chair by the scorekeeper and sat down…..content with his wisdom

  21. Anonymous - May 15, 2011 at 2:02 AM

    I agree with CBinDC. I'd say if MLB had a team stat called "HWPWL" (Happiness With Play While Losing) or "HBF" (Happiest Bottom Feeder) the Nats would be the number one in this statistical area.As we have seen before, the season has three more stages:1. From now till the All-Star break, the mode is happytalk and "it's a long season and there's still time to get it right."2. From the All-Star Break until Labor Day, hopelessly out of the race again, we'll hear "the team has a lot of pride and is not quitting on each other–they're not quitting on the season."3. The last month we'll hear about how they're playing through the last game and are ready be a spoiler.Come the winter meetings, the whole spin cycle starts again…

  22. Unkyd - May 15, 2011 at 2:25 AM

    Cat…. I must be more dense than usual tonite (no mean feat…), cause I'm still scratching my head… 'sup with the old man in the lawn chair?

  23. Andrew - May 15, 2011 at 2:40 AM

    http://espn.go.com/mlb/baseballtonightGet your votes in for Bernadina for the top Web Gem

  24. Manassas Nats Fan - May 15, 2011 at 2:43 AM

    Big Cat as I recall the scorekeeper was probably your dad, as he always seemed to be score keeping. (cone to think of it I am like that too, as you know when you see me at high school game I am always score keeping).

  25. Anonymous - May 15, 2011 at 4:50 AM

    If it's true that Riggleman doesn't want to trash his players in public but does so, in some way, in private, shouldn't we expect to see some sort of change? Shouldn't we see smarter at-bats? Shouldn't we see fewer strikeouts or, at the very least, shorter strokes after they get to strike two pitches in an attempt to put the ball in play? There should be visual, on the field, evidence of his private displeasure about how the team is playing, assuming he's privately unpleased with how they're playing.If we don't see a change in how they're playing, ie continued dumb at-bats and trying to drill themselves into the ground when they swing after they get to strike two, then maybe he really is happy with how they're playing. That, or they're completely ignoring what he's telling them. Both of those possibilities are disturbing for the franchise.The baseball IQ and the no-adjective IQ seem to be a lot lower on this team than it is on others. This team needs a lot of management/coaching/teaching, pre-game and IN GAME. I don't think the current field management (Riggleman/Eckstein et al) can do that.

  26. Ribuld - May 15, 2011 at 5:15 AM

    I'm not sure ranting and raving at players publicly would make them better hitters. Most likely they just don't have the talent to hit.

  27. Big Cat - May 15, 2011 at 12:08 PM

    UnkydI don't know. Isn't there always an old guy sitting in a lawn chair yelling at the ump in these summer youth games. Sounded good at the time.Manassas Fan……guy steals second. Catcher guns throw right over the bag….no one covers. Runner advances to 3rd. Whose error?

  28. Rabbit - May 15, 2011 at 12:13 PM

    M a y b e, if the Nats accept they are really only as good as they are playing at this time, they will improve. They may relax a little and pick up the hitting. Right now, it isn't just trying to get the "big hit", it is just getting ANY hit. As Mark said, how a team is playing at the end of May should be how they play for the rest of the year. I hope at the end of may they are around .500. Hopefully they will be around 70 wins this year.

  29. Big Cat - May 15, 2011 at 12:23 PM

    The Nats are fine. They are 18-21. There are 120 games to go. They are getting very good pitching and very good defense. They will learn from all these close games. The hitting will come around also.

  30. JayB - May 15, 2011 at 12:55 PM

    Same Questions to Mark for Nats Management as so many past weeks………What is the approach at the plate being preached by Eck? Is the talent not executing it of is it the wrong approach for the player….Biggest concnern is Jason W at the plate….Just so wrong to have him take so many called third strikes right down the middle. Is Eck telling him to look for a specific pitch with 2 strikes and if you do not get it take your chances on being called out? Sure looks that way for most all of them. Mark is it smart or acceptable to not make a coach accessable to media? What is up with that?

  31. Wally - May 15, 2011 at 1:27 PM

    NatsJack – did you ever make it over to XST, and anything interesting to report?

  32. Manassas Nats Fan - May 15, 2011 at 1:40 PM

    Big Cat: The Throw ot the uncovered second happened last year in one of Osbourn Park's games. I was scoring and the error though the throw is excellent for the runner's situation it is not for the fielder's situation so it goes to the catcher. In reality either the 2b or ss had the mental error in not covering the bag. Didn't we discuss that after that particular game?

  33. Unkyd - May 15, 2011 at 1:41 PM

    Yes, Cat…there is. I just didn't wanna mIss out on a pearl if wisdom you may have had cloaked in the old mans advice :)As for your question to Manassas: I guessing that if nobody has broken for the bag by the time catcher cocks to throw, he should hold on to it, and cuss real loud, no? Catchers error, is my guess….

  34. Anonymous8 - May 15, 2011 at 2:12 PM

    Scott Olsen dumped by the Pirates?http://twitter.com/#!/colin_dunlap/status/69573425097744384

  35. UNTERP.NAT - May 15, 2011 at 2:25 PM

    The Nationals are on the cusp of breaking out and not for just one game but several games. Patience is the order of the day. So sit back and enjoy the evolution of splendor. It's going to happen…

  36. JaneB - May 15, 2011 at 2:29 PM

    A piece in the Post today says batting averages are down across the league. For what it's worth. And yes– ours are down more than others. I get it. But it's not our phenomenon alone.

  37. Anonymous - May 18, 2011 at 7:41 PM

    This team has been taking waaay to many first pitch strikes — and many second pitch strikes — then flailing at miserable "chase" pitches. I dont know if that's been the strategy or not, but it's been failure — and with a team b.a. of .222 — a joke.Recently I counted six straight batters who too a down the middle first pitch strike. What is the strategy, ware the other pitcher out? Excuse me while I hide my laughing. Seems to have abated lately, though. Maybe they figured out every pitcher in the NL knows to get ahead on Nationals with that first pitch. If that was truly Ecksteins strategy, the man is absolutely stupid — and has what he has helped to create — a .222 hitting team.

  38. Anonymous - May 18, 2011 at 7:50 PM

    La Roche is an absolute joke and a major failure at the plate. I love his defense: awsome. But that sissy, one-handed, long, slow swing is a joke.Drop this non-hitting defensive first basement to 8th — and 9th when Marquis and livan zre pitching.

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