Sep 24, 2013, 12:00 PM EDT
ST. LOUIS — There will be plenty of opportunities, now that the Nationals officially have been eliminated from playoff contention, to dissect this disappointing season and try to figure out why it produced the result it did.
Were the Nats done in by an unproductive lineup? Shoddy defense? An unbalanced bullpen? The weight of expectations?
All surely were factors, but let’s start today with one factor that hasn’t always been at the forefront of the discussion: Injuries, particularly those suffered by the club’s brightest young star.
Bryce Harper brought up the subject himself following last night’s loss to the Cardinals when asked what could have been different this season.
“I wasn’t there for a month,” Harper said, citing his time on the DL with a left knee injury. “I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I’m a game-changer or anything like that, but we’re a great team and me being in this lineup is huge. I’ve got to try to be in this lineup every night.”
Now, that statement can come across as just a wee-bit cocksure, but there’s also an element of maturity in there as well. Yes, Harper is calling himself a “game-changer,” despite him trying to insist he’s not. But he’s also acknowledging that he needs to do a better job keeping himself healthy enough to stay on the field through a full season.
In other words: Quit running into walls, and quit trying to play through injuries that are more severe than you want to admit.
Fact is, the Nationals really did suffer as a result of Harper’s injuries. When he has played this season, they’ve gone 63-51. When he hasn’t, they’ve gone 21-22.
The Nats were a 90-win with Harper. They were a 79-win team without him.
Now, the disparity isn’t entirely because Harper. There were other factors that contributed to losses while he was out, and there were other factors that contributed to wins while he was healthy.
In fact, injuries to two other key regulars proved just as significant.
The Nationals’ record when Jayson Werth plays is 69-56. When he doesn’t play, it’s 15-17.
The Nationals’ record when Wilson Ramos plays is 46-28. When he doesn’t play, it’s 38-45.
Finally, the Nationals’ record when Harper, Werth and Ramos ALL have been in the lineup: 33-20. (That’s a .622 winning percentage, equating to 100 wins over a full season.) Their record when none of the three has been in the lineup: 3-8.
Obviously every team has to deal with injuries every season. And the good ones overcome them, just as the 2012 Nationals did. The lack of production off the bench this year certainly hurt when any of those three regulars had to miss time due to injury.
But it is interesting to note — and quantify — just how much injuries played a role in the Nationals’ disappointing season. And to wonder what might have been had Harper, Werth and Ramos simply spent more time on the field and less time on the DL.
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