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What happened to the offense?

May 12, 2014, 1:28 PM EDT

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

After the Athletics completed their sweep of the Nationals with a 9-1 drubbing on Sunday afternoon, they closed the series with an overall scoring split of 21-4. Through three games, the Nats could only muster four total runs.

The weekend was a continuation of what has been a tough month for the Nationals at the plate. Through 11 days – nine games for the Nats – Washington has scored the least amount of runs (21) of any team in baseball. They have the second-worst batting average as a team this month (.222) and the worst on-base percentage (.284).

Injuries have hurt them, for sure, as now Adam LaRoche is on the disabled list. He was the team’s best player through the season’s first five weeks and left a big hole in the lineup.

But LaRoche wasn’t the only National who had a strong first month. Anthony Rendon and Danny Espinosa have both cooled off considerably since their surprising starts in April.

After hitting .316 with four homers, 20 RBI and a .896 OPS in April, Rendon is batting just .189 with a .535 OPS through nine games in May. Espinosa was solid in April with a .288 average and .828 OPS, now he’s sitting on a .129 OBP in May.

Ian Desmond is still looking for answers at the plate as his poor start to the year has carried over into its second month. He’s hitting only .217 on the season with a .607 OPS. Both are career-lows. Desmond has, however, cleaned it up in the field, having not committed an error since April 21.

Denard Span is also dragging his feet at the plate. He holds a .237 average through 30 games, well below his career average of .281. His OPS is also a career-low at an ugly .598.

Rendon, Espinosa, and Span, in particular, wouldn’t normally be relied upon heavily if the Nationals were fully healthy. But with their current circumstances, having three members of their Opening Day lineup on the DL, the Nationals are having trouble overcoming the collective struggles of who’s left.

Ryan Zimmerman will be out at least a few more weeks and Bryce Harper could be out until July. Help will come eventually, but for now it will be tough to win games when scoring at such a paltry pace.

  1. richardp6 - May 12, 2014 at 1:32 PM

    Does anyone agree that FP has taken being a homer to ridiculous levels? yesterday after GIO gave up 7 runs he actually said that all things considered, Gio has picked well today. REALLY? I am as much a Nats fan as anyone but that is just insulting our collective baseball intelligence. I am looking for insight and for announcers to call a realistic game, not this sugarcoated BS that these guys are throwing out there daily.

    • Section 222 - May 12, 2014 at 2:03 PM

      Yes. That was a lowpoint for FP. What I thought was particularly funny, in addition to all the excuse making, was that after the Nats were down 4-0, he and Bob spent several minutes describing how Kazmir was likely to get lit up any minute because he wasn’t pitching like he had a 4-0 lead. It’s like they think they have to convince people that the Nats can come back or they will turn off the TV. In fact, it’s that kind of BS that make people turn off the TV. Charlie and Dave are much easier to listen to in a blowout.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 12, 2014 at 2:54 PM

      FP butt kissing Frandsen and working on cutey nicknames for him made me want to puke. We all know their buddies which is fine, but be impartial. His behind the back fielding play was cool but his baserunning isn’t.

      I like my homer TV guys but it’s been so bad lately I listen to Charlie and Dave and turn off the TV sound.

      • cayucosbaseballconservancy - May 12, 2014 at 5:33 PM

        I can’t agree more. I wish they’d ‘promote’ Jason Benetti and Kevin Brown from AAA Syracuse.

    • Eric - May 12, 2014 at 4:55 PM

      Comparing Charlie and Dave to FP and Carp is just not fair…I actually like FP and Carp pretty well, but Charlie and Dave are on another level entirely, imo.

  2. texnat1 - May 12, 2014 at 1:42 PM

    Desi has improved his defense some over recent days, but lets not forget about that critical blunder on the ground ball in the first yesterday, error or not.

    Offense is suffering from injuries. ALR was a big blow given the already weakened state of the team.

    I will say that I would like to see Rendon take more walks, his OBP is surprisingly low given how well he has been hitting and the quality of his eye and hands. But I’m sure it will come in time.

  3. natsguy - May 12, 2014 at 1:47 PM

    Just in case you didn’t read this.

    Eric,

    Actually not when you look at their record after 40 games that is about what they eventually extrapolated to. They had a very good June and then collapsed to where they had been playing through mid May.

  4. tcostant - May 12, 2014 at 1:50 PM

    Yesterday was tuff to watch, but I admit I smiled after Norris hit his second HR and they played ZZ Top over the PA system. I’m smiling just writing this.

    As for Desi, he must be worried about how his wife is doing with his kids. That article in the post was joke, lets worry about the rich baseball players family. And I’m pretty sure he is done in two years, after reading the wife’s quotes.

  5. Hiram Hover - May 12, 2014 at 1:51 PM

    Zimm, ALR, and Harper are out. That would cause any line up to struggle. I know the idea of “protection’ has been debunked by the stat types, but I think taking the top producers out of the line up stills stress on those who are left.

    Of the others:

    Rendon’s cold stretch is too short, and his fundamentals too strong, for it to be worth worrying about.

    Espinosa played over his head for the first 3 weeks or so of the season. Now, he’s looking pretty weak again, in part because he seems to have returned to his “homer or bust” swing (his K rate has climbed alarmingly, to over 30% on the season). If he can get the Ks back under control, his overall line of .243/.286/.441 and wRC+ of 98 is probably about the best you can hope for.

    Desmond and Span – I don’t know.

  6. philipd763 - May 12, 2014 at 2:23 PM

    My biggest concern is the Nats hitters are helpless against good starting pitchers and also against mediocre starting pitchers. The only consistent offense they have show all season has been against teams with inferior bullpens. That’s why the team has a reputation for being able to come from behind in the last three innings.

    • Section 222 - May 12, 2014 at 2:32 PM

      Not a bad reputation to have I guess. I noticed this morning that two of the top three highest pitch counts in a game this season have been by Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee of the Phillies. There’s a reason for that.

      You’re right about our helplessness against some pitchers though. Still, we’ve won games started by Greinke, Fernandez, and Lee.

    • David Proctor - May 12, 2014 at 3:12 PM

      They beat Jose Fernandez, Michael Wacha, Zack Greinke, etc. etc. This narrative is false. Are you expecting them to go 1.000 against great pitchers or what exactly?

      • bowdenball - May 12, 2014 at 4:22 PM

        I remember last year the narrative was that they couldn’t beat the mediocre pitchers. Remember the whining about Dillon Gee until they blew him up in their last three games against him? And then it started up again on Opening Day and lasted about four innings until they shelled him again.

        There’s always gonna be some stupid meaningless pattern for fans to fixate on until regression wins out, as it always does.

  7. Ghost of Steve M. - May 12, 2014 at 2:50 PM

    The Phillies just DFA’d Jason Nix who is Laynce Nix brother. I just realized Laynce is out of pro ball as nobody signed him for Minor League filler. At 33 years old the reality of being out of baseball at that age and possibly retired has to be something his former teammate Kevin Frandsen has to know could be his last chance too.

    With the growth of baseball globally, the supply of players has to be creating the ability for teams to fill-in from cheaper youngsters then recycling the has-beens.

    I also wonder if Desi is going to beg Rizzo for that $90 million deal he turned down. Most players work to get to that 1st long-term deal with that life changing money and when you got a shot to take the powerball equivalent, you need to do that and set yourself up to buy a private island in the Caribbean for the real retirement in your 40’s.

    • cayucosbaseballconservancy - May 12, 2014 at 5:34 PM

      You’d think especially since he will be 30 when Desmond becomes a free agent. He seriously could end up with that UTL job like Frandsen.

  8. NatsLady - May 12, 2014 at 2:56 PM

    Scott Kasmir was “pitcher of the day” according to baseballreference.com. Game Score of 73.

  9. Candide - May 12, 2014 at 4:03 PM

    What happened to the offense?

    Well, if I’m the other manager, I’m looking at this typical lineup, and here’s what I’m thinking:

    Span
    Rendon
    Werth
    Ramos
    Desmond
    Espinosa
    Moore
    LF – Frandsen/Hairston/McLouth
    Pitcher

    Span hasn’t been hitting all season and has no power. Safe to pitch to him.
    The guys who can hurt me are 2-3-4. Be careful. Nothing in the zone, work the edges, try to get them to chase. Even if two of them get on, you’re pretty much home free after that.
    Desmond will swing out of his shoes. Just don’t give him a first-pitch meatball fastball.
    Espinosa will swing at anything in the same ZIP code as the strike zone. Make him do it.
    Moore – can hurt you if you make a mistake. Nothing inside. And in any case, the bases are probably empty ahead of him.
    LF – okay, be a little careful with Hairston if you’re a lefty pitcher. But in any case, you got the pitcher up next with Span to follow, so you should be home free.

    Put a few runs on the board early against this underperforming best staff in baseball (currently the majors’ 16th best ERA, according to NatsLady’s blog today) and you should be able to hold on to the lead for the full nine.

    • Nats Amore - May 12, 2014 at 5:08 PM

      That’s funny, I just looked at ESPN team stats, and the Nats are 7th best in the Majors with a team ERA of 3.31, unless maybe you were referring to starting pitching.

      • Candide - May 12, 2014 at 5:14 PM

        Yes, starting pitching – should have been more specific. NL has the complete breakdown – starters, BP, and overall, here.

    • Section 222 - May 12, 2014 at 5:31 PM

      I don’t disagree with your analysis of the individual players, but the last sentence doesn’t seem quite right given our ability to come back in the late innings this year. In fact, we’ve scored more runs in the 7th and 8th innings this year than any other inning, and in 6 of our 19 wins, we’ve been behind in the 6th inning or later.

      http://www.baseball-reference.com/play-index/inning_summary.cgi?year=2014&team_id=WSN

      • Candide - May 12, 2014 at 6:01 PM

        I’m thinking that may be more a function of some of the bullpens we’ve been dealing with. Our last two come-from -behind wins were against the Phils (May 2) and Astros (April 29). We’ve gone 2-6 since then.

        I think the league knows what the book says to do to beat this injury-riddled team:

        1) Score 3-4 runs in the first couple of innings, and;
        2) Don’t let 2-3-4 beat you.

        That will obviously change when (and if) Zimmerman, Harper, and LaRoche all come back, assuming the rest of the team stays reasonably healthy. But for now, this is a AAAA lineup with shoddy defense backing mediocre starting pitching.

      • Section 222 - May 12, 2014 at 10:54 PM

        Well yes, we’ve come back against bullpens. Of course. But that means that your claim that all you have to do is score runs early against our underperforming starters isn’t right. You also have to hold off a pretty good late game hitting club. And yes, we’re 2-6 since the last comeback, but so what? Are you saying that all you have to do is score early and you’ll win, except when you don’t? Ok, I can buy that I guess.

        Maybe I’m missing your point. If so I apologize.

  10. knoxvillenat - May 12, 2014 at 4:10 PM

    Reposting from the previous thread,

    “NL,

    Where did you read or “hear” of Gio perhaps taking in one too many party while in Oakland/San Fran?”

    • NatsLady - May 12, 2014 at 7:19 PM

      Gio tweeted “Not gonna lie. Looking forward to my old stomping grounds in Oakland,” or something like that.

      • Section 222 - May 12, 2014 at 10:55 PM

        A pretty thin reed for that speculation I’d say. But just as possible as some of the other theories we’ve heard — missing ALR’s calming influence for example.

  11. David Proctor - May 12, 2014 at 5:45 PM

    Jose Fernandez on the DL and having an MRI. Another one falls.

  12. scmargenau - May 13, 2014 at 10:17 PM

    This is an absurd article. Rendon is bar far their best hitter, not a guy they don’t normally count on as suggested. Bryce hasn’t shown he’s much of an asset vs replacement on off and def. Zim is a great hitter but a liability at third.

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