Wednesday, September 28, 2005

What Went Wrong?

Since the magical height of July 3, it's been nowhere to go but down. On that day, the Nationals were 50-31. Since then, it's been a dreadful 30-47, a .390 winning percentage. Over a full season, that would translate to just 63 wins, narrowly averting the dreaded 100-loss season.

As if that isn't painful enough, our neighbors to the north in Baltimore, whom are regarded as a spectacular failure, have played to a .400 winning percentage since they fired Lee Mazzilli. Yeah, they've been better than us.

Where did we go wrong?

Let's look at the offense. (Numbers since 7/7 for Nats w/ 50+ ABs)
                  AVE  OBP  SLG
Brad Wilkerson .228 .325 .363
Jose Guillen .249 .312 .394
Preston Wilson .253 .325 .427
Vinny Castilla .244 .303 .398
Jose Vidro .268 .326 .383
Cristian Guzman .239 .284 .346
Nick Johnson .247 .356 .434
Brian Schneider .264 .328 .377
Jamey Carroll .266 .378 .306
Gary Bennett .183 .283 .192
Ryan Church .224 .310 .296
Carlos Baerga .223 .284 .330
Marlon Byrd .264 .316 .440
NL AVERAGE .261 .326 .414

Man, that's ugly. Team-wide, it's been a spectacular failure of offense.

They don't get on base. Jamey Carroll and Nick Johnson are the only batters with acceptable on-base percentages. Unfortunately, Carroll is a backup and NJ missed many games with injuries.

They don't hit for average. When someone hitting .268 is your team's leading hitter for a three-month period, your offense is pathetic. Five of the eight regulars are hitting below .250. Certainly, batting average is waaay overrated. But you're only useful when you're hitting .250 if you're walking a lot, or slugging a lot. (See: Dunn, Adam)

They don't hit for power. Just TWO of the eight regulars are slugging over .400. To put that in perspective, these 'power hitters' are slugging .400ish: David Eckstein (396); Mark Grudzielanek (404); Julio Lugo (406); Chone Figgins (393).

David Ecksten could hit cleanup on this team. Let that sink in for a second.

They don't drive in runs. During that period, Preston Wilson leads the team with 37 RBI. Over 162 gams, that's a 77 RBI pace. Alleged clean-up hitter Jose Guillen has just 30 (a 63-RBI pace).

They don't score runs. Brad Wilkerson leads the team with just 34. That's good for a 71-run pace. That 71-run pace would currently tie Wilkerson for 44th in the NL. And he's our BEST run scorer!

Looking at the pitching, it's been a much better story.
                IP      ERA
John Patterson 116 2.72
Livan Hernandez 112 4.66
Esteban Loaiza 111.2 3.47
Hector Carrasco 53.2 1.34 (!)
Gary Majewski 45.1 2.18
Tony Armas 45 4.60
Ryan Drese 33.2 7.22
Chad Cordero 31 2.61

Other than Drese, the pitching has been decent.

Livan's clearly feeling the effects of fatigue. I'm not ready to believe that it's his arm; I still think it's his knee, which is preventing him from getting everything he can on pitches.


Even when you factor in the park -- and I'm thoroughly convinced that this is the most extreme pitchers' park in the league -- it's clearly a failure of the offense.

When you don't walk (or even show much plate discipline) you're not wearing down pitchers, or getting good pitches to hit. The team seems to hack at whatever it sees, failing to drive the ball more often than not.

There's only so much a pitching staff can do. They can't hold the team scoreless the entire game.

Sure, injuries are part of it. But it doesn't tell the whole story. Even before the slide, the team wasn't lighting up the scoreboard.

As the team moves towards its offseason, it's going to need to come up with some solutions on offense. Regardless of how good the pitching is, no team can win with an offense that's worst in the league.


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