Before this season I always tried to find the positive in the Nats play. It wasn’t easy and at times it took some deep, deep digging, but there was always a grain of light to be found. With the Nats playing so well and now 14 games over .500 I want to try and find that nugget of darkness. The simplest one to find and the one most will say is the reason the Nats can’t last is because they can’t score, and while they do rank 24th in runs scored in baseball and 12th in the NL they have made some progress of late.
In April the Nationals scored 74 runs in 22 games or 3.36 runs a game. That isn’t just bad that it close to being one of the worst offenses of all time. Over a 162 game season that is 544 runs on the season which would have been the worst in the majors in 2011 below the 556 run Mariners. That April number is so bad that it obscures some of the good things that the Washington Nationals have done since them and it pulling their overall offensive average down.
May was a much better month for the Washington Nationals offense as they scored 118 runs over 28 games or 4.21 runs a game. As far as the record goes the Nationals were 14-8 in April and 15-13 in May. The reason for the slight drop off in May when compared to April is that while the Nationals offense improved the pitching had a slight drop off. In April the Nationals allowed 59 runs over 22 games or 2.68 runs a game. In May the Nationals allowed 108 runs in 28 games or 3.85 which is still very good as the NL average is 3.93. But the increase in offense wasn’t enough to outweigh the decrease in run prevention and the May record ended up being worse than April’s.
Over the past couple weeks the Nationals have done very well. The month of May ended with a sweep at the hands of the Marlins, but since that time the Nationals have lost a total of two games. The pitching has allowed 29 runs over 10 games or 2.9 runs a game while the offense has continued to play at an improved level and has scored 42 runs or 4.2 runs a game over that same time. So far in the month of June the Nationals have been clicking on all cylinders.
The 4.2 runs a game that the Nationals have scored for the months of May and June is right around the NL average of 4.18. The Nationals have had an average offense for around a little over the month now which should come as no surprise to those that have watched this team. Back on April, 28 a certain phenom made his major league debut, and any time a team can add a .307/.390/.553 bat to their line-up it is going to improve the offense.
One other key factor to the Nats offensive improvements since April is that in April Danny Espinosa batted .205/.300/.269. In May Espinosa batted .232/.318/.442 and so far in June he is having his best month of the season batting .297/.350/.541. It may only be a hot streak but it is a much needed one from a player who was ice cold to start the season.
The scariest thing about the Washington Nationals offense isn’t who is hot it is who isn’t. Michael Morse has just returned to the line-up but his bat has yet to warm up as he is hitting .200/.250/.275 and Ryan Zimmerman has struggled all season long and is batting just .239/.312/.342. Those are two of the team’s best hitters and neither has found their stride. If they do and Jayson Werth does come back healthy at some point then this Washington Nationals offense might be a little better than the league average they have looked over the last couple months.
There is a lot of season left to be played and as we have learned not everything is going to go a team’s way. Strasburg will be shutdown at some point, perhaps the league learns how to pitch Harper and Espinosa cools back off, Werth never returns, and Zimmerman and Morse have season long struggles, but that is a lot to go wrong without a single thing going right.
The Nationals have played well in June so far and this could end up being their best month of the season, but the toughest part of the month is still to come with the Yankees and Rays coming into town this week, and then heading back on the road to face the Orioles, Rockies, and Braves to finish the month out. Anything can happen in this sport of baseball, but as it looks right now there are a lot more reasons to believe in the Nationals than there are to doubt them. Especially if the offense can continue to look the way it has since the month of April.