Happy All-Star break, Nationals fans! As we look back on the first half of the 2014 baseball season, we Washington Nationals fans should be pretty pleased with our team. Not only are the Nationals in first place in the NL East (percentage points above the Atlanta Braves); the Nats have won 10 of their last 14 games, their bats have come alive, and their pitching continues to be solid.
While some critics claim that the Nationals have “under-performed” during the first half of the season, I have to say that these people don’t follow the team closely and are only looking at statistics on paper. The Nationals are tenth in the National League in batting with a team average of .246, and their best average is held by Anthony Rendón, who is batting .287 (number 22 on the NL list). But that doesn’t tell the whole story. The Nationals lead the NL in pitching, with a 3.08 team ERA, starter Stephen Strasburg leads the league with 149 strikeouts, and closer Rafael Soriano has 22 saves with a 0.97 ERA.
And how about all those guys on the Disabled List? Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, and Wilson Ramos all spent most of the first half of the season on the DL, and as far as pitchers, Doug Fister and Gio Gonzalez also had short stints on the List. So chill out, critics; the Nationals are right where they need to be at the halfway point of the season.
But what do the Nationals need to do to remain on top? First, Bryce Harper needs to do some hitting. Since his return from the DL, Harper has gone 6-40 with one home run. Bryce is a talented kid – I know he can hit! Hopefully he can analyze his swing during the break, take some pitches from his dad, and come back ready to do some damage.
The Nationals also need to get rid of Danny Espinosa. Don’t send him down to the Minors – trade him for some prospects or some cash or for a nice hand-made Amish quilt. He calls himself a switch hitter but can’t hit from either side, and just being a good fielder is not enough if you can’t hit. Danny has to go.
Finally, the Nationals HAVE to beat the Braves. They have nine games left to play against the Braves this season, and they need to win at least 5 of them. The Braves aren’t all that – their hitting has been up and down and their pitchers aren’t as dominant (except for that Craig Kimbrel guy with his weird pitching stance) – so there’s really no reason why the Nationals can’t win most of their remaining games against the Braves. If anything, they need to win the games in Atlanta so I don’t have to hear that annoying “tomahawk chop” that their fans do when their team is winning.
So, Nationals fans, the second half of the season should be a good one. Let’s root for pitcher Tyler Clippard, who will be representing the Nationals in Tuesday’s All-Star game, and let’s hope for a healthy and productive second half with some post-season action to take us way into October.