There’s no way of sugarcoating it – the Washington Nationals have not been playing good baseball. I don’t want to say they suck (that’s a word reserved for the Chicago Cubs), but they sure haven’t looked pretty recently. In their most recent series, the Nationals committed four errors and were outscored by the New York Mets 14-9. Shortstop Ian Desmond, who committed only 15 errors in all of last season, already has seven.
So can a team that leads the Majors in errors, is 19th in the league in batting and 20th in ERA make it to the World Series? I’m thinking not. Instead of thinking “World Series or bust!” the Nationals need to think about more day-to-day matters, like throwing first-pitch strikes, hitting more than just solo homers, and not bobbling or dropping a routinely-hit ball. Sounds pretty simple, right? It’s that fundamental “see the ball, hit the ball” mentality that baseball players learn from the time they’re in Little League.
Along with the simple “see the ball, hit the ball” concept there needs to be good decision-making. If two runners are on base and you have a 3-0 count after the pitcher has thrown seven straight balls, do you swing at ball four? Well Jayson Werth did on Sunday, and it led to a double play that did not score the lead runner (after Bryce Harper struck out to end the inning). Speaking of Bryce Harper, I can spend the whole day saying nice things about this kid, but he too needs to make better decisions, especially when running the bases. Don’t turn a single into a double if the ball wasn’t hit deeply enough. You may run fast, Bryce, but some of these guys have good arms and can easily throw you out trying to stretch a single into a double.
How to solve the Nats’ woes? I don’t know, but I’ve been asking them to fire their hitting coach, Rick Eckstein, for at least two years now. The hitters need to be more patient at the plate (leadoff hitter Denard Span seems to be the only one who can presently work up a count), and they need to stop swinging at every pitch they see. And as far as pitching, the starters haven’t been very dominant (except for a complete-game outing by Jordan Zimmermann and some good pitching from Ross Detwiler), the bullpen has been shoddy (that darn Henry Rodriguez is still there!), and too many pitches are being thrown. At the rate they’re going, both starters and relievers are going to be completely worn out by the All-Star break!
The Nationals are returning to DC for three games against the Cardinals and four against the Cincinnati Reds starting tonight. I really hope that I can fill next week’s blog post with positive analysis, boundless optimism and overall happy thoughts. If the Nationals don’t shape up and improve their game, it’s going to be a long hard season for those of us who write about the Nationals. Help me out here, guys; I want to go back to my carefree and cheerful self!