If you follow the Washington Nationals like I do, you probably check the box scores in the newspaper or online, you’re aware of the terrible start that relief pitcher Tyler Clippard has had, and you surely know about Ryan Zimmerman breaking his thumb and Wilson Ramos hurting his wrist. So I’m not going to give you a summary of who has played well and who hasn’t, who is on the Disabled List and who isn’t, or how many different batting lineups Nationals’ manager Matt Williams has used this season. Instead, I want to talk about something I don’t think anyone has mentioned yet – how much Stephen Strasburg has pitched so far and its possible implications late into the season.
Stephen Strasburg leads the Nationals in starts with 5 and innings pitched with 27. Three of the other starters (Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, and Tanner Roark) have 4 starts each, and Taylor Jordan only has 3. Now, I know that Doug Fister’s absence has been an issue – if he had been in the starting rotation for the first 20 games, the amount of games started by each pitcher would probably be 4 all around. But my concern is how Strasburg will do come September and possible post-season starts in October. Strasburg spent the off-season and Spring Training working on some new pitches including a nasty slider that he has successfully used this season and he leads the National League in strikeouts with 42, but usually someone who throws that hard (his average fastball last season was about 94 mph) has a tough time making it through an entire season injury-free. And we all know how fickle Strasburg can be – he gets nagging elbow or shoulder pain and has missed a few starts since his Tommy John surgery in 2010. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that he can hang in there for the entire season.
With a defense that leads the Majors with 22 errors, the Nationals need good pitching and even better hitting to remain as contenders this season. The Atlanta Braves are hitting better and pitching better, and the Nationals need to start scoring runs early, since most of their wins have been come-from-behind victories, in order to take some of the burden off their pitchers. After all, we all know that good hitting stops good pitching and vice versa, but there’s only so much a pitcher can do if his teammates don’t step up to the plate (no pun intended!) and start hitting. Bryce Harper is up and down, Ian Desmond has been struggling, José Lobatón can’t get a hit to save his life, and Anthony Rendón can’t carry the entire offense by himself.
Is everything going to be honkey-dorey when Zimmerman, Ramos, and Fister come back from the DL? Gosh, I hope so! I actually hope things improve before then, because the Nationals’ inconsistencies so far this season are really stressing me out. More importantly, they seem to be stressing the pitchers out, and the stress could catch up with them in a few months in the form of injuries. let’s hope I’m wrong and the Nationals can come out of this slump so guys can start hitting instead of mis-handling catches and committing so many errors. The Nationals don’t currently look like a team in contention, and while I will always be a fan no matter what, I would like to be a happy fan instead of a frustrated one.