To say the Washington Nationals are having problems scoring runs is an absolute understatement. Sure, they have had big offensive games, but those outbursts usually last one inning (see 2012 NLDS Game 5). Normally, when a team scores, they are able to add on insurance runs, thus keeping themselves ahead. This falls on deaf ears in Washington.
The Nationals rank in the bottom 25 in almost every offensive category. Washington has scored 243 runs, which is good enough for 28th in the Majors, as is their team average (.232) and the average of their pinch hitters (.178). They do, however, lead the league in one category: left on base. Washington averages 12.41 runners left on base. That statistic is actually a double-edged sword. On one side, Washington is getting on base, but at the same time, they’re getting on base and the following batters are doing nothing after that. Washington’s offensive struggles go back to one specific problem.
Bryce Harper is still injured.
Harper is on the DL with knee bursitis, and has visited Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion, where he received an injection of plasma rich platelets and cortisone, and has recently been approved for weight based training. Washington needs him back desperately. In the 27 games it has not had Harper, Washington has only won nine of them. Nine. That gives Washington a 9-18 record in games without Harper, and the reasoning why is obvious.
Almost every single one of Harper’s offensive numbers are better than Washington’s cumulative offensive stats. Harper’s batting average is 50 points higher than the team average (.287 to .232). Harper’s on-base percentage and slugging percentage trump the team’s OBP and SLG by at least 90 points (.386 to .291 and .587 to .375), and his BABiP is higher than the teams by only seven points (.277 to .284). Looking deeper into percentages, Harper is striking out less (16.9 percent to 21.7 percent), walking more (14 percent to 7.2 percent) and hitting more extra base hits (11.2 percent to 7.4 percent) than the Nationals as a team.
To be blunt, Harper has turned into an East Coast version of Buster Posey, and I use that comparison loosely. When Posey was injured in 2011, San Francisco did not make the playoffs, but the two years Posey was healthy, they won the World Series. San Francisco is also pretty similar to Washington offensively, as they pitch well but do not score a lot of runs. Washington’s team ERA is 3.63, good enough for sixth in the Majors, and have a rotational ERA of 3.58. One would think Washington would be atop the NL East with those stats.
Unfortunately, Washington needs Harper back, and he can not come back soon enough.
Nick Comando is a Washington Nationals writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on twitter (@NickNats90) and on Google+ (Nick Comando)