In a First Half Marred by Injury and Inconsistency, Was Washington Really That Bad?
Grading Washington's First Half
Before the season, the Washington Nationals were expected to win 100-plus games, pace the National League East and fly to the World Series, where they would defeat the Detroit Tigers. Well, needless to say, that's not really what happened. Injuries to just about everyone in Washington's lineup, along with inconsistency from their $13-million man in Dan Haren, Washington was never able to fully climb out of the deep, deep hole they dug themselves early on.
Washington has been at or below the .500 mark more times than they can count, and have been marred by a sporadic offense, poor defense and slow starts from many players such as Stephen Strasburg, Adam LaRoche and Dan Haren, two of which have since snapped out of their slow starts, and if Haren's start Saturday was any indication, he may be on his way as well.
Amazingly, though, Washington sits only six games back of Atlanta, and had plenty of time to make up ground on them, since they have been able to keep a pace with Atlanta. Needless to say, Washington's second half is one giant must-win situation. They have the pieces to do it, and having everyone together healthy will be key to the rest of their season. With that said, was Washington's first half really that bad? Let's take a look, by defense, pitching, offense and the manager. Certain aspects are actually a pleasant surprise. Washington has had some players come out of nowhere to be consistent bright spots in a dark, gloomy first half.
3.58 ERA, 709 K in 843.1 IP, .250 BAA, 1.23 WHIP, 806 H allowed.
Washington's pitching staff has been more than solid, their lowest ranking statistic being their innings pitched at ninth, which is 843.1 innings. Their team ERA ranks fifth, as does their team WHIP. The one negative is Washington's poor winning percentage in games started by pitchers named Strasburg, Gonzalez or Zimmermann. Altogether, Washington's rotation has been solid.
.241/.301/.385, 86 HR, 733 K, 265 BB.
Washington's offense has been, well, pretty rough. The offense is pretty much at the bottom of the barrel in every offensive category. The lineup is deep, there is no question about that, but is just flat out sporadic, going a week scoring 40 runs, then 10 in the next week. Having everyone healthy is going to be huge in the second half, so hopefully they get back on track.
.981 Fielding Percentage, 67 Errors, 82 Double Plays Turned, 60 Stolen Bases allowed.
I am of the strong opinion that shaky defense is only a problem when the team struggles, which is exactly why it's even on this list. Errors just make pitchers work more and extend innings. If Washington turns things around in the second half, the defense will be the farthest thing from everyone's mind.
3.51 ERA, 27 saves in 38 chances, 247 K, .249 BAA, 1.27 WHIP.
Washington's bullpen has been a bright spot, with additions like Ian Krol and Fernando Abad making the 'pen deeper. Having three closers for the final three innings ain't bad either. Washington's bullpen is the least of their troubles.
Davey Johnson's swan song season has not gone as planned, with Washington floundering above and below .500 all year. He's made his own questionable decisions, like using Abad in a ninth-inning situation against Cleveland. Johnson's patience is maddening at times, being almost too slow to react (see: Danny Espinosa). Johnson will, of course, be Washington's guiding light to their success. He has just as much work to do as the rest of the team.