Let's Talk About The Nats Offense, Again

In the wake of the Max Scherzer signing I’ve been listening to a lot of sports talk radio to hear other people’s reaction to the deal. Going off of XM and venturing into the land of local sports talk radio has turned out to be a large mistake.

Without my nightly dose of Phil Wood callers I’d forgotten just how dumb these people are and it has left me with something to say. Most of the reaction to the Scherzer signing has been negative because the Nats didn’t need another great starting pitcher they needed Mike Trout or some other mystical .300 hitter that can jack 30 home runs. Actually scratch that. Mike Trout isn’t on this list. The only person currently playing in Major League baseball to hit .300 or higher with at least 30 home runs in 2014 was Victor Martinez and as the Nats play in the NL they had no place for him.

The only way the Nats could have acquired the player these callers think the team needs is to travel to Victor Frankenstein’s lab and make one themselves, and as the commissioner’s office frowns on PED use I don’t know how they’d feel about genetic engineering or the harvesting of corpses. The two best offensive players on the free agent market was the .739 2014 OPS Pablo Sandoval and the oft injured Hanley Ramirez. Neither would have been a great help to the Nationals and if we want to compare WAR value there isn’t one between those two and Max Scherzer.

Through all this we have yet to mention that the only place the Nats have to upgrade is either at second or third base. Josh Donaldson would have been a great addition and as uninspiring as that trade was Brett Lawrie was a key part of it and trading Anthony Rendon for Josh Donaldson is just spinning in circles. The other player the Nats targeted to improve their offense was Ben Zobrist and once again it appeared they just didn’t match up with what the Rays were looking for. The Nats did add Yunel Escobar, who hasn’t been great offensively in recent years but has had a similar career to Asdrubal Cabrera and is better than Danny Espinosa.

The player the Nats needed to upgrade their offense just wasn’t available and still we haven’t mentioned that the offense didn’t need upgrading. The Nats scored the third most runs in the NL last season. Lots of folks seem to think there was something wrong with the 2014 Nationals because they didn’t win the World Series. In fact there was more wrong with the Royals and Giants who played in the World Series than the 2014 Nationals. The Nationals had a top offense, a top starting rotation, and a top bullpen. If there was a weakness to the 2014 Nationals it was defense and that ranked 11th in the majors. The 2014 Nationals were as complete as a team comes.

Losing Adam LaRoche is a loss, but Ryan Zimmerman missed over 100 games for the first time since his call-up season and Bryce Harper spent most of the season recovering from knee surgery, on the DL, and recovering from a thumb injury. Having those two back and healthy in the line-up is going to help on its own. Denard Span is going to see some regression, Jayson Werth could miss the first couple weeks to month of the season, and the bench still doesn’t look good on paper (but whose bench does), but Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman being healthier and in the line-up more often will make up for all of that. Not to mentioned that people keep forgetting just how good Anthony Rendon was in 2014.Yunel Escobar is the only hitter in the Nats line-up that projects to have a wRC+ under 100 at 98 meaning he is 2% worse than a league average hitter and that is 15% better than the average NL number eight hitter in 2014. The Nationals offense doesn’t have that 40 home run bat, but no one else has that either. What the Nationals do have is league average or above hitters at every single spot on the field, and if Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon do what they should as the three and four hitters it isn’t going to matter one bit who’s playing second or if Jayson Werth can rebound from shoulder surgery or if Denard Span should be leading off.

In comparison to how good the pitching staff is I guess you could say the offense is a weakness, but compared to the rest of baseball the Nats have a really good line-up and one that has the potential to be great if Bryce Harper reaches his potential. And while the people that need to read this likely never will I wrote it anyway and now you know that while the Nats offense isn’t as good as their pitching staff it still projects to be damn good.

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