For the past three seasons the Washington Nationals have started the season 7-2. For 2015 they've decided to do things different. The Nats could have, maybe even should have, at least a .500 record. The offense, defense, and the bullpen have combined to undo the good work of the starting pitching. The bullpen is the only one that is of any real concern as Jayson Werth should be back this afternoon, Denard Span is about to begin a rehab assignment of his own, and Anthony Rendon has begun baseball activities. The interesting note on Rendon is Yan Gomes came down with a moderate sprain to the MCL yesterday and his timetable for return was instantly listed as 6-8 weeks. Rendon's sprain was supposed to be less severe but I think this gives us some idea of when to expect him back and using that time table it is sometime between 2-4 weeks at this point.
With Werth returning someone else has to go and Matt den Dekker is the only outfielder on the bench with options but he is also the only outfielder on the bench that can be relied upon to play center field. Reed Johnson has played center in his career but he is 38 years old. Reed Johnson has also hit the ball when he's been asked to and has a career as a decent bench player and pinch hitter. That leaves Tyler Moore who is 0'fer infinity but is out of options. If Mike Rizzo wants to keep everyone then den Dekker goes down, but if the decision is based on merit then Tyler Moore is DFA'd, and perhaps he clears waivers. At this point I'd be shocked if he didn't as he is a 28 year old that has never hit in the major leagues and looks completely over matched to start the season.
What part of the Nats order doesn't look over matched so far though. Bryce Harper is off to a good start, Clint Robinson has hit well when given a chance, Ryan Zimmerman might be starting to come around, Michael Taylor has done more than admirably fill in for Span, and Yunel Escobar has put together quality at bats. Other than that the Nats line-up has looked dreadful. They've looked beyond dreadful. The Nats offense is averaging 2.17 runs a game through six games. Beside that being a ridiculously small sample it would also be a historic low. If the Nats averaged that few runs per game over the course of a season one would have to wonder if they aren't time travels from the early days of baseball.
The early season is full of statistic abnormalities that are given way too much weight because they are the only sample we have. The Nats offense has been poor but they can't possibly be this poor even with Werth, Rendon, and Span out. Getting Werth back is going to be a big bonus. It should get Tyler Moore, who if given 1000 at bats might never get a hit, out of the line-up and keep Clint Robinson and Reed Johnson available for late inning pinch hitting opportunities. Once everyone is back and in their proper place in the order this line-up is going to be tough to get through. Look at the at bats Yunel Escobar has put together at the top of the order and imagine that at the bottom of the order after a pitcher has had to deal with Span, Werth, Rendon, Harper, and Zimmerman. The Nats are going to score runs, and they're going to have a good offense, but they haven't yet.
Now about that bullpen. Even when the Nationals are healthy they are going to end up in save situations in the seventh inning or later. In the last three games the Nationals have blown leads in the seventh, eighth, and seventh innings. They were one and two run leads, but those are leads that the bullpen exists to protect. It doesn't matter if the score is 1-0, 2-0 or 5-4, 7-5 the bullpen's job is to protect slim leads and this bullpen has struggled so far. Casey Janssen is out and perhaps his return will get other players in a better position to succeed, but that is still a question. On Friday night everyone complained when Cedeno was brought in instead of Treinen when Cedeno blew it and then a day later everyone complained when Treinen was brought in over Cedeno when he blew it. Sometimes the right move by the manager is the one that works. I can't fault Matt Williams with any of his bullpen moves this past series. The players weren't put in terrible positions and it is on them to perform. With that being said I wouldn't be surprised if Rich Hill or Matt Grace finishes the season as the second lefty in the pen.