The Good With the Bad: The Nationals' Offense

The Good With the Bad is a segment in which Alyssa Wolice and Citizens of Natstown contributor Luigi (Ouij) de Guzman (@ouij) break down the negatives and positives for each series, respectively. You, the reader, can then decide to see the glass half empty - or full - with each series wrap.

With the first half of the 2015 Major League Baseball season in the books, Citizens of Natstown's David Huzzard and Alyssa Wolice teamed up with contributor Luigi de Guzman (@ouij) to take a look at the Nationals' offense.

HUZZARD'S TAKE

Normally when it comes to the case of the Nationals offense I'm on the positive side because the simple fact that the Nationals are averaging the third most runs a game in the NL is something that cannot be denied. With as many injuries as the team has suffered it is a mystery as to how they keep this ranking. Even when completely healthy the Nationals line-up lacks that second big star. Anthony Rendon could be that player but there is no proof that he can stay healthy for the rest of 2015. He had to stop a rehab assignment earlier in the season due to sustaining a second injury and then less than a month after returning from a knee and oblique injury he was right back on the DL.

Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman are aging stars, Denard Span is a great table setter but the Nats need a second middle of the order bat to go with Bryce Harper. Bryce Harper has an OPS of 1.173 with Span as the second best Nationals player at .798, Danny Espinosa third at .777, and Yunel Escobar fourth at .767. None of those players qualify as a second middle of the order bat. While players like Clint Robinson and Danny Espinosa have kept the Nats afloat with starters on the DL and the Nats offense has continued to score runs they can't keep it up much longer without a second strong bat.

That bat may very well currently be on the DL, but even when a player returns from injury there is no knowing how they'll return. The time away from facing live major league pitching is nothing but a detriment and it routinely takes a player about a month to get that timing back. That is another month of play with a subpar bat in the lineup. The Nationals are scoring runs but it's a smoke and mirror show at this point. If they're going to be able to compete in the playoffs they need a second star behind Bryce Harper.

The Nats survived the first half in this way but there is no chance they can keep it up for another half of a season. They need someone else in that line-up along with Bryce Harper and there is no way of knowing if that player is currently employed by the Washington Nationals. The good news for Nationals fans is that the trade deadline is coming up and Mike Rizzo has a chance to add that second star player to the batting order, someone who will be more reliable than the hope and prayer of a healthy Zimmerman, Werth, or Rendon.

OUIJ'S TAKE

Remember Steve Lombardozzi?

Remember how we praised his grit? His determination? His ability to make things happen? In the annus mirabilis of 2012, Lombo was worth 0.7 WAR. How terrible was he at offense? WRC+ is a stat that measures a player's overall offensive production relative to league average. 100 is average. 2012 Lombo was worth 83 WRC+.

This year to date, Ian Desmond is worth -0.9 WAR. Yeah, that's negative. Desmond is also worth so far 61 WRC+. Remember, average is 100.

Lombardozzi is no longer a National. He's not even in the National League (having been optioned back to AAA by Pittsburgh just before the break).

Desmond is the Nats' shortstop for the rest of the year.

You may sob quietly.

ALYSSA'S TAKE

Despite their injuries, the Washington Nationals are fifth in the NL in total runs scored, and fourth in home runs. As teams scramble to find missing pieces before the trade deadline, the Nationals will become a more complete team simply by welcoming the return of those who have served time on the Disabled List the past several weeks. Question marks still linger. Denard Span’s back spasms first surfaced out of the blue, and reports say Ryan Zimmerman still has pain in his foot.

But, from the glass-half-full approach, Nats fans should feel optimistic about what the team has accomplished with only a fraction of its starting lineup intact.

To start, Bryce Harper is playing like the Bryce Harper Nats fans first marveled over. He is among the league leaders in batting average, hits, runs scored, RBIs, walks, and slugging, and there are ample opportunities for Harper to further pad those numbers moving into the second half of Washington’s schedule.

In Anthony Rendon’s absence, Yunel Escobar has been a hero for the Nats. His .321 batting average and 97 hits over 78 games nearly made him All-Star worthy. Add to that, Escobar’s playing a position he’s never before filled.

While the Nationals will push on without the help of some of their biggest bats, players like Danny Espinosa and Clint Robinson have helped keep the team in first place. At this point in the season, it’s hard to imagine the Nats will do anything but improve as they slowly return to good health.

Washington also faces a very manageable second-half schedule. With the exception of remaining stints against the second-place New York Mets and the division-leading LA Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals, the Nationals should enjoy some smooth sailing with the Marlins, Giants, Braves, Phillies, Rockies and Brewers all playing sub-.500 baseball.

The team might be missing some of its superstars, but the Nats have just enough depth to stay afloat, at least to buy time for some of the team’s biggest assets to return for a playoff race.


Capitol Dugout Top Stories