Back on opening day, Boz saw this coming. He wrote about how the Nationals, while stacking their roster with capable, often excellent defensive players, had created a lineup full of hitters who strike out frequently. That, we can now safely say, has come bear.
After whiffing 13 times yesterday against Anibal Sanchez, the Nationals have struck out 270 times through 34 games. That puts them on a pace for 1,286 strikeouts this year, which would rank 14th-most all-time.
That’s not quite as extreme as it sounds. First, the Nats have struck out fewer times per game this year than the Pirates and Padres. Strikeouts are simply more prevalent in today’s game. All 15 of the top single-season team strikeout totals have come since 2004, and four of those occurred last season. The batter-pitcher confrontation has never been more intense. Hitters today are more willing to wade deep into a count in order to find a pitch to hit out of the park or draw a walk. It doesn’t mean they’re good, but strikeouts are the cost of doing business in the modern game.
So all those strikeouts, by themselves, are not inherently bad for an offense. Big-strikeout teams can still score runs. The Nationals, obviously, are not scoring many runs, and that’s largely because they have not produced the home runs that typically come hand-in-hand with big strikeout totals. Teams sacrifice putting the ball in play in order to put it over the fence more. The Nationals have not achieved the latter half of that all-or-nothing trade.
The 16 teams in baseball history that struck out at least 1,270 times hit an average of 180 home runs, and only one – the 2004 Milwaukee Brewers, who hit 134 and won 67 games – hit less than 152 dingers. The Nationals have hit 24 home runs, which ranks 25th in the majors and puts them on pace for 114.
It’s still early, of course, and the Nationals, like all teams, are likely to pick up their home run pace as the air warms and the ball starts carrying more. The loss of Ryan Zimmerman, too, has greatly hurt the Nationals’ power numbers (like it’s hurt, well, just about everything else).
Boz wrote in his opening day column that the Nationals were going to have an extreme offense, with loads of strikeouts but also more home runs from more spots on the field. So far, the Nationals have fulfilled only the wrong half of that equation.
FROM THE POST
Anibal Sanchez shut the Nationals down as they lost 8-0 and closed a series win with an unsightly game.
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Durham 4, Syracuse 0: Chris Marrero went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts, and he’s hitting .243 with a .292 on-base percentage and a .378 slugging percentage. Ross Detwiler allowed four runs in six innings on six hits and three walks, striking out six.
Reading 15, Harrisburg 6: Brad Peacock allowed five runs in 4 1/3 innings on six hits and two walks, striking out six. Archie Gibert went 3 for 4 with two home runs.
Potomac 2, Kinston 1 (11 innings): Destin Hood went 2 for 5 with a double. Danny Rosenbaum allowed one run in seven innings on six hits and a walk, striking out seven.
Hagerstown 12, Lexington 11: Bryce Harper went 2 for 5 with a double and an RBI. He’s batting .371/.460/.701 and has a 12-game hitting streak. Blake Kelso went 1 for 3 with a home run and two walks. Michael Taylor went 1 for 3 with a home run and a walk.