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Posted at 12:46 AM ET, 05/04/2011

The Nationals offense has been bad, but it’s going to get better


There are 133 games left in the year, which is good for the Nationals, because no team is this bad on offense for a full season. They have to improve, at least somewhat, because the alternative would test the bounds of recent baseball history. It would pretty much be impossible.

The Nationals after last night, as a team, are hitting .225, getting on base at .301 and slugging .347. Collectively, the Nationals have an offensive WAR, according to Baseball-Reference.com, of 1.0. Wilson Ramos is 0.8 of that. Next are Ryan Zimmerman – who hasn’t played in 21 games – and Ian Desmond at 0.5. Four Nationals regulars have produced a negative WAR thus far. Basically, a Class AAA team lineup could have been standing in for the Nationals’ offense to this point, and the difference would barely register in the standings.

But, again, even without Zimmerman, unless you believe the Nationals are a historically atrocious offense, they will improve. Since 1970, only two teams have hit .225 or worse – the 1972 Rangers (.217) and 1972 Mets (.225). Only 23 teams had a lower on-base percentage than .301. Fifty-five teams have slugged less than .347. That doesn’t necessarily prove anything, but we’re talking 40 years.

This is something more substantial: The Nationals entered last night had a .266 batting average on balls put in play, 27th in the majors and 24 points below the league average. That’s with an 18-percent line drive rate, which matches the NL average. They’ve been bad, but also quite unlucky. They’re due for a correction, in a good way.

And it really is early. Twenty-games over a month seems like a lot. But
if this was an NFL season, the Nationals would be starting the fourth quarter of their third game.

None of this is to say the Nationals are some kind sleeping offensive giant. Their lineup becomes very, very thin without Zimmerman. And the early returns on Jayson Werth carrying an offense have been less than promising – he’s hitting .226/.322/.406 this year. Their leadoff hitter, Danny Espinosa, is 3 for 32. Thier cleanup man, Adam LaRoche, is 1 for 25. It is not a good time to be a Nationals’ hitter.

The Nationals offense has been dreadful, and it chances are it will not be even league average this year, especially without Zimmerman. But you can guarantee that it’s at least going to get better, and not just because it can’t get any worse.

FROM THE POST

In a 4-1 loss to his old team, Jayson Werth had a moment he won’t forget.

NATS MINOR LEAGUES

Syracuse was rained out against Rochester.

Harrisburg3 , Bowie 0: Brad Peacock allowed no earned runs in seven innings on two hits and one walk, striking out eight. Peacock, one executive said, might be the Nationals’ best prospect after Byrce Harper. Derek Norris went 1 for 4 with a home run.

Myrtle Beach 20(!), Potomac 6: Mitchell Clegg allowed 11 runs (seven earned) on 13 hits in 3 2/3 innings with one walk and one strikeout. Sandy Leon went 2 for 4 with a double. Destin Hood went 0 for 5 and is hitting .219.

Hagerstown 8, Rome 2: Bryce Harper went 2 for 5 with a run and an RBI. Michael Taylor went 2 for 4 with two doubles.

By  |  12:46 AM ET, 05/04/2011

 
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