Nationals’ offensive trends to watch

Ian Desmond. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

Ian Desmond. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

The Nationals are 11-10 but not without some struggle. After a rough start, the starting pitching is slowly trending up. Taylor Jordan, however, delivered another rocky performance on Tuesday and questions arose about his spot in the starting rotation. After committing another two errors on Tuesday night, the Nationals lead the majors with 23 errors, which Manager Matt Williams admitted has baffled him. The offense is much improved over last year, but some minor trends have emerged over the past week or so in which the Nationals have gone 4-6.

>>> When Ryan Zimmerman landed on the disabled list on April 13 with a broken thumb, it was essentially Danny Espinosa who replaced him in the lineup because Anthony Rendon shifted to third base. Espinosa has filled in well — a .788 OPS and seven extra-base hits — but Zimmerman was off to a hot start. Zimmerman was 12 for 33 (.364) with two home runs when he got hurt.

With Zimmerman in the starting lineup, the Nationals averaged 5.3 runs in 11 games. Without Zimmerman, the team is scoring 3.2 runs a game. They have faced tougher pitchers recently, such as Jose Fernandez, Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha.

Overall, the offense has done fine; they are averaging 4.29 runs per game, the ninth highest mark in baseball. The Nationals have a .720 OPS, 12th best in the majors, and have hit 22 home runs, tied for seventh in the majors. They are tied, however, for the second-most strikeouts (189).

>>> Ian Desmond has 30 strikeouts in 81 at-bats. Only three players have more strikeouts — Justin Upton, Abraham Almonte and Starling Marte. Desmond is second on the Nationals with 13 RBI and leads the team with four home runs. HeĀ is an extra-base hitter who is prone to the strikeout, but his early rate this season is ahead of past seasons. In his career 2012 season, he struck out 20.7 percent of the time. Last season, he struck out 22.1 percent. So far this year, he is striking out 34.9 percent of the time, in a small sample size.

>>> A handful of Nationals players have trended down in the past week or so. After a strong start, Jayson Werth is 2 for his last 20 with four walks. Since his return from the seven-day concussion disabled list, Denard Span has a walkoff sacrifice fly but is 3 for his past 17 with two walks. Overall, Span is 11 for 53 (.208) with six walks and a .283 on-base percentage as a leadoff hitter. Since resting his tight quad for a day, Bryce Harper is 2 for his past 22 with two walks.

>>> Rendon and Adam LaRoche have been the most consistent hitters. Rendon is 24 for 82 (.293) and a .865 OPS. LaRoche is 20 for 68 (.294) with three home runs. He has almost as many walks (13) as strikeouts (15). Over his career, LaRoche has a .220/.315/.396 slash line in the first month of the season. He has a .294/.407/.471 line through 19 games this month.

>>> The Nationals’ bench has been only mildly productive. Pinch hitters are hitting a combined .207 (6 for 29), 13th in the majors. Nate McLouth is 2 for 27 (.074), Tyler Moore is 3 for 16 (.188) and Sandy Leon is 5 for 29 (.172). Jose Lobaton, who has carried the largest load in Wilson Ramos’ absence, is 10 for 42 (.238). Kevin Frandsen has been the best bench player with a .280/.357/.320 slash line.

Also on Nationals Journal

Gio Gonzalez: Mike Trout stopper?