Winning makes everything better. With their recent winning ways, the Nationals are enjoying an era of good feelings unmatched since their inaugural season in Washington when they were in the division race until midsummer.
Hopefully, MASN watchers will now be treated to better “Were you there?” commercials. I cringe every time I hear “the Nats take two of three from so and so” in the same sentence as “never miss a defining moment.” After taking three of four on the road against the Padres where the pitchers clamped down on San Diego hitters and a sweep of the Cardinals, the Nats now have promotion-worthy moments in a season that has to be viewed as a success so far.
The Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore mentioned early last week that the Nationals are still not worthy of wild card discussion, but why not? A fun part of being a fan is having borderline-delusional expectations for your team. That’s why there are still Cubs fans. If the Nationals continue to hang close to the wild card pack, what’s wrong with thinking they might get hot at the end and contend for a playoff spot?
There was some discussion earlier this year that you know what you are as a team right around game 60. The Nationals are interesting in that they’re one of the few teams that that proposition might not hold true for this year. Is the bullpen really as good as it looks? Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen appear dominant, but the Nats relievers are in the bottom half of the league in expected fielding independent pitching.
Also, what about that fielding? Is Ian Desmond really a top-notch shortstop that helped contribute to the team setting a franchise record errorless streak, or is he more like the guy who led the league in errors last season? The Nationals certainly aren’t as bad at the plate as they’ve shown in the first two months of the season, but they’re probably not the murderer’s row type of lineup that they’ve been during the current hot streak.
Also, is it too early to believe the Nationals starters can continue to prove that the fielding independent statistics doesn’t apply to their style of pitching? I’m starting to believe the sinkerball-heavy staff really does defy the statistics to a point. Still, the point is that you would’ve taken the under if someone bet you that four Nationals starters would have ERAs below 4.00 in mid-June.
Now with Ryan Zimmerman back, I’ll give the team a month before I make a ruling on what type of team they are at the plate. Whether it’s real or imagined, it looks like they are a completely different team at-bat with Zim than without him. No matter what, it’s a great feeling to be debating whether the Nationals are for real or not in June (still makes me kind of sad to write that) along with the promise that the debate will at least continue until at least a few weeks after the All-Star break. You can now say you were there when the Nationals extricated themselves from being one of the jokes of the major leagues.