When Stephen Strasburg got hurt last summer, there were plenty of wags who said there would be no reason to watch the Nats until 2012.

When Rob Dibble got fired not long after, there were plenty of fans who said they would no longer be tuning into Nats broadcasts on MASN.

When Mike Rizzo opted for defense and pitching over offense and Adam Dunn in the offseason, there were plenty of skeptics who said the 2011 team would now be both mediocre and boring.

And yet, for some reason I haven’t yet figured out, the Nats TV ratings on MASN are booming. Through the season’s first month, ratings in the D.C. market were up 80 percent, the second-biggest increase in Major League Baseball behind only the Rangers, who obviously gave their fans plenty of reason last fall to get excited.

Through 27 games, the Nats were drawing a 1.6 household rating in the D.C. market, good for about 40,000 households. The 51,000 fans who tuned in for those first 27 games was 122 percent higher than last year’s number through 27 games.

The Orioles, incidentally, were earning a 1.5 household rating (35,000 households) in the D.C. market through 26 games, which was also a massive year-to-year increase.

So maybe this has something to do with Washingtonians’ other television options. Maybe people have gotten that much more comfortable with finding MASN and MASN2. Maybe F.P. Santangelo has been a huge success. Maybe the fan base is actually expanding. Honestly, I have no great explanation here.