Quite simply, yes, it’s too early to worry.
Fourteen games into the season, with an 8-6 record, the Nationals are nowhere near the gloom and doom some may already, and incorrectly, feel. It’s easy to draw broad, sweeping conclusions in the third week of the season, but keep in mind, there are 23 more weeks — 148 games — to go. There’s also too much talent on this team.
The Nationals’ long trek toward defending their National League East title, and fulfilling their World Series aspirations, has just started. But they haven’t made it look easy so far with inconsistent play. They’ve beaten up on the Marlins and Chicago White Sox, whose losing record belies their talent, but been dropped handily by two contenders, the Cincinnati Reds and Atlanta Braves. Three of their six losses have been blowouts of six runs or more.
“They say a loss is a loss and a win’s a win,” Ryan Zimmerman said. “I think it’s still really early in the season. It’s April 16 and there’s a ton of games left. I really hope nobody is panicking or worrying. I think we’re three, four, five games, whatever over .500 after 12 or 13 games. We’ve lost some bad ones. We’ve come out [Monday] and thrown up some runs. It’s just part of the early part of the season.”
The offense and lineup have been, more often than not, good. They are hitting a collective .257 and scoring 4.14 runs per game, just below the league average. The starting pitching, even with two uneven performances by Dan Haren, who carries a 8.10 ERA, has posted a 3.59 ERA, 11th best in the majors. The defense and bullpen, however, have been part of the team’s early inconsistencies. In 43 1/3 innings, Nationals relievers have punched up a 5.61 ERA, third worst in the majors.
“The bullpen hasn’t been as strong and they haven’t been throwing the ball like they’re capable of throwing,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “It’s kinda a little bit out of sync and that’s my fault. And we had a couple tough series, White Sox and Atlanta, kinda threw the pitching off a little bit coming out of the ‘pen. I’ll get it right.”
It’s still too early for major concerns. But here’s Mike Wise, Dan Steinberg and Jason Reid tackling the question anyway. A heads up: Wise is worried and Reid isn’t (and laughing and coughing).