May 22, 2015, 6:00 AM EST
We are now 41 games into the 2015 season, which means the Nationals have played more than one-quarter of their regular-season schedule. Some people say you can’t start to truly evaluate a ballclub until it has played at least 40 games. Others say you can’t do it til Memorial Day. Well, we’re right in between those two mileposts, so this seems like as good a time as any to take a big-picture look at the Nats and where they stand.
The first quarter of this season really can be broken into parts: the disappointing and sometimes concerning 7-13 start, and the utterly dominant 17-4 stretch that has followed it. But for these purposes, we’ll look at the whole package.
Let’s break down the Nationals via a number of various statistical departments, including how they rank among all 30 MLB clubs in each category…
R: 205 (2nd)
AVG: .261 (8th)
OBP: .329 (6th)
SLG: .421 (6th)
OPS: .751 (4th)
HR: 47 (t-5th)
BB: 142 (t-4th)
SO: 333 (27th)
SB: 11 (28th)
Comment: It’s pretty remarkable what the Nationals have done offensively, considering two key points: 1) They’ve seen Anthony Rendon, Jayson Werth and Denard Span all spend time on the DL, and 2) They ranked 23rd in the majors in runs scored through their first 20 games. But they’ve proven to have quite a balanced offensive attack, hitting both for average and power, reaching base at a good clip and having the ability to drive the ball out of the park. They do still strike out a lot, and their running game has been pretty bad. But overall, this team is doing more offensively than most would have guessed.
ERA: 3.75 (12th)
Opp AVG: .266 (27th)
Opp OPS: .697 (13th)
SO: 321 (13th)
BB: 104 (5th)
WHIP: 1.32 (20th)
Starters’ ERA: 4.05 (t-14th)
Relievers’ ERA: 3.16 (11th)
Comment: They haven’t been bad by any stretch of the imagination, but Nationals pitchers collectively haven’t been as great as most thought entering the season. They’re just barely better than average in team ERA and strikeouts. The most-vaunted rotation in the game sports an ERA over 4.00. But there have been some fantastic individual performances, from Max Scherzer (1.75 ERA, 66-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio) to Drew Storen (1.04 ERA, 12-of-13 in save situations). Doug Fister’s forearm strain is a potential concern over the long haul, as are the wildly inconsistent performances from Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez. But the bullpen has stabilized after a shaky start to the season, and younger guys have begun getting comfortable as their roles have evolved.
Errors: 30 (t-25th)
Fielding Percentage: .980 (24th)
Caught Stealing Percentage: 29.2 percent (19th)
Comment: This is another tale of two mini-seasons to date. Over their first 20 games, the Nationals committed 22 errors (most in MLB) and several of those directly altered the outcome of games. In the 21 games since, they’ve committed only eight errors (second-fewest in the majors). Ryan Zimmerman has played Gold Glove-caliber defense at first base. Bryce Harper has adjusted nicely to right field and has prevented several runners from trying to take an extra base on him. And Ian Desmond has bounced back from his terrible start to the season, in which he was charged with eight errors in his first 12 games but since has been charged with only three in his last 29 games.
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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