It’s a strange new world for Nationals fans. For the last five seasons, the Nationals have been a good team and sometimes one of the best teams in baseball, and they’ve done so on the back of their starting rotation. This current iteration of the Nationals is very different. Pitching is not a strength, and after Tanner Roark, the starting rotation is a weakness. When July 31 rolls around, the Nationals are going to be looking for a starting pitcher and bullpen help. The latter has been the norm, but the former is quite a new thing.
On the flip side of that is the Nationals offense. They have averaged 5.44 runs a game in this young season and have a team OPS of .867. That team OPS is tops in the National League by .075 points. The next closest is Arizona at .792. The Nationals offense is quite good and they are going to score some runs. Right now, Daniel Murphy, Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Eaton and Matt Wieters are all blisteringly hot, while Anthony Rendon has struggled and Trea Turner finds himself on the disabled list. At some point in the season, a couple of those guys will cool off while Turner and Rendon heat up, and that is what a good lineup does.
In seasons of the past, the entire Nationals lineup would be cold at the same point in the season and scoring runs felt like the last thing on their agenda, but they could still win games because the starting pitching was so strong. That isn’t the case anymore and this Nationals team is built to win more 7-5 games than they are 3-2 games. There will certainly be plenty of runs held off the board when Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg are pitching and when Roark’s ground balls are finding fielders. But after that, the Nats are going to struggle to keep the other team from scoring and so far the hard-throwing bullpen hasn’t looked like they could hit their spots with a GPS. The offense is going to carry this team and that is an adjustment from the past few seasons.
The Nationals lineup is built the way you’d construct a lineup on paper. Speed at the top, power in the middle and solid situational hitters at the bottom. Wieters batting eighth says everything about the strength of the players in front of him. Wieters is a career .742 OPS hitter. The average No. 8 hitter in the NL last season had an OPS of .689 and Wieters is right where he should be in the Nationals order. This is a powerful and dangerous lineup that is going to put runs on the board and it is going to take some getting used to.
For most seasons, we, the fans, have watched the Nationals struggle at times to put runs up in the early season before going on a run late and having the offense and pitching clicking all at the same time. The strength of the Nationals for most of the past five seasons has been the pitcher’s ability to keep runs off the board. That all has changed and the 2017 Nationals are built to put runs on the board and will struggle to keep them off. At the end of the day, run differential is far more important than either ability and there is always pitching available at the trade deadline. The Nationals offense just has to keep clubbing the ball and putting runs up until we reach July 31 and the Nats can acquire some of the pitching that will be available or hope that Joe Ross or Erick Fedde can come to the majors and have an immediate impact. Until then, it is a brave, new world and the Nats are an offense-first team, and that is going to take some getting used to.
David Huzzard blogs about the Nationals at Citizens of Natstown. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHuzzard. His views appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our regular roster of writers.