If you look at the standings as of this morning, you’ll get a clear picture of how the Washington Nationals’ 2013 season is going.
The team considered by many around the game to be the World Series favorites coming into the season has a 37-38 record after yesterday’s loss to the Rockies. The Nats are six games back of the Braves in the National League East, and they’re seven games out of a Wild Card spot.
Eight of the other 14 teams in the National League have superior winning percentages, and if we’re looking big picture here, the Nats will need to leapfrog four of those teams to snatch a playoff spot.
If you look at the injury report, you’ll have an idea of how the Washington Nationals’ 2013 season is going.
They’ve already had eight members of their opening day 25-man roster land on the disabled list. That includes their ace, Stephen Strasburg (missed two starts); their top offensive weapon, Bryce Harper (has already missed 24 games, and will likely not return until next week at the earliest); the face of the franchise, Ryan Zimmerman (missed 14 games); one of their on- and off-field leaders, Jayson Werth (missed 28 games and now could miss more after suffering a pulled groin in yesterday’s game); and their top catcher, Wilson Ramos (has missed 49 games so far with recurring hamstring problems).
Last year, the Nats didn’t have one of their five opening day starting pitchers land on the DL at any point during the season. This year in just 75 games, Dan Haren will be the third Nats starter to hit the DL.
If you looked at the Nationals’ lineup in the fifth inning yesterday, you had an idea of how their 2013 season is going.
After Werth left the game due to his groin injury, the Nats had just two of their opening day starting position players in the game. Zimmerman and Ian Desmond were the only ones.
Four of their starters yesterday (Steve Lombardozzi, Anthony Rendon, Jeff Kobernus and Chris Marrero) have played in a combined 276 big league games. Adam LaRoche has nearly five times that number of games played by himself.
Injuries obviously are part of the reason why Davey Johnson has needed to turn to this less-experienced group, but it’s more than just that. Danny Espinosa is currently at Triple-A Syracuse after struggling mightily this season. LaRoche and Denard Span were out of the lineup yesterday in part because they’ve had major trouble against left-handed pitching this year.
The Nats had a second baseman playing left field yesterday (Lombardozzi). They had a second baseman who started the season at Triple-A playing center field (Kobernus). They had a third baseman who started the season at Double-A playing second base (Rendon).
Last year, the Nats had a couple key call-ups join the active roster and play a major factor, but they were able to lean largely on their established big leaguers. Currently, the Nats have seven players on their active roster who started the season in the minors.
It’s nice to have guys who are working their way through the system and pushing to be promoted, like Rendon, but it’s never a good sign when nearly a quarter of your roster is made up of players who opened the season playing for a minor league affiliate.
We’ve nearly reached the midpoint of the 2013 season, but all hope is not lost. The Nats are more than capable of making a good run, rattling off eight wins in a 10-game span and giving the Braves a serious test. Despite the injuries and the host of other issues around this team, the Nats have the potential to get hot and really make things interesting.
The only problem is, their margin of error is pretty low right now, and it’s shrinking with each week that they continue to hover around .500. Not only are the Nats not making any progress in the standings, they’re putting themselves in a spot where a bad week, a simple six-game losing streak, could crush their season. The Braves, sitting at 11 games over .500, would be able to take such a hit. The Nats very well might not.
The Nats can only tread water for so long. Time isn’t running out, per se, but it isn’t on their side, either.