One hundred games into last season, the Nationals owned a 60-40 record, tied for the best mark in the majors. They were 20 games over .500 and had a four-game lead in the National League East.
This year’s Nats are 12 games off that pace, at 48-52. They’re four games under .500, eight games out of first in the NL East and 8 1/2 games back of the final Wild Card spot.
I could drop a line about what a difference a year makes, but I think that’s pretty clear at this point, don’t you? The differences reach out and smack you in the face when you look at the numbers above.
These Nats are a shell of the team they were 100 games into last season, when they were hitting their stride, putting up crooked numbers on the scoreboard and rattling off wins with what seemed like relative ease.
It’s strange to see the dramatic shift in performance from last season to this season, largely because this roster has seen very little turnover in that time. Sure, Denard Span, Dan Haren, Rafael Soriano and Anthony Rendon are now here while Michael Morse, Edwin Jackson, Mark DeRosa and a trio of left-handed relievers are now gone, but the bulk of the current roster was around in 2012 when the wins were piling up and the spirits were high.
So why so many more losses this season? It’s clear offensive performance has been a major factor. That’s not to say drop-offs in starting pitching, relief pitching and defense haven’t played a role, as well, because they have. But when your team scores 24 runs in its last 14 defeats and has scored one or zero runs in a game 27 percent of the time, you know that’s the big issue.
A national writer was in town for the Nats’ series with the Dodgers over this last weekend and asked me which player or players have really been the biggest disappointment offensively compared to last year. As I went through things in my head, a name or two came to mind, but then I started to realize that nearly everyone in the Nats’ lineup (or bench, for that matter) has underperformed, using their 2012 numbers as a baseline. It’s been almost an across-the-board issue.
So I decided to go through and compare the numbers just to see how everyone stacks up so far. I took players’ stat lines to this point in the season and projected them out over the number of plate appearances they had in 2012, to give us a (relatively) fair point of comparison.
In other words, if these players received as many plate appearances this season as they did last year, this is what their 2013 numbers would look like, based on their current rate of play. The slash lines (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging) you see for 2013 are the players’ current numbers, because, of course, they’re averages. The homers and RBIs are the only numbers I projected out.
I did not include Rendon’s numbers, because we have no major league stats from last season to compare this year to, and I did include Danny Espinosa, because we can still project his 2013 numbers out and compare them to 2012.
Adam LaRoche (647 plate appearances in 2012)
2012: .271/.343/.510, 33 HR, 100 RBIs
2013: .245/.330/.425, 25 HR, 78 RBIs
Danny Espinosa (658 plate appearances in 2012)
2012: .247/.315/.402, 17 HR, 56 RBIs
2013: .158/.193/.272, 12 HR, 47 RBIs
Ian Desmond (547 plate appearances in 2012)
2012: .292/.335/.511, 25 HR, 73 RBIs
2013: .275/.322/.472, 20 HR, 67 RBIs
Ryan Zimmerman (641 plate appearances in 2012)
2012: .282/.346/.478, 25 HR, 95 RBIs
2013: .268/.344/.439, 19 HR, 90 RBIs
Bryce Harper (597 plate appearances in 2012)
2012: .270/.340/.477, 22 HR, 59 RBIs
2013: .264/.368/.505, 30 HR, 66 RBIs
Denard Span (568 plate appearances in 2012)
2012: .283/.342/.395, 4 HR, 41 RBIs
2013: .263/.319/.357, 0 HR, 35 RBIs
Jayson Werth (344 plate appearances in 2012)
2012: .300/.387/.440, 5 HR, 31 RBIs
2013: .297/.366/.502, 17 HR, 48 RBIs
Wilson Ramos (96 plate appearances in 2012)
2012: .265/.354/.398, 3 HR, 10 RBIs
2013: .290/.340/.505, 5 HR, 17 RBIs (already eclipsed number of plate appearances with Nats last season)
Kurt Suzuki (164 plate appearances with Nats in 2012)
2012: .267/.321/.404, 5 HR, 25 RBIs
2013: .221/.282/.320, 2 HR, 13 RBIs (already eclipsed number of plate appearances with Nats last season)
Chad Tracy (105 plate appearances in 2012)
2012: .269/.343/.441, 3 HR, 14 RBIs
2013: .181/.214/.309, 3 HR, 6 RBIs
Steve Lombardozzi (416 plate appearances in 2012)
2012: .273/.317/.354, 3 HR, 27 RBIs
2013: .235/.247/.294, 0 HR, 30 RBIs
Roger Bernadina (261 plate appearances in 2012)
2012: .291/.372.405, 5 HR, 25 RBIs
2013: .190/.253/.289, 3 HR, 10 RBIs
Tyler Moore (171 plate appearances in 2012)
2012: .263/.327/.513, 10 HR, 29 RBIs
2013: .151/.195/.283, 5 HR, 21 RBIs
Of the players listed above, only Ramos, Harper and Werth have superior numbers this year compared to last season, but Ramos has only played 27 games and Harper has dropped off in recent months. Werth’s power numbers have certainly bumped up in a big way, but his on-base percentage has dipped a bit.
Other than that, pretty much everyone above has seen a drop-off in their performance from last year. Did these guys all have career seasons at the same time last year? Is this year the fluke, that everyone is having a down season at the same time?
It’s hard to say for sure. But what we do know is that nearly across the board, the Nats’ players are underperforming offensively compared to last year, and that’s how you go from a team that scored 4.51 runs per game in 2012 to one that has scored 3.68 runs per game this year.