Through 131 games, the Nationals have scored exactly 500 runs, matching their total output for 2010. If you'd rather not do the math yourself, it comes out to an average of 3.8 runs a game. Overall, teams that score 4.5 runs or more per game win far more often than teams who score less than 4.5 runs per game. That's just the way it is, and the way it will probably stay.
Last night's 6-3 loss to Cincinnati was pretty typical: the Nats score three runs - all on solo home runs - but manage only eight hits overall off of four Reds pitchers. Ross Detwiler gets a quality start, allowing only three earned runs over six innings of work, and two errors - both by first baseman Chris Marrero in his big league debut - lead to three unearned runs. The Reds pull even at 66-66, and the Nationals fall to seven games under .500, at 62-69.
There is no single reason why the Nationals can't seem to put it together offensively. If it were that simple they surely would've done something about it. With a team batting average of .241, they're 14th overall in the 16 team NL, but only a single point ahead of the 15th place Padres, and two points up on the last place (but still in post-season contention) Giants.
Pitching-wise, however, they're 6th overall. Their Pythagorean W-L record is actually two games worse through 131, 60-71. If you rank only the NL East, they've got the third-best pitching numbers and worst hitting stats, so their current perch in 4th place, a half-game behind the Mets, looks about right.
Is this who they really are offensively? I would hope not, but until we see how they finish on September 28, we can only go by the numbers. Are they better than they were a year ago at this time? Yes, much. After 131 games a year ago, they were 56-75. They finished the last 31 games 13-18, to a final tally of 69-93.
September arrives later this week, and reinforcements from the minors soon thereafter. I thought in March they'd be 8-10 games better than they finished in 2010. Winning 15 or more of their final games would get them there, but they've got to find a way to score more than 3.8 runs a game.