First, the good news.
Would it surprise you to know that, entering today's games, the Washington Nationals have out-homered the Phillies? Granted it's only by two, but the few people I've mentioned it to have raised their eyebrows. In fact, in the home run department, the Nats rank 14th out of all 30 big league clubs, and seventh in the National League.
In the runs scored column, however, the Nats fall to 12th in the NL, with 562 tallies. That's 62 more than all of last season, but it tells you that a lot of the homers came with the bases empty,
The most troublesome offensive column - certainly the most offensive, from my perspective anyway - is strikeouts. The Nationals have struck out 1,192 times in 145 games this season, second most in the NL and just seven behind the Padres. San Diego, however, has played three more games than Washington, and, with an average of about 8 strikeouts per game, the Nats could take the punch-out crown.
Believe me, there's no trophy for that.
The stigma that used to be attached to whiffing is apparently gone, or is at least missing in action. A player can strike out three or four times a game and sleep pretty soundly that night. I suspect the Nationals may have taken more called third strikes than any team, but that's just a guess. I can't find the breakdown on called vs. swinging strike threes.
Playing the game on virtually any amateur level, the players are instructed to protect the plate, essentially meaning that, if you've got two strikes on you, you need to be hacking if the pitch is close. That concept survives with a handful of players; many others seem to think it means to prevent someone from stealing home plate - actually digging it up - while you're standing next to it.
During the early part of the season, when the Nats were having trouble scoring runs, it was easy to sit back and say that they were bound to break out of their offensive doldrums based upon how the club looked on paper. That silly piece of paper, however, never made it to the field. With even an average offense, the club would be much closer to the .500 mark, if not over by a couple of games.
How do you fix it? There's no single answer. You have to hope that the players whose stats were not up to snuff were just having off years. Maybe a Davey Johnson-run spring training will produce some different results next April and May. One thing's for sure: Scoring an average of 3.875 runs per game - where they stand today - won't likely produce more wins than losses in 2012.