About a year ago the Nationals had a similar record and I penned a FanPost that was mostly pessimistic. This year I am optimistic in the sense that I believe they will win 80 or games, despite the recent tailspin. Before the season began I wrote a Fanpost that included this prediction and gave the reasons why. I also listed my main concerns and confidences. There are good reasons to believe the Nats will end up near .500. Many recent comments by impatient fans suggest an abandonment of the good pitching, defense, and speed philosophy and yearn for switching to a more power based offense. As I have expounded on many times the most quick, attainable way to respectability for a team with some talented arms, but a weak offense, is to build a good defense around the pitching and play small ball on offense. The acquisition of LaRoche, Werth, and Ankiel were major steps in this direction. As I expected, the starting pitching has improved, as has the defense. The fact that the Nats have played a lot of 1-run games, though losing many of them, is not a particularly bad sign. Playing in many 1-run games when the offense is weak but the pitching/defense is near average is expected. Obviously they need to win more of these, but when you consider that the Nats have played most of the season with Hairston/Cora in place of Zim and had almost no offense from 1B (LaRoche), and had well below expectations from Morse, Werth, and Desmond, it will not take much for the Nats to win more of the close games. In order for them to reach my goal of 80 wins they only need a modest improvement on offense and a continuation of the current pitching improvement. I did not expect the first half to be much better than 36-44, because I figured it would take a while to get the right starting staff members in place, that might include 1 or more guys who start the season in the minors. I did not figure on the offense being this poor and of course Zim being on the DL. In any case, for the reasons already stated, the second half can be a winning one, so the overall record can be near .500 . In order for this to happen I will add a few additional suggested tweaks:
- Small ball is ineffective with the large number of strikeouts. In particular Bernadino, Desmond, and Espy need the coaches to stay on them about cutting down on their swing with counts of two strikes and when runners just need to be advanced in close games. All of them have some power, but they are too in love with it.
- Ankiel should be played less. I do not envision him adding enough to the defense to justify the number of strikeouts and overall poor hitting.
- As has been mentioned by many, including myself even before the season began, why is Stairs taking up a roster spot? He should be released ASAP.
I cannot let a narrative end without saying something about my man Michael Morse. Those who have read my Comments and Fanposts know that I am very high on him. A combination of the cyclical tendency to cool off, after the hot spring, early injuries, some bad hitting luck, and just pressing too much to contribute resulted in a slow start. I expect his recent revival to continue. I predicted he would hit .280, with 30 HRs and 110 RBIs. The latter will be difficult to achieve, but the first two are attainable and I am sticking to my predictions for them. I also want to add that he is not a bad first basemen and even though LaRoche was one of the best in the league, clearly the lack of offense by him was not acceptable, therefore Morse at 1B from here on is an overall upgrade. This also allows the OF defense to improve, when Ankiel, Bernie, and Werth reside there. However, I favor Nix over Ankiel as suggested. I also would add that Morse in LF was not nearly as bad as many suggested. His arm was decent, and certainly he is/was better than Nix in LF.