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After week one, a reality check on the 2018 Washington Nationals...

Overreacting to small sample sizes, looking at the big picture, it’s all a part of the early days of the season. What did we see from the 2018 Washington Nationals in the first seven games?

New York Mets v Washington Nationals Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

With a week’s worth of games behind the Washington Nationals, two of them—specifically, the most recent two games the team has played against the Braves and Mets—rather unimpressive, and another set—the first four games of the year—wildly impressive, it’s hard not to exist solely in the land of extremes.

After waiting for five months for meaningful baseball, everything seems significant. Yes, the home opener, the first game with consequences at Nationals Park since the wildly confusing and tortuous ride that was Game 5 of last season’s NLDS, felt frustrating and off-kilter. An ace struggled. An ump made a slew of questionable calls when it mattered most. The offense came up far short when it mattered most.

However, in mid-July, bad starts back-to-back from Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, a rough outing for Brandon Kintzler, and a poor showing from the offense in back-to-back games would be annoying, but certainly not problematic unless they were a part of a larger pattern.

In all likelihood, every player on the team will revert to their mean, or somewhere close to it. A few will over-perform, some will set a lower standard.

Quite clearly, now is not the time to push any sort of panic button. This team will be good — or, at least, they’ll have to try to fail.

Even so, after days like Tuesday and Wednesday, it’s nearly impossible not to overreact, even with such small sample sizes. It’s a long season ahead, but there are a select number of long-term consequences that are already visible. Here are a few:

The Nationals made their most important move of the offseason on day seven of the regular season by signing Mike Rizzo

MLB: Washington Nationals-Press Conference Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

If it wasn’t clear already, Mike Rizzo is among the top GMs in baseball, and would certainly be considered among the top three if it weren’t for the gaping hole in his resumé that is a World Series ring.

With that said, the Lerner family’s continual waiting to re-up Rizzo’s contract was illogical at best and franchise-destroying at worst. Rizzo knows the organization inside and out; if they were to let him go and re-start in the most pivotal offseason in franchise history, it would be massively detrimental to the team.

As his contract status remained in the air well into the spring, the question hung over the clubhouse and over the fanbase. It was the one deal the team absolutely had to make, and they were waiting it out. When the news broke on Thursday morning, the focus of the Nats’ season moved slightly away from the “last chance” narrative that’s been prominent since Spring Training, to a more calm one — maybe the building will undergo renovations, but the architect will remain the same.

His new contract isn’t ideal. Though he’s being paid similarly to his peers ($4m/year), the duration isn’t nearly long enough to give him a well-deserved sense of job security. But the optics of re-signing inarguably the most valuable person in the franchise on the home opener can’t be beat.

It’s early, but the Ryan Zimmerman experiment isn’t looking great

MLB: New York Mets at Washington Nationals Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Zimmerman sat out nearly every game of the Grapefruit League, avoiding gametime that could trigger an injury, but also avoiding the major-league pitching that hitters typically need to see to be ready for the regular season.

“If you didn’t have to do that stuff, why would you do that stuff?” Zimmerman told Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post. As it turns out, there’s a reason most players do that stuff: because minor league pitching on the back fields doesn’t have the same feel or realistic attributes as Justin Verlander on the big fields.

Zimmerman’s grand experiment seems to have backfired, at least for the first week.

It’s possible he wakes up on Sunday and goes 5-for-5 with ten runs batted in, because he tends to have “on weeks,” then “off weeks.”

But someone so streaky, who has only seen seven days worth of major league pitching since October, shouldn’t have the responsibility of the cleanup spot, as we saw on Thursday afternoon, when Zimmerman combined with Howie Kendrick (who, in fairness to him, hit a sharp line drive) and Trea Turner to squander the Nats’ best and only chance to get back into what would turn out to be an 8-2 loss.

With the bases loaded and none out, Zimmerman popped out. Cleanup hitters should hit fly balls with the bases loaded — they should at least put the ball in play in some form that advances runners or creates action. Pop flies do not do that.

Bearing the question: will Dave Martinez move him out of the cleanup slot? The answer? A definitive “no.”

“I’m very committed [to Zimmerman in the cleanup spot],” Martinez said to the press after Thursday’s loss. “His at-bats [haven’t] been bad. He’s hit a couple of balls hard over the past week — I like him hitting fourth.”

Zimmerman, it seems, will have dominion over the four-slot, until Daniel Murphy returns and reclaims his old spot.

Ultimately, another (albeit, difficult) question has to come up: Is someone who has to miss Spring Training for the purposes of health truly fit to play a 162-game season, especially when the Nats have a more-than-capable backup on the bench in Matt Adams?

The second-best news from the week: Adam Eaton is okay and healthy

MLB: New York Mets at Washington Nationals Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

If you can believe it based on the picture above, Adam Eaton is (for the most part) fine. His ankle, despite doing all sorts of weird twists and turns on the slide above, is okay, and the team thinks he’ll be back within a matter of days, not weeks.

That’s phenomenal news for the Nats, because, entering Thursday, Eaton and Bryce Harper were the main drivers of the team’s offense. Harper went 0-for-Thursday, as Eaton and Rendon carried the offense, combining for four of the team’s six hits.

Eaton is the sparkplug at the top of the order the team needed all of last season, his health being the only concern.

Should he be getting more rest? It’s likely. A scheduled day off Friday, a likely rain/snow-out on Saturday, and a spot on the bench on Sunday certainly wouldn’t kill him, seeing as it’s much more valuable to have him down the stretch than right now.

The Nationals will be better than their first week

Two bad days will not define a season, as it turns out. A pitch or two here from Scherzer and Strasburg, a converted play there, a better pitch call from Miguel Montero, a strike given from the umpire, and the focus of this article would have shifted completely to only cover the ailing offense over the last two days.

Nonetheless, baseball’s glory is in its weird, obscure decisions and calls that end up having sizable impacts on the season. But, barring total regression from both Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, this team employs too much raw talent, and has a bench corps and minor-league depth for its outfield and infield that will simply keep them afloat.

Teams will slump. It is day seven. Come October, this week will be a fleeting memory as the team faces the question, yet again, of how they’ll get over the hump. Getting there will be more difficult than it’s been in the past — the Mets, and, despite their atrocious start, the Phillies, will be harder to get past this year. It’s possible the division comes down to the last weeks of the season, which will be a benefit from the standpoint of keeping the team fresh down the line. It’s even possible that the Nats don’t win the division. But it seems unlikely that there will be too many more games like Wednesday and Thursday’s.