The season will be 25% complete during tomorrow’s game in the third inning. The Nationals played .500 baseball in Los Angeles winning two and losing two which was better than the Country Line Dance they were doing of one-step forward and two-steps backwards; however, days are clicking off the calendar with 122 more games looking forward and playing .500 baseball just is not good enough going forward.
This team has to take two or three steps forward at a time and go on a long winning streak. The Nationals are 16-24 which is the same record that Los Angeles team had last year on their way to a back-to-back World Series appearance which shows it is possible — but it is feeling improbable based on playing .500 baseball or below. In order to move forward, the Nationals need a long winning streak. The Dodgers entered the season last year without Justin Turner who was injured. His first game back was on May 15th of 2018 and the team went 63-40 after Turner returned and won the NL West with a 92-71 record.
The Nationals probably do not have to win 92 games this season to capture the NL East, but let us say 90 wins is the number. The Nationals would need to go 74-48 the rest of the way which is a .607 winning percentage which basically means they will have to win a lot of series going forward to do that. This is a Nationals team that has won 3 series this season and split two. Their last series win was on April 18th. They have not swept any series this season.
Nats have played the #Dodgers even 2-2 & the Phillies even 4-4 but are 10-18 against the rest of the teams. #Nats played the Cardinals when they had the best record then the Dodgers when they had the best record now are set to play the Cubs this weekend who now have best record. pic.twitter.com/u4t5CsidVB
— Talk Nats ⚾ (@TalkNats2) May 13, 2019
On the calendar, July 1st is 48 days away and the trade deadline is 79 days away. You almost have to take the true pulse of the team for the next 48 days and if they have not played .600 baseball you have to pull the plug and call the time of death. The Nationals were not willing to do that last year as witnessed by principal owner Mark Lerner’s letter to the fans. For whatever the optimism, the team waited too long to sell and got very little back in return on trades while not getting under the CBT salary threshold. The off-season casualty was the firing of Assistant G.M. Bob Miller who was G.M. Mike Rizzo’s trade architect, as someone had to be the fall-guy.
This year, there could be several casualties if this team under-performs further. Someone(s) will have to answer for it and while pitching coach Derek Lilliquist was fired earlier this month, any future firings will most likely be on the level of Rizzo himself and/or his manager Dave Martinez.
No matter what you think of the mistakes made during the Dusty Baker tenure, his teams made it to the postseason in both years. Right now, the Nationals could have their first back-to-back non-playoff seasons since 2010 and 2011 if this year’s team cannot go on a tremendous run. The urgency was be there without burning out key parts so you cannot play every game like it is Game 5 of the postseason.
Winning should feel easier than relying on late inning home runs which seems to be the Nationals modus operandi right now. The Nationals lead the Majors in home runs from the 7th inning and later this year with 25 which includes Gerardo Parra‘s game winner on Saturday. Generally, that stat would be a sign of “clutch” baseball and lots of wins but that has been negated from the 83 runs the Nationals have given up from the 7th inning and later which is why they have a losing record. The bullpen’s 6.34 ERA has been almost cut in half from where it was on April 13th, but Kyle Barraclough‘s serving up of a grand slam in yesterday’s 8th inning was just more shuffling of the weight of lost dreams on the scales of justice that is on a serious tilt. Coming back from a 2-0 deficit is certainly possible as witnessed on Saturday — but 6-0 in the 9th inning? Fugghetaboutit.
Time to get on a hot streak or prepare yourself for a July sell-off.