The offense could offend you!

During the Dodgers series, we wrote that the Washington Nationals have a problem. Actually they have a few problems — but the problem with the offense — since we wrote that article has worsened if you remove that Marlins series with scoring 23 runs in two games which was certainly an outlier. Even manager Dave Martinez has seemed to reach his boiling point based on his comments during the recent series in Texas. The sample sizes have a full month in the books and the season is only five full months played. After today’s game, we have officially reached the 20 percent in the season. While baseball minds feel like 50 at-bats is a fair sample, we are way past that point for most of this lineup.

Before the Marlins’ series, the Nats were scoring 3.50 runs per game. Today, the number is higher, skewed by those 23 runs. Take the 119 runs in 31 games and you have 3.84 runs per game officially now — but remove those two extreme outliers and the number drops to an horrific 3.28 runs per game. The team has a few players performing well, but too many are hanging near or under Mendoza. It begs the question, is the problem the teacher or the students?

“We’ve got to start working better at-bats. Start seeing a little bit more pitches. We’re going up there, and it’s swing, swing, swing, swing. We’ve got to start working counts a little better.”

— manager Dave Martinez said on Wednesday then his team was shutout the very next day

Actually, I came to the same conclusion as Davey — and I was just way earlier than him with my observations last week during the Dodgers’ series when I wrote this: “It is not all about the lack of scoring runs — it is also about stepping into the batter’s box with a plan. Working counts. Waiting for your pitch instead of going after the first pitch you see. There are too many predictable patterns forming that the opposing team can capitalize on. We always say walks are fine because that means a batter worked the count and took what the game gave them instead of constantly being in a 2-0 count and swinging at the next pitch because you think you’re getting a meatball. Predictable patterns must change by having a plan.” Interestingly, Davey went on to say, “We have to take our walks.”

The fingers can get pointed in all sorts of directions when assessing the blame — but hitters have to hit. When Lane Thomas was injured on last week, he was batting .184 with a .503 OPS. Eddie Rosario is now pulling off of fastballs from right-handed pitchers. He is batting .086 with a .290 OPS in 75 plate appearances. It is not like they are even putting him in bad matchups. He is getting to face right-handed pitchers.

Power hitter, Joey Meneses, must have used Delilah as his barber, because his power has been zapped. A .534 OPS won’t cut it for a 1B/DH hitter. Meneses is at least in a situation where he has minor league options remaining. He has been in a power drain since the start of the 2023 season.

Then you have Keibert Ruiz batting .151 with a .488 OPS and poor defense, and you wonder why did general manager rush this kid back from the 10-day IL after only two rehab starts after he battled the flu and his manager said he lost 18-20 pounds. If it wasn’t for his pop fly that hit the foul pole in Miami, he wouldn’t have a hit until yesterday he found green grass for his second hit in 34 at-bats. Thankfully Joey Gallo was put on the 10-day IL because his .122 batting average and .597 OPS was another black hole.

This is like a disease spreading on this team. The once hot Jesse Winker has stopped hitting since the day after Tax Day as if the Mendozians have now taken over his body. Since then, he’s batting .130 with a .398 OPS and that includes his big grand slam in Miami. What is going on here?

We understand that you can’t fire a bunch of players, but you can certainly make a move or two or three and at least ask the question, what type of message is hitting coach Darnell Coles sending? Or is it that you cannot improve flawed batters like Gallo? What about the rest of the players that are just spiraling down? It feels like change is overdue here and accepting what is unacceptable has to be fixed by Rizzo if Martinez cannot do it.

Truth be told, many people wanted Coles gone after last season like Stever20. The work with Coles and teaching backspin to CJ Abrams not withstanding, is really the only success in Coles’ efforts that seems tangible at this point. If there is a message to other players, it is not being put into action. Coles history in his other stops did not end well and look at the turnaround in Arizona after he left. They went to the World Series last year.

The in-zone swing & miss is mind-boggling that Nats’ batters are missing middle of the zone fastballs. The Nats best chance of winning is putting their best defense out there to support their pitchers which seems to be the case in the 1-0 win on Wednesday and the two wins against the Dodgers.

“The big boys in the middle of the lineup have to start driving in runs for us.”

— Martinez said last week and repeated again in the Texas series

Simple to say that they need to do what they are paid to do — but clearly harder to do. Gallo was “the big boy in the middle of the lineup” but clearly didn’t belong there. Meneses has not hit a home run this season and only has warning track power. After last season, Martinez said that Meneses was playing hurt as the excuse for his poor power performance in the first half of 2023. So what is the excuse now?

So part of the problem is lineup construction, and the other part is analytics. Acceptance. You must accept the problem in order to change. Or at least change the way you are doing things. Speed and producing runs has to be the priority until you can improve the hitting. The Nats are 22nd in MLB in OPS, and 20th in RISP. Not awful, but the runs scored once you remove the two outlier games is only ahead of the A’s and the White Sox.

The Washington Nationals will most likely reach 250 strikeouts today, and Gallo owns 43 of them in just his 23 games. He was on pace to shatter the previous record until his injury. Truth be told, those K kings were actually hitting home runs by the dozens. Gallo’s glove is the only reason to keep him in the lineup because we haven’t seen his power. But he is just part of this problem until Rizzo and his coaches can come up with a Plan B.

So maybe the Nats aren’t ready to beat the best teams consistently, and that’s fine. That is now. You have players like CJ Abrams, Riley Adams, Luis Garcia Jr., and Jacob Young who are bringing it, and the current starting pitchers can succeed when getting great defense. We are probably within five weeks of seeing James Wood called up. But what about a hockey line change here and bring in some help from Triple-A like Travis Blankenhorn or even Juan Yepez. While neither could be the answer, the issue is that Rosario is the question. This all comes at a time when Martinez is pushing his chips into the middle on Rosario.

“It’s early. You’ve got to give him a chance, you really do. I’m not going to sit him down yet right now. He’s got to go out there and play. … I’ve seen him play before. This kid can hit. He can put you on his shoulders.”

— Martinez said in Texas

People wonder why Martinez has never had a winning record on April 30 in his 7th season as the Nationals manager, and maybe his philosophies are off when he says “it’s early.” That mentality might put you in a hole that you can’t dig yourself out. Martinez’s predecessor, Dusty Baker, always wanted that quick start and momentum and always had a winning record with a 16-7 and a 17-8 hot start to his two seasons with the Nationals. He always showed urgency, and you have to think he would not tolerate “it’s early” from Rosario or Gallo or maybe not even Thomas or Meneses or Ruiz.

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