Went to my first game today, and I was feeling like quite the good luck charm for a while, but now here we are, 1-9, and coming off two killer losses. Everyone assumed that the Nationals would be better this year. First, how could they be worse? Second, getting Zimmerman, Kearns, Dukes and Johnson healthy would help. And of course you're adding Dunn.
But here's the thing. For the Nationals to be better, they'd also need repeat performances from guys like John Lannan and Cristian Guzman. They need to get similar production from second base, where Ronnie Belliard quietly had a career year at the plate. They'd need Daniel Cabrera to be as good as Tim Redding was, and Scott Olsen would have to give them at least as much as Odalis Perez gave them in 2008.
And probably most dubiously the bullpen would need to repeat the performance of last year, when they pitched 553.1 innings of 4.18 ERA ball (the average NL bullpen threw 514 innings at 4.09). No part of the team was as close to average as the bullpen last year. And to achieve that repeat performance, Joel Hanrahan would have to be as effective closing out wins as he and Jon Rauch were last year, when they combined 26 for 35 in save situations.
If most of those things don't happen, then the additional contributions the team would get from LF, 1B, and RF might not be enough to do anything more than make up for regression elsewhere. Well, it looks like a lot of those things aren't happening, and the Nationals are flirting with another 100-loss season.
Here are some other observations from today:
--For an absolutely gorgeous Saturday afternoon game, the stadium was empty. The announced attendance was 19,864, which is terrible, and between the late arrivals and the early departures it felt like a much smaller crowd. When Hermida hit the game-winner I'd guess there were less than 7,000 in the park.
--Josh Bard bats fifth? Really I don't know if that's a comedy or a tragedy. Maybe one of those problem plays. This is the kind of thing that could make Manny history.
--In such a close game, how does Manny not find an at bat for Josh Willingham? Maybe there's something wrong with him that we don't know about, but geez.
--Elijah Dukes sits for being five minutes late? Gimme a break. This team is in an historic tailspin. They've lost 111 of their last 168 games going back to last year. And they think they have time to play games like this?
--Olsen's performance was encouraging--it goes to show that a soft-tossing lefty can survive if he's putting everything on the black. And click through the pitch-by-pitch at Gameday, and you'll see he was right on the black most of the afternoon. But before you get too excited, he was very lucky to get out of the second without more damage. And his fastball sat at 87 most of the day. And his ERA is still 9.00.
--Kearns's homer was another nice sign that he's healthy and back being to the guy he was a couple years ago.