The Washington Nationals are on pace to win 81 games this season, far better than anyone imagined when the team broke camp in Florida just two months ago.

Most of the preseason predictions put the Nationals in the 70-73 win range. The majority of fans would have happily taken that win total in 2010.

But the Nationals—who were five games over .500 just a week ago—have now lost six out of their last seven games. Many are blaming their current woes on an overworked bullpen and a sub-par offense.

No question, Tyler Clippard (7-2, 2.22) and closer Matt Capps (0-1, 2.11, 15/15) had a rough week. But, both seem rested, and both pitched well in the just-completed series against the Mets.

But, what about the offense?

Are the questions currently surrounding the Nationals’ offensive production warranted?

Here’s how the Nationals’ offensive statistics should look at the end of the season if they maintain their current production levels. The average for that position within the division is listed in parenthesis, and does not include Nationals players.


First Base—Adam Dunn

.261-36 HR-76 RBI (Division average: .281-21-77)

Dunn is producing, as expected. His overall numbers are as good as—and in some cases better than—his division rivals. His on-base percentage (.386) and slugging percent (.558) are career bests.


Second Base—Cristian Guzman and Adam Kennedy

.297-8-92 (Division average: .294-25-75)

Other than home runs, Guzman and Kennedy’s offensive production matches the rest of the division. That says something, considering the National League East is home to Martin Prado, Chase Utley, and Dan Uggla.


Shortstop—Ian Desmond

.277-12-76 (Division average: .265-8-40)

The 24-year-old rookie is doing an excellent job with the bat, especially considering he’s batted eighth in the order most of the season, and hasn’t seen many good pitches to hit.

He’s outhitting New York’s Jose Reyes and Atlanta’s Yunel Escobar, and is second among division shortstops with 19 RBI.


Third Base—Ryan Zimmerman

.311-32-100 (Division average: .267-20-90)

Zimmerman won the Silver Slugger last year, and is on pace to do it again this season. His batting average, home runs, and RBI totals are all higher than the division average.


Catcher—Ivan Rodriguez

.333-4-60 (Division average: .286-18-55)

Though there is little chance that Pudge will finish the season with these type of numbers, he has given the Nationals a quality bat in the lower half of their lineup, which they didn’t have last year.


Left Field—Josh Willingham

.262-24-92 (Division average: .278-8-62)

Willingham’s production is by far the best within the division for a left fielder. You can’t ask much more from a No. 5 hitter. He has a team-best .413 on-base percentage, and a .468 slugging mark.


Center Field—Nyjer Morgan

.255-0-32 (Division average: .245-15-66)

Though Morgan’s batting average is 40 points lower than his career average, his .341 on-base percent is certainly good enough until his bat heats up.


Right Field—Roger Bernadina

.281-8-52 (Division average: .276-22-102)

Right field is the strength of the National League East, and Bernadina’s numbers pale in comparison.

However, he won the job just 10 days ago, so his projected production is somewhat skewed.

If you project his current numbers over a 162-game season, Bernadina would hit .281-20-80 with a .333 on-base percentage, and 20 steals.

The Nationals have four players (Dunn, Desmond, Zimmerman, and Willingham) whose offensive production is better than the division average, two (Guzman/Kennedy and Rodriguez) who are producing at the division average, and two (Morgan and Bernadina) whose production are worse than the division average.

This is a bad offense?

Here is how the Nationals currently rank in the National League:

Batting average: seventh

On-base percentage: eighth

Slugging average: sixth

Runs: eleventh

Hits: seventh

Doubles: sixth

Triples: first

Home runs: ninth

Stolen bases: third

So, what does all this mean?

The Washington Nationals have a good-enough offense, though not a great one.

The problem is that too many of the players are streak hitters, which means it can be feast-or-famine for weeks at a time in Washington.

Adam Dunn, Ryan Zimmerman, and Josh Willingham can all carry the team for a month. But, when they turn cold, 6-4 wins turn into 4-2 losses.

This offense is capable of leading the Washington Nationals into the playoffs when manager Jim Riggleman can pick his starting rotation from a group that includes John Lannan, Jason Marquis, Stephen Strasburg, Scott Olsen, Livan Hernandez, Scott Olsen, and Jordan Zimmermann.

Until then, however, the Nationals are one big-bat away from contention.

To get it, they will have to look outside the organization. Washington would have to trade some of the team’s excess starting pitching—and perhaps one of their prized prospects—to get the help.

I think that cost is too high.

If Strasburg is in the rotation by mid-June, and Wang and Marquis are healthy and pitching by the All-Star game, the Nationals could win 85 games this season. Making a trade for one more big-bat could net the team 90 wins.

Predictions are fun. But, with this team, they can be precarious.

Will Stephen Strasburg come close to repeating his minor league dominance in the National League?

Can former All-Star Jason Marquis and two-time 19-game-winner Chien Ming Wang return from injuries, and pitch to their potential in the season’s second half?

If they don’t, it’ll still be a nice season for Washington. But, boy, if they do …..


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