Editor’s Note: Back again for another year of his “Zimm’s Corner” monthly report on the hometown Washington Nationals, HTTD writer Patrick Rice takes an early look at the Washington Nationals’ 2017 season to date.
Entering their first big road trip, the Washington Nationals have won every home series to date, and are out of the gates with seven wins in 12 games.
Yet, despite the winning record (7-5) and a key strength that could still carry them through long stretches of the season, the Nationals do have some glaring weaknesses. Let’s take a look.
Strength: The Middle of the Order
This has been a surprising strength for Washington early this season. With Bryce Harper returning to his normal April self (1.099 OPS), Daniel Murphy doing Daniel Murphy things (1.049 OPS), and Ryan Zimmerman off to a hot start (1.021 OPS), the Nats three-through-five hitters are locked in early. They have nine home runs between them and have carried the team through the first two weeks.
Some have pointed to the lack of runs thus far with three games of three runs or less, but you cannot blame the big bats. In order for this offense to take the next step, Trea Turner needs to return healthy and wreak havoc on the base paths. He is the table setter and if he can get going with the bats behind him, watch out.
Weakness: The Bullpen
There is no sugar coating this. The Nationals bullpen is in bad shape and help is not on the way.
At the beginning of the season, Blake Treinen was named closer for the 2017 season. He kicked it off with a clean save on opening day, but has floundered since.
Treinen has converted three of his four save opportunities, albeit with an ERA of 6.00. To make matters worse, his WHIP (walks/hits per innings pitched) is 2.00! For a first year closer with a mid 90’s sinker, this has definitely not been the start of the season he envisioned. And unfortunately, he is not alone.
As a team, Washington’s ERA is 12th in the National League at 4.56. If you’re thinking that said number is the ERA for the team, and therefore starters must be struggling too, you’re wrong. The Nats lead the league with 10 quality starts, and have four starters with ERA’s of 3.50 or lower. That group is getting the job done.
The bullpen is bad, and quickly needs to get its act together. With Shawn Kelly (6.75), Koda Glover (3.18), and Enny Romero (8.10), the talent is most certainly there. Two weeks into the season though, they have performed well below expectations. Only one member of the bullpen has an ERA south of 6.00 (Glover). That’s is all that needs to be written.
Keep a close eye on this group as the season progresses.
There are certainly other bright spots and weaknesses to this team. Washington’s starting pitching is once again as good as any staff in the league. That alone can carry a team into October.
On the flip side, their defense is porous at best. Washington’s team fielding percentage is .978 and good for 10th in the league. That likely will not improve much over the course of the season.
The point is this…the Washington Nationals are exactly who we thought they were. They have the starting pitching, lineup, and bench to be a major player this season and into the playoffs.
The worry with this team has always been its bullpen and two weeks into the season that concern has never rung more true.