Over the past week of baseball games for the Washington Nationals, most of the concern around the ball club has been around the offense. Yes, the run scoring has been down without Anthony Rendon, Denard Span, and Jayson Werth. However, Werth came back yesterday and with the eventual returns of the other two players, that problem should correct itself. However, you could argue that right now, it’s the defense that fans should be the most concerned about as this club is off to a 2-5 start.
After Monday’s 9-4 loss to the Boston Red Sox, manager Matt Williams was not exactly the happiest of managers when he met with the media. Jordan Zimmermann had a bad start and while his velocity isn’t the same as it was last year, that’s something that can be corrected. However, the defense continues to be a liability that is making these great pitchers continually have to get extra outs. One comment by Williams in the post game press conference yesterday summed it up about the loss:
"“About as bad as you can get,” said Williams. “It’s tough to win ballgames when you can’t catch the baseball. It’s gotta get better than that.” (h/t Chris Johnson, MASNSports.com)"
So far, the Nats have made six errors in seven games, which is fourth in the National League and one behind the Dodgers, Brewers, and Phillies. While they only made one error yesterday, it was the communication issues that have constantly hurt this team in the field. That stems back to Opening Day when Ian Desmond and Dan Uggla misplayed the pop up by David Wright, which then led to Lucas Duda’s eventual game winning hit against Max Scherzer.
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Right now, Ian Desmond basically has all of the errors the team has made. Out of those six errors, Desmond has five of them and has the most of any player in baseball. Desmond has been known to make mistakes in April over his career, but could he be pressing moreso this year in a contract year and trying to do too much?
Michael Taylor has had his moments in center field where he misplayed some fly balls, including a couple in Monday’s game. That is something that should improve in time, but he has to be able to have the confidence to call for a ball as the center fielder, even though he plays next to Werth and Bryce Harper.
The fielding concerns have been a problem since spring training when the Nats made 35 errors in 31 games, which was tied for second in the NL and two behind the San Francisco Giants.
So far, Yunel Escobar has looked okay at third base and it helps when you have a manager that had a 17-year playing career at the position to help you ease into it. This could allow Anthony Rendon, when he returns, to play more second base and create a more stable infield. Ryan Zimmerman has also been excellent in his first week at first base.
Washington’s starter ERA, even with the rough game by Zimmermann, is at 3.38 (11th in baseball). Even with a great rotation, the defense still has to be much better.
The opportunities will come for the team to score with runners in scoring position and they should be better than what they were last year. Plus, they do have seven home runs on the season, which is tied for fourth in the NL. However, they have to be able to make the routine plays and have good communication on defense if they want to achieve their ultimate goal of a World Series Championship.