The Washington Nationals were shutout and nearly went hitless in Sunday’s loss to the Dodgers. That game is a microcosm of the Nats offensive struggles.
The Washington Nationals are more than glad to be out of Los Angeles.
In the past four days, the Nats were shutout twice and needed a miracle grand slam by Gerardo Parra on Saturday to salvage a series split.
This team is all sorts of bad, and while the bullpen is and has gotten its share of the blame, the Nationals offense is just as deserving.
The difference here is that Nats fans are used to the bullpen being bad. Now, the team can’t even create leads for the bullpen to waste.
However, one of the perceived strengths of the Nats coming into the season was their offensive depth. With two above-average hitting catchers, a healthy Howie Kendrick, and a pair of high upside rookies (Victor Robles and Carter Kieboom), the Nats were in a position to cushion themselves from any blows during the year.
Clearly, that did not come to fruition. Let’s put into context just how bad the Nationals offense has been this season.
One thing manager Davey Martinez harps on is to put the ball in play and cut down on strikeouts. That is not happening as the Nats strike out at the fourth highest clip in baseball (26.2%). The Nats aren’t balancing those strikeouts with walks, as the Nats rank 19th with an 8.3 BB%.
What’s strange is the Nats aren’t awful in some metrics that lead to strikeouts. The Nats are merely below average in terms of swinging at balls outside of the strike zone and swing-and-miss percentage.
When the Nationals don’t strike out, they’re not putting good contact on the ball. The Nats have the fourth worst hard-hit rate in baseball. Additionally, their soft contact rate is the eighth highest in the MLB.
If a Nats player manages to hit the ball hard, and over the fence, that is how the Nats score their runs. Using Baseball Prospectus’ “Guillen #” (a metric designed to see how dependent each team is on the long ball for scoring runs), we see that the Nats are the eighth most reliant team on the home run.
The 2019 Nationals are taking the “Swing Hard In Case You Hit It” approach to baseball a bit too literally.