The Washington Nationals have been struggling recently, but a deeper dive into the overall run differential numbers show a bigger problem.
You hear a lot of different takes on run differential. Some pundits say that it is a vitally important statistic, while others aren’t entirely sold on the idea that run differential makes a difference. To cut through all of the misinformation, we must dive into the Nationals run differential situation.
Let’s start with the facts. The Washington Nationals have the 9th worst run differential in all of baseball at -33. At face value, that is not great. At the most basic level, the Nationals have surrendered 32 more runs than they earned, which isn’t surprising for a team well below .500. Taking a look at this graphically, you can see precisely where the Nats started to fall off.
Around 26 games into the season or so, the Nats bats cooled, but it was primarily due to injury above all of the other factors. In the 26th game, the Nats were without Anthony Rendon, Ryan Zimmerman, and Trea Turner. So despite all the noise about the team having a lousy offense, not having your best players, especially Rendon, will cause some specific statistics to be skewed.
However, there is something to be said about the way a team battles when their best players are down and out. The Yankees, for example, have been without Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Miguel Andújar, Dellin Betances, Didi Gregorius, Luis Severino, and many more notable names. During the time that they have been missing these high profile names, they have posted a top 7 run differential, at +51.
The Nationals have not been playing as well as the Yankees, but it exposes a much more critical aspect of the team as a whole. They have no depth.
Some may say this is obvious; we are talking about the team that had to go out and sign Gerardo Parra because all of the first basemen were injured. Now that Turner and Rendon have returned to the lineup, I think that the run differential number will go back positive, or at least trend upward.
Having your starters and biggest bats playing every day will make an impact on how many runs the team scores in general. So, should the Nationals be worried? The answer, if your view is like mine, is no. If the run differential trend continues to fall? I would start to think about making some substantial changes to the team as a whole.