How Good can a HEATHLY Nationals Lineup Be?
The Washington Nationals began the 2014 season with high hopes and World Series aspirations however on May 27 the team is 51 games into the regular season and is sitting in third place in the NL East with a 25-26 record. The Nationals have really had a disappointing month of May so far as they are 9-14 and are hitting only .223, which is worst in all of baseball. At this moment the Nationals also have had to deal with injuries like no other team since the start of the season although it appears the Nationals have always had to deal with injuries and that is this team’s major setback.
Even in the franchises best season since moving to the Nation’s Capital the Nationals dealt with injury as Stephen Strasburg had to be shut down just before the playoffs for precautionary reasons. Prior to Strasburg being shut down Nationals fans got to see all the talent the roster posset and how good the Nationals could be in the future nonetheless due to injuries it seems they are always missing something and this year it has definitely been their offense.
The Nationals have a core group of eight starting position players that played in the Nationals 2014 Opening Day, a game in which they won and scored nine runs, lineup that mixes young star potential to veterans that have been there and done that in their careers. The core eight that was featured in the opening day lineup consist of: Denard Span, Anthony Rendon, Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche, Ryan Zimmerman, Wilson Ramos and Ian Desmond.
Opening day for the Nationals remains the only game this season where the lineup consisted of the core eight players due to injuries to Harper, Ramos, LaRoche and Zimmerman. With Ramos and LaRoche recently returning to the lineup and Zimmerman allowed to resume baseball activities the lineup appears to be finally approaching the core eight again. As a Nationals fan this should bring excitement to oneself but then you realize that you really have no idea what this core eight can actually do and if being healthy is truly the only reason the team is off to a below average start.
The core eight started in 2013 on April 21 when second basemen Anthony Rendon made his major league debut yet since that date the core eight have only played in 44 games together. In those 44 games the Nationals were an impressive 26-18 which is a winning percentage of .590. If played in a 162 game season the winning percentage would lead the Nationals to a record of 95-67.
Now while 44 games is a small sample when compared to a full game season it shows how the offense could be directly impacted if the Nationals core eight starts and is healthy. In the 44 games that the lineup was healthy the Nationals averaged 4.79 runs per game which would have been 4th in the majors last year instead of how they were actually ranked in 19th out of the 30 teams.
A healthy Nationals lineup that consists of the core eight is one of the most balanced lineups in all of baseball. When they do play all together each player in the core eight thrives off of the protection they have in the order from the man batting behind them. In the 44 games that the lineup was fully healthy Nationals fans saw each one of the eight players play to their full potential with the protection of the other players in the lineup.
Wilson Ramos who bats eighth in the lineup when the team is healthy led the team in homeruns with nine in just 44 games and Bryce Harper seem to flourish as well and seems to hit better when he does have that protection in the order. As the future face of the franchise Harper batted .279 with six home runs and 26 RBIs in those 44 games in only his age 20 season giving hope for a bright future for the Nationals provided the young stud protection in the lineup that forces pitchers to actually pitch to him and not requiring Bryce to try and do too much.
The one player that may need to protection of a healthy core eight is the leadoff hitter, Denard Span. Span is in a year where he must prove that he is worth having his option in his contract picked up. Span thrives off of the protection the core eight gives him as the leadoff hitter as he batted .329 and hit all three of his homeruns in the 44 games the lineup was healthy.
The Washington Nationals are having a dreadful month of May due to missing half of their core eight players in their lineup because of injuries however with Adam LaRoche being back and Ryan Zimmerman close to returning the Nationals will just have to wait on the return of phenom Bryce Harper, who is expected back in the beginning of July, to reap the benefits of the core eight being fully intact and wreaking havoc on the National League East.