Get out the pitchforks! Light the torches! Gather the angry mob! After a tedious loss, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory against Philadelphia, with another blown save from Jonathan Papelbon, you might as well end the season now.
Of course, there’s still a case to be made for the Nationals, who, blown save or not, still have one of the highest winning percentages in all of baseball with a 9-2 record.
Happy April 18th, by the way.
At this point in the season, it is too early to make any sane conclusions about this Nationals team. Yes, the bullpen, excepting tonight’s snafu, has been exceptional. Yes, the offense has looked better than last year’s. Yes, the starting pitching looks great. But in reality, the Nationals have played eleven games. Predicting the way the rest of a person’s life will go based on 11/162 of it, 6.8% percent, it is borderline insane. The same goes for an entire baseball season.
This is not to say the Nationals have looked bad. In fact, the opposite is true in that situation. But the other truth of the season is that the Nationals have never once been truly challenged. So far this season, the Nats have played Atlanta five times, the Phillies three times and the Marlins twice. All three of those teams are either in permanent states of mediocrity (looking at you, Miami) or are vying to win the number one overall pick in the draft. Tomorrow, they will play another four versus the Miami Marlins, and will then face the only other team in baseball that started the season as poorly than the Atlanta Braves, the Minnesota Twins, and then play the Phillies – again.
If the Nationals only played those four teams in a single season, it’s easy to say that they could probably win up to 135 games, which would be lovely. The problem is that they can only play these teams so many times.
The Nationals have done their job against rebuilding teams and the Marlins, as proven by their record up to this date. But this team has not faced pressure, nor have they struggled against a Cy-Young caliber pitcher or played an offense capable of scoring more than three runs consistently.
We have only seen one side of this team – we have yet to truly meet this team beyond a casual handshake and small talk. They have feasted on bad pitching, bad bullpens and poor hitting. Soon, the other side will show itself
Starting next week, the Nationals will start a colossal road trip that will take them to St. Louis, who can kill you on both sides of the ball, the home of the defending champs, Kansas City, Wrigley Field, which hosts the only team to ever have more hype than the 2013 Nationals in the Cubs, and a week later, the Nats’ team bus will pull up at Citi Field, to face the Mets, the antagonist of their entire 2015 season.
The Nationals will see Cy-Young pitching, historically good offense, and a bullpen that essentially won a team the World Series.
If they can’t defeat the three strongest clubs heading into the season outside of a small port in Texas also known as Houston, it will not mean the end of the season. A losing record would not be discouraging considering their opponents. Playing .500 ball against those teams is no small feat, and would be pretty impressive. A winning record would be even more impressive.
On that road trip, we’ll get to see how they play, and how the team reacts. Can Blake Treinen and Felipe Rivero can really make it in the majors? Can Bryce Harper can hit more than mediocre pitching? Will Jonathan Papelbon be able to close out games worry-free? Do Joe Ross and Daniel Murphy have more than a fluke start on their hands?
Right now, there’s no prediction we can make about how that will go. Only when the road trip starts is when we will begin to see who this team really is. Only then can we answer those questions. Until then, we can enjoy playing against the Phillies and Braves.
This should be fun.