In reality, most of the baseball world probably forgets that D.C. has a baseball team unless Stephen Strasburg is starting or Bryce Harper blows someone a kiss. Seven years has apparently not been enough to get the Nats recognition, and not without reason: they spent a lot of that time in the basement.
But his year is different. The Nats are first in the NL East, leading both the Phillies and the Braves, two teams many expected to be formidable. Not only are the Nats leading their division, but they also hold the second best record in Major League Baseball at 12-4.
Many have cast this early success aside. Some are categorizing it as a small sample size, inflated numbers that will regress back to the mean in a month. They look at the opponents the Nats have faced so far and have yet to see a challenging opposition.
The Nats have taken all 5 of their series so far in 2012. Sure, they may have been against the Cubs, Reds, Mets, Marlins, and Astros, (only the Mets are above .500) but there are characteristics in the play of the Nats that implies that this isn’t just a fluke.
First of all, there is the pitching. The Nats and the Cardinals are the only two teams with 3 pitchers in the top 10 in the MLB in OPS. Jordan Zimmerman comes in at 5th, Strasburg at 7th, and Gio Gonzalez at 8th. Ross Detwiler comes in at 20th, and Edwin Jackson comes in at 33rd.
The Nats have all 5 of their starters in the top 33 in OPS among 150 total MLB starters. That’s nothing to sneeze at, and while some may argue that the rotation hasn’t truly been tested, with each pitcher already with 3 starts under their belt, it isn’t a shot in the pan.
The other point is that players who were either injured last year or not preforming up to par have seemed to have found a groove. Jayson Werth (coming off his fart), Ian Desmond (past inconsistencies), and Adam LaRoche (injured the majority of last season) are the Nats batting leaders among starters.
Players like Ryan Zimmerman, Wilson Ramos, and Danny Espinosa are off to slow starts. They should eventually come around to their 2011 numbers, and when they do, they’ll be able to put the Nats offense over the hump it’s been hiding behind.
There are a lot of “if’s.” It is still early, and the Nats have a tough stretch coming up series against the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, and Phillies around the corner. Still, to call the Nats’ success a fluke is to underestimate a team with a lot of talent, and a team that’s going to put the league on notice.