The Washington Times - May 15, 2011, 08:12PM

Obviously, the Nationals need to start hitting better – a lot better. A team batting average of .225 after 40 games is ridiculous. It bears mentioning, though, that just about every major-league club is caught up in a downward offensive spiral. Going into Sunday, the MLB-wide numbers (.250 BA, .388 slugging, .708 OBP) were at 1992 levels (.256 BA. .377 slugging, .700 OBP).

That’s right, it’s been almost two decades since we’ve seen this kind of offensive production – or lack thereof.

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At the start of day, nine clubs were hitting .238 or lower – the Mariners (.228), Twins (.231), Pirates (.232), Padres (.234), A’s (.235), Giants (.236), Rockies (.238) and Diamondbacks (.238) being the others. From 1993 to 2009 no club hit worse than .240 (and that was the 43-119 Tigers of 2003).

You can blame it on drug testing. You can blame it on improved pitching. You can blame it on biorhythms. You can blame it on a lot of things. But there’s no denying hitting is on the decline. In Sunday’s loss to the Nats, for instance, the Marlins’ Hanley Ramirez – the 2009 National League batting champ (.342) – saw his average drop to .213.

It’ll be interesting to see whether hitting stats go north or south the rest of the season. Brace yourself, though. This could be the New Normal.

FYI: After the Nationals struck out 15 or more times twice in space of a week against the Marlins (May 6) and Braves (May 12), I had to find out how unusual this was. As it turns out, it happens to some major-league team once or twice a year – in the last decade, at least. Heck, it happened to the Nats in a stretch of three days in 2006.

Both games were against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. The Nationals won the first and lost the second. Here are the box scores for Game 1 and Game 2 (if you can bear to look).