The Washington Times - May 19, 2011, 12:25AM

NEW YORK — It’s tough not to belabor the Nationals plight offensively this season. As much as there are facts to support the notion that they are indeed working their way out of the prolonged slump that has plagued them as a team since the season began (for example that they’ve scored four or more runs in seven of their last 10 games), the evidence to support the contrary is too substantial to overlook.

So here are some numbers to ponder as the Nationals prepare for a quick turnaround at Citi Field with a 1:10 p.m. game Thursday afternoon.

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— As a team, the Nationals are batting .225. That’s the worst mark in all of the major leagues. The Minnesota Twins, who entered Wednesday tied with the Nationals, were playing a late game on the west coast, so they could oust the Nationals out of that dubious spot by the morning but, for now, the Nationals are the league’s worst.

— They do not have a single batter with the minimum 3.1 plate appearances per team game (the pre-requesite for batting leaders) in the top 100 in the entire major leagues. The player with the highest average who qualifies? Jayson Werth, at .238, which entered Wednesday as the 132nd highest average in the major leagues. (Laynce Nix at .310, Roger Bernadina at .293 and Wilson Ramos at .269 do not qualify.)

They do, however, have three who rank No. 169 or below.

— They are now hitting .230 with runners in scoring position, and their .225 team average is nearly 40 points below what they were hitting at this time last season (.263). While they’ve scored 23 less runs than the 2010 Nationals had through their first 42 games, they have left 34 fewer men on base (267) than last year’s unit at this point (301).

— In addition to the worst average in MLB, they also rank in the bottom three in on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

— All the while, their pitching staff ranks 11th in the major leagues in team ERA — a number that’s no doubt brought up by a gaudy few — and had allowed fewer runs than just eight other teams entering Wednesday. 

Through the Nationals first 42 games this season, one of the common themes in almost all of the 22 losses has been that they’ve been able to hover around .500 for much of the season without truly hitting. “When” the hitting comes around, they’ll be a dangerous team — and that remains true. The same can be said for when Ryan Zimmerman returns to the lineup healthy.

Until that time comes, though, they’ve got these numbers to look at.