- PHILLIPS: Where is the conservative establishment?
- 7.5-magnitude earthquake shakes southern Mexico
- ISTOOK: IRS “wants to throw us in jail,” says tea party leader
- Easter woes: Chocolate costs soar, becoming ‘unaffordable’ luxury
- Michaels craft chain confirms hackers hit 3M customers
- Special Forces’ suicide rates hit record levels — casualties of ‘hard combat’
- Many Americans would quickly face financial hardship after losing job, poll shows
- Toronto Mayor Rob Ford thanks supporters at re-election campaign bash
- Texas seizes polygamist Warren Jeffs’ 1,600-acre ranch
- Publisher unveils Hillary Clinton’s new memoir — ‘Hard Choices’
Counting the ways the Nationals’ year went off the rails
The Nationals’ bench rebounded in the second half, right along with the rest of their offense, and the contributions from Steve Lombardozzi, Scott Hairston and Chad Tracy, who all rank in the top 15 in the NL in pinch hits, have helped. But it has done little to improve their overall numbers in the pinch-hit department.
The Nationals’ .253 pinch-hit on-base percentage is the second-worst in the NL — and their 17 RBI from pinch hitters ranks last in the league as well.
“[Lombardozzi] has been my best pinch-hitter all year long,” Johnson said. “Everyone else has been kind of non-existent, really. I was hoping that would be one the strong points coming in, production out of the bench, because that’s where you win a lot of ballgames.
But some of the players the Nationals relied on to do that failed. Tyler Moore struggled in that role at the start of the season, and still has just one pinch hit in 18 at-bats, and Roger Bernadina followed up his career-best season with an abysmal encore before the team finally released him in August.
In the same way, the Nationals’ bullpen configuration was set up for them to rely on players who were not comfortable in their roles. And the search for capable left-handed relief dragged on for much of the season, despite bursts from Ian Krol and Fernando Abad, and Xavier Cedeno most recently. It forced others into different roles as well, contributing to the immense struggles of Drew Storen before he righted himself in a brief stint in Triple-A.
The Nationals, who also were among the league’s most error-riddled clubs, lost 16 games this season when they were leading from the seventh inning on, and they lost 33 games when they were tied in the seventh inning or later.
A glance at the Nationals’ starting lineup belies just how mightily they struggled to score runs from April through July. They boast five regulars with 20 or more home runs and another, in Ramos, who has 15 in just 75 games. Only one starting position player, Adam LaRoche, is hitting below .263.
But their second-half resurgence has helped to smooth those numbers over.
From the start of the season until July 22, when they fired hitting coach Rick Eckstein, the Nationals averaged just 3.7 runs per game. In the 59 games since, under the tutelage of Rick Schu, that number has jumped more than a run per game to 4.8.
The cause and effect there is “debatable,” as general manager Mike Rizzo put it last week. But the simple fact is that a lineup full of good hitters vastly underperformed throughout the first 100 games of the season and the Nationals put untold amounts of stress on their pitchers by scoring two runs or fewer in a remarkable 61 games.
“When you talk about winning games, you’ve got to play good defense, you’ve got to pitch well and you’ve got to have some timely hitting,” said shortstop Ian Desmond. “We didn’t win enough games. I’m assuming those three things were what we lacked.
“It doesn’t mean we’re not capable of doing it. If we would’ve played the way we did in August and September early on in the year we probably wouldn’t be in this situation, but this is what it is and we’ve got to deal with it.”
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Amanda Comak covers the Washington Nationals and comes to The Washington Times from the Cape Cod Times and after stints with MLB.com and the Amsterdam (N.Y.) Recorder. A Massachusetts native and 2008 graduate of Boston University, Amanda can be reached at email@example.com and you can follow her on Twitter @acomak.
- What will Nationals do this offseason to contend again in 2014?
- As Nationals' manager search begins, Randy Knorr the players' choice
- Davey Johnson's big-league journey ends with Nationals loss
- Team spirit and Holy Spirit — for Nationals religion looms large on and off the field
- Jordan Zimmermann falls short of 20th win as Cardinals prevail again
Latest Blog Entries
- A fond farewell, and a bit of thanks
- Nationals coaches wait in limbo as team searches for next manager
- Davey Johnson won't be in uniform for Nationals in spring training
- Tanner Roark starts season finale with youthful lineup behind him (UPDATED)
- Dan Haren, Nationals top Diamondbacks in season's penultimate game
- Harry Reid blasts Bundy ranch supporters as 'domestic terrorists'
- Immigration still on hold: Boehner's office
- Inside China: Marine's comment on islands draws sharp Chinese response
- Supreme Court weighs appeal to concealed-carry gun laws
- Prosecutors seek arrest warrant for ferry captain in South Korea
- PRUDEN: When a bored president just 'mails it in'
- With pot and e-cigarettes, Big Tobacco is just waiting to inhale emerging markets
- Army goes to war with National Guard, seizes Apache attack helicopters
- CBO shows it's Paul Ryan 4, Obama 0 on budget targeting
- CARSON: Recovering Tocqueville's vision of American exceptionalism
Top 10 handguns in the U.S.