The papers are filled today with the rantings of Jim Bowden. Bowden is understandably upset with the Nationals' meager offense, as we all are, but he seems to think that this is a recent problem. Yes, the Nationals lost 6-0 yesterday to the Cardinals and now haven't scored in the last 21 innings. And, yes, this scoreless streak comes at an inopportune time; it's hard to make the playoffs when you've stopped scoring runs.
But this is not a new phenomenon. Where have you been, Jim, the last couple of months? The Nationals lost their National League East lead, fell out of second place, then third, and then fourth, all because of their pathetic offense. Had the Nationals even an average offense it's very likely that they'd still be a playoff team. Instead, the Nationals have squandered an overachieving first half and a good pitching staff by not putting on the field a team that can consistently drive the ball.
Let's get more specific. The Nationals are last in the National League in virtually EVERY offensive category. They are last in at bats, runs scored, hits, home runs (tied with the Giants), total bases, RBI, batting average, slugging percentage, and OPS. And the Nationals are second to last in OBP. Is it therefore a surprise that the Nationals can't score?
And given their lineup, is it a surprise that the Nationals are this bad offensively? The Nationals START one of the worst offensive players (at least this year) ever to play regularly--Cristian Guzman--and on a daily basis field one of the worst offensive teams in recent memory. Yesterday they played five players (Guzman, Jamey Carroll, Gary Bennett, Vinny Castilla, and Preston Wilson) who wouldn't start for most every team and probably wouldn't even be on the roster of most good teams. These five have VORPs of -19.5, -5.2, -0.4, 9.1, and 7.7, respectively. And another player--Brad Wilkerson--is slumping himself out of the productive player category.
Simply stated, the Nationals don't have the offense of a playoff team. This has been a known problem for months now, but Bowden hasn't done anything about it. He chose not to make any trades near the trade deadline and has done nothing since to improve the offense. Meanwhile, teams like the Yankees are making small, but potentially significant deals to beef up their offense. Where is a good general manager when you need one? As we've said before, the solution to all of this is not to berate the players, but to fire the general manager.