The World Champion Philadelphia Phillies are coming to town to take on the lowly Nats this weekend. With just 11 wins in 32 games, most Nats fans (when they take off the red-tinted sunglasses) are expecting a bloodbath. It's been a tough season, for sure, but there should be some reasons for optimism.
For one, the offense has been tremendous. The Nats are fourth in the league in runs scored per game, thanks, in part, to their third-place homer ranking. And they're leading the league in OPS, which combines the two most important basic baseball stats: on-base percentage and slugging average.
Runs aren't the problem. They shouldn't be this weekend either; the Phillies staff allows 5.42 per game.
Obviously, the Achilles heel has been the bullpen. But there's reason to believe that things will get better. Simple regression -- most of these guys aren't THAT bad! -- should help.
The Nats are likely to call up Jesus Colome -- the pitcher who was once DL'ed for having a hole in his butt. He's not great, but he's a competent bullpen pitcher. Former Royals All-Star closer Mike MacDougal is likely on the way soon, too. Although he's got the same sort of control problems that Hanrahan often has, he's the kind of pitcher who's either going to be decent or flame out quickly in quite spectacular fashion.
If they just get average performance -- say, a 4.50 ERA instead of the 6+ one they're carrying -- that's a few more wins than their current pace would suggest.
If, as Nats Journal suggests, the team had converted its save chances at a league average rate, it's 3-4 more wins they would've had.
And 15-17, heading into a 4-game series with the Phils would look a heck of a lot better than it does.
So squint your eyes. Pretend she's a beauty. And enjoy the ballgames. (At least when Danny Cabrera's not pitching.)
Chris Needham used to write Capitol Punishment. He's got his tickets to the Saturday day game.