Washington Nationals Rough Month of April Concludes


Photo via Alex Brandon/AP Photo

Drew Stahl, Co Sports Editor

The first month of the 2022 baseball season has come to an end. There are still five more months left of baseball to play and each franchise’s fate is anything but determined. 

The Washington Nationals had subpar expectations coming into the year. After last July’s trading spree, the Nationals appeared to be entering a rebuild. Juan Soto, Josh Bell and Nelson Cruz had the highest expectations coming into 2022. Aside from those three, the Nats offense was one of many causes for concern in the Nation’s Capital

The pitching staff was another area of concern. With Stephen Strasburg and Joe Ross starting the season on the Injured List, a group of career minor leaguers were set to make the Opening Day roster for the Nats. Given the low expectations, the bullpen was solid through the first month of the season. The starting pitchers however, were among some of the worst in baseball. 

The 2022 season started on April 7th for the Nationals. The season started with a four game series at home against the New York Mets. The Nationals lost their Opening Day game by a score of 5-1. Nationals starting pitcher Patrick Corbin pitched 5 innings and only gave up two runs. The only run from the Nationals was via a solo home run from All-Star Juan Soto. The Nationals lost their next two games to go 0-3 to start the year. They won their first game of the season on April 10th, a score of 4-2.

The Nats had a seven game road trip spanning from April 11-17th. A three game series in Atlanta and a four game set in Pittsburgh. The Nats won the series against the defending World Champions, the Atlanta Braves, by taking two of the three games. Following that series, the Nats lost three of four games to the Pirates. The Pirates were widely regarded and expected to be one of the bottom five teams in the league. At this point, the Nationals were 6-11 and last in the National League East. 

The second home stand of the year spanned from April 18-28th. They split a four game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks and were swept against the San Francisco Giants. They won only one of three possible games against the Miami Marlins to fall to 7-14. 

From a record standpoint, the season has not been up to recent standards. However, this was to be expected. A rebuilding team with a mix of veterans and rookies and second year players will always be hard to piece together. From a player standpoint, there have only been a handful of standouts. There have been injuries; both position players and members of the pitching staff have gone on the injured list with a range of injuries. 

From an analytical standpoint, it does not take a professional statistician to conclude that the Nationals offense has been sub-par. As of April 28th, the Nationals are 21st in the league in runs scored with 66. They are 10th in Hits and 18th in walks. They are also 25th, bottom five in the league, in home runs. So runners are getting on base, but not scoring. The Nationals are 22nd in On-Base-Percentage at .291, which means only 29.1% of hitters are  reaching base. That is not enough men on base to score enough runs. 

For perspective, the highest OBP in the league belongs to the divisional rival Mets. The Mets are currently 14-6 and 1st in the division. There is a direct correlation between runners on base, and games won. If the Nationals want to win games by scoring runs, they need to start by putting members on base.

Players that the Nationals were highly dependent on offensively were Soto, Cruz and Bell. Nelson Cruz is batting a meger .164 and Soto is batting only .246. Josh Bell is leading the Nationals, batting .344. Only six different players have hit a home run this campaign. Only four players have more than one and the leader in home runs on the Nationals is Juan Soto with three. So far, having three home runs puts you at 33rd in the entire league in home runs hit. The Nationals do not yet have a power bat that can hit home runs. The three players above, Soto, Cruz and Bell, are known power hitters and can contribute in that department. 

The number one department to blame for the Nationals slow start has been the offense. The runs, home runs, and getting on base has not been good enough. Players at the bottom of the lineup have not been contributing to the team’s offense. When a team is  rebuilding, it is a tough ask for the players to do all of the things that are done by contending teams. The Nationals were not expected to be contenders this season. However, it should be noted that they play to win the games that are on their schedule. 

The Nats have said that they will not pursue the strategy of tanking, purposely losing games to better your draft position. There are still five more months for the Nationals to turn things around. Anything can happen in baseball over the course of the long season. There is work to be done, but the Nationals have given themselves at least a chance at a surprise season.