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What Has Been Causing the Washington Nationals' Offensive Struggles?

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 10:  Jayson Werth #28 of the Washington Nationals tosses his bat after striking out against the Chicago White Sox at Nationals Park on April 10, 2013 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images
Kenny DeJohnAnalyst IIIApril 15, 2013

After being swept at the hands of the Atlanta Braves this past weekend, it's become pretty obvious that the Washington Nationals lineup has struggled to get on base in the early stages of the 2013 regular season.

Of the team's nine regulars (minus Wilson Ramos, since he's on the 15-day disabled list), only Ryan Zimmerman, Kurt Suzuki, Denard Span and Bryce Harper have on-base percentages over .300. Granted, Jayson Werth's is exactly .300.

Steve Lombardozzi, the team's first infielder off the bench, has posted a .375 OBP in eight plate appearances. Because he's not a regular, we won't count him in this analysis of the lineup's impatience.

Zimmerman (.313), Harper (.400), Span (.423) and Suzuki (.476) have each walked at least four times. Span currently leads the team with nine free passes. The other regulars have each walked three times or less. Werth and Ian Desmond have walked just once, while Danny Espinosa has walked twice.

This is unacceptable.

Hitters are swinging entirely too early in counts and are chasing pitches out of the zone. This impatience likely isn't a result of pressing at the plate, as the team's 7-5 start is no reason to panic. Many would argue that a 2-10 start wouldn't even require panicking this early in the season.

I think the hyper-aggressiveness at the plate can be attributed to something much larger. After losing a heartbreaker in Game 5 of the National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals in 2012, the Nationals have attempted to come out with a vengeance early this season.

They've looked to silence whatever doubters remain regarding their standing as a top team in the National League and their ability to compete again this season. This has resulted in hitters trying to swing outside of themselves to do jobs that they aren't usually suited for.

That would explain why the Nationals have scored just 46 runs through 12 games this season. This ranks them 20th in the majors. To put this in perspective, the inexperienced Houston Astros have scored more runs (51) than Washington thus far. Washington's .314 OBP ranks 17th in the league.

When Washington's hitters (outside of Harper, who is tearing the cover off the ball) can lock in and stay within themselves, the offense will start producing at the rate many expected. It may take some time and a few meetings called by manager Davey Johnson to do so, but this team has the potential to be a top offensive ballclub.

All they need is a little patience.

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