This is the sort of weather baseball is meant to be played in.
A gentle breeze sweeps through the outfield, the sun is pleasantly beaming, and some high clouds trundle across the sky far to the north. This is the sort of weekend you long to spend at the ballpark. You want a hotdog in the sun, and a cold beer to go with it. These are the dreams of a winter sleeper, these perfect days.
Unless that was this weekend, and you were a Nationals fan.
The Nationals/Braves series was hotly contested Friday and Saturday, and a flailing 9-0 disaster on Sunday (the details of which do not matter today), and the Nationals came out with three losses. Detwiler’s great start Friday was wasted by bullpen failures. Strasburg was human against the Braves’ wrecking crew on Saturday, and the Braves straight raked all over Gio on Sunday. The series was, as you might expect with these descriptions, an abject failure.
Baseball seasons are long. They’re designed that way. They are a grueling marathon after which there’s a short sprint. This is not football where one loss condemns you to obscurity, or where the loss of a few games means sell the franchise player to the highest bidder.
April records are funny things. The best April record from last year was the Texas Rangers, who couldn’t hold on to their division by the end of the year, and were sent back to Arlington to watch the playoffs on the last game of the season. While good months can help your cause, divisions and pennants aren’t won in April. They aren’t lost in April, either. The Nationals’ start is certainly slow, and there’s cause for concern, but there’s no reason to panic yet.
Here are three reasons why you shouldn’t panic:
1. Underperforming offenses correct
Yes, the Nationals offense has been underperforming this season so far. A weekend series against the Braves in which they were outscored 18-5 certainly looks bad for the Nationals offense, but with a quiet middle of the order against the Braves pitching, it looked a lot worse. The Nationals best hitters are underperforming right now, and that’s going to correct itself. This isn’t the usual for Adam LaRoche, this isn’t the usual for Ryan Zimmerman or Bryce Harper or Jayson Werth.
2. Small Sample Size
We’ve talked a lot on Twitter and elsewhere about the problems of small sample size, and the first twelve games of the season are certainly not a microcosm of their chances for the season. If you take this down to just their two losing series, the results only look worse. I’m not saying there’s no chance the Nationals miss the playoffs, I’m just saying that the margin of error on the current data is substantial. Panicking this early would be like panicking at the half in the 2nd game of the football season. Don’t do it. Especially since in that situation, the home team would be up at that half.
3. Look at the Calendar (hint: look at the month part, too)
Who do the Nats face next? The Marlins that they clubbed to start the season, and who have continued their slide to a lovely 2-10. Follow that with the Mets who, with exception of an over-performing Matt Harvey (who will face off with Strasburg), are eminently an inferior team to the Nationals.
Now: remind yourself it’s still April, there are still 150 games to go this year, and this is a team that’s still favored to win the World Series.
It’s gonna be okay.