What’s happened to the National League preseason division favorites?

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May 21, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals center fielder Denard Span (2) celebrates with Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos (40) after Span hit solo leadoff home run in the bottom of 1st inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Jack Gruber-USA TODAY Sports
Washington Nationals

A reason many thought the Nationals would be the team to beat in the NL East was partially due to the acquisition of Doug Fister. I shouldn’t say acquisition as many thought the deal was more of a theft. But Fister didn’t see any real game action until May 9. He was beat around in his first outing (4.1 IP, 9 H, 7 R, 5 ER). SInce then, he’s been teh Fister we saw in Detroit.

Even bringing this to light isn’t the Nats issue. The pitching has performed fairly well.

The bats are, well, kind of “ordinary”. When looking at how they have performed compared to the league average, the Nationals are average across the board.

A stat I almost always look up is RISP and RISP with 2 outs. I know the term “clutch” gets thrown around a lot, and there are those that have dispelled a belief that “clutch” even exists. Still, these two stats tell me how a team performs when an opportunity to score is present.

And in those two stats, the Nationals don’t instill much fear into opponents. They hit .213 with runners in scoring position. If there have ducks on the pond and there are two outs, they can only manage a .175 average.

Something else that can help is getting production from the leadoff spot. Sometimes this can be overblown, but I do put a little stock into this because having a guy start the game on a positive note can get the ball rolling. The Nationals leadoff hitters own a batting average of .259 and an on-base percentage of .305. The average ranks the 13th in the NL, and the OBP finds them 10th.

When leading off a game, those numbers are .255 and .283. The NL averages are .273 and .321. When leading off an inning: .266 and .329 compared to league average of .254 and .308. Not too great starting a game, but netter than the norm when leading off an inning.

And this. That Nationals are 6-11 in one-run games. Switch that around and Washington leads the division.

Prior to today’s action, the Nats owned a 26-27 record, two and a half games behind division-leading Atlanta. But the Braves aren’t that team performing with their head above water. In the NL East, that belings to the MIami Marlins who sit at