Did you think going into this season that it would be a cakewalk for the Nationals? We’re only a month into the 2021 season, and it’s interesting to see so many people on “Nationals Social Media” already using the hashtag #FireDavey. There is still A LOT of season left and plenty of games to be played.
Yes, Dave Martinez wanted the team to jump out to a positive start, but that didn’t happen in 2019 (the Nationals went 12–16 during the month of April) and 2018 (The Nationals went 11-16 during the month of April). So why does anyone think that it would happen in 2021?
Think of all the obstacles the Nationals had to deal with during the month of April:
- COVID-19 outbreak that sent nine players to the injured list and delayed Opening Day.
- A starting rotation that was supposed to be its strength and one of MLB’s best, has instead been the worst. Until last night, Patrick Corbin struggled. Jon Lester has yet to make his Washington Nationals debut due to the removal of a parathyroid gland and a COVID shutdown, and now the Nationals have to deal with trips to the IL for both Stephen Strasburg and Juan Soto.
Unfortunately, the bad news doesn’t end with those two bad pieces of information. If you want some more bad stats read below. If not, you can skip over this paragraph.
Okay, the bad news. As I mentioned above, the starting rotation has been struggling where the team was supposed to shine. Entering Tuesday’s game, the starting rotation had the major’s highest ERA (5.34), FIP (5.36), and home run rate (1.91 per nine), as well as the lowest WAR (-0.4). Thank goodness for Max Scherzer, because without him the combined Nationals starting rotation would have a 7.80 ERA, and a -0.7 WAR.
Dave Martinez had to have a position player, Hernán Pérez, pitch twice in a week to not wear out the bullpen. It’s just wild.
Speaking of that, the Nationals bullpen hasn’t been great either. As a group, Washington’s relievers have a combined ERA of 4.18 ERA and a -0.2 WAR. Obviously,
this isn’t a good way to start the season.
Now the good news: It’s only April. In the past two full seasons, the Washington Nationals have done a lot better in the months of May and June, enabling them to make up the ground that they lost in April. For some reason, the Nationals like playing baseball in warm weather.
In 2018, the Washington Nationals only lost one series in May (a three-game sweep at the hands of the visiting Dodgers) and had a six-game winning streak put them a half-game ahead of the Atlanta Braves for first place in the National League East towards the end of the month of May. The Nationals thus finished May in second, a half-game behind the Braves, with a 19–7 record for the month and a 32–23 record overall.
All told, they recorded seven series wins in the month, four of them sweeps, including four-game sweeps of the Pirates and the Diamondbacks, and back-to-back sweeps of three-game sets with the Marlins and Orioles. Scherzer was honored as National League Pitcher of the Month for the second month in a row, recording a 2.21 ERA for the month and leading the major leagues in May strikeouts with 63.
However, the Nationals 2018 season didn’t end so great, as they finished in second place in the NL East and missed the playoffs with an 82-80 record. It was their lowest win total since the 2011 season, eight games behind the playoffs-bound Braves, and two in front of the Phillies.
In the final month of the season, the Nationals went 15-12 which was their first winning month since May, and only their second full month with a winning record all season.
In 2019, well… we all know what happened. In April, the Nationals had a 12-16 record by the end of the month and a lot of their key players like Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner were also out on the IL. In May, the Nationals hit a low point, getting swept in a four-game series by the New York Mets at Citifield to fall to 19-31. Many people were calling for Martinez to be fired then as well. However, that team climbed back slowly before becoming the fourth team in history to go from 12 games below .500 to making the playoffs. And then, an improbable run to the World Series title.
Yes, this team is completely different: different players, lineup, coaching staff, and year.
However, the last time the Nationals had a winning April was 2017, when they ended the month with a 17–8 record. It was the best in the Major Leagues and placed them five games ahead of both the Marlins and the Phillies in the National League East. The Nationals became the first team in MLB history to score at least 14 runs in a game five times in April, however, the fall wasn’t too kind to them. That team ended up losing in the NLDS in five games against the Chicago Cubs, who were only one year removed from the World Series.
Yes, all of this doesn’t matter until the end of the season, but one thing is for sure, I would take a losing record in April for a winning record in October any day of the week. This team plays better when their backs are up against the wall, and 2021 doesn’t seem to be any different.
Just buckle up, it’s going to be a long long season, and get ready for some more ups and downs, it’s going to be a wild ride.
Edited by: Jonathan Mailloux