by Jason BishopBy Jason Bishop 'Lurch'

Call me negative, but I’m not. I’m realistic and a huge baseball fan. I’m a Red Sox lover at heart, but I love seeing the Nats rise because sports fans in Washington aren’t used to it.

The Nats have never seen the north side of .500 and were horrible in 2008 and 2009. So they were blessed to draft guys like Strassy, Jordan Zimmermann and Bryce Harper. so to see this plan start to come together is exciting. Mike Rizzo has assembled a dominant staff and through 17 games they are the best staff in baseball, but the dominance will give into the law of averages so the lineup has to start hitting asap.

I know I’m not saying anything groundbreaking here, but when the ERAs start to rise are we going to see a balance and will the team still win consistently?

The Nats’ arms have yielded a league-low 39 earned runs and opposing teams are batting .200. By comparison, the Red Sox have allowed 99 earned runs and teams pound them to the tune of .290.

The Nats pitching numbers are sick and I would trade Beckett, Lester and Buchholz for the Nats Top 3 in a second. But let’s remember the Nats played the Cubs, Mets, Astros and Padres so far …. 4 teams that will finish either last or next to last in their divisions.

Offensively, the Nats have scored 61 runs, which is tied for 24th in the league and the team batting average, slugging percentage and OPS all rank 23rd or worse.

What compounds the offensive problems are the injuries to Mike Morse and now Zimmerman, but scoring runs means hitting home runs and the Nats have 10. Matt Kemp has 8 himself.

So what can the Nats do?

Well, Werth has to hit for more than just average. LaRoche has to stay on a 25 home run pace. Ramos needs to start hitting .270 or better. Espinosa has got to stop being such a free swinger and needs to get on base and Desmond has to be more discipline.

Can these things happen?

Sure, but maybe Rizzo can make a few moves, too.

Denard Span is a guy who has been rumored to be a potential trading piece for the Twins and he’s off to a great start. The Nats need a CF who can get on base… maybe.

Tyler Moore is a guy who is hitting for power in the minors and he can play both first and the outfield. Can he steal a few at bats? Steve Lombardozzi has to get more at bats too. He’s hitting .400 in the 10 games he’s played and can play 2 different spots in the infield. Maybe there is a power hitting left fielder on the market that Rizzo can pry away from someone. Is he willing to trade another young arm?

Do Nats fans want to see this team stay where they are and continue to build with what they have? That seems to be the plan, but the 2.5 game lead will disappear. Atlanta, Miami and Philly will start to hit–Atlanta already has.

The schedule will get tougher and Strassy will be shut down, but the fans have to stay interested and keep coming to the park. Harper is coming, but don’t expect Mickey Mantle right away. He has struggled early at every level and we still don’t know what to expect.

Or am I just jumping the gun too early? Do I expect too much after the great start?

Peter Gammons may tell me this team is still an 83 win team this year and to wait 2 years before seriously contending, but I feel like the playoffs are within reach this year with some help.

Rizzo has done a great job turning this team around from a 59 win team to a team we talk about everyday so hopefully the offense wakes up and surprises me like the pitching has.


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