State of the Nationals -- Weeks 1 and 2

Well, opening day has come and gone, and we're approaching the third week of the 2009 MLB season. The first few weeks of each season are always an interesting time, and this season appears to be no different. We've seen the debut of two majestic (and costly) ballparks for the Yankees and Mets, and have seen some surprises as well. The Marlins are off to an 11-1 start, and other typically dismal teams such as the Padres, Blue Jays, and Royals, are starting to turn some heads. On the other hand of the spectrum are the Nationals, who are off to a 1-10 start, and appear to be in for a long season, one which could seem them faring even worse than they did in 2008.

Even though I am a Yankee fan first and foremost, I have found myself keeping up with the Nationals since they arrived in DC from Montreal back in 2005. I've had partial season ticket plans for the past two years, and have already attended two games this year, including the Nats' home opener. Now I'm not saying that I ever expect great things from the Nationals, but the start the team has had this year has been excruciatingly awful. Its one thing to start off slow, but the manner in which the Nats are losing games is incredibly frustrating. They are certainly more potent offensively than they were in 2008, but their pitching, and especially their late inning relievers, has been terrible, blowing leads in each of the three games this weekend against the Marlins, resulting in one 9-inning and two extra-inning losses.

It is refreshing to see guys like Zimmerman, Kearns, and Nick Johnson off to strong starts. All offseason I have said that Nick Johnson's health and offensive production will be very important to the Nats in the first few months of the year. He has attracted some interest from other teams, and if he stays healthy, will have some trade value. Trading Johnson for some arms and platooning Dunn and Willingham at first may help alleviate some of the corner outfielder logjam.

While the Nats' offense has certainly improved, their pitching has been terrible. Lannan and Olsen had a few rough first outings, but both pitched well this weekend, only to have their work go for naught and the hands of relievers Joel Hanrahan and Saul Rivera. The Nats need to try something new with their pitching, and need to do so soon. Calling up some AAA-level arms may be the best short-term solution, as their current bullpen, with the exception of 8th-inning man Joe Beimel, who's pitched well, seems to lack control, confidence, and generally looks lost on the mound.

The Nats finish their current homestand with three games this week against the Braves. Tomorrow marks the debut of Jordan Zimmermann, the highly-touted starter who seems to have great potential. Lets hope he provides the spark this team sorely needs. More to come later this week witha recap of the Braves series.

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