When the season started, a potential World Series matchup of the Washington Nationals and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim seemed like a definite possibility.
The Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Dodgers also factored into the mix, but the Nats and Angels were poised for big seasons. The teams had superstars at pretty much every position. What could possibly go wrong?
But here we are past the halfway point, and both teams have significantly underachieved and sit a handful of games under .500.
The Nationals trail the Atlanta Braves by 8 1/2 games in the NL East, while the Angels sit 12 games behind the Oakland A’s and may have lost Albert Pujols for an extended period.
For Washington, the pitching has been competitive all season, but for a lineup that features Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond, Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche and Denard Span, the offense has been atrocious.
The Nationals have a collective .239 batting average, which places them 27th in the big leagues ahead of only the New York Mets, Houston Astros and Miami Marlins -- a few teams that were never considered contenders at any point this season.
To take it a step further, Washington’s collective on-base percentage is just .298, 28th in bigs. If you don’t get on base, you can’t score.
For the Angels, the offense has been decent, though Pujols and Josh Hamilton are not having typical years. However, the pitching has hurt the team from making any sort of run.
The Angels’ staff ranks 25th with a 4.23 ERA and is fifth in the league in giving up 467 runs. Even with the offense somewhat producing, the pitching has not shouldered its load.
Despite the struggles so far, it’s still tough to count out either team from making a late-season run given the talent on their rosters -- and of course the existence of the second wild card.
Of the two, the Nationals are better suited to make a postseason run, since pitching often leads to late-season success.
Other than Dan Haren, Washington’s starting staff has kept the team in games. The bullpen, other than Drew Storen, has also been just fine.
You have to figure that this offense has to get going at some point based on its potential. But through 104 games, the team had scored two or fewer runs 46 times.
The Braves recently received a huge blow in losing ace Tim Hudson for the season, but it will take an extended hot streak from Washington rather than a slide from Atlanta to get the Nationals back into the mix.
As for the Angels, they trail the A’s and the Texas Rangers and are even in record with the Seattle Mariners. To jump past two teams as the calendar approaches August can be done, but it’s much more unlikely, especially given how the Angels are pitching.
The slow starts of these two teams just continue to show that big offseason spending does not guarantee success during the actual season. That’s why they play the games, since no team has ever won a championship on paper.
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