DETROIT -- In the wake of the Nationals' 7-4 loss to the Tigers last night -- their 19th loss in 30 games, by the way -- I started thinking about what currently plagues this team.
My first thought was that the rotation (aside from Stephen Strasburg and Livan Hernandez) has taken a step backward and isn't giving this club a chance to win as much as it did earlier in the year. But the starting staff still owns a collective 4.53 ERA. Not spectacular, but not awful by any means.
So then I thought a lack of clutch hitting has been the Nats' biggest Achilles' heel. But as a team, they're hitting .267 with runners in scoring position. That's better than their overall team average of .262.
So then I thought about the black hole in right field that has plagued the club all season and figured that was its most-pressing issue. But Roger Bernadina is hitting .378 this month, with a 1.002 OPS. And Michael Morse, since returning from the DL, is hitting .458 with a 1.302 OPS. So right field can't be the problem.
So then I figured it must be poor defense. But then I realized the Nationals rank 11th in the NL both in runs allowed and earned runs allowed. So it's not like the defense is costing them more than anything else.
At this point, I was developing a pretty intense headache, so I decided this might not be worth agonizing over. The answer might actually be simple: The Nats simply are an average team, in just about every facet of the game. They get good pitching sometimes, poor pitching other times. They get clutch hits some nights, they don't get them other nights. They usually make one or two defensive mistakes, and sometimes it costs them, but sometimes it doesn't.
There's nothing the Nationals do exceptionally well. And they're not embarrassingly poor in any one aspect, either.
I'm curious what everyone out there thinks. Is there one thing, above all else, you believe is plaguing this team? Or are you like me, and believe the Nats could make some modest improvements in several areas but aren't really getting killed by any one thing?