The Nats have played 42 games–just over one-quarter of a season. How have they done?
At 26-18 (.591 winning percentage), they sit (barely) atop the National League East. They’ve scored 163 runs (3.70 runs/game) and allowed 144 runs (3.27 runs/game). They’re slightly overperforming their Pythagorean expectation (.562, or 24 wins) and my pre-season projection.
Of course my pre-season projection of .543 also rounds to 24 wins at this early stage of the season, so that gives you an idea of just how early this is. Over 162 games, the difference is huge: .591 is a 96-win pace; .562 is a 92-win pace; .543 is an 88-win pace.
According to my pre-season projections, I expected the Nats to score about 3.80 runs per game on average and allow 3.51 runs per game.
Those offensive projections assumed, among other things, a healthy Jayson Werth, Wilson Ramos, and Michael Morse, as well as consistent production from Ryan Zimmerman and Danny Espinosa. They have had none of these things. Ramos is gone for the season with a torn ACL. Werth is gone until at least August with a broken wrist. Morse has been gone since opening day (though he is due to return in the first week of June). Zimmerman and LaRoche have had lesser injuries.
Danny Espinosa has had, from what I can tell, a terrible year at the plate: his wOBA to date in 2012 is .290, down from .325 in 2011. His strikeout rate is an astonishing 29%, up from 25.2% last year, almost entirely due to his increased swinging strikeout rate (15%, up from 11% in 2011).
And yet, despite this, the Nats continue to find just enough offense to get by–because their pitching has excelled in run prevention.