BY PETER HAILEY
A few days ago on Sunday, the Nationals offense exploded for 12 runs in their final three at-bats as they beat the Giants 14-6, a score that looked more like a football game than a baseball game.
The next night in Philadelphia, however, didn't go nearly as well, as the offense only mustered six hits compared to the previous day's 18 in a 3-2 loss to the Phillies. Two days, two completely different offensive outings, which got us thinking: When a team's offense puts up big numbers in a game, is it reasonable to expect they'll be considerably less potent in their following game?
How has the Nationals offense fared this year in games after they had blowout wins the game before? The stats tell an interesting story.
In the MLB this year, the league average for team runs scored in a game is 4.1 (through August 27th). For the sake of this article, I've defined a blowout win as a game where the Nationals scored eight runs (twice the league average) and won by a margin of at least four. By that definition, the Nats have had 13 blowout wins this year.
In those 13 lopsided wins, Washington has scored 8, 9, 11, 9, 9, 8, 9, 13, 10, 8, 11, 8, and 14 runs, which comes out to a healthy average of 9.76 runs per game. But how did the team (and the offense) do the next game?
In games following a blowout victory, the Nationals are 8-5, which is an interesting record considering the offense falls off significantly after great nights at the plate. In those 13 games, Washington's offense has averaged a meager 3.23 runs a game, a figure that would be last in the majors (even behind the unbelievably bad Padres offense).
These numbers are certainly intriguing: After huge wins, the Nationals have a strong win-loss record, but the offense is not usually the reason why; they've scored just four runs or less in 11 of their 13 games following blowouts, and only once scored more than five times.
To get a sense of whether such a big drop in runs after terrific offensive nights is normal, I compared their stats with those of the Orioles, and the contrast between the two teams is stark.
The Orioles, too, have had 13 blowout wins this year, scoring an average of 9.3 runs per game. Interestingly enough, the O's are also 8-5 following blowouts, but their offense doesn't tail off nearly as much as Washington's does.
Baltimore scores 4.92 runs a game following big wins, more than a run and a half better than the Nationals. Furthermore, the O's have scored more than four runs in 8 of their 13 games following blowouts (six more times than Washington), and more than five runs five times (four more times than Washington).
To take it one final step, what makes this split between the two teams even more unusual is that the teams are practically dead even in runs per game this season (the Orioles score 4.28 runs per game while the Nats average 4.27).
So why do the Nationals, whose overall team offense is practically equal to Baltimore's, struggle scoring runs after blowouts while the Orioles flourish? There's no sure answer. But the difference between the two teams is clear: one offense seems to carry the momentum gained from big wins to their next game, while the other has trouble producing that well again.
With both teams entering the final stretch of the regular season and hoping for deep runs into the postseason, these numbers could go a long way in predicting how each team will fare. After blowouts, expect the Nationals' bats to be a lot quieter, while on the other hand, look for the Orioles offense to keep the runs coming.