While the Nationals are off to a hot start, some question their ability to maintain their current level of success. Offensively, however, the club only has one batter who is clearly over-achieving and who will likely see a sharp decline in the near future, Ivan Rodriguez.
Entering today's day off Pudge is hitting .400/.422/.517 with 10 runs and 8 RBI on the season. No matter how improved Rodriguez may be off of his poor 2009 season that saw him hit just .249/.280/.384, he is simply not a .400 hitter, especially at the age of 38.
The instability of Rodriguez's success can be seen in his tremendous .436 batting average on balls put into play. His career mark in that category is only .323, so right ow he is hitting about .100 points above where he should. Never-the-less a .300 batting average from a guy who only hit .249 last season is nothing to sneeze at.
Rodriguez has been successful outside of just his unsustainable BABIP. The 38-year-old catcher has cut his strikeout percentage in half from 21.6% to 10.0%. Is this sustainable? It's hard to say, the 21.6% strikeout rate which he posted last year was the highest of his career by far. Rodriguez's career strikeout is 15.2 %, but there is reason to believe that Rodriguez could sustain a number closer to 10. Pudge's power numbers are way down early on in the season which may indicate he is focusing more on making contact with the baseball for singles and getting on base rather than trying drive the ball like he was able to earlier in his career.
When the Nationals signed him to a two-year $6 million deal, many thought they overpaid. However if Rodriguez can manage to hit between .280-300 and get on base at .330 or better, it may have been one of the steals of the offseason. Besides, regardless of performance, everybody in the locker room has attested that Rodriguez is one of the driving forces in bring back a winning culture to Washington baseball.
In the field he has helped a Nationals club that was the worst defensive team in baseball last year. At catcher he is able to provide veteran leadership and serve as an anchor to a club that made errors at ridiculous rates last season, but have been able to cut them down substantially this April. Behind the plate, his arm is still one of the more intimidating arms in the majors. In the last three seasons the future hall-of-famer has thrown out 49% of would-be base stealers, showing he still has the arm that made him famous over a decade ago.