There will be plenty of opportunities now that the Nationals officially have been eliminated from playoff contention to dissect this disappointing season and try to figure out why it produced the result it did.

Were the Nats done in by an unproductive lineup? Shoddy defense? An unbalanced bullpen? The weight of expectations?

All surely were factors but let’s start today with one factor that hasn’t always been at the forefront of the discussion: Injuries particularly those suffered by the club’s brightest young star.

Bryce Harper brought up the subject himself following last night’s loss to the Cardinals when asked what could have been different this season.

“I wasn’t there for a month” Harper said citing his time on the DL with a left knee injury. “I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I’m a game-changer or anything like that but we’re a great team and me being in this lineup is huge. I’ve got to try to be in this lineup every night.”

Now that statement can come across as just a wee-bit cocksure but there’s also an element of maturity in there as well. Yes Harper is calling himself a “game-changer” despite him trying to insist he’s not. But he’s also acknowledging that he needs to do a better job keeping himself healthy enough to stay on the field through a full season.

In other words: Quit running into walls and quit trying to play through injuries that are more severe than you want to admit.

Fact is the Nationals really did suffer as a result of Harper’s injuries. When he has played this season they’ve gone 63-51. When he hasn’t they’ve gone 21-22.

The Nats were a 90-win with Harper. They were a 79-win team without him.

Now the disparity isn’t entirely because Harper. There were other factors that contributed to losses while he was out and there were other factors that contributed to wins while he was healthy.

In fact injuries to two other key regulars proved just as significant.