I’m impressed with the Nationals. And, not just with what they’ve done this year. They’re building a team that will be very good for many years. And, the most impressive part is that they haven’t just gone out and outbid everyone else in order to do so. Yes, they seem to have overpaid for Jayson Werth (for whatever reason). But, you look up and down their roster, and it’s full of names of guys that have come up through their organization (Strasburg, Zimmerman – both of them, Harper, Clippard, etc.). They’ve made some smart trades (Gio Gonzalez being the smartest), and look like a legit World Series contender. Could they bring a championship to the Capitol for the first time since 1924?
3 Reasons Why:
- Starting Pitching – yes, I know Strasburg is gone. But, look at this staff: Gio Gonzalez (21-8, 2.89 ERA), Jordan Zimmerman (12-8, 2.94 ERA), Ross Detwiler (10-8, 3.40 ERA). And, having Edwin Jackson as your #4 starter . . . you could do worse . . . a lot worse (just ask the Yankees). Even without Strasburg, this is a tough starting rotation to have to win 3/5 or 4/7 games against.
- Shutting Down – with runners in scoring position, the Nationals’ pitchers are the absolute best in baseball at preventing them from scoring. They own the best ERA, batting avg. against (.213!!), and OPS against in the league in those situations.
- Extra Bases – the Nats are one of the best at getting extra bases. They own the 2nd best ISO in the NL, and 3rd best slugging pct. (.428). They’re tied for 5th in all of baseball with 520 extra-base hits.
3 Why Not:
- K’s – there have been a lot of swing-and-misses in Washington. They’re 4th in baseball with 1,325 strikeouts as a team. 5 players with more than 110 K’s, and only one with more than 60 BB’s – giving them the 3rd worst BB/K ratio in the game. To get to a championship, they’ll need to be more disciplined at the plate than that.
- Take What They’ll Give Ya’ – as great as their pitching staff is, and as good as their catchers might be with a bat in their hands . . . they can’t stop baserunners from stealing. A pitiful 9% caught stealing rate. That means that more than 9 out of every 10 stolen base attempts are successful! I thought for sure that would be the worst in baseball, until I saw the Pirates were a pathetic 5.8%. But, this is not a category you want to place 2nd in.
- Stephen Strasburg – I have to say it, don’t I? Without Strasburg in that rotation, it takes a significant hit. With him in, it’s probably the best in baseball right now. But, pulling him out (in spite of ZERO empirical data to suggest that limiting innings will prevent future injury), takes this rotation from A+ to A-, at best. Can you imagine how scary this rotation would be in the postseason if Ross Detwiler was the #4 starter, instead of #3? If they didn’t even need Edwin Jackson? The Nationals should have paid closer attention to just how tired Jordan Zimmerman looked the last two months of the season. They did the same thing with him last year (limiting his innings because of Tommy John surgery), and consequently when he hit 140 innings this year, he began to wear out, going 3-2 with a 4.65 ERA in 9 starts. One of the dumbest decisions I’ve ever seen in baseball.
The Nationals are a legit World Series contender. What do you think their chances are?