The Washington Nationals accomplished the steal of the offseason when they signed Max Scherzer to complete their starting rotation. While many teams thought he was overpriced, the Nationals took a chance and have been reaping the benefits. A strong starting rotation combined with a decent lineup has netted them a 48-39 record and they lead the NL East by two games at the All Star break despite a myriad of injuries.
Washington’s starting rotation is one of the best in baseball. Led by Max Scherzer, it includes Gio Gonzalez, Doug Fister, Stephen Strasburg, and Jordan Zimmerman. Each of these pitchers is known for producing quality starts on a consistent basis and this season has been no different.
Graphic via washingtonpost
The Nationals also enjoy star power in their position players. They possess Bryce Harper, who is considered to be one of the game’s top sluggers, Ian Desmond, and Ryan Zimmerman. While injuries have hurt the Nationals in their offense, they are a definite playoff contender due to their strong pitching.
Washington is all about pitching. It currently ranks 9th in the league with a 3.56 ERA. Each of its five starters is capable of putting on a performance of an ace on any given night. The addition of Max Scherzer during the offseason made a decent pitching staff into a great one.
The Nationals also enjoy a solid lineup although it has been hurt significantly by injuries to Jayson Werth, Denard Span, and Ryan Zimmerman. It produces enough runs to support the great pitching that the Nationals’ starters can produce on a nightly basis.
The Nationals have two major weaknesses: their bullpen and their fielding. The team’s bullpen struggles to hold leads and has cost them several games this year that they should have won, given the effort and performance of the starting rotation. In the fielding department, the Nationals ranked 22th in baseball with 55 errors. These errors seem to come at critical times and make their games harder than they should be.
The Second Half
The first month of the second half is shaping up to be a make or break for Washington. Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, and Denard Span will all be returning from injuries. This should provide their offense with a much-needed spark that should make them a serious force to be reckoned with during the playoffs. It is reasonable to assume that the Nationals will look to add bullpen help before the trade deadline.
The team faces several critical tests in the weeks following the All Star break. They have series against the Dodgers, the Mets, and the Pirates. If they perform strongly in these series, they will set themselves up well coming down the home stretch of the season. Otherwise, they may find themselves looking up at someone else in their division.
Graphic via fanduel