The Washington Nationals might turn a few heads if ther were located anywhere else besided the National League East. While this team is on the upswing, find out why we think the Nationals hold little MLB betting value.
Starting pitching and youthful phenom Strassburg is back in the rotation and will make his first opening day start of his career. Management went out in the free agency market and successfully landed a vastly under rated starter in Gio Gonzalez and right-hander Edwin Jackson. Jackson will fill innings in the back-end of the rotation. He had 199.2 innings pitched and recorded 148 strikeouts in 2011.
Gonzalez was one of the best starting pitching acquisitions in the off-season in my opinion. He won 16 games on a very thin and weak Oakland A’s team that provided minimal run support for any of their starters. Both Strasburg and Jordan Zimmerman are fully recovered from Tommy John surgery and will be most likely the ace and second man in the starting rotation.
They also acquired former Philadelphia Phillies closer Brad Lidge and will use him as a setup man for closer Drew Storen. Lidge is a team-first type of player and this combination should work out well. Storen did well getting 43 saves in 48 opportunities in 2011.
The Nationals will be far better than in any season since being the Montreal Expos back in the strike-shortened year of 1994. However, they are still significantly behind the strength and depth of the Philadelphia Phillies. If everything would go right and they stay healthy with the starting rotation and can produce runs, they may be a dark horse to contend for one of two wild card positions. That being said, bettors should still be weary of adding this team to their MLB picks, as a Wild Card shot is about all they can hope for as they remain in the middle of one of the MLB’s most difficult divisions.
The Nationals are heading in the right direction and this year may be a little too early in their development to be a contender in the 2012 season, but they have the foundation firmly in place.
The Nationals ranked 24th in MLB scoring 624 runs, 27th with a .242 team batting average, 25th with a .309 on-base-percentage, and 22nd with a .383 slugging-percentage. Individual team honors went to Michael Morse, who led the team with a .303 batting average, 31 home runs, 95 RBI, .360 on-base-percentage, and 158 hits.
It has been extremely rare that one player has led his team in all five major offensive categories, but Morse did it in 2011. It also reflects the lack of depth and diversity in the offensive lineup and he will need help to not only repeat his 2011 season, but for the team to make a goal of scoring 700 or more runs on the season.
The Nationals ranked 13th in MLB turning an average of 0.89 double plays per game and were 17th in MLB averaging 0.65 errors per game. The Nationals have the best young receiver in the National League in Wilson Ramos. He finished last season with a solid .267 batting average with 15 homeruns in his first season in the Big Show. I fully expect he will improve substantially on those numbers and will be even better game caller for this pitching staff.
The Pitching Staff
When the leader on any MLB team has just 10 wins, they are not contenders in any of the playoff races. John Lannon led the team with 10 wins in 2011. The expectations are that Strasburg will challenge the 20 game win mark this season. Jordan Zimmerman led the team with a 3.18 ERA and 124 strikeouts. Closer Drew Storen had an excellent season converting 43 of 48 save opportunities, and Tyler Clippard led the team with 38 hold situations.
The Nationals are contenders in the NL East if their starting pitching can reach 50 or more wins and the bullpen remains healthy for the most part. The Nationals were a solid 12-5 for 71% winners playing with one day of rest and were 23-15 as a home dog in 2011.