Winning the division in 2018 is not good enough for the Washington Nationals. It’s World Series of bust for the NL East favorites as Bryce Harper plays out his final year in the Nation’s Capital.
While Washington’s done a good job reaching October baseball four of the last six seasons, the team hasn’t been able to get a postseason series victory, losing all four times in the National League Division Series, three of four times losing in Game 5.
It was the Cubs that set the Nationals’ packing in 2017 and pushed then-manager Dusty Baker out. With Dave Martinez in, Washington is hoping that he brings a different culture and a different result.Just like last year, the Nationals are stacked on paper and, per the MLB futures lines, should be one of the favorites to win the NL pennant. But Daniel Murphy won’t be ready for Opening Day and Adam Eaton is battling an injury, too. Are these bad omens already for a team in win-or-bust mode in 2018 or can the Nats find some momentum to turn around their postseason woes?
2017 Record: 97-65
2017 Moneyline Record: +5.73 Units
2017 Over/Under Total Record: 69-82-11
Current Odds To Win NL: +323
Current Odds To Win NL East: -420
Regular Season Win Total: 93.5
The Nationals were consistent in 2017, ranking third in the NL in runs scored and team ERA. They had hitting. They had pitching. And, they had a strong defense and most positions, too.
Washington struggled in the first couple months in the bullpen, losing a few key games early as the pen blew leads they should have been able to maintain. It was a point for frustration for the team, but GM Mike Rizzo fixed the mistake, acquiring Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson and Brandon Kintzler midseason, turning a weakness into a second half strength of the team.
Kintzler re-upped with the Nationals in the offseason and just like that all three are back for 2018, this time from Day 1.
The bullpen will support a strong rotation that features three starters who posted sub-3 ERAs in 2017.
Max Scherzer is the obvious ace. The back-to-back Cy Young Award winner was 16-6 with a 2.51 ERA. Stephen Strasburg, meanwhile, finished third in Cy Young voting after a 15-4 campaign highlighted by a 2.52 ERA and filthy second half where he pitched to a 0.86 ERA in 10 games.
Given the strength of the team’s dueling aces, Gio Gonzalez’s season often gets overlooked, but the southpaw led the team in innings with 201 and had 15 wins and 2.96 ERA. The peripherals are less friendly to him than Strasburg and Scherzer, but he’s a dynamic No.3 starter no matter how you slice it.
From there, the rotation opened a bit in 2017, but the No.4 hurler in 2018 is Tanner Roark who, despite a regression in 2017, is a year removed from his own 16-win, 2.83 ERA campaign. At 31 years old, he could get back to that level; or at least close to it. Roark did bounce back with a strong second half after a weak first half. The better bullpen behind him was certainly a part of that.
Washington could really cap off the rotation with another acquisition. They’re rumored to be involved in the Jake Arrieta sweepstakes. They could use a bit more depth given Strasburg’s injury history, but A.J. Cole is currently penciled in as the No.5 starter. He’s a solid enough back-end starter, but would be a much better depth option, pushing prospect Erick Fedde back, and allowing him to earn his way to the Majors.
The pitching staff in Washington can compete with anyone in the National League. After the All-Star break when the Nats fortified the pen, Washington had the best team ERA in the NL. The fifth starter spot is a bit vulnerable, but the top-4 more than make up the difference.
At the plate, the Washington offense led baseball for a stretch. The bats slowed a bit as the season wore on, but the Nationals’ .782 team OPS was tops in the NL, ahead of even the Rockies and their Coors Field advantage.
The catching position could use an upgrade. Matt Wieters had a 63 OPS+ in 2017. Otherwise, every other position provided at least average results.
Of course, in 2018, Jayson Werth is gone, but that spot will be taken by Michael Taylor who finally established himself last year, playing in place of the injured Adam Eaton who should be a nice table setter alongside Trea Turner atop the order.
The speed and on base ability of both Turner and Eaton feed seamlessly into the power and average of Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Daniel Murphy and Ryan Zimmerman, all of whom hit at least 24 home runs and batted over .300.
It’ll be Harper’s final year before free agency and the slugger should be plenty motivated for a big year. He had a 1.008 OPS in 2017, but played in only 111 games. Healthy has been an issue for him. Same can be said about Zimmerman until last year.
Health is already a question for both Eaton and Murphy, but depth is something this team has on its side. Howie Kendrick and Matt Adams are capable of everyday duty while Victor Robles has proven about all he can in the minors and is waiting for an opportunity with the big club.
Washington is a stacked team with a few health chinks in the armor, but plenty of depth to cover it in most cases. The weak division around the Nationals with the distinct possibility of no other club above .500 in 2018 leaves the Nationals in an excellent position to win the NL East and make it back to the postseason.
Can this team finally solve the Division Series quandary? That’s the real question at hand.
|Baltimore Orioles||Baltimore, Maryland||Oriole Park at Camden Yards|
|Boston Red Sox||Boston, Massachusetts||Fenway Park|
|New York Yankees||New York City, New York||Yankee Stadium|
|Tampa Bay Rays||St. Petersburg, Florida||Tropicana Field|
|Toronto Blue Jays||Toronto, Ontario||Rogers Centre|
|CENTRAL||Chicago White Sox||Chicago, Illinois||Guaranteed Rate Field|
|Cleveland Indians||Cleveland, Ohio||Progressive Field|
|Detroit Tigers||Detroit, Michigan||Comerica Park|
|Kansas City Royals||Kansas City, Missouri||Kauffman Stadium|
|Minnesota Twins||Minneapolis, Minnesota||Target Field|
|WEST||Houston Astros||Houston, Texas||Minute Maid Park|
|Los Angeles Angels||Anaheim, California||Angel Stadium|
|Oakland Athletics||Oakland, California||Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum|
|Seattle Mariners||Seattle, Washington||Safeco Field|
|Texas Rangers||Arlington, Texas||Globe Life Park in Arlington|
|EAST||Atlanta Braves||Atlanta, Georgia||SunTrust Park|
|Miami Marlins||Miami, Florida||Marlins Park|
|New York Mets||New York City, New York||Citi Field|
|Philadelphia Phillies||Philadelphia, Pennsylvania||Citizens Bank Park|
|Washington Nationals||Washington, D.C.||Nationals Park|
|CENTRAL||Chicago Cubs||Chicago, Illinois||Wrigley Field|
|Cincinnati Reds||Cincinnati, Ohio||Great American Ball Park|
|Milwaukee Brewers||Milwaukee, Wisconsin||Miller Park|
|Pittsburgh Pirates||Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania||PNC Park|
|St. Louis Cardinals||St. Louis, Missouri||Busch Stadium|
|WEST||Arizona Diamondbacks||Phoenix, Arizona||Chase Field|
|Colorado Rockies||Denver, Colorado||Coors Field|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||Los Angeles, California||Dodger Stadium|
|San Diego Padres||San Diego, California||Petco Park|
|San Francisco Giants||San Francisco, California||AT&T Park|
March 29-April 1: at Cincinnati Reds
April 2-4: at Atlanta Braves
April 5-8: vs New York Mets
April 9-11: vs Atlanta Braves
April 12-15: vs Colorado Rockies
April 16-18: at New York Mets
April 20-22: at Los Angeles Dodgers
April 23-25: at San Francisco Giants
April 27-29: vs Arizona Diamondbacks
April 30-May 3: vs Pittsburgh Pirates
In a division with no real threats on paper and no other over-.500 team in 2017, Washington should have a rather easy road back to the postseason which includes a soft first couple week on the schedule.
The Nationals will open on the road against a Reds team that still lacks pitching. Washington may be without a few players early, but the offense was one of the best in 2017 and should feast on the Cincinnati pitchers. From there, the Nats have series against the Braves, Mets and Braves again before their first test against a 2017 playoff team in the Colorado Rockies. Atlanta, however, did play Washington tough last year as the Nats were just 10-9 against the Braves.
Nevertheless, one series a piece against the Rockies, Dodgers and Diamondbacks are the only contests Washington faces against teams that were over-.500 in 2017 until the calendar flips to May.
At Bookmaker Sportsbook you will always find offers various types of betting lines for every Major League regular season game, plus hundreds of futures and baseball prop bets.
Sign up now for your free baseball account, it’s as easy as 1-2-3.
MLB Betting Specials: MLB Sportsbook Bonus
MLB Baseball Odds: Live MLB betting odds
Sports Betting Help: How to bet on sports
Sportsbook Rules: The Sports Betting Rules
Sports Betting deposits: View MLB Baseball Deposit options