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A look at the Washington Nationals

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The Nationals won the Wild Card Game

MLB: NL Wild Card-Milwaukee Brewers at Washington Nationals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks to a heroic hit and an untimely error, the Dodgers will be squaring off against the Washington Nationals in the National League Division Series. Game 1 will be at Dodger Stadium on Thursday night. Here’s a look at what the Dodgers can expect from their first-round counterpart.

Brief overlook

Record: 93-69 (Winner of Wild Card game)

Runs: 873 (2nd, NL)

Home runs: 231 (6th, NL)

Average: .265 (T-1st, NL)

Starters ERA: 3.53 (2nd, NL)

Bullpen ERA: 5.66 (15th, NL)

Strengths

When thinking about the Washington Nationals, the first thing that comes to mind is the strength of their starting rotation, mainly their 1-2-3 punch. With Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin, the Nats have arguably one of the best starting trios in all of baseball, especially in the postseason.

As a staff, their starting rotation had an ERA of 3.53, which was the second best in the NL behind the Dodgers. Their 1010 strikeouts were the most in the NL, and the second most in baseball behind Houston.

Scherzer, the ace of the team, had yet another dominant season. Though he struggled near the end of the year, he still finished with an ERA under three, and a FIP of 2.45. To no surprise, he was among the top of the leaderboards in regards to strikeouts again, as he finished the season with nearly 250.

Not too far behind, was Strasburg. He finished the season with 18 wins, and a WAR of 6.5. He led the team with strikeouts, striking out 251 in only 209 innings of work. It has one of the healthiest seasons of his career, as his 33 starts were the second most he’s made in a season during his 10-year career.

Rounding things out is Corbin, who was one of the best No. 3 starters in baseball this season. He went 14-7 with a 3.25 ERA, and added 238 strikeouts of his own.

On top of having one of the best starting trios in baseball, they have some of the best bats in the league as well, starting with MVP-candidate Anthony Rendon. Kind of doing it under-the-radar, the Nats have arguably the best third baseman in all of baseball with Rendon. He was one of only a few players to finish the 2019 season with an OPS above 1.000. He added a .319/.412/.598 slash line to go with his 34 home runs and league-leading 126 RBI. Had his home runs numbers been a little higher, he would have been in the running for the triple crown.

Adding to the offensive firepower is one of the best young players in the game, Juan Soto. At the young age of 20, Soto put together a very solid season as well. He hit .282/.401/.548/.949 to go along with 34 long balls and 110 RBI.

Weakness

Without a doubt, the biggest red flag with the Washington Nationals is their bullpen. As a whole, their 5.66 ERA was the worst in the National League. They had the fewest strikeouts, and opponents hit a league-high .266 off them. As a team, they blew 29 saves, which was tied for the most in the NL.... with the Dodgers.

Their closer, Sean Doolittle, finished the season with an ERA above four. Going back to the beginning of August, he has allowed 12 runs in 12 innings of work, allowing opponents to hit .308 off of him.

The Nationals had seven different pitchers appear in at least 36 games this season, with only one finishing the season with an ERA under four. Wander Suero, who was left off the Wild-Card roster, appeared in a team-high 78 games. He lost nine games, and had an ERA of 4.54.

Hunter Strickland had an ERA above five in his time with D.C., with Fernando Rodney adding an ERA of above four.

There were some bright spots in the bullpen for the Nats, as former Dodger Daniel Hudson had a 1.44 ERA in his 24 games with the club. He also added a 0.88 WHIP and strikeout-to-walk ratio of nearly six-to-one. Another notable name who saw some success was Tanner Rainey, who appeared in 52 games and finished with an earned run average just below four. Though his WHIP was 1.50, he averaged 14 strikeouts per nine innings, one of the highest marks in the NL.

What to expect

There’s no question that if the Dodgers have any chance of moving on to the NLCS, they are going to have to do damage against the starting pitching. If not, they’ll have to try and keep things close, and do damage off the struggling bullpen instead. With the exception of Rendon and Soto, the Nats don’t necessarily have a deep lineup, which is something that should bode well for LA’s starting rotation.

Overall, expect this to be a damn good series.