Washington Nationals Odds to Win 2014 World Series
by Alan Matthews - 3/14/2014
I'm going to cut right to the chase here. I love the Washington Nationals to win the National League East this season. I'm not supposed to use the word lock in these stories because there's obviously no sure thing in sports betting, and injuries can change things. However, I'd call the Nats all but a you-know-what now, and it has nothing to do with what they've done this spring but more of what has happened to the Atlanta Braves, the defending division champions.
Unfortunately I had already previewed Atlanta's season here at Doc's before season-ending injuries to Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy devastated the Atlanta rotation. I don't see how any team can recover from that. The Braves panicked in the wake of those injuries and signed Ervin Santana to a one-year, $14 million deal (Braves were very lucky he was still on market). He's a solid pitcher and might thrive in the weaker National League, but he's not even close to Medlen or Beachy when those two are healthy.
So perhaps the breaks already are going Washington's way after the Nats were somewhat injury-hit last year. They were the preseason NL favorites but finished just 86-76, 10 games behind the Braves in the division and four out of the final wild-card spot. Washington did play a lot better in the final month or so and made that wild-card chase a race but had too much ground to make up.
Manager Davey Johnson was kicked upstairs after the season, a move that was pre-planned, and Washington somewhat surprisingly hired former all-star third baseman Matt Williams to replace Johnson. He had no managerial experience but was a coach the past four years with Arizona. Some expected Washington to hire a proven winner with a team ready to win now (Detroit went the same route as the Nationals). The Nats made one of the best trades of the offseason in acquiring pitcher Doug Fister from Detroit for what appeared to be about 50 cents on the dollar. The only other acquisition of note was adding Nate McLouth as a fourth outfielder or injury insurance.
Nationals 2014 Projected Lineup
Washington ranked sixth in the NL in runs and that should improve with the full health of guys like Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth. They were limited to 118 and 129 games, respectively. Harper was never really right after crashing into a wall in late April. Too bad, as he was off to a monster start. He finished hitting .274 with 20 homers. Harper is totally jacked up this spring as he clearly was lifting weights often in the winter. Werth may have had his best season if not for injuries as he hit a career-high .318 with 25 homers. Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman managed to stay pretty healthy for the second straight year and hit 26 homers. He will play first base a bit this season as well.
Outfielder Denard Span was a big acquisition last offseason from Minnesota, and he was a disappointment in hitting .279 with a lousy .327 OBP and 20 steals atop the lineup. Sometimes it takes guys a season to get used to a new league. Adam LaRoche also disappointed last year in hitting .237 with 20 dingers. His monster 2012 campaign may have been somewhat of a fluke. Shortstop Ian Desmond is one of the best offensive players at his position, and catcher Wilson Ramos is no slouch at the plate. Frankly, this lineup doesn't really have any holes, and everyone is back from last year.
Nationals 2014 Projected Rotation & Closer
With Fister essentially replacing Dan Haren as the team's No. 4, this rotation might be the best in baseball 1-4. Haren was pretty lousy most of last year, while Fister was 14-9 with a 3.67 ERA in the much tougher American League a season ago. And that was his worst season ERA since 2010 while with the Mariners.
Let's see if Stephen Strasburg can reach 200 innings for the first time in his career. Is it fair to say he quite hasn't lived up to expectations yet? He was 8-9 with a 3.00 ERA last year, very good but not great. He could be ready to explode now that he's two full seasons off of Tommy John surgery and apparently is adding a slider this year. Jordan Zimmermann also had major surgery a few years ago, and he blew up last year, going 19-9 with a 3.25 ERA in 213.1 innings.
Lefty Gio Gonzalez has to be the best No. 3 starter in the majors. He was in the Cy Young conversation in 2012 and was a solid 11-8 with a 3.36 ERA last season. As you can tell by their ERAs, Strasburg and Gonzalez didn't get a ton of run support. The No. 5 starter is being competed for in camp between the likes of Tanner Roark and Ross Detwiler, who missed most of last season.
The bullpen has three closers in reality: Rafael Soriano (43 saves), Tyler Clippard (32 saves in 2012) and Drew Storen (43 saves in 2011). So if Soriano goes down to injury the Nats have insurance or one of the latter two could be trade bait.
Washington Nationals Odds to Win World Series with Futures Odds & 2013 Trends
Odds from Sportsbook.ag and Bovada. Washington is the -140 favorite to win the NL East, +600 to win its first NL pennant and +1200 to win the World Series. It has a wins total of 89.5 (over -130 favorite). The Nationals were 79-76-7 "over/under" last year and 72-90 on the runline. Harper has a total of 157.5 hits (under -125 favorite; no HRs prop yet) and is 12/1 to win NL MVP. Zimmerman is at 154.5 hits (both -115) and 33/1 to win NL MVP. Strasburg is set at 14 wins (both -115) and 8/1 to win the Cy Young. Zimmermann is at 13.5 wins (over -130 favorite). Gonzalez is at 14 (under -125 favorite). Both those guys are 18/1 to win the Cy Young.
Washington Nationals 2014 Picks and Predictions
In the spirit of fairness, I was pretty high on Washington in 2013, but perhaps the Nationals weren't ready to play the role of favorites. They were claiming World Series or bust in the spring and almost felt entitled to win. I believe last season was a nice wake-up call. This is my World Series team, so obviously over on the wins. As for Harper, I expect at least 30 homers whenever that prop is posted. I'm not sure he will ever hit for a high average, so I'd go under his hits but over Zimmerman's. I'm throwing a few bucks on Harper for MVP as well. Pitching-wise I lean over Strasburg and Gonzalez but under on Zimmermann.
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