2018 Washington Nationals Expert Predictions and Odds to Win the World Series
The Washington Nationals have won the NL East four times in the last six years. In most cases, that should translate to some sort of postseason success. However, for the Nationals and their fan base it has left them frustrated beyond belief. Despite those four division banners, the Nationals have yet to win a playoff series. They've lost to the Cardinals, Giants, Dodgers and Cubs all in the NLDS. It's hard to believe a team with such a potent starting rotation and a talented group of core players has yet to get over the hump.
The Nationals finished last season with a record 97-65, which was good enough for top spot, 20 games better than the second-place Miami Marlins. Many people believe another division title is on the horizon, and I can do nothing but agree. The Nationals kick off the regular season on March 29 at Great American Ball Park for a three-game set against the Cincinnati Reds. From there, the Nationals will travel to Atlanta for three games before kicking off the home portion of their season with a three-game series against the New York Mets. The Nationals currently sit at +800 to win the World Series (behind Chicago, Houston, New York and the Dodgers). The Nats are also +350 to win the NL Pennant and -200 to win the NL East.
All odds are courtesy of Bovada.
Nationals' 2018 Projected Lineup
In hopes of bolstering the lineup top to bottom, the Nationals acquired Adam Eaton and Matt Wieters prior to the start of the 2017 season. Those two additions remain a vital part of a batting order that has the potential to be one of the most potent lineups in the National League.
As of writing this, the projected lineup looks like this:
1. Adam Eaton
2. Trea Turner
3. Bryce Harper
4. Anthony Rendon
5. Daniel Murphy
6. Ryan Zimmerman
7. Matt Wieters
8. Michael Taylor
9. Pitchers Spot
There should be no mistaking who the catalyst of this team is. Bryce Harper is coming off a 2017 season where he hit .319 with 29 home runs and 87 RBIs. Those numbers could have been much higher if Harper had played more than just 111 games - time he missed due to suspension, injuries and the odd rest day. Behind Harper, Anthony Rendon is about as streaky a hitter as you will find in the Majors. When he's zoned in, however, Rendon is very tough to keep off the base path as is shown by his .301 average, 25 home runs and 100 RBIs. If Rendon can continue to put up numbers like that, his presence behind Harper should give Harper plenty of good pitches to hit.
Daniel Murphy will bat fifth in the order behind Rendon, and he had another stellar year at the plate. Murphy followed up his 25 home run, 104 RBI 2016 season with a 23 home run, 93 RBI performance in 2017. Murphy's spot in the lineup is solidified, and another great season from him will translate to success for the Nationals.
Behind Murphy, Zimmerman bats sixth, Wieters will bat seventh and Michael Taylor will check into the eight-hole in front of the pitcher's spot. Zimmerman is the best player out of the last trio of players, but he will need to stay consistent in order to help the ball club. Zimmerman posted a .303 average and produced 36 home runs and 108 RBIs.
If you were to look at this batting order as a whole, you'd be hard pressed to find a better three-through-six quartet.
Nationals' 2018 Projected Rotation and Closer
On paper, the Nationals' rotation looks as deep and as fearsome as ever with the likes of Strasburg, Scherzer, Tanner Roark, and Gio Gonzalez doing the heavy lifting. However, the biggest concern I have is the injury bug that seems to plague this pitching staff on a consistent basis.
Strasburg was as dominant as ever during the 2017 season. He posted a 15-4 record, which was identical to his 2016 record, but he was able to lower his ERA from 3.60 to 2.52. He also lowered his WHIP and reached the 200-strikeout plateau for the second time in his career.
His teammate and fellow ace-pitcher, Scherzer, won his second consecutive Cy Young award after posting a record of 16-6 with a 2.51 ERA, 268 Ks in 200 innings pitched. Scherzer has electric stuff. And as the two time-reigning NL Cy Young winner, he is vital to this team's success. Behind them, Roark, Gonzalez and Erick Fedde lay in wait.
The bullpen, which was once a strong point, is very weak this year considering the roster. Sean Doolittle will be relied upon to close out games, while pitchers like Joe Blanton, Brandon Kintzler and Ryan Madson will be the go-to setup men.
Nationals' 2018 Season Prediction
FanGraphs projects the Nationals to finish with a record of 90-72, which would be a regression by seven games from last season's win total. They are still projected to win the division comfortably (nine games) over the second-place New York Mets. The problem I have with the Nationals is their lack of depth both in the batting order and pitching rotation. Their season win total is currently set at 92.5 ("over" -145), which seems a tad low given their consistent dominance of the NL East. Injuries would definitely derail a play on the "over", but I'm going to take a chance and say they stay healthy and get back to 90+ wins.
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