The Nationals have done a fine job putting some pieces together to build this franchise into a competitive force. The door mat days are over and teams will have to battle for wins in DC this year. I have seen similar break outs over the years following this sport such as Tampa and Texas as of late. Atlanta was probably the most significant break out as they dominated the NL East for almost twenty years after playing the the role of punching bag previously. The Nationals are on course for contention in the near future as the off season acquistions secured the team defense and bolstered the bullpen. The Nationals seem content to role the dice on some starters who could finally deliver this season.
The Nationals signed Adam LaRoche to play first base, and the biggest significance of the deal is that we now have somone who can play this position well. The Nationals have not had a true first basemen since Nick Johnson, and overall we have no one out of position in the line up since 2005. The defensive plays will be executed more efficiently in 2011, and starting pitching will finally reap the benefit of great team defense. The outfield will also shorten innings with Morgan, Morse, Bernadina, and Werth all contributing with their great athleticism. The Nationals have the opportunity to be the best defense of the National League in 2011!
Depth is a huge factor to maintain consistent winning over the grueling 162 game season. The Nationals have increased their depth of better players especially among the pitchers. There are pitchers on this roster for 2011 that management may be hoping to have breakout years. This could be the reason for the conservative approach in acquiring a starting pitcher. Zach Greinke chose to go elsewhere when he blocked the trade in December, but there is no rush here because alot can happen with the current staff. The obvious weakness on paper for the Nationals is the starting pitching, and has been the case since 2005.
Shairon Martis, Chien-Ming Wang, Ross Detwiler, and John Lannan are all battling for rotation positions this spring and don’t be surprised if one of these pitchers dominates in 2011. I feel the pressure on this starting pitching to perform this season will be the competitive kick a few of these players need to elevate their game. The key to competing in 2011 is consistent strong performances from the starters.
2011 NL EAST Prediction
Philadelphia 107 55
Atlanta 92 70
Washinton 82 80
Florida 76 86
New York 62 100
Washington will finally break out of the cellar with only an upside to the future. Although this team can not quite compete with Philadelphia for the division until acquiring dominant starting pitching, there is still a chance to make strides toward earning a playoff spot via the wild card. These season will be pivotal in attract free agents for 2012 if this team can finish .500 or better. This is an exciting time for Nationals’ fans if you can recognize that this team is on the brink of greatness.