But it didn’t happen. I mean, there were signs in Spring Training but we didn’t know what they meant. Dan Haren struggled in the rotation and could never get it going before ceding his place to a group of starting pitchers including Ross Ohlendorf and Yunesky Maya.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. I mean, everyone knew it could have ended this way, but the Washington Nationals were supposed to be able to repeat last season’s success and make it farther in the playoffs than they have ever done before.
That was just the beginning. All Nationals starters all spent time on the disabled list for various injuries. That meant that Zach Duke played a key role in the starting rotation and Craig Stammen even needed to make some starts. Christian Garcia couldn’t successfully make the jump to starting pitcher at the Major League level. Chris Young opting out late in Spring Training was even a bigger decision when you look at who needed to start games this season for what was supposed to be a playoff team.
The bullpen was alright, but the trio of Rafael Soriano, Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen didn’t have many opportunities to save many leads as the mixture of starting pitching and struggling offense (we’ll get to that in a bit) meant that the Nationals played from behind more often than not.
Offensively, Denard Span was OK, but didn’t see the improvement many thought he would bring to the leadoff spot. And the biggest disappointment was Bryce Harper. Expectations were high for the sophomore and he had a pretty good season for a 20 year old. However, his numbers actually went down and most who saw MVP numbers coming, saw above average production but nothing remarkable. Same thing for Ian Desmond. His numbers dropped off from a year ago, and no one was around to pick up that production. Adam LaRoche lost his starting spot to Tyler Moore who was alright but not anywhere close to LaRoche’s production in 2012.
Overall, what did it mean? It meant that they could not perform to the level of the NL East Champion Atlanta Braves. The Nationals did finish second in a relatively weak National League East. However, they fell behind the eventual NL Wild Card teams, the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants. It was not the way it was supposed to end, with the Nationals being left out of the playoff picture, but that’s baseball.
Yes, if you haven’t realized this is fiction on what could happen in a worst-case scenario for the Nationals. Don’t worry. Tomorrow, we will take a look at the other side: If everything goes right.