Unfortunately the Nationals do not match up with the talent of the rosters for Philadelphia or Atlanta, yet Washington has a better team than the Florida Marlins and the NY Mets. The chances of the Nationals finishing .500 for 2011 are very likely, and if they can sustain the start of 2010 through the all star break this season than there is a strong chance of finishing better than .500. The opportunity to make the playoffs this season will be available if the other teams meet disaster during the season. This is not by any means a stretch of reality because it happens every season. The Nationals have done well to improve the depth and strength of their roster for the upcoming season.
Last season I picked Atlanta to finish top in the NL East and had Philadelphia finishing for the wild card, and we all saw what happened during the end of the season. The Braves had the best pitching staff in the NL East last season and I felt that would drive them to another division title. However disaster hit the Atlanta Braves last season as multiple players paid a visit to the disabled list sending the team to the basement for a portion of the season. A surge just prior to the all star break catapulted the Braves from doom to capturing the wild card for 2010. This is why we play the games and in baseball the 162 game season is a grind. The teams that consistently compete for the playoffs have depth to the roster and a minor league system rich in prospects.
The Boston Red Sox showed that big market teams with high payrolls must have depth and strong minor league prospects as Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis fell to injury in 2010. Boston had come into the season with Mike Lowell struggling to make the lineup card, a shaky Dice K, and a depleted bullpen. The Red Sox ran out of time as they fell short of the playoffs due to the inability to overcome the overwhelming injuries.
The Nationals would need some teams to fall victim to the injury bug and then seize the opportunity by finishing the season strong making a run for the wild card. Now will I go further and say there’s a chance to make the world series, NO! The team lacks the starting pitching to make it that far, but I feel if the opportunity presents itself this team could make the playoffs as a wild card. The Nationals would disappoint greatly if they finish short of being the best defensive team in the National League, and the team speed should help generate a minimum of 500 runs for the season. These two reasons alone should have the Nationals finishing .500 or better this season.