Washington Nationals Editorial: How Wide Is Gap Between Nats And Mets Going Forward?
Coming into the 2015 season, most prognosticators predicted that the Washington Nationals would win the National League East and most said they would win it convincingly. Instead, it was the New York Mets who would pull away in September to clinch the NL East by seven games.
Now, as the Nats continue their search to find their next manager, the Mets get set to play in the Fall Classic for the first time in 15 years when they take on the Kansas City Royals Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium (8:07 PM ET, FOX). This was a game that a lot of people thought the Nationals would be in back in spring training, but that’s why they play the games.
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One season ago, it was the Nats who had the mental edge on the Mets as they went 15-4 against New York in their 19 meetings. This season, Terry Collins’ team flipped the proverbial script and New York went 11-8 against Washington. Yes, Max Scherzer threw a no-hitter in one of those games, but New York swept two crucial series in the second half of the year, which ended up being the difference.
Yes, both of these teams will look somewhat different in 2016, but how wide is the gap between the Nats and Mets in the NL East? To start looking at the gap, you have to start by discussing the starting rotations.
Back in Spring Training, the Nationals were supposed to have one of the best rotations in the game over the last 15-20 years, but instead it was the Mets’ rotation that was closer to that comparison. Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz are four young pitchers in a rotation that finished fourth in the league in ERA (3.44).
The Nats weren’t too far behind at 3.70 (seventh in the league), but you wonder how dominant the rotation would have been if Strasburg stayed healthy and Jordan Zimmermann didn’t have the third highest ERA of his career (3.66). As of now, New York’s rotation will stay the same next year and they could add Zack Wheeler during the season next year as he comes back from Tommy John surgery. It will be interesting to see what changes the Nats make in their rotation as Zimmermann and Doug Fister enter free agency.
If the Nationals are going to bounce back in 2016, they are going to need regulars such as Ryan Zimmerman, Anthony Rendon, and Jayson Werth to stay healthy and play with that extra chip on their shoulder. Washington was the hunted this season, but they will get to play the role of the hunter.
The Mets’ offense was tied for third with Washington for the most home runs in the league (177), but it remains to be seen if Sandy Alderson will bring back second baseman Daniel Murphy (seven postseason home runs) and Yoenis Cespedes (.287, 17 HR, 44 RBI’s in his last 57 games), who are both heading to free agency. But, if the Mets lose Murphy, the Nats will also lose another member of their starting infield when Ian Desmond leaves for free agency.
Living in New York, I saw first hand what the Mets had this season and that was grit and the never-say-die attitude. I went to a game in August when New York took on the Red Sox at Citi Field. The Mets were down three runs with one out to go in the 11th inning, but they drew four straight walks to cut the lead to two before Cespedes flew out to end the game. They weren’t going away and they showed that up at Nats Park when they rallied from 7-1 down in the seventh inning back on September 8.
To me, when you look at these two teams going forward, one of the main differences is the closer. The Nationals will need to find theirs if both Drew Storen and Jonathan Papelbon are not with the team next year. Meanwhile. New York has theirs and they found him thanks to Jenrry Mejia missing most of the season due to two PED suspensions. Jeurys Familia was 43-for-48 in saves and had a 1.85 ERA. Plus, he has been dominant this October, including a six-out save in Game 5 of the NLDS against the Dodgers.
Yes, the Braves, Marlins, and Phillies could have bounceback seasons of their own, but these two teams will be at it again in 2016, trying to win that NL East title season. As the Nats watch the Mets begin the World Series, they need to use the motivation of a disappointing season to fuel them next year, regardless of who ends up being the manager.
The Nationals do have Bryce Harper in his prime, but,if those young dynamic power arms stay healthy for the Mets, they will be a force to reckon with in the NL East for many years. Plus, Harper still has to figure out how to get a hit against pitchers such as Harvey (0-for-20, 7 strikeouts).
As of right now, the gap on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the largest) would be a 7 for me. The pitching and the certainty at closer has New York ahead, but there’s plenty of offseason to go. Nevertheless, for now, the Mets have the mental advantage over the Nats and who would have imagined that after going 4-15 against Washington in 2014.
Next: Nats 2015 Player Reviews: Stephen Strasburg