DEFENSE, DEFENSE, DEFENSE
With a .988 fielding percentage and a scant 68 errors committed, the Nationals have the best defense in the NL.
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Anthony Rendon saved 15 runs this year at third while Danny Espinosa saved eight at shortstop. Although Ben Revere struggled at the plate, his speed and range in center turned potential hits into outs. Wilson Ramos, Jose Lobaton and Pedro Severino threw out 38 percent of would be base stealers. In 5568 total chances heading into Saturday, the Nats failed to execute on 68 of them.
Trusting the fielders behind you makes the pitchers relax and do their job. Even with runners on base, they turned 140 double plays. Espinosa was part of 94 himself. Jayson Werth and Harper started one each in the outfield.
What the Nationals did en route to the divisional crown is not beat themselves. The defense did not need to give pitchers extra outs, leading to less pitches thrown. After 162 games, those little things add up to one big trip to the postseason.
Judging defense is hard to do with mere statistics. Knowing any ball hit on the left side of the infield was in safe hands, and Ryan Zimmerman’s reflexes at first, gave the Nats a distinct advantage. If you believe in Baseball Reference’s defensive WAR, Espinosa and Rendon won 2.4 games just with their glove alone.