Washington Nationals: Still Favorites To Capture NL East

rjuckett
Aug 21, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) reacts with center fielder Trea Turner (7) and second baseman Daniel Murphy (20) after hitting a three run home run against the Atlanta Braves during the third inning at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 21, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) reacts with center fielder Trea Turner (7) and second baseman Daniel Murphy (20) after hitting a three run home run against the Atlanta Braves during the third inning at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /
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Oddsmakers and analytical web sites list the Washington Nationals as preseason favorites to repeat in the division. What do they see?

A quick check of social media and message boards paint the 2016-17 offseason as a disaster for the Washington Nationals.

Between the high price paid in prospects for Adam Eaton to a lack of definitive closer, general manager Mike Rizzo is under a lot of pressure from you where the team is going into the new season. If the sportsbooks and FanGraphs projections are any sign, the Nats are just fine, thank you.

FanGraphs says the Nationals offense is in line for a better 2017, jumping from 4.71 runs per game to 4.74. Remember, last season was the most productive run scoring machine over a full 162-game season in franchise history.

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The addition of Eaton and a full year of Trea Turner projects to be a positive over the departed Wilson Ramos/Danny Espinosa combo. Projections can change, as some sluggers such as Mark Trumbo and Jose Bautista are still on the open market, but the Nats sit at 90 wins in FanGraphs’ eyes.

Yes, that is a drop of five from last year. Still, they predict a six-game division victory over the New York Mets and 10-game bulge over the Miami Marlins. For the record, they project the Atlanta Braves to improve by seven wins to 75 and the Philadelphia Phillies to finish with 70. That is one off 2016s 71.

Without a big name closer, they expect a playoff return. With the Los Angeles Dodgers projected to have the highest National League win total at 95, Washington would face the 94-win Chicago Cubs in their NL Divisional Series. Computers can be good things.

Still unsure if the sky is falling? Las Vegas wants a word.

Where the sportsbooks are legal, the Nats remain the fourth-favorite to win the World Series next year at 10/1. They give Washington the second-best odds of capturing that elusive World Series by an NL team behind the Cubs. For the pennant, the Nationals are 5/1, again second behind the Cubs. And, ahead of the Dodgers on both accounts.

After how last season ended, along with high hopes for the offseason, it is understandable why some of you are down on the Nationals. Math and odds makers look at these problems without the harsh filter of emotions. The computers say Washington is in good shape heading for Spring Training.

Although you never know how luck and injuries will go, the rest of the division has not improved by the eight games needed to pass the Nats to win. Yes, the Mets starting pitching is better, but the computer at FanGraphs says they will allow 4.21 R/G. Last season, they surrendered 3.81.

Next: Trea Turner's Fantasy Impact

While there are no guarantees, the chances of meaningful baseball in October are in the Nats favor. It may not be as easy this time getting there.

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