The Washington Nationals had baseball’s easiest schedule in 2017, and things look no different in 2018. Can the Nats reach 100 wins this season?
The Washington Nationals coasted to a division title last season on the backs of the easiest schedule in the majors. Of course, the Nats have the talent to compete with anyone in the big leagues, but they were certainly boosted by a flailing NL East and several other National League cupcakes.
Unlike college sports, where fans constantly parrot RPI, KenPom, and strength of schedule rankings, baseball teams can only play the schedule in front of them. That will work wonders for the 2018 Nationals, who once again play a horrendous slate this season.
Washington automatically plays 76 total games against the other four NL East teams. In Miami, the Marlins are blowing up an already mediocre team, as Christian Yelich and J.T. Realmuto trade rumors swirl following the exits of MVP Giancarlo Stanton and two-time All-Star Marcell Ozuna. Miami is in the middle of an Astros-esque teardown, and will struggle to crack 60 wins in 2018.
Elsewhere in the division, the Braves and Phillies are still a year or two away from real contention. Nats-killer Freddie Freeman continues to dominate, but the rest of their young players still need time before Atlanta is a legitimate threat. Philadelphia should improve on its disappointing 66-win campaign from a year ago, but plenty of question marks surround most of the roster.
More from District on Deck
- Latest DraftKings Sportsbook Promo Code in Maryland: Bet $5, Win $200 Guaranteed
- Nationals Claim Jeter Downs Off Waivers
- Washington Nationals Minor League Spotlight: Robert Hassell III
- Washington Nationals Tuesday Q&A
- 3 Free Agents the Nationals Should Gamble On
New York is the only team who could cause problems for Washington, though there are so many injury issues that it is hard to see the Mets holding up for 162 games.
A quick scan across the rest of the NL, and it seems like several other teams are could step back as well. Milwaukee and Arizona both finished above .500 last year, but the Brewers rode several unlikely career seasons to 86 wins, while the D-Backs could be losing a few valuable pieces. Big-bopper J.D. Martinez is seemingly near a deal with Boston, and there are trade rumors involving starters Zack Greinke and Patrick Corbin.
No cellar-dwellar seems primed for a breakout either. Cincinnati continues to waste Joey Votto’s prime, and San Diego is attempting to rebuild following shortsighted moves in 2015. San Francisco is attempting to regain relevance, but after trading for 32-year-old Evan Longoria, they might still be moving in the wrong direction.
In the junior circuit, the Nats have been paired up with the AL East for its interleague play this year. The Yankees and Red Sox are loading up in an arms race, but the rest of the division – Toronto, Baltimore, and Tampa Bay – is either rebuilding or fading into the oblivion with a bloated, aging roster.
Los Angeles, Chicago, and St. Louis should be strong NL contenders this year, but, all told, the Nationals will play 115 games against teams that finished under .500 in 2017. Very few, if any, of those teams seem like potential rebound candidates in 2018, either.
Washington has been on quite a tear since 2012, averaging nearly 93 wins per season and taking home four division titles in six years. The Nationals should absolutely cruise to another NL East crown, and the first triple-digit win total in franchise history should be the regular-season goal in 2018.