The Washington Nationals starting rotation is what is keeping the team above water after a less than ideal start to the 2019 season.
The Washington Nationals rough start to the season has caused much hand-wringing and teeth grinding for a fan base that is desperate to see its team get back to post-season play in 2019.
However, even with the up and down start, there have been some signs that should cause all of us to take Green Bay Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ advice and just “relax.”
Strong starting pitching has been the backbone of the Nationals success since its magical 2012 season, and it appears that this year’s staff is as talented, and potentially as dominant as any the Nats have featured in their 14 plus years of existence.
With an admittedly small sample size so far in 2019, Washington’s starters have excelled in two categories that have typically been harbingers of good things to come for a pitching staff; going long into games and striking out opponents at a high rate.
Over their first 18 contests, Washington Nationals’ starting pitchers have had six games where they’ve thrown at least seven innings. That mark has the Nats tied with San Francisco and the Chicago Cubs for the most such games in the National League so far this year. Max Scherzer (2), Patrick Corbin (2), Anibal Sanchez (1), and Stephen Strasburg have authored the seven-plus inning starts for Washington in 2019.
While the team has posted only a 4-2 record in those game, the Nats have won 73.5% (272-98) of their contests since 2012 in which a Nats starter has thrown at least seven frames.
Since 2012, the Nats starters have typically been at or near the top of the Senior Circuit in most seven-plus inning outings by its starters. Interestingly the 98 win 2012 team was the exception to the trend as Nats’ starters only had 42 such games, which was less than ten other National League teams.
After that campaign the Nats have not been lower than 5th in the N.L. in the category, finishing first in both 2016 and 2017, second in 2013, third in 2014 and 2018 and fifth in 2015.
Nats’ starters have an ability to go long in games, and they’ve been dominant while they have been on the mound. Washington’s starting staff’s 9.98 strikeouts per nine innings pitched (SO/9) mark of 9.98 is the third best in the National League this year, and its starting crew’s ability to strike out opponents has been a key part of the Nats’ success over the past seven years.
Over that span the Nats’ staff has never been lower than fifth in the league in the SO/9 category, leading the league in 2016 and finishing second in 2012, 2015 and 2017.
While there are obvious problems to work out over the next five months, including getting a struggling bullpen in order and getting better production from some of the key hitters in their lineup, the Washington Nationals have the starting pitching crew to lead the team to success this year.