Why the Washington Nationals Will Make the Playoffs in 2012

 

Thursday June 21st, 2012

Bernie Olshansky: The last time the city of Washington D.C. saw a World Series trophy was in 1924. That was the work of the Washington Senators with the help of Walter “Big Train” Johnson. Although this year’s version of the team doesn’t have a veteran baseball legend, they do have a couple budding superstars. First is Stephen Strasburg. The first-overall pick of the 2009 draft, Strasburg made an enormous impact in his first career start and most of the 2010 season, but ended up on Dr. Lewis Yocum’s table towards the end, and missed most of the 2011 season. Thankfully for the Nationals, Strasburg is back and better than ever, posting an 8-1 record and a 2.45 ERA (before Wednesday’s win versus Tampa Bay: 7IP 5H 2ER 10K and got the win). Unfortunately for the Nationals, Strasburg is on an innings limit this year to protect his young and fragile arm, so he probably won’t be available to start games come September and October.

Thankfully for the Nationals, they have a very deep pitching staff. Strasburg is backed up by Gio Gonzalez, who the Nationals traded for this winter, Jordan Zimmermann, and also newly acquired Edwin Jackson. Gonzalez has finally come into his own after having some pretty decent seasons in Oakland. He has almost identical numbers to Strasburg with an 8-3 record with a 2.52 ERA. With numbers like these at his young age, a Cy Young or two may be in his future. Gonzalez has no innings limit, so he will most definitely be the anchor to the rotation down the stretch. An option for the Nationals if they have a comfortable lead in their division (which is weak as of now… I’ll cover that later), would be to move Strasburg to the bullpen in late August or early September and have him in the rotation for the playoffs.

The second budding superstar who I’m sure we’re all familiar with is phenom Bryce Harper. Right now, he has the raw skills to help bring the team to the playoffs all by himself. And, with the return of Jayson Werth, there will be many more RBI chances for whoever hits behind the other, as each player does not struggle to get on base. In the present, the Nationals are playing just fine without Werth and with a slumping Ryan Zimmerman. Once Zimmerman turns it up, the Nationals will be winning even more games, and even more after that once Werth returns.

As of today, the Nationals are up three games in the National League East. The Phillies are a shocking eight and a half games back, but they are expected to work their way back up the standings with the returns of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Roy Halladay. Even facing this scary lineup, the Nationals could easily push ahead with one hot streak by Adam Laroche, and if at the same time the majority of their pitchers pitch to their potential. If all the chips fell into place, we could possibly see the Nationals push ahead by seven or eight games before you know it.

The Nationals will have an even extra boost—if needed. Closer Drew Storen didn’t start the season due to an elbow injury, and is due to come back around the All-Star Break. With the release of Brad Lidge, the Nationals are hinting at the return of Storen to the closer’s role. Although right now, Tyler Clippard is doing just fine holding down the job. And, if the Nationals needed even more good luck, an extra wild card will be added this year- to make reaching the playoffs less difficult. 

If the Marlins continue their up-and-down progress and the Nationals get well enough ahead of the banged-up Phillies, we could easily see them in the playoffs and even the World Series. How cool would a Bryce Harper-Mike Trout World Series be? The MLB marketing machine would be absolutely thrilled at those prospects.

***Today’s feature was prepared by Bernie Olshansky, MLB reports Intern & Facebook Admin.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Bernie on Twitter (@BernieOlshansky)***

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About bernieolshansky

Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’ve experienced some exciting times with the local baseball teams—the Giants winning the World Series being the most memorable highlight. Some of my favorite players include Felix Hernandez, Tim Lincecum, and Cliff Lee among others. I played baseball up through my freshman year of high school and transitioned into being a full time fan. I regularly attend major and minor league games when I have free time. I enjoy working at a baseball store. I’m in my senior year of high school and hope to major in Journalism or Sports Administration in college. Follow Bernie on Twitter (@BernieOlshansky).

Posted on June 21, 2012, in MLB Teams: Articles and Analysis and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Yocum not Andrews

  2. Good analysis, but no way is Strasburg going to the bullpen. His innings limit is around 160, period. He’s already almost half way there. The only way to get him to October with enough innings remaining to be able to start multiple games is to send him to the bullpen right now, and they are not going to do that.

    As much as we Nats fans will hate him not being there down the stretch, we have to accept that the team is simply not going to jeopardize his future for one playoff run.

  1. Pingback: Ask the Reports: ATR Answers Your Baseball Questions – June 23rd, 2012 « MLB reports

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