2008 NL East Preview: Washington Nationals

Written by Colin on January 7, 2008 – 10:49 am

Moving forward in the 2008 NL East Preview series, we’re looking at the Washington Nationals. The retooled and re-named Expos are beginning their first season at their new stadium in 2008 and hope that this year brings better luck in the chase for the division title. With Stan Kasten behind the helm at President, the Nationals promise to field a team that strives to compete without spending tons of money.

Offense: The Nationals offense placed dead last in 2007 in Runs scored with 673. That’s pathetic. The only hope for improvement comes from a pair of Mets players – Paul Lo Duca and Lastings Milledge bring new blood to an offense that was near depleted in 2007. However, there’s no guarantee either player contributes at a level that pushes the Nationals above the “we’re really not that good” category.

Defense: Even defensively, these guys aren’t solid, with two starters above 20 errors last year (and one of those only played 111 games). Some of their players are solid, for instance Ryan Church… oh wait, he got traded. In all seriousness, Lastings Milledge provides a solid outfield glove for the Nats, but the rest of their fielding is just average.

Starting Pitching: Last year’s starting pitching wasn’t much worth writing home about. 9th in the NL in BAA, 10th in ERA, 11th in OPS allowed, and 12th in WHIP. The only name the BravesBlast crew recognizes on their staff is John Patterson. These guys have some work to do before they’re going to be taken seriously. I mean, the guy with the most wins (8) was a relief pitcher.

Relief Pitching: Anchored by Chad Cordero, the Nationals’ bullpen is not something to be taken lightly. That said, he’s the only established name there.  But he posted 37 saves for the Nationals – that’s over half of their 73 wins.  He’s obviously still in the elite closer group.  But the rest of their bullpen seems semi-solid too – the middle relievers with the most holds posted ERAs in the mid-threes.  This group could be a solid bullpen for any team, but the Nationals have to give them the lead before they can close out more games successfully.

Coaching:  Manny Acta is the manager, finished his first year – ever – as a major league manager in 2007.  He managed the Dominican Republic team in the World Baseball Classic, and was third base coach for 3 years for the Expos/Nats.  There’s not much to go on about this guy based on record and experience, but we’ll see what happens as he continues to manage in ’08.

Recap:  The Nationals have an unproductive offense that needs to kick it up a notch for this team to compete.  Likewise, their starting rotation needs to be more solid – but they won’t have much success without run support.  Defensively the Nationals are solid, and their bullpen isn’t looking bad either, but without starting pitching and some offensive production, that won’t get them anywhere.

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