Washington Nationals 2018 Season Preview By: Peter Snyder

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Over the past 5 years, it is safe to say that the Washington Nationals have been the best regular season team in baseball. They dominate on the mound, swing the sticks with force, win division titles and it seems like they are a World Series contender year in and year out. There is just one problem however. They can not get over the hump that is winning a postseason series. The Washington Nationals have never won a postseason series in the history of their franchise. Well technically they did when they were the Expos but that is not the point. This team and this franchise can just not figure it out when October comes rolling around. The Nationals had a very successful 2017 season and came into the postseason as one of the favorites to win it all. They came in with a 97-65 record, a red-hot offense, and one of the most balanced starting rotations in the majors. Unfortunately the Nats season was cut short when they were defeated in the NLDS by the Chicago Cubs in 5 games. The question coming into this season is now, can this Nationals team finally get over the hump and advance to that coveted NLCS, a series they have never experienced before.

In my opinion, the Washington Nationals are coming into the 2018 season with the best starting rotation is baseball. From 1-4, the Nats starters are loaded with talented and it starts with one of the best 1-2 punches we have ever seen in the history of baseball. At the one, the Nationals trot out the back to back NL Cy Young champ, Max Scherzer. Scherzer is one of the elite pitchers in the game and is starting to establish himself as one of the greats. Scherzer had a monster 2017 campaign, where he finished the year with a 16-6 record, a 2.51 ERA and a whopping 268 strikeouts on the year. Scherzer is the type of guy who can throw a perfect game each time he takes the hill and with his skill level, I would not be surprised if he won his third straight Cy Young award in 2018. Mad Max is complimented by one of the best young pitchers in all of baseball, Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg is only 29, but takes the mound like he is a 35-year-old vet and is one of the more poised pitchers we have in the majors. He has filthy powerful stuff that makes it seemingly impossible to hit at times and on most teams, this guy would be a clear number one. Strasburg is looking to build off one of the best second halves in MLB history in which he had a 0.86 ERA. That number is almost unheard of and Strasburg found himself in Cy Young contention with his second half performance alone. If Strasburg and Scherzer can produce in 2018 which unless one of them gets injured they will, the whole league should be put on notice because you can essentially chalk up 2 L’s when facing these two deadly weapons. Just when you thought the Nationals pitching staff would subside, they get more balanced with the lefty from Florida, Gio Gonzalez. Gonzalez is not a superstar by any means, but he has become one of the more reliable pitchers in the game and will provide you a boat load of quality starts per season. Gio is looking to build off one of the best season of his career in 2018, and when you finish the year with 2.96 ERA, the expectations become seemingly increased. The Nationals cap off their starting rotation with a reliable righty in Tanner Roark and a new addition to the ball club, veteran Jeremey Hellickson. Overall this starting rotation is star-studded, explosive and is one you do not one to face on a regular basis. They will murder you with their front end of the rotation but will also kill you softly with the back-end. Except big things from the arms from the nation’s capital in 2018.

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As for the offense for the Washington Nationals heading into the 2018 season, they are almost as good if not better than their pitching staff which is saying a lot. This Nats offense is stacked and can hurt you from the top of the lineup all the way to the bottom. Their big bats are led by none other than superstar, Bryce Harper. Harper is as powerful and explosive of a hitter as you will find in the majors and has a swing that will just make you smile. Before getting hurt late in the season, some said that Harper was on his way to an MVP season. He was raking at the plate and was killing anything that would come across the plate. Injury aside, Harper still had an impressive 2017 year, one in which he batted .319, hit 29 homers and drove in 87 runs. Being that this is a contract year for Harper, I expect him to have a huge season and think he could very well win the NL MVP. Complimenting Harper’s bat and doing it in a big way is second basemen, Daniel Murphy. Ever since the 2015 playoffs in which Murphy dominated at the plate, he has become one of the best pure hitters in all of baseball. He has a swing that is as compact and pure as any and is the type of guy who will bat .320 and drive in 90 on a consistent basis. To Murphy’s left is a veteran 1B in Ryan Zimmerman who is coming off off the best season of his career and a year that NO ONE saw coming. Zimmerman had a historic 2017 season and finished the year hitting 36 homers and driving in 108 runs. Nobody in the world could have expected the season the Zimmerman had and I am interested to see if he can somewhat sustain those numbers in 2018. I am also interested in seeing the production of two guys that did not get to show off their stuff in 2017 due to lengthy injuries. Adam Eaton only played 23 games in 2017 for the Nats before tearing his ACL and missing the remainder of the season. He is back however this year and is looking to make vengeance for time that was missed just a season ago. I am a huge fan of Eaton’s and think he could provide big things for the Nats in 2018. Another guy who is going to bring big things in 2018 for the Nats is SS Trea Turner. Turner hurt his wrist last year and missed a lengthy part of the 2017 season but is now healthy and is looking to make a big time impact. I think Turner will be one of the key guys for the Nats this season as I believe he is one of the most versatile SS in all of baseball and think he will even play in the mid-summer classic. Overall, this Washington Nationals offense is insanely talented and are one of the best in the majors. They can hit for power, hit to get on base and can hurt you in multiple assets of the game. You should expect the bats in Washington to produce all summer long and light up the DC sky with fireworks galore.

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Overall, I think this Nationals team is built to win in 2018. They have the pitching that features stars and balance and a powerful offense that will not quit. I think it is clear that they are the most talented team in the NL East and by a wide margin. I have them running away with the division in August and think they will win their 3rd straight division title by about 13 games. I also think this team if healthy, is talented enough to win 100 games and have them finishing the 2018 regular season with a 101-61 record. They will than finally win a playoff series advancing them to their first ever NLCS as the Washington Nationals. They will then go on to play the Chicago Cubs which I think has the potential to be one of the all time great series in postseason history. I have the series going to seven games and due to the fact that the Cubs have Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo and the Nats do not, I have the boys from Chicago advancing to the Fall Classic. The nations capital however will be a fun place to watch baseball this summer as this team is extremely talented and will help the people of DC take their mind off of politics for just a few hours each day.

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