There’s a familiar face residing in the dugout of the Washington Nationals, one that doesn’t seem so bad to Cincinnati Reds fans now.
Washington(83-79, 7 GB, 2nd in NL East)
Key Additions:Logan Schafer, Chris Heisey, Shawn Kelley, Oliver Perez, Yusmeiro Petit, Nick Masset, Stephen Drew, Daniel Murphy, Ben Revere
Key Departures: Ian Desmond, Nate McLouth, Dan Uggla, Matt Thornton, Craig Stammen, Casey Janssen, Jordan Zimmerman, Doug Fister, Yunel Escobar, Denard Span, Drew Storen
Reds Dates: June 3-5, @Wash June 30-July 3
With great expectations for the 2015 season, the Washington Nationals failed to even make the playoffs despite the efforts of Bryce Harper and Max Scherzer. Instead they watched their NL East rival, the New York Mets, head to the World Series while the Nationals searched for a new skipper after firing Matt Williams in his second year, despite him leading them to a 179-145 record in that time. Enter former Reds manager Dusty Baker to the rescue.
Baker was last seen in Cincinnati in 2013, but has also led the Giants and Cubs in his 20 years as a manager to a 1671-1504 record. He’s been a three time manager of the year and led the Giants to the 2002 World Series where they lost to the Angels. Baker led the Reds to three 90 plus win seasons during his six year tenure and never lost more than 88 games. However, many Reds fans were calling for the dismissal of Baker for his failure to get the Reds to the next level and bring Cincinnati its first title since 1990. In his absence the Reds have gone 140-184 under Bryan Price and did not finish higher than fourth in either season.
Despite losing Jordan Zimmerman and Doug Fister this off-season, the Nationals still have a strong rotation. Scherzer was so good last season he tossed two no-hitters including a 2-0 victory over the Mets on Oct. 4 when he struck out 17. He won 14 games with a 2.79 ERA and also finished second in the league with 276 strikeouts. Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg were both 11 game winners with Tanner Roark and Joe Ross rounding out the rest of the rotation. Jonathan Papelbon will begin the season as the team’s closer after coming over in a trade with the Phillies midway through the season. Papelbon’s tenure in D.C. hasn’t gotten off to a great start as he blew two of the nine save attempts with Washington and also got into a dugout altercation with Harper.
The two have moved on from the incident which is good for Harper as he hopes to continue his torrent pace at the plate in 2016. He led the Nats in hits (172) and RBI (99) while finishing second in the league in average (.330), and was the league leader in OBP (.460 to Joey Votto’s .459), runs scored (118), slugging (.649), and was tied with Nolan Arenado with 42 homers. All of his statistical accomplishments also helped garner him the NL MVP honors.
To help him on the offensive side the Nationals went out a picked up two familiar players to the NL East. Ben Revere spent the last three seasons in Philadelphia before being traded to Toronto midway through the year. With the Phillies, the speedy outfielder hit at least .305 in all three seasons making him a perfect lead-off man to set up Harper. They also acquired Daniel Murphy, who spent all seven seasons with the Mets that included a monster postseason that helped them reach the World Series.
Those same Mets appear to be the biggest obstacle standing between the Nationals and an NL East crown. The Marlins could be a thorn while the Braves and Phillies appear to be along for the ride. The Reds will do their best to stop Washington or at least do better than the 1-5 mark they had last season. Here’s a look at what the Nationals might look like when Dusty and the gang come to Great American Ballpark in early June (as of 3/27).
Starting rotation (2015 stats):
1. Max Scherzer (14-12, 2.79 ERA, 2 no-hitters, All-Star)
2. Stephen Strasburg (11-7, 3.46 ERA)
3. Gio Gonzalez (11-8, 3.79 ERA)
4. Tanner Roark (4-7, 4.38 ERA)
5. Joe Ross (5-5, 3.64 ERA)
Closer: Jonathan Papelbon (4-3, 2.13 ERA, 24 saves w/Phillies & Nationals)
C. Wilson Ramos (128 games played, .229 avg, 15 HR, 68 RBI)
1B. Ryan Zimmerman (95 GP, .249 avg, 16 HR, 73 RBI)
2B. Daniel Murphy (130 GP, .281 avg, 14 HR, 73 RBI w/Mets)
3B. Anthony Rendon (80 GP, .264 avg, 5 HR, 25 RBI)
SS. Danny Espinosa (118 GP, .240 avg, 13 HR, 37 RBI)
LF. Jayson Werth (88 GP, .221 avg, 12 HR, 42 RBI)
CF. Ben Revere (152 GP, .306 avg, 2 HR, 45 RBI, 31 SB w/Phillies & Jays)
RF. Bryce Harper (153 GP, .330 avg, 42 HR, 99 RBI, All-Star, NL MVP)
C. Jose Lobaton
1B./OF Clint Robinson
IF. Stephen Drew, Trea Turner
OF. Michael Taylor, Chris Heisey, Matt den Dekker