Advertisement
Advertisement

Washington Nationals Season Recap

Advertisement

The Washington Nationals had an extremely disappointing season, two years removed from winning their first World Series. There were expectations that they would be right back in the running to contend for the National League East title, but the opposite happened. The Nationals instead wound up finishing dead last in the NL East despite being 47-55 at the trade deadline and eight games out of first. Not a terrible position in the weak division. But at the deadline, they ultimately made the smart decision by going into firesale mode. Leading up to the deadline, they traded away Brad Hand, Kyle Schwarber, Daniel Hudson, Josh Harrison, Yan Gomes, and Jon Lester. Then on the night before deadline day, they worked a blockbuster deal that sent Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to the Los Angeles Dodgers, getting four high-upside prospects in return. Overall, Washington received 12 prospects for the eight players they sent out.

Following the firesale at the trade deadline, the Nationals went a league-worst 18-42. But even had they kept all the players they traded, they would have finished at 72-87. That is based on the combined fWAR of 6.8 from the players they traded away.

Make sure to check out all of our other MLB Season Recaps.

Key Info 

Manager: Dave Martinez

Record: 65-97

Advertisement

Position: Last in NL East

Postseason: Missed Playoffs

Overall Performance 

Despite leading the NL in batting average at .258, the Nationals were in the bottom half of total runs with 724. Their offense had trouble coming up in big situations and really beat the ball into the ground. When they got men on base, it quickly evaporated with their major league-leading 158 doubles plays grounded into. That was 11 short of the NL record (2011 St. Louis Cardinals) and 16 short of the MLB record (1990 Boston Red Sox). Washington was last in the NL with a 9.5 average launch angle and fifth-worst with a 6.9 percent barrel rate. 

Advertisement

Alcides Escobar was one player who survived the trade deadline firesale and turned in a fairly formidable season. The 34-year-old shortstop had the team’s third-best fWAR at 1.7, behind Turner and Juan Soto, despite not signing with them until July 3. This was after he had been on minor league deals with three other teams. In 75 games with the Nats, Escobar slashed .288/.340/.404 with four homers, three stolen bases, and a 100 wRC+. Lane Thomas was the return in the Lester trade and turned in a solid 45 games with the Nationals. The 25-year-old smashed seven homers, stole four bases, recorded a 127 wRC+, and had a 1.0 WAR.

Advertisement

The pitching was shaky, as Washington’s starters with at least 12 starts had over 4 ERAs outside of Scherzer. Joe Ross was their best starter outside Scherzer, as he had a 4.02 ERA, 4.08 xFIP, 24.5 percent strikeout rate, and 1.3 fWAR. It was a major disappointing year for Patrick Corbin, who was supposed to be an ace.

Award Winners 

Most Valuable Player, Hitter of the Year, and Fielder of the Year: Juan Soto

A top-two NL MVP candidate, Soto was by the far the best player on the Nationals this season. Bryce Harper of the Philadelphia Phillies is likely to win the award over him, but Soto matches up with him well and it won’t be a runaway. The 22-year-old was sixth in the majors with a 6.6 fWAR, tied with Harper and Marcus Semien. He was also second in the NL behind Harper with a 163 wRC+, second in average (.313) – behind former teammate Turner – first in on-base percentage (.465); seventh in slugging percentage (.534), and first in walk rate (22.2%). Soto’s 145 total walks were the most by any player in a single season since Barry Bonds walked 232 times in 2004. This is a huge testament to his patient approach that saw him have the lowest O-swing percentage (percentage of pitches swung at outside the zone) at 15.1 percent. Because of this, he also struck out just 93 times. He joined Babe Ruth, Bonds, and Lou Gehrig as the only players to ever reach base four times in 26 or more games over a single season. 

Soto’s second half was what got him into the MVP conversation, as he slashed .348/.525/.639 and drew 87 of the walks over his last 72 games, along with 18 of his 29 home runs. In addition to his tremendous hitting, “Childish Bambino” was a great fielder out in right field. He shifted from left to right field and led the Nationals with five OAA while ranking above average with three DRS and five outfield assists.

Starting Pitcher of the Year: Max Scherzer

As I mentioned, the pitching outside of Scherzer was ugly, so this award can’t go to anyone else. In 14 of the 19 starts he made before the trade, the right-hander gave up two runs or less, while he failed to pitch five innings or more just once. The former Detroit Tiger recorded a 2.76 ERA, 3.60 FIP, 34.3 percent strikeout rate, and a 2.5 fWAR. Scherzer also stranded 86.8 percent of batters he allowed on base. 

Relief Pitcher of the Year: Daniel Hudson

Just like Scherzer was the best starter, Hudson was the Nationals’ best reliever prior to being traded. In 31 appearances, the 34-year-old held a 2.20 ERA, 2.47 FIP, and a 1.0 fWAR. He struck out 37.8 percent of batters while stranding 86.1 percent of runners on base.

Comeback Player of the Year: Ryan Zimmerman

Mr. National opted out of the 2020 season because of COVID-19 and returned to have a reputable season. It obviously wasn’t one of his best seasons, but the 36-year-old had a 97 wRC+, .227 ISO, and .471 on-base percentage in 110 games. 

What’s Next? 

The Nationals have started to turn over some more spots on their team, as they fired hitting coach Kevin Long. As his replacement, they brought in Darnell Coles, who had spent the last three seasons as the Arizona Diamondbacks hitting coach. Coles’ mantra on hitting is for his hitters to “dominate the strike zone” and he wants them to be able to clean up their inability to hit with runners on base and in scoring position. They were dead last in the majors with leaving runners on, at a 7.31 mark. The Nationals have to absolutely build around Soto and pay him the money he deserves, which they failed to do with Harper. Soto isn’t a free agent until 2025, but they have to start thinking about an extension now. Top prospect Cade Cavalli, a hard-throwing right-hander out of the University of Oklahoma, is expected to make his debut next season. He moved up three levels in the minors this year, while he struggled in seven starts at Triple-A Rochester. If he can work out the kinks, Cavalli would be a reputable arm to throw in the rotation or potentially the bullpen. 


Check us out on our socials:
Twitter: @PTSTNews and @TalkPrimeTime
Facebook Page: Prime Time Sports Talk
Join our Facebook Group: Prime Time Sports Talk
Instagram: @ptsportstalk

Follow Alex Kielar on Twitter @AlexKielar

Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images

Advertisement

Check us out on our socials:   
Twitter: @PTSTNews and @TalkPrimeTime
Facebook Page: Prime Time Sports Talk
Join our Facebook Group: Prime Time Sports Talk 
Instagram: @primetimesportstalk

Advertisement

Share this:

Dodgers' Chris Taylor, MLB utility player
Latest News

How the MLB Utility Player has Evolved

The MLB “utility player” role has evolved over the last decade. Teams now realize they can no longer be at the mercy of just one simple utility player. They now require the “multi-use” or “super utility” player.

Read More
MLB, Miami Marlins
Latest News

Assessing Miami Marlins’ Dreadful Start

The Miami Marlins’ dreadful start to the 2024 season saw fall to 1-9 after 10 games. They were baseball’s first 0-9 team since 2016. It is no surprise that the fans were booing them, and there is already chatter about their future. It looks like it is going to be a long season in Miami.

Read More

One Response

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Advertisement
Browse by Category:
Advertisement
Advertisement

Visit ChiefsBlitz.com for
hard-hitting KC Chiefs coverage.

Advertisement