The Nationals have clinched their division and are looking to make a playoff run. The NL East is not known for being the most difficult of divisions, but a win is a win, and making it to the playoffs is certainly an accomplishment.
On paper the Nats are a great team, they have hitters, fielders, and an improved pitching core, everything you need to make a playoff run. My concern comes from the challenges, or lack of challenges, the team faced this season. The NL East holds 4 teams that are the least challenging in the National League currently. A majority of the National’s wins are coming from this crap division, so what caliber team is the Nats really?
When facing teams from other divisions the Nationals have done well. They have not entered a series in the NL without winning at least one game. The only series they had swept from them this year was against the AL West, Texans, in a 3 game loss. When facing other AL teams the Nationals have earned at least one victory, just as they have in the NL. So to that measurement the Nats have the stuff to back up the paper.
However, just because you have the goods does not mean you deliver. The Nationals have never made it past the first round of the playoffs. On top of having a poor playoff history, the Nationals are also facing injuries. Three of the Nationals starters, and big bats, are injured: Bryce Harper, Brian Goodwin, and Daniel Murphy. The good news is that Daniel Murphy may be coming back soon, though he was not in yesterday’s line up. He is currently on a day to day evaluation due to the stiffness in his neck, but is expected back any day. So that brings one bat back to the fold, but still leaves holes where Harper and Goodwill belong.
We have also seen the return of Trae Turner, Jason Werth, and Matt Scherzer. These three certainly add some beef to the team. Turner has amazing speed and a knack for making plays; he was missed while recovering from a broken wrist. Scherzer is also a welcomed site for the bullpen. While it is good to have Werth back, I do have some reservation about his performance. Werth has been absent for a majority of the season with an injured toe, and the time off can definitely effect performance. But Werth’s presence brings with it a big bat, one needed if the Nationals are going to contend in the playoffs.
With all that said, I still do not have high expectations for the Nationals this postseason. There are still 17 games to go in the regular season for the Nats and a lot can happen in 17 games. Right now the team should be focusing on playing good baseball, avoiding injuries, and taking it one day at a time. But from recent games the team’s mentality seems sluggish. The bats have been hitting, and games have been won, as well as lost, but a fire seems to be lacking, something that may be indicative on all D.C. teams; looking at you Capitals! So with that, the Nats have what it takes to do well in the playoffs on paper, but outside of that I don’t think they make it to the second round.