Yes, my hometown team, the Nats, have the worst record in baseball. But, I feel good about the foundation they’re putting in place. It’s going to take time, but I feel like they’re doing it the right way, especially in rebuilding the farm system, particularly with an emphasis on stockpiling pitchers.
If one looks at the statistics, the Nats are in the top 6 offensively in the NL. They have a good core of hitters, including a few players above or near a .300 batting average, including Nyjer Morgan, Ryan Zimmerman and Cristan Guzman. Also, Willingham and Dunn are both hitting above .280. They also have three hitters with over 20 homers, including Dunn, Zimmy and Willingham.
The key to winning baseball, as the purists state, are pitching and defense. Defensively, the team is playing much better fundamental baseball under the interim manager, Jim Riggleman. In particular, Morgan has played exceptionally well in CF. Yes, he’s hurt now but he’ll be a fixture next year. They do need to improve the middle infield, but they get Gold Glove quality play from Zimmy at 3b and they’re well-stocked with good defensive catchers.
Pitching will be the key. They have a number of good to very good young pitching arms. As I’ve compared in the past, I’m hoping they build a rotation like the Braves from the 90’s – who won 14 straight NL East championships built around Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Steve Avery. I’m glad to see them sign Livan Hernandez, who can show the youngsters how the veteran pitchers get it done. I’d like to see them resign him for ’10 or sign another veteran pitcher who can eat up innings.
Improving the bullpen is critical to success of the next year’s team, especially since the youngsters aren’t being counted on to pitch deep into games. Yes, McDougal has pitched well … and, Storen will be a great young arm to add to the bullpen. But, they also need a couple of strong middle relievers.
It’s likely that Strasburg will become a stud #1 pitcher, but the success rate of the top ranked pitchers is very iffy. But, it was definitely the right move to draft and sign him. And, if they continue to have the worst record, the Nats will have the opportunity to pick the heralded young catcher from Las Vegas (who some say is the best hitting prospect to come along in years).
One more month to go for the Nats – but it’s also time for football season to kick off! Then, before we know it, the basketball and hockey seasons will start, too. Can’t wait!