Saturday, August 25, 2012

Guest Post: Are the Washington Nationals Legitimate World Series Contenders

Are The Washington Nationals Legitimate World Series Contenders?

Major League Baseball has seen a major shift in the balance of power this year. The Pirates and Orioles are contenders while the Phillies and Red Sox are languishing. However, the Washington Nationals are perhaps the biggest surprise in baseball this year. Could they possibly be a contender to win it all this season?

Is Their Hitting Good Enough?

The Nationals are not exactly a team that hits for a lot of power. On top of that, their hitters tend to strike out a lot. Nationals batters have combined for over 1,000 strikeouts this season. The playoffs are a time when a lot of games are won by a run or two.

It isn't uncommon to see a 1-0 game in the NL playoffs. Washington is ranked 12th or lower in the NL when it comes to stolen bases, triples, home runs and other power statistics. For what it may be worth, the Nationals have a .585 winning percentage of their games that are decided by one run.

What Do They Have Behind Strasburg?

Everyone knows that Stephen Strasburg is the ace of their staff. What most people may not realize is that the Nationals have a couple of pitchers that are putting up numbers that are just as good. Gio Gonzalez is 16-6 with an ERA a shade over 3.20. Jason Zimmerman has a 9-7 record this season. However, that also comes with an ERA of 2.54.

Why is this important? The Nationals plan to shut Strasburg down sometime in September when he reaches 160-180 innings pitched for the year. After his most recent start, he has pitched 145.1 innings. Washington has already ruled him out for Stephen's final 2-3 starts.

Winning it all depends on having a great closer. Someone who can shut down the opposition in the ninth inning is incredibly important. The Nationals have that great closer in Tyler Clippard. He has converted 28 of his 32 save opportunities so far this season. Opponents are batting just .166 against him.

Having The Best Record In Baseball Helps

At the time of this writing, the Nationals have the best record in all of baseball. This means that Washington would have home-field advantage for the playoffs if they finish the season still on top. The ability to play the first and potentially the last game of any series at home is a huge advantage. They will also get home-field advantage in the World Series thanks to the NL winning the All-Star game.

Washington currently sports a .600 home winning percentage so far this season. This is good because any team that is bound to win a championship is going to do so by making its home park a scary place to play. However, if they do have to win a game on the road, they can do that to. With a .641 road winning percentage, there is no doubt that the Nationals can close out a series away from home.

Can the Washington Nationals win the World Series? They certainly have the pitching depth that is needed to make a serious run. Their record away from home indicates that they will be able to handle going on the road. Championship teams have to win at least one road game a series. What it will really come down to is the hitting. If the bats get hot, there may be no stopping the Nationals.

About the Author: Don Phan is an avid baseball fan and recommends FansEdge for the latest MLB gear including MLB team baseball hats for all major league teams.

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