The Nats are good enough to have a winning season this year. But whether the team has just more wins than losses or has a season where it wins 90-plus games and maybe the NL East will depend on a few key players. Let’s take a look.
That’s not a sure thing anymore. Scherzer will turn 37 in July. While the star right-hander is serious about fitness, 37 is beginning to get old for a pitcher.
Strasburg was hurt in 2020 and made only two starts. That hurt the team. Washington needs him to start 30 games this season. Corbin has to bounce back from a 2-7 (two wins, seven losses) season in 2020.
While a team’s starters are important, starting pitchers almost never pitch a “complete game” anymore. That means pitching nine innings. In 2019, two pitchers led the major leagues with three complete games. In the 1970s, Hall of Fame pitchers such as Fergie Jenkins, Steve Carlton and Jim “Catfish” Hunter threw 30 complete games in a season.
Teams need relief pitchers almost every game to pitch the last two or three innings. The Nats are counting on relievers such as Tanner Rainey, Wander Suero, Brad Hand and others to come out of the bullpen and shut down the opposition.
Juan Soto is Washington’s best hitter. The 22-year-old outfielder can hardly be better than he was during the shortened 2020 season, when he led all MLB hitters in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging.
But another key to the Nats 2021 season may be whether Victor Robles becomes a star, too. The center fielder is just a year older than Soto and almost as talented. If Robles can learn to lay off bad pitches and take more walks, he could really help the Nats.
The Nats will have to be good this season because the NL East Division should be super tough. The Atlanta Braves were one game away from making the World Series last year and are strong again.
The Nats should be fun to watch and could be very good . . . if certain players come through.