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2006 Washington Nationals Baseball Preview

Washington Nationals Predictions – NL EAST

OVERVIEW:

In their inaugural season, the Nationals were better than most teams in pitching and fielding, and they were the worst in the majors in team hitting. Although the club’s .500 mark was a pleasant surprise, it’s doubtful that they’ll do that well in 2006. Little has changed since last year, except perhaps the first-year excitement surrounding the team has disappeared.


PITCHING:

Two solid starters and perhaps an adequate number three arm are all that this team has for its starting rotation. Livan Hernandez (15-10, 3.98 ERA) is a workhorse on the mound with four sound pitches. John Patterson (9-7, 3.13 ERA), with his deceptive fastball and curve, could replace Hernandez as the team’s ace.

Although new guy Brian Lawrence, longtime Expo-National Tony Armas, and former Red Ramon Ortiz all have shown promise, none is coming off a winning season and all three had ERA's of close to or above 5.00 in 2005.

With an ERA of 1.82, Chad Cordero saved 47 games last season! He’s back. With a fastball and a slider, he challenges hitters to knock him around and then sends them back to the dugout.

HITTING:

The Nationals batted a measly .252 last season. Although that average is abysmal, Washington does have some good hitters.

Ryan Church, at leadoff, hit at a .287 mark but struck out 70 times. Nick Johnson and Jose Guillen both hit in the .280’s, knocked in over 70 runs, and pounded 15 or more home runs.

Ryan Zimmerman, who played most of last season in college and then the minors, hit .397 in 20 games. He can’t keep that pace up over a 162 game season, but he does possess the talent and work ethic to be an offensive force.

The Nationals are not a major homerun threat, but newly signed Alfonso Soriano could add 30 or so to their round trip total this year.

DEFENSE:

At first base, Nick Johnson has good hands and ably plays errant throws. At third Zimmerman and at second Vidro are both intelligent assets. Shortstop Christian Guzman had difficulty fielding, while catcher Brian Schneider is agile, quick, and accurate behind the plate.

The outfield is overall reliable with strong arms that can home in on their targets.

MANAGER AND FRONT OFFICE:

• GM Jim Bowden, a big time deal man, missed on getting much needed pitching during the off-season.
• His players and MLB respect manager Frank Robinson, now in his fifth year with the team.
• Does anyone own this team? That question has to be settled some time.

INTANGIBLES AND/OR OTHER STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES:

• Soriano has been pouting about playing centerfield. What a great team player!
• Christian Guzman hit .219 with 4 homers over 142 games last season. That multi-million dollar deal Bowden made with Guzman looks pretty bad right about now.
• RFK Stadium is okay but it’s not home. The Nationals need a new stadium.

CONCLUSION:

Soriano may be able to help this club score more runs and win more games. But with no owner at the top, a decaying stadium, and a fairly fickle DC fan base, this could be a long season for the Nats. Can Guzman step up this season and can the youngster Ryan Zimmerman pick up from where he left off last season? If those two things occur, the next 162 games may just speed by for all involved.

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