The Washington Nationals have seen years of drafting and cultivating their farm system come to fruition with the rewarding 2012 season they’re currently enjoying. Analysts expected the Nationals to be good enough to make their first trip to the post season since their inception, but no one was predicting that as of mid August that they’d be boasting the league’s best record. They stand at 72-44 and have been won nine out of their last ten games, leading the league in ERA at 3.20 and getting an all around full team effort from start to bottom. So, let’s give the Nats a round of applause, but why doing so I’m tempted to ask are the Nationals truly the best team in the majors are they good by ‘national league standards’?
Let me explain in-depth, the National League has always been somewhat of the plain-looking twin sister compared to the sexy American League. The AL has on average always had the best hitters, sexier teams and there’s a DH–it’s a win, win, win. The National has always gotten the stigma of being ‘weird’ because they’re the only league in the world that doesn’t enact the DH, pitchers come up and bunt with jackets on or get pinch hit around…it’s strange. Also, there’s always been the reputation NL pitchers have of not being any good when traded to American League pitchers, as they’re thought to not being able to have the ability to contain all that prime hitting that the NL so dearly lacks. Yes, the NL isn’t for the faint of heart, but it remains a constant symbol of status quo for baseball purists everywhere. But with all that said, are the Washington Nationals only good by NL standards, and the test for their true greatness won’t come until they duel against an American League team?
Let’s look what happened during interleague play in the past and focus solely on what may happen during the post season if the Nationals end up going to the world series. Naturally teams like the Yankees and Rangers pose as immediate threats to them just from their sheer hitting alone, but then again the Nationals are sporting the best pitching rotation in the majors. Jordan Zimmerman has an ERA under 2 in his last ten starts, Ross Detwiler the team’s 5th starter has an ERA 2.99–and I’ll hold off on mentioning the ace like performance of Stephen Strasburg whose participation in the post season is still in doubt. But, let’s not give all the love to the pitching staff the Nationals have some hitting, which may not be as brag worthy as their pitching it’s effective when needed. Ryan Zimmerman has been the anchor of consistency and reliability on the squad with a .282 batting average and 66 RBI total so far. The return of all-star Ian Desmond is also going to be a welcoming sight as he has missed about three weeks with an oblique strain. The performance of Jayson Werth whose been injured the major of the season is another thing the Nationals will be relying on to edge out opponents, especially if Strasburg is straddling the bench.
While we should all tip our caps to the Nationals for finally pushing through to the realms of relevancy and putting that young talent to work the jury still awaits to see if they’re National League slayers or all around world beaters capable of holding their own against the Yankees and other élite franchises. The Nationals are no doubt just in the genesis of what can be something special and the jumpstart the franchise needed to establish itself as a real threat for years to come. So I ask are they National League fool’s gold or are they something more special?
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