Na­tion­als haven’t been slowed down by in­juries

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY NEIL GREEN­BERG neil.green­berg@wash­post.com

The Washington Na­tion­als en­tered the sec­ond half of the sea­son with a 48-39 record, giv­ing them a two-game lead on the New York Mets in theNLEast. It’s a slim­mer mar­gin than ex­pected, given how high ex­pec­ta­tions were at the be­gin­ning of the year.

Af­ter all, this was the pre­sea­son fa­vorite to win the World Se­ries af­ter adding all-star right-han­der Max Scherzer to a club that won 96 games a sea­son ago.

One rea­son for the lower reg­u­lar sea­son win to­tal has been in­juries to key mem­bers of the team. As The Post’s Barry Svrluga wrote:

“The Washington Na­tion­als’ lineup was sup­posed to look some­thing like this: De­nard Span in cen­ter, An­thony Ren­don at third, Jayson Werth in left, Bryce Harper in right, Ryan Zim­mer­man at first, Ian Desmond at short, Wil­son Ramos catch­ing and Yunel Es­co­bar at sec­ond. The num­ber of times those eight play­ers have ap­peared in a game to­gether this year: zero.”

How­ever, that hasn’t stopped the Nats from dom­i­nat­ing an oth­er­wise weak di­vi­sion, giv­ing them an 89.5 per­cent chance at mak­ing the play­offs and an 85.6 per­cent chance at win­ning the Na­tional League East.

That’s a 2.5 FanGraphs wins above re­place­ment dif­fer­ence be­tween the ros­ter most com­monly used now, which in­cludes Michael A. Tay­lor (0.8 pro­jected fWAR), Clint Robin­son (0.2 fWAR) and Matt den Dekker (0.2 fWAR).

As for pitch­ing, get­ting a healthy Stephen Stras­burg would make a big dif­fer­ence. Right now Joe Ross and Tan­ner Roark are get­ting the starts, but Stras­burg would be an up­grade to both.

Stras­burg is pro­jected to strike out al­most 10 bat­ters per nine in­nings (9.87), pro­duc­ing 1.7 fWAR. That’s more wins above re­place­ment than Ross (0.3) and Roark (0.8) com­bined.

A healthy ros­ter will im­prove the Nats by quite a bit, but even if they stay with the cur­rent lineup, they should still win the NL East by a com­fort­able mar­gin.

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