# 28 Washington Nationals
2006 WL 71-91
2006 OR 85-72-5
After a promising 81-81 record in their first year at Washington, the Nationals had hopes of competing in the National League East in 2006, but couldn’t get over an incredibly slow start. Washington was 13-27 in its first 40 games, and while it was a respectable 58-64 the rest of the way, the house was clean. Manager Frank Robinson was fired as superstar Alfonso Soriano brought his skills to the Cubs. However, there is now an owner and a general manager, so the management is on the right track. It’s time to rebuild Washington, and while the future looks bright, it will take time.
Washington was in the middle of the visiting team, losing 6.5 units on the season. Most of that damage was done during that opening 40-game stretch when the Nationals fell 12.9 units in that span. From May 18 onwards, Washington was +6.4 units, so it was not too bad during the summer. The Nationals were a game over .500 at home and posted a slight gain of 1.7 points, but it was lousy road play that hurt the sponsors. Washington was favored too often, 34 times in fact, and lost 11.9 units in the process. Taking the Nationals into the role of the big losers was also unwise, as they went 0-6 when they hit a money line of +200 or higher.
Washington was near the bottom of most offensive statistical categories, but finished 13 games above .500 in contests that exceeded the total. This contrasts with 23 games down from the previous year. It certainly wasn’t luck as the Nationals had the worst ERA in the National League at 5.03. The bullpen was decent, but the starters, the 11 that were used at one point throughout the season, were inconsistent. RFK was a pitching park in 2005 and in 2006, it saw 41 of 81 games reviewed. With an even more suspicious headline rotation this season, we could see that the disparity would be even greater in 2007 and see a ton of games fly by.
The loss of Soriano is a huge hit on offense that wasn’t very good to start with. Production will now rest on the shoulders of Ryan Zimmerman and Austin Kearns. Zimmerman has a lot of potential and is coming off a very strong season. Kearns was average after coming from Cincinnati and will have to show more in his first season as an everyday player. Kory Casto is a rookie outfielder who has a huge advantage after winning the organization’s Minor League Player of the Year twice. His transition to major league pitching could be difficult. Nick Johnson, who seems to be always hurt, needs to stay healthy for this team to score enough runs.
This is where the real problems lie. John Patterson is the “ace” if he can be labeled as such. He missed most of last season with a forearm injury and if he can show any of his 2005 3.13 ERA, he’ll start off on a good base. The problem is, there is absolutely nothing after that. Mike O’Connor is the Nationals’ returning leader in wins with 10, but along with that he has a 4.81 ERA. Former prospects for other organizations, Joel Hanrahan Colby Lewis, are getting stares. The bullpen will be the bright spot as Chad Cordero is one of the best closers when given save opportunities, while the return of Luis Ayala, who missed all of last season, will further strengthen the unit.