The Washington Nationals were the 2019 World Series champions in what was an amazing season for an incredibly talented team.
From that point on, things haven’t been going as smoothly.
That resulted in a disappointing elimination in the regular season.
So far, the 2021 campaign hasn’t been kind for the Nationals either, as they are in last place with a 20-23 record.
Yet there still might be hope for Washington, for several reasons.
3. They Aren’t That Far Behind
If you think about it, the 20-23 Nationals haven’t been as bad as other disappointing contenders, like the Minnesota Twins for example.
They are only three wins away from playing .500 ball, but more importantly, they are just 2.5 games behind the top team in the National League East division, the New York Mets.
That is, by no means, an insurmountable difference.
All teams in the NL East division are separated by only 2.5 games as of Monday morning, which basically tells us everything we need to know: everybody has a chance.
— Jordan McPherson (@J_McPherson1126) May 23, 2021
The Mets and Atlanta Braves may be viewed as the favorites by most, and rightfully so, but the Nationals still have a chance and a lot of time to overcome their deficit.
It’s still late-May, so there are more than four months of regular season to be played.
A hot streak may be enough to put the Nats back in a position to assault the top of the division.
2. They Have Two of the Best Right-Handed Pitchers of Their Generation
Pitching, they say, is the name of the game.
And while 2021 Patrick Corbin might be among the most maddeningly inconsistent pitchers in baseball, the Nationals do have two top righties to rely on.
Scherzer has been in top form this season, with a 2.24 ERA in 56.1 innings, striking out 35.7 percent of the batters he has faced.
Well, in other news, Max Scherzer passed Jim Bunning for 19th on the all-time strikeouts list. He's now looking to catch Justin Verlander by the end of the season to become the leading active pitcher. #NATITUDE
— Austen Bundy (@AustenBundyDC) May 20, 2021
Strasburg, on the other hand, has had some injury issues that haven’t allowed him to pitch his best ball yet.
As of Monday afternoon, he has a decent 4.11 ERA, but his 5.89 Fielding Independent Pitching tells another story, one that suggests he needs to recover his strikeout ability (22.7 strikeout rate) and lower his walks (16.7 walk rate) to be successful again.
He is coming off shoulder inflammation, but was good in his first outing back from the injured list.
As long as he can avoid injury setbacks, Strasburg should return to form eventually and help Scherzer carry the weight of the pitching.
1. They Have Juan Soto
If we take out Mike Trout, Soto might very well be the best pure hitter in baseball.
That’s how good he is, and the scariest thing is that he is only 22 years old.
He is so good that his .282 average, 21 runs, four homers, 16 RBI and .812 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging) is viewed as a disappointment.
That’s because we know what he can do over a full season.
Last year, in a shortened sample, he hit .351/.490/.695 with 13 home runs in 47 games.
Imagine having a .320-type bat with 35-homer power and +.400 OBP ability.
Now assign him only 22 years old and you get Soto.
He has the kind of profile one would create in a video game.
As long as Soto is healthy (he overcame a minor injury bump recently but is good to go right now), the Nats will always have a chance.