The Nationals’ Disappointing Season

Here is a copy of the post I wrote for MASN earlier this week about the Nationals’ disappointing 2015 Season.  Click HERE to see the original article.

On the 15th of September, the Nationals are 10 games back of the New York Mets and it’s safe to say their postseason chances are just a little more than zero. Before the season started, almost everyone thought Washington was a favorite to win the World Series. I predicted on my blog, MattsBats.com, that they would win 99 games and take the National League East easily. A lot of people are now wondering what went wrong for the Nationals this year. Today, I am looking at three of the biggest reasons the Nats’ season was so disappointing.

First off is the obvious: the bullpen. The bullpen was the team’s biggest weakness going into the 2015 year, and it only got worse during the season. The Nats traded the best lefty in the bullpen, Jerry Blevins, to the Mets for Matt den Dekker, who barely saw any playing time this year (Blevins also sat out almost the whole year with an injury). The Nats also acquired Yunel Escobar from the Athletics in exchange for set-up man Tyler Clippard, who somehow ended up a Met by the middle of the year. The Nats also lost long reliever Craig Stammen to injury, and he was taken out of the season early after pitching badly against (who else) the Mets. To fill in, the Nats had to use makeshift relievers with little or no big league experience. So this year you were likely to see Blake Treinen, Matt Grace, Sammy Solis or Felipe Rivero take the mound, as compared to last year when the seventh, eighth and ninth went to Clippard, Drew Storen and Rafael Soriano. Storen took an amazing first half and flushed it down the toilet in the past couple of weeks by breaking his pitching hand thumb when he slammed a locker in frustration. The good news is that the bullpen was so bad this year that it will have to be fixed for next year. I’ve said it on Twitter, but I would love the Nats to shore up their bullpen with some relievers like Brad Ziegler, Darren O’Day, Will Harris, Tyler Clippard or maybe a trade for Craig Kimbrel.

The second reason the 2015 season went wrong was injuries to key starters. It’s hard to avoid injuries, but this season, injuries really hurt the team. Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, Anthony Rendon, Denard Span and Stephen Strasburg have all missed a lot of time this year due to injury. Incredibly, the Nats weren’t able to field their opening day lineup until August. Many of their replacements have blended in just fine, like Michael A. Taylor and Clint Robinson, but it wasn’t really the same without some of the best hitters and fielders in the lineup. Danny Espinosa, who played almost every position on the field this year except for pitcher and catcher, also showed a lot of improvement. And, luckily, what surprised me the most is that injury-prone catcher Wilson Ramos didn’t miss time this year due to injury. But not being able to have your starting nine play every day was a huge part of the Nats’ collapse.

The final reason for the 2015 bust is the Mets’ resurgence. Almost no one outside Queens expected the Mets would finish at the top of the division. For years, the team has been the one guarding the cellar of the NL East. But suddenly, the Mets have become Amazin’ again due to stellar pitching by Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard. Even Bartolo Colon made history by pitching 31 straight scoreless innings – the most in history by anyone older than 42 years old. The Mets also made good acquisitions like Kelly Johnson, Juan Uribe, Tyler Clippard and, of course, Yoenis Cespedes. Rookie call-up Michael Conforto has hit 7 home runs and is batting just below .300. Even without David Wright for most of the season, the Mets have been playing pretty good baseball all year. They played well enough to keep pace with the Nats all year and then kicked it into high gear at the trade deadline with the Cespedes acquisition.

The Nationals’ season definitely has not played out like expected. Other than Bryce Harper’s amazing season and Max Scherzer’s nearly perfect no-hitter, there have not been many highlights this year. The good news is MLB has released the 2016 schedule, and there are only 202 days until the Nationals’ 2016 opening day.

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