MLB Betting: 2011 Washington Nationals preview

By: David Schwab | Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Washington Nationals are a team headed in the right direction, but the only problem is they are trying to drive a bus to the top of the NL East while Philadelphia is tooling around town in a Ferrari with Atlanta and Florida chasing the Phillies in a pair of souped-up Chevys.

The Nationals finished the 2010 season with an overall record of 69-93 after winning just 59 games in both 2008 and 2009. Their ‘over/under’ in the win columns entering this season is 72½, which at first seems to be a gift for the ‘over’ given the amount of young talent and optimism on this team.

Upon closer inspection this number is right on the money as the reality is this team still has a way to go before it will be competitive on a regular basis.

The Nationals have a couple of solid bats in players such as Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond, but the loss of Adam Dunn, who had 38 home runs and 103 RBI in 2010, will be hard to replace. Washington did pull off one of the biggest offseason acquisitions in the league by signing free-agent outfielder Jayson Werth from Philadelphia to a lucrative long-term contract as well as adding Adam LaRoche from Arizona to help fill the void. These two players, along with Zimmerman will definitely give this team some legitimate power.

It still remains to be seen how much the overall lineup can improve upon last season’s .250 team batting average, tied for 11th in the National League, and 655 runs scored, the third worst in the league.

Washington’s starting rotation will most likely feature right-hander Livan Hernandez as the ace of the staff. Hernandez went 10-12 with a 3.66 ERA in 33 starts last season, but unfortunately his better days are behind him as it is doubtful he will ever recapture his form of the early 2000’s.

Left-hander John Lannan could be a solid No.2 if he continues to improve. Last season he went 8-8 in 25 starts but had an ERA of 4.65. The Nationals brought in Tom Gorzelanny to help shore up the back end of the rotation, but he remains a stop-gap measure at best until they can find a younger arm to replace him.

The bullpen remains average at best with Drew Storen currently penciled in as the team’s closer, if not to start the season then at least eventually.  Manager Jim Riggleman has mentioned he would use a committee to sew games up in the early part of the season, meaning Tyler Clippard and Todd Coffey could be in line for some saves.

Washington does have one of the top prospects in the league in Bryce Harper, who was the No.1 overall pick in the 2010 draft, but it is highly doubtful he will see any time in the majors this season. The Nationals are also probably a year away from getting pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg back from Tommy John surgery.

These two players paint a very bright future for this team down the road, but for now the Nats’ will have to make do with what they have.

Washington is plus 8000 to win the World Series and plus 4000 in win the NL Pennant. The long odds continue all the way down to the division level where it is plus 2800 to win the NL East. There is little or no value in any of these as the Nationals’ main goal this season will be to try and get out of the basement in the East for the first time since 2007.

Follow Don Best's season preview of all 30 MLB clubs by checking out the following links: Florida Marlins ... Tampa Bay Rays ... Atlanta Braves ... St. Louis Cardinals ... Kansas City Royals ... Texas Rangers ... Houston Astros ... Arizona Diamondbacks ... San Diego Padres ... Los Angeles Angels ... Los Angeles Dodgers ... San Francisco Giants ... Oakland Athletics ... Seattle Mariners ... Colorado Rockies ... Minnesota Twins ... Milwaukee Brewers ... Chicago Cubs ... Chicago White Sox ... Detroit Tigers ... Toronto Blue Jays ... Cleveland Indians ... Cincinnati Reds ... Pittsburgh Pirates

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