The Washington Nationals are a team that’s been on the cusp of something special since they first won the division for the first time in their new city back in 2012 but that hasn’t been able to get it done in October, going 0-3 in the postseason in their three playoff series since moving to D.C.
In fact, as an organization, the Nationals haven’t won a playoff series since 1981 when they were one of Canada’s two MLB franchises. That Montreal Expos team lost to the Dodgers en route to LA’s second to last World Series and the Expos’ win over the Phillies in the NLDS was the club’s first and last playoff series win.
This season for the Nats, however, is World Series or bust. They mortgaged the future for centerfielder Adam Eaton by trading two of the best pitching prospects in baseball and it looks like they’ll lose their superstar slugger Bryce Harper to free agency at the end of the year.
Expect management in Washington to sell the farm if they’re in contention near the trade deadline as they’ll need a few more pieces if they want to compete with the likes of the Cubs and Dodgers in a very top-heavy National League.
Here’s an analysis of the Nationals’ futures odds for 2017:
World Series +1100
In my humble opinion, this is one of the most bet-able lines on the board. Washington’s lineup is scary front to back and with the combination of Max Scherzer/Stephen Strasburg heading an extremely talented five-man rotation – I can only think of two reasons why this team wouldn’t compete for a World Series.
Reason No. 1: The Chicago Cubs. Theo Epstein and the rest of the front office in Chicago managed to pull off the best rebuild of a sports franchise I’ve ever seen in my 24 years on this planet and it’s set them up to be a dynasty for a very long time. The Cubs are the current measuring stick for every other club in the majors and if we’re talking holistically, I think the Nationals come the closest in terms of the talent on their 25-man roster.
Reason No. 2: Dusty Baker. Where do I even start with this clown? The Nationals’ manager, now in his second year with the club, has faced scrutiny for controversial decisions many times during his 23-year managerial career but possibly none more than when he decided to send Max Scherzer out for another inning in Game 5 of Washington’s NLDS series vs the Dodgers. Scherzer blew the Nats’ lead on his 99th pitch by way of a Joc Pederson home run and LA eventually won the right to lose to the Cubs in the NLCS after Dusty Baker failed to get the right relievers in the game.
I could go on for thousands of words about Dusty and his horrible in-game management mishaps over the years but that seems cruel. Just know that he puts a cap on what this talented team can do and that his days of being NL Manager of the Year are long behind him.
National League Pennant +500
Why the odds for the Nationals to win the World Series are more than double their odds to win the NL Pennant I do not know. If they manage to get to the final series of the year, the Nats will already have beaten the best team in the majors – the Cubs – and considering the NL has beaten the AL in five of the last seven World Series, it doesn’t look like the designated hitter is going to make a significant difference against the Nats if they make it that far.
The big problem for Washington being, they’ve never won a league pennant and their manager has a career postseason winning percentage well below .500.
National League East -150
With the Mets falling off and the rest of the competition in the division still rebuilding, this is the Nats’ division to lose and I think you’re getting a decent price at -150. They’ve taken the NL East banner three of the last five seasons and it would be a major disappointment if they gave up the honors in this, the club’s 48th year in Major League Baseball.
Although the Phillies and Marlins will be better this campaign, there’s still more than enough wins on the Nationals’ schedule to get them the division title. Back Washington confidently here with 56.25 percent of NL East winners repeating as champs since the year 2000.
OVER/UNDER Win Total – 90.5
Despite slumping down the stretch a little, the Nationals reached 95 wins in 2016 and should be set for another run at breaking through the century mark for the first time as a club and getting past the franchise record of 98 wins they earned back in 2012.
If you like trends, which I know many of you do not, you may want to expect a small regression from Washington. Since 2000, the winner of the NL East has averaged 90.2 wins the next season and in the seasons after the Nationals won their last two division banners, they averaged just 84.5 wins.
With all that said, Washington is in a different position now than they were those years and I fully expect them to finish around 95 wins once again in 2017.
Bryce Harper to be MLB Home Run Leader +1400
This is one of my favorite bets going into the season. Harper is in a contract year and with preseason rumors putting the slugger in preemptive pinstripes, he’ll want to go yard as many times as possible to earn a contract that will almost certainly break a professional sports record. The 24-year-old outfielder is coming off a disappointing 24-home run season after going deep 42 times the year before but will be primed for a comeback season after batting a career-low .243.
The onus will be on the batters in front of and behind Bryce as it was clear last year that pitchers had no interest throwing to him with very little protection in the lineup. Trea Turner will give Harper a serious boost as he’s likely going to reach base at a rate close to .400 and steal more than 50 bases.
|National League Pennant||+500|
|National League Central||-150|
Odds as of March 18 at Bovada