The Washington Nationals have been one of the more pleasant storylines in the major leagues this season. Many expected the team to post its first winning season since 2003, when they were the Montreal Expos.
But few expected the team to be in the running for the best record in baseball in the season’s final quarter stretch.
Their success this season is largely a result of their dominant pitching staff, which consists of arguably the best pitching rotation in the majors: Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmerman, Ross Detwiler, and Edwin Jackson.
But here’s the problem. Strasburg, who is 15-5 with a 2.83 earned run average and 183 strikeouts in 145.1 innings this season, will be shut down after pitching 180 innings, the result of Tommy John surgery a year and a half ago.
He has about six to seven starts remaining this year, depending on how many innings the Nationals allow him to average per start.
But one thing is for sure: Strasburg won’t be around to pitch in the postseason, and that’s a shame for a Nationals team that has as good of a chance as any to win the World Series this season.
A veteran starter would be a good fit for the Nationals over the final month of the year, as well as throughout the postseason.
Daisuke Matsuzaka of the Boston Red Sox would be a perfect fit for the Nationals.
Matsuzaka, 31, has likely been put on trade waivers by the Boston Red Sox, although official reports are never released to the public. If he cleared waivers, which he likely would, the Nationals could claim him for a small price, likely a player to be named later or some cash.
It’s a low-risk, high-reward signing because Matsuzaka’s career could be revived by switching leagues and joining a team in the thick of the playoff race.
He hasn’t had a successful season since he went 18-3 with a 2.90 earned run average in 2008, earning a fourth place finish in the American League Cy Young voting. Since then, he’s been 17-18 with a 5.04 ERA in 50 starts.
But he has postseason experience and that would be huge for a Nationals team that has none, with the exception of starting pitcher Edwin Jackson, who led the Tampa Bay Rays to the 2008 World Series and won the 2011 World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Matsuzaka won a World Series in his first season in the major leagues, with the 2007 Red Sox, winning his only World Series start. He also pitched in the ALDS in 2008, and combined, he has a 3-1 postseason record in 35.2 innings.
Experience pitching in the postseason is just huge.
If the Nationals signed Matsuzaka, it would be extremely similar to their signing of veteran pitcher Chien-Ming Wang. Wang has had a very similar career to Matsuzaka. Both came to the major leagues from foreign countries, enjoyed two very successful seasons pitching in the American League East, won a world championship, and suffered through injuries that derailed his career.
The Washington Nationals are likely going to reach the postseason whether or not they acquire Matsuzaka. But the veteran pitcher’s postseason experience could be the key to the franchise’s first world championship.
This article was written by Bryn Swartz, the top writer for the Philadelphia Eagles and a featured NFL columnist on Rant Sports. Bryn has written more than 1000 articles in less than two years as a member of Rant Sports. His blog, Eagles Central, was named the 2010 Ballhyped Sports Blog of the Year. To read a portfolio of Bryn’s best work, click here.