It is Opening Day for the Washington Nationals and New York Mets, if the weather does not prohibit that. It is currently snowing in New York, though today’s high is supposedly 50. Needless to say, there is a pretty healthy chance today’s Opening Day festivities at Citi Field get snowed out, though there is still plenty of time for the weather to turn around.
Anyway, Stephen Strasburg and company are preparing to start their season off on the right foot and have won their last two Opening Days. Historically, the Nats are 25-20 on Opening Day.
The Nationals, as we all know too well, have been given high expectations, as they are now seen as a perennial playoff contender. Many believe that breakout season predicted for now 21-year-old Bryce Harper was simply a year early, and their rotation, which now includes Doug Fister, injured or not, will stack up as one of the best in baseball. Suffice to say, a lot is expected of the Nationals, and they are not shying away from expectations.
However, what are fair expectations for the Nationals? Are they really a team that can win up to 96 games as SI predicted and fly to the World Series? Or are they an 84-win division winner, as Fangraphs believes they are?
Well, they are probably somewhere in the middle, as they are not an 84-win team, and probably more of a 96-win team. New manager Matt Williams is definitely going to be an X-factor, as his managerial style is already significantly different than Davey Johnson‘s. Williams is all about attention to detail, playing as a team, and being one cohesive unit and maximizing talent he has.
Williams’ use of defensive shifts and ideas for his lineup, which features Wilson Ramos hitting cleanup on Opening Day, will be paramount to Washington’s success. If a player needs rest, they’ll get it as Williams’ bench is littered with players who can stand in more than once or twice a week.
Are the Nationals a World Series contender? No question. They have the rotation, bullpen, lineup and bench to do go all the way. However, the game is not played on paper, and fans and analysts alike need to temper expectations. This is a long season, and we should all relish every chance to watch this team play because we could be watching something very special.
Any expectations need to be thrown out the window, and the games just need to be enjoyed. Happy Opening Day!