Washington the political city is infamous for its gridlock.
Washington the baseball city has only encountered gridlock and obstruction in the form of their first-round opponents in the playoffs with the 2012 St. Louis Cardinals and 2014 San Francisco Giants, though each series loss was their own undoing, with an innings limit that prevented Stephen Strasburg from pitching in the 2012 postseason and the questionable managerial moves against the Giants.
Based on the news that Max Scherzer is going to sign a seven-year, $210 million deal with the Nationals, the team is hoping to end some of the obstacles that have prevented them from winning a World Series. In the first decade after relocating from Montreal, the Nationals have had the successes that the Expos could only hope to have in terms of the regular season.
Unlike their previous incarnation in Canada, the Nationals have had the resources to form a top-flight team. In their path to being the team to beat in the NL East, the Nationals have spent heavily on Strasburg, Bryce Harper Jayson Werth and Gio Gonzalez.
History shows that contracts of this length and expense don’t often work out at the end. When you’ve been this close to breaking through to the NLCS twice, though, it’s a move the Nationals had to make.
In Scherzer, the Nationals are getting someone who was 18-5 with 252 strikeouts in 220 1/3 innings and that’s facing teams with designated hitters in most of his starts. He just finished up his final season in his 20s and he is rare company of those who have thrown 600 innings between ages 27-29.
And in terms of the recent picture, Scherzer is 55-15 with a 3.24 ERA over the past three seasons. Pitchers with similar numbers in that span include Clayton Kershaw, who agreed to a $215 million deal with the Dodgers and Felix Hernandez, who is getting $175 million from the Mariners.
Besides the impact of importing a pitcher with four pitches, including a fastball at 92.8 mph last year and changeup at 83.9 last season, the Nationals appear to have the NL East’s best rotation on paper, especially when you consider that Gonzalez could be considered a fifth starter.
Consider this, without Scherzer and during a year when Gonzalez and Doug Fister were on the disabled list, the Nationals had the best ERA for a starting rotation in the game at 3.04
That’s under the assumption that the Nationals don’t trade Jordan Zimmerman. Zimmerman has been rumored to be traded for most of the offseason and still may but if you assume they don’t, that means that Matt Williams has a pitcher who won 15 games with a 2.85 ERA in Gonzalez at the fifth starter.
However with the improving rotation comes the cautionary tale of some recent teams. Among them are the 2014 Tigers, who made a high-impact move by adding David Price. That gave them one of the game’s top rotations but it also neglected the fact that the bullpen was terrible and that component showed up when the Tigers were swept in the ALDS by the Orioles.
There are question marks in the Nationals bullpen and those threaten to deter any of the glossy and shiny looks that the Nationals rotation has after signing Scherzer.
The Nationals have been good for some time during the regular season and while their window continues, the race is on to get the World Series championship before it gets too late.