Matt Williams (right) is going to try to be more aggressive to create offense for the Nats. (Washingtonpost.com)
Washington Nationals Manager Davey Johnson retired after the 2013 season (as a tribute, see the video below to watch Johnson get chopped from a game last year, opening up a job that was ultimately filled by Matt Williams a few weeks ago.
Long-time Giants great Williams has no managerial experience (are you noticing a trend in this regard this offseason?), but he says he learned a lot from Dusty Baker, who was his hitting coach and then manager from 1989 to 1996. Let’s hope that this doesn’t mean Williams is also going to be crappy with younger players.
Williams inherits a team that was mediocre offensively, but had a very good pitching staff. The bullpen, however, took a step back, finishing 17th in ERA after being one of the best units in the bigs last year. Ryan Mattheus, a very effective component of Washington’s bullpen the previous two seasons, was simply horrific with a 1.90 WHIP and 6.37 ERA.
There’s no doubt this team is poised to be a winner for the long haul given its core of young talent, but it will need to beef up the offense to get back to the playoffs in 2014. Remember that they won the NL East in 2012 and had the best record in baseball, so even though this year’s 86-win total was nothing to sneeze at, it was a letdown nonetheless – especially since a too little, too late 18-9 September made their final record look better than how they played most of the season.
Some observations from the Nats 2013 season:
- Reliever Tyler Clippard, who spent most of 2012 closing, was back to his usual level of effectiveness as a top set-up man. Can you believe the Yankees dealt this dude for Jonathan Albaladejo? Oops. Clippard remains one of the best non-closing relievers in Fantasy baseball.
- Swingman Tanner Roark enjoyed a fine rookie season, and he’s a candidate to be the fifth starter next year. If he can get his strikeout rate up to its Triple-A levels, he could be a surprise.
- Shortstop Ian Desmond stayed healthy but wasn’t able to duplicate his breakout 2012. His power declined, yet the Nats are considering signing him to a long-term extension.
- In his first season with the Nats, outfielder Denard Span stayed healthy, but regressed somewhat. And now that prospect Brian Goodwin is just about ready for a job, Span’s stay in the nation’s capital may be very short-lived.
- Starter Jordan Zimmermann improved his control while busting through with career bests in wins and WHIP despite a higher ERA. He’s another player Washington is considering tying up long term.
- SP Gio Gonzalez continues to log heavy innings year in and year out, but his WHIP regressed and he was unable to duplicate his brilliant 2012.
Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments below how you expect Williams to fare with the Washington Nationals.