Washington Nationals: 2017 Season Review and Offseason Preview

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 12: Max Scherzer /
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What Went Wrong

The Nationals had one of the ten best offenses in baseball but still had a major trouble spot in the lineup at catcher. Nationals catchers combined to hit .211/.276/.320 and finished with negative 1.1 WAR, worst in baseball. The bulk of the playing time went to Matt Wieters, with Jose Lobaton also playing in 51 games.

Wieters got off to a good start, hitting .301/.400/.534 in April, but struggled a bit in May and early June. Despite the struggles, he was still hitting a respectable .278/.343/.426 through June 5. From June 6 on, he hit .188/.251/.288.

Center fielder Adam Eaton was off to a good start, with a .297/.393/.462 batting line in his first 23 games. Then he tore his ACL while trying to beat out an infield hit against the Mets. The injury ended his season and, unfortunately, would not be the only injury a Nationals player suffered at first base. Months later, Bryce Harper would injure his leg when he slipped on a wet first base bag.

Right fielder Jayson Werth’s seven-year, $128 million contract ended with a whimper and not a bang this year. He only played 70 games and hit .226/.322/.393, finishing the year below replacement-level. His full-season numbers may be misleading, though, because he hit .262/.367/.446 through his first 196 plate appearances before a fractured left food sidelined him for nearly three months. He really struggled upon his return.

Some have argued that Werth’s intangibles made him worth the contract, but based on best estimates of dollar value and cost per win, he was worth about $98 million over the last seven years. That’s a $30 million deficit for the Nationals. Despite the difficult season, Werth could be brought back for another year if the price is right.

A pair of back-of-the-rotation starters, Edwin Jackson and Joe Ross, really struggled. Jackson had a 5.07 ERA and 5.88 FIP in 71 innings. Ross had a 5.01 ERA and 4.99 FIP in 73.7 innings. Adding injury to insult, Ross had Tommy John surgery in July and will miss part of next season.

In the bullpen, Joe Blanton went from being an effective middle reliever with an ERA under 3.00 in the previous two seasons to a home run allowing machine with a 5.68 ERA. It was even worse for Shawn Kelley, who allowed 12 home runs in 26 innings and finished with a 7.27 ERA and 8.62 FIP in 33 games.