Fans of the Washington Nationals have gone through countdowns ever since the close of business on Thursday, October 13, 2016, and finally, we are done counting down to Opening Day as we are just hours away from the first game of the 2017 season. Bryce Harper does not want to discuss the happenings on October 13th of 2016, and told the media, “I am just looking towards next year”. Next year is now.
The Nationals begin a journey today for the survival of the fittest; that is the grind, the marathon, and the strong survive. Trea Turner spoke about how his legs got weak last year based on the wear and tear of the longest season of his career. Bryce Harper decided to bulk up more over the winter as the long baseball season breaks down muscle fibre, and it is difficult sometimes to maintain your strength and endurance. The burn from the lactic acid build-up from an intense game is what some players know is the reality, and they must pace themselves like the great marathoners. Ryan Hall, who is the greatest US marathoner ever, is a baby faced version of Trea Turner. Hall played some baseball growing up but running was his sport. He retired at the age of 33 because of the toll that marathoning took on his body. Jayson Werth will be 38-years-old in just 47 days, and Werth did high-altitude training in Puerto Rico over the winter to prepare for the rigors of the baseball marathon.
So here we are. A sold-out Nationals Park crowd clad mostly in red apparel, and ready to cheer on their Washington Nationals. Stephen Strasburg takes the mound with a new approach to the game. He plans to pitch strictly from the stretch rather than the traditional wind-up, and he won’t throw as many sliders. His plan for 2017 is quite simple; stay healthy and be dominant. Strasburg will also be throwing to a new battery-mate, Matt Wieters.
Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo made many big moves this off-season. Matt Wieters is one of Rizzo’s big gambles as Wieters was far from a sure thing in 2016. He was not great away from Camden Yards, nor was he great in the second half of the 2016 season (.227 BA), and he finished with a bWAR of only +1.7 which does not make his $10.5 million salary look like a bargain.
Rizzo made his boldest move of the off-season by essentially replacing Danny Espinosa indirectly with Adam Eaton. In a blockbuster trade, Mike Rizzo acquired Adam Eaton as his centerfielder on December 7th which moved Trea Turner back to the middle infield and sent Danny Espinosa to the Los Angeles Angels just three days later. Rizzo could have retained Espinosa after acquiring Eaton and moved Turner to second base and Daniel Murphy to first base, but Rizzo did not choose to move in that direction, clearly, even though the cumulative WAR would have increased even greater—on paper.
The move Mike Rizzo would not make was perhaps the biggest personnel decision of them all. It was sticking with Ryan Zimmerman as his starting first baseman as Zimmerman was the lowest rated 1st baseman in all of baseball and finished with a -1.0 WAR. Rizzo was committed to Zimmerman and declared him in his off-season as his first baseman to start the season. Rizzo was also unable to acquire an elite closer to replace Mark Melancon, but that was not based on a lack of effort. The Nationals were the highest reported bidder for Kenley Jansen, but to no avail, Jansen re-signed with the Dodgers. Blake Treinen was named the closer for 2017 by Dusty Baker.
The Nationals had little turnover in transitioning their roster from 2016 to 2017. As mentioned, Matt Wieters and Adam Eaton were the only new starters and Adam Lind took Clint Robinson‘s spot on the bench. Joe Blanton and Enny Romero took the two open spots in the bullpen, and the Nationals starting rotation remains the same.
So here we are. right-handers Edinson Volquez and Stephen Strasburg get the Opening Day starts today.
Here are the Nationals offensive stats against Volquez:
Miami Marlins and Washington Nationals
Stadium: Nationals Park, Washington, DC
1st Pitch: 1:05 pm EDT
TV: MASN, WUSA9, Fox Sports Florida, MLB.TV
Line-ups (subject to change without notice):
- Trea Turner SS
- Adam Eaton CF
- Bryce Harper RF
- Daniel Murphy 2B
- Ryan Zimmerman 1B
- Jayson Werth LF
- Stephen Drew 3B
- Matt Wieters C
- Stephen Strasburg RHP
Five Washington Nationals starters will be batting left-handed against Edinson Volquez, and Adam Eaton is in the two-hole.