The Washington Nationals finally ended their stretch of playoff failures last season. They got scorching hot at the right time and ran right through fierce competition to win the World Series as a wildcard team.
It wasn't just playing well when they needed to that earned them a title however, this team was built for the postseason, and they still are. Currently sporting +1500 odds to win the 2020 World Series on FanDuel Sportsbook, the Nats are one of the favorites again, and these stats explain why.
1. Elite Starting Pitching
Ace starting pitchers (SP) generally matter more in the postseason than the regular season, being that players can pitch every three games or so due to scheduled rest days. The Nats had one of the best rotations in baseball in the 2019 regular season, and that was even more impactful come playoff time. Washington ranked first in SP wins above replacement (WAR) at an incredible 21.4, according to FanGraphs. They also were second in SP ERA and home runs per nine innings, third in left on-base percentage and fourth in strikeouts per nine innings. With World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg re-signed over the off-season and Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez all still under contract, this Nats rotation could be as dominant as ever in 2020.
2. On-Base Percentage
Small ball has overshadowed in the modern day MLB, but some teams still execute the old school strategy better than others. In the playoffs, the small-ball approach becomes even more important, because teams are facing their opponents best and brightest when it comes to pitching. On-base percentage (OBP) is the key to this style of play, being that the whole idea behind it is to get batters on in any way possible, and then find a way to move these base-runners around the diamond and across home plate without having to rely on too many big hits. The Nationals were second in OBP for 2019, behind only the Houston Astros (the team they beat in the World Series).
3. Speed Kills
Tying in with that small-ball angle, the Nationals also used their speed to their advantage more often than not in 2019, finishing tied for the National League lead in stolen bases with 116. Only the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals had more team steals than the Nats' total. Trea Turner is still one of the fastest players in baseball, having won the stolen base crown in 2018 with 45 and having notched 35 swipes in a relative down year in 2019. Outfielder Victor Robles also added 28 steals as a rookie last year, and they got contributions on that front from savvy veteran Adam Eaton (15) and even slugger Juan Soto (12). It doesn't matter what player it is, expect the Nats to be aggressive on the base-paths in 2020.
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Michael Obermuller is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Michael also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username king_mizzard. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in their articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.