Saturday, November 05, 2005

« '05 Recap: Nationals »

By Suss
Washington Nationals
Manager: Frank Robinson (4th year)
2005: 81-81; 5th place, NL East
—1st half: 52-36
—2nd half: 29-45
2004: 67-95; 5th place

Leaders (hitting)
Batting Avg: Nick Johnson (.289)
Home Runs: Jose Guillen (24)
RBI: Guillen (76)
On-base pct: Johnson (.408)
Stolen bases: Brad Wilkerson (8)

Leaders (pitching)
ERA: John Patterson (3.13)
Wins: Livan Hernandez (15)
Strikeouts: Patterson (185)
Holds: Gary Majewski (24)
Saves: Chad Cordero (47)

Free agents:
RHP Tony Armas, Jr.
3B Carlos Baerga
C Gary Bennett
RHP Hector Carrasco
2B Deivi Cruz
LHP Joey Eischen
RHP Esteban Loaiza
OF Preston Wilson

► At the All-Star break, the Nationals were in first place but had given up more runs than they scored (357 vs. 361).

► Their first-half success was attributed to a 24-10 record in one-run games.

►Everyone knew Livan Hernandez was a big-league workhorse, but he threw a major-league high 4,010 pitches in 2005, 200 more than anyone else.
The Nationals were the feel good story of the first half. They had a 2 1/2 game lead. They had a new home, where they had a 30-13 record in front of a new audience. Ryan Church was going to be the ROY, Livan Hernandez was to be the Cy Young winner, Chad Cordero to break the single-season save mark, Frank Robinson to be MOY, Jose Guillen the MVP.

Dr. Jekyll would have been proud.

But the second half was covered by a thick layer of Hyde.

Meltdowns, poor execution and a fierce division gravitated the Nats back down to Earth, and when the dust settled they improved all of 14 games from last year.

And still, at 81-81, they finished last in that highly-touted National League East.

The final numbers aren't very kind to a .500 team, however.

Last in the NL in batting average (.252). Last in runs scored (3.94/game). Last in homers (117). From those figures, it's amazing they won 81 games.

But the first-half success was chiefly attributed to their phenom closer Chad Cordero (1.82 ERA, 47 saves). In those 52 first-half wins, he closed out 31 of them. Two teams didn't even have 31 wins at the break.

And from that point on, their Major League third-best record fell from grace all the way to mediocrity.

However, the Nats' late season collapse will sadly overshadow their transformation in the nation's capital from a red-headed stepchild to a viable franchise worth rooting for. Baseball renaissance hit Washington and attendance numbers skyrocketed in comparison to the ticket sales in Montreal.

In short, there wasn't much hitting, but more people saw those hits.