What Red Sox can learn from 2019 Washington Nationals
After setting the baseball world on fire in 2018, the Boston Red Sox flopped in 2019. How can the 2020 Red Sox replicate the success of the 2019 Nationals?
The Boston Red Sox have a talented pool of players, ranging from veteran stars such as David Price, to baby-faced, young superstar Rafael Devers, to MVP candidate Mookie Betts.
However, the club disappointed in 2019 with an 84-win season – not what you expect after winning the whole thing the year prior. However, if you look at the current teams in the World Series, specifically the Washington Nationals, then there is hope for the 2020 Boston Red Sox.
The Nationals had made the postseason 4 times in 6 years from 2012 to 2017, and were heavy favorites to repeat as division champions going into 2018. As we all know, the Atlanta Braves young core came around, leading them to their first postseason berth since 2013.
The Nationals lost Bryce Harper going into 2019 after not making the postseason the year before. They signed Patrick Corbin and made various other sneaky signings such as Kurt Suzuki and Anibal Sanchez. Now the Nationals are in the World Series up against the AL super-power Houston Astros.
Now how does the Nationals 2019 success relate to the Red Sox? It is looking more and more likely that JD Martinez will NOT return to the Red Sox for the upcoming 2020 season, much like Harper didn’t return to Washington.
While the Nationals did not have to cut payroll like the Red Sox, they lost an instrumental piece in their lineup. The Nationals success this year has come from the power in their starting rotation. They have three elite starters in Corbin, Max Scherzer, and Stephen Strasburg, all with ERA’s under 3.33. They also had a quality 4th starter in Sanchez, to go along with a very shaky bullpen and solid lineup.
The Red Sox, much like the Nationals, rely on a power rotation – Chris Sale, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Nathan Eovaldi to overshadow their weakened bullpen. The Red Sox scored the fourth most runs in 2019 which shows even in a down season, the potent everyday lineup of the Red Sox.
So, if the Red Sox can replicate the National’s success from 2019, what will have to change from last year to this upcoming year?
First of all, the Red Sox need to stay healthy, specifically the starting rotation. Sale missed the last 6 weeks of the season and up to this point, has narrowly missed needing Tommy John surgery. Sale also needs to perform, putting up by far his worst season (4.40 ERA).
Eovaldi dominated the Yankees in his fourth start of the season. Then news that he would get loose bodies removed from his shoulder surfaced. Originally projected to miss 4-6 weeks, Eovaldi didn’t get back to the Sox for nearly four months. Eovaldi wasn’t effective either, pitching to a 5.99 ERA.
Price also missed a significant amount of time in 2019. He was placed on the injured list in May and didn’t make a start from August 4 to the end of the season. Price was the best of the three in 2019, but definitely did not live up to what you would expect from a guy making north of 30 million a year.
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Lastly, Rodriguez, now the ace of the staff, pitched fabulously in 2019 and was getting Cy Young consideration late into the season. Eduardo carried the Sox in 2019 and many believe he has the potential to take another step forward.
The Nationals, barring Scherzer, were a very healthy bunch in 2019, combining to throw nearly 750 innings among the four of them. Clearly, teams that rely on the starting rotation as much as these two do need to have healthy pitchers, taking the mound every five days. The Red Sox can definitely climb into contention and go back to the postseason with a healthy and effective group of starters.
Next, the Red Sox will have to fill the void of Betts or Martinez, one of which almost certain to be on another ball-club come the 2020 season.
The writing is on the wall. Martinez will likely opt out and if he stays put in Boston, the Red Sox will likely have to deal Betts. Either way, there will be a hole in the lineup that has to be filled up.
The solution is hiding in Boston’s farm system – Bobby Dalbec. He has mashed in the minor leagues and seems big-league ready. Dalbec has been blocked by Rafael Devers, but with potentially DH or first base open, he can slide into Boston’s everyday lineup. Dalbec is cheap, as he is a rookie, he will be making less than a million dollars in 2020 and will allow the Red Sox to save 20-30 million on the payroll.
The Nationals traded for Daniel Hudson at the 2019 Trade Deadline and he became their closer, taking the role from Sean Doolittle. Throughout the postseason, Doolittle and Hudson have proven to be the only reliable relievers in Washington’s bullpen.
The Red Sox chose to let Craig Kimbrel walk and opted not to sign a closer. It worked out just as well as not signing a slugger after Big Papi retired – badly.
Since this article has highlighted all of the success of the Nationals, why not sign their best reliever, Doolittle, to an affordable two or three-year deal worth $25-30 million overall?
Signing and naming a traditional closer is optimal because stress innings will be taken away from Barnes, Workman, and Ryan Brasier, who all looked gassed by season’s end.
Lastly, the Red Sox offense has to continue to mash no matter who departs via free agency or trade. Almost definitely not coming back are Brock Holt, Mitch Moreland, or Steve Pearce. Others could be gone such as Martinez and Sandy Leon.
Despite this, the Red Sox have to continue to score and go back to the 2018 postseason style of hitting. The Red Sox rode to the World Series by clutch two-out hitting. Want to know how the Nationals have gotten to face the Astros in the World Series? Clutch two-out hitting.
The two teams have similar lineups – the Red Sox with Betts, Bogaerts, and Devers, while the Nationals have Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon, and Juan Soto. If the Red Sox can put up runs for the weaker bullpen and shaky rotation, it is possible to see a road to the postseason.
Overall, the Nationals made noticeable improvements from 2018 to 2019 leading to a postseason berth. After missing the postseason in a disappointing 2019 season, the Red Sox can take a look at how the Nationals improved from one season to the next. Perhaps, if done right, the Red Sox will be in the World Series in 2020, reminiscent of the 2019 Nationals.