FanPost

Nats: Fastest team in the west, er, east

With Roger Bernadina being called up, the team now includes speedsters like Nyjer Morgan, Ian Desmond, Justin Maxwell and Bernadina. This could very well be the fastest team in the league, even with slow runners like Adam Dunn in the line-up. We don't need power hitters to steal bases though. Those other guys will do plenty of damage with infield hits, singles getting stretched into doubles, doubles getting stretched into triples, pitchers getting distracted by Morgan and Desmond at 1B that leads to walks and more base hits for Guzman and Zimmerman (when he's back).

This is also part of the reason why I don't think the Nats' improved play in the first month of 2010 is a fluke. Unless all of these guys get hurt, the Nats will remain a fast team. They are playing all-around good team defense, with Desmond starting to challenge Zimm for most appearances on the Web Gems list on Baseball Tonight. Riggleman's emphasis on fundamentals and fielding practice is part of the reason. So is Pudge Rodriguez's commitment to working hard and concentrating on all the details of the game. His winning attitude seems to be rubbing off on the other players the way it did when he went to Detroit a few years ago.

The Nats already showed some promise on offense last year and it's carrying over into this season. They have great speed at the top of the line-up. They have the pop in the middle of the order with Dunn, Zimm and the Hammer. They don't rely on one person to carry the team. So far it has been Pudge, Willingham and Guzman shouldering much of the load. Now Morgan is heating up and Desmond is getting into the mix too.

Then there's the pitching. Remember that Livan was supposed to be the number five pitcher in the rotation. Well, he's still has an ERA under 1.00. Luis Atilano has been impressive in his first two starts. Lannan has been inconsistent but he always seems to have slow starts to seasons. Olsen and Stammen might be good enough as no. 4 and no. 5 starters for now. Strasburg will definitely be up in the majors very soon, in just a matter of weeks. If Olsen or Stammen continues to struggle, Strasburg will be a huge upgrade in that slot. He may not be as dominant as he is right now in the minors but it's looking more and more that he is the real deal. Chien-Ming Wang and Ross Detwiler are also scheduled to return from injury by mid-season. And Jordan Zimmermann could be here late in the year. He could take over some starts if the team decides to limit Strasburg's innings.

Some of the relievers have struggled but we have a very solid group at the back end, with Tyler Clippard and Matt Capps. Clippard looks like Mariano Rivera did in the 1990s when he was the shut-down set-up man for closer John Wetteland (yes, another former Expo who went onto great things elsewhere).

Defense and speed are not elements of baseball that are normally subject to streakiness like batting average can be. That will remain a strength of the team all year. With all of the options coming up, the pitching should be good, and even improve as the year goes on. There are also enough quality hitters that the team won't need to rely on one hot hand. Even if the offense starts struggling, the fast guys can still cause a lot of chaos for the other team by getting on base with walks and slap hits.

The team is now 12-6 in games not started by Marquis or Mock. I hope I don't regret saying this but it looks like The Plan might be arriving in D.C. a couple years early.

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