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Washington Nationals 2017 Season Preview : Nats’ Rotation Outlook

The Washington Nationals’ starting rotation is expected to be one of the best in baseball once again.

MLB: Spring Training-Washington Nationals at Houston Astros Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

There have been no major changes to the Washington Nationals’ starting rotation that was one of the best in baseball last season.

2017 Nationals’ Rotation:

Stephen Strasburg - 2016 Stats - (15-4), 24 GS, 147 23 IP, 3.60 ERA, 2.92 FIP, 44 BB (2.68 BB/9), 183 Ks (11.15 K/9), .216/.278/.359 line against.

Tanner Roark - 2016 Stats - (16-10), 34 G, 33 GS, 210 IP, 2.83 ERA, 3.79 FIP, 73 BB (3.13 BB/9), 172 Ks (7.37 K/9), .227/.309/.330 line against as a starter.

Gio Gonzalez - 2016 Stats - (11-11), 32 GS, 177 13 IP, 4.57 ERA, 3.76 FIP, 59 BB (2.99 BB/9), 171 Ks (8.68 K/9), .257/.326/.404 line against.

Max Scherzer - 2016 Stats - (20-7), 34 GS, 228 13 IP, 2.96 ERA, 3.24 FIP, 56 BB (2.21 BB/9), 284 Ks (11.19 K/9), .196/.254/.365 line against.

Joe Ross - 2016 Stats - (7-5), 19 GS, 105 IP, 3.43 ERA, 3.49 FIP, 29 BB (2.49 BB/9), 93 Ks (7.97 K/9), .262/.325/.388 line against.

• Stephen Strasburg was nothing but dominant as he went 12-0 and posted a 2.62 ERA, which led to making his second All-Star appearance, though he didn’t pitch in the game.

Strasburg didn’t see the same success after the All-Star Break. He went 3-4 and sported a 6.15 ERA in eight games pitched.

August was a dreadful month for Strasburg as he had a 10.19 ERA and opponents were hitting .346 in four starts.

Strasburg didn’t pitch in the postseason due to an injury (partial tear of the pronator tendon) he suffered back in September.

He was able to recover for Spring Training, where he went 1-2 and registered a 6.61 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 16.1 innings.

Expect Strasburg to rely less on the slider. He added the slider to his arsenal last season and it became Strasburg’s second most used pitch. Strasburg felt the slider may have caused the elbow injury, however, so he said he would not rely on it as heavily.

• Tanner Roark returned to the Nationals starting rotation last year after working out of the bullpen in 2015. Roark was impressive all season, going 16-10 and posting a 2.83 ERA, which was the lowest amongst Nationals’ starters and sixth best in the National League. His win total was in the top 10 in the National League as well.

Opponents had a hard time facing Roark as they registered a .227 AVG when facing the right-handed pitcher (in his starts).

Roark started in three games during Spring Training and went 1-0, while supporting a 0.73 ERA. Roark will be taking the mound in the second game of the opening series.

• Max Scherzer will not be starting Opening Day since he is still recovering from a stress fracture in the lower knuckle of his right finger.

However, the team is expecting Scherzer to pitch in the first game of the Nationals’ three-game set with the Philadelphia Phillies this weekend.

Scherzer, who won his second CY Young award last season, led the National League in wins (20), innings pitched and strikeouts (284), while posting a 2.96 ERA.

Scherzer had a 2.45 ERA and 15 strikeouts in three games pitched this Spring (two in Grapefruit League action + Saturday’s exhibition).

Rounding out the starting rotation are Gio Gonzalez and Joe Ross.

• Gio Gonzalez: Since 2012, Gonzalez has been trending in the wrong direction as he has seen his ERA gone up every year.

2012: 2.89 ERA

2013: 3.36 ERA

2014: 3.57 ERA

2015: 3.79 ERA

2016: 4.57 ERA

In addition to his ERA climbing upwards, Gonzalez has the tendency to walk batters (2.99 BB/9 in 2016, which was, however, the lowest BB/9 of his career) and generate a high pitch count, which makes it hard for him stay in the game long.

Gonzalez has shown signs of improvement in the spring with a 2.74 ERA in seven games.

Unfortunately, he struggled in his last appearance where he gave up five runs on six hits in five innings of work.

Ross will be the Nationals’ fifth starter, however, the Nationals optioned him to Triple-A Syracuse since they won’t need a fifth starter until later this month.

The 23-year-old pitcher showed the potential he has in the first half of the season, posting a 3.30 ERA in his first 15 starts.

He was outstanding in April when he went 3-0 and sported a 0.79 ERA. Ross suffered from shoulder inflammation in July, which caused him to miss some time.

Ross managed to start in the postseason, but he was roughed up by the Los Angeles Dodgers.