The Nationals' 2018 campaign ended much earlier than people expected, as Washington went from a preseason World Series contender to missing the playoffs with an 82-80 record.
Despite having a dissapointing season as a whole, there were plenty positives that Nationals fans can take away from it. 19-year-old rookie phenom Juan Soto had one of the best seasons of any teenager in MLB history, and every fifth day, the Nationals knew they would be watching something special when Max Scherzer was on the bump.
Both Scherzer and Soto have the chance to bring home some hardware next Monday, when the winners of the NL Cy Young and NL Rookie of the Year are announced.
Scherzer, the award winner the past two seasons, has the chance to claim his third straight and fourth overall Cy Young.
Although 'Mad Max' led the National League in wins and strikeouts in 2018, he's not the favorite to win the award. The other two finalists, New York Mets Jacob deGrom and Philadelphia Phillies Aaron Nola, posted better wins above replacement (WAR) and earned run average (ERA). Still, Scherzer's 2018 season (18-7, 2.53 ERA, 300 strikeouts, and 9.5 WAR) was nothing to short of amazing.
When the Nationals defeated the Cincinnati Reds on Opening Day, Juan Soto was in Hagerstown, playing for the Nationals Single-A affiliate. But in less than two months, Soto worked his way up to 'The Show,' where he quickly proved he belonged.
The 'Childish Bambino' finished the season with a .292 average, 22 home runs, and 70 RBIs in just 114 games. Soto led all rookies in RBIs, on-base-percentage, and OPS (on-base-plus-slugging-percentage), and won NL Player of the Month in June, July and September.
Like Scherzer, Soto is also not the favorite to win his respective award. Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna edged Soto in batting average, and led all NL rookies with 26 home runs. He was also a much better defensive player than Soto, while an important piece for a team that won the division. Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler is also a finalist for the award. In 24 starts, Buehler went 9-5 with a 2.62 ERA.
Although nor Scherzer or Soto are expected to come home with hardware on Monday, they both have seasons they can look back on and be proud of. Should a surprise occur and they do win, nobody can say it was not deserving.
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