The Nationals have been here before.
When the 2021 season begins Thursday, Washington will not be counted among the World Series favorites. They won’t be mentioned as favorites to win their own division. By most accounts, they aren’t even considered likely to make the playoffs.
Take a look at some of their predicted finishes from national baseball experts and statistical models.
FanGraphs: 3rd in NL East, miss playoffs
Baseball America: 3rd in NL East, miss playoffs
MLB.com: 3rd in NL East (at best), miss playoffs
Sports Illustrated: 3rd in NL East, miss playoffs
USA TODAY: 3rd in NL East, miss playoffs
FiveThirtyEight: 3rd in NL East, miss playoffs
PECOTA: 2nd in NL East, miss playoffs
Nationals President of Baseball Operations and GM Mike Rizzo was asked Wednesday on 106.7 The Fan’s Sports Junkies about what he thought of the lack of belief in the 2019 World Series champions.
“I say, ‘Shhhhhh,’” Rizzo said. “Let’s just keep it quiet, keep it under the radar. We play 162 for a reason. The best team usually comes out of this thing and we feel good about our chances as anybody in baseball…you call it disrespect, I call it prognostications and that sort of thing, they’re never right.
“Everyone’s picking the champions of the divisions and MVPs and Cy Youngs before the season starts, it’s just too difficult to do. But we’re built to win this year and we want to win and our resume speaks for itself. We’ve done a lot of good things and you’re wearing a ring because of it and that’s what we’re all about is trying to get another one of those.”
This isn’t unfamiliar territory for Washington. When the 2019 season began, their World Series odds didn’t crack the top 10. After stumbling out to a 19-31 start, prediction models gave the Nationals less than a 0.1% chance of going all the way. Even when they made the playoffs, ESPN ranked the club as the eighth-best team in the field.
But the Nationals won the World Series anyway. Now, PointsBet sportsbook gives them 30/1 odds to do it, tying them with the Cincinnati Reds for the 13th-highest odds in the sport.
As a team that has Juan Soto and Trea Turner anchoring its lineup, a trio of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin sitting atop its rotation, and Brad Hand closing out games in the bullpen, the Nationals are optimistic about their chances of exceeding expectations.