We’ve heard this argument before. Think back to the day the Nationals lost out on Prince Fielder, or the entire build up to the time he signed. All that was talked about was how much of a huge upgrade he would be over LaRoche, and how he would add that big left handed power bat to the middle of the Nats line-up. All of this is very true and the Nats would have an even bigger lead on the Braves with his 3.9 fWAR compared to LaRoche’s 2.2, but the Nats still have a 6.5 game lead for the division on Labor Day. Fielder wasn’t the difference between the Nats being a playoff team and not.
Despite what many thought the Nationals are on the verge of a playoff appearance without Prince Fielder, and who knows how far they can go without Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg is good. He is tied with Johnny Cueto for the second highest fWAR in the NL at 4.6, but right behind them is Gio Gonzalez at 4.5. It isn’t like the Nationals are losing their one and only Ace. Don’t forget that Jordan Zimmermann, Edwin Jackson, and Ross Detwiler have also pitched well for the Nationals. As Thomas Boswell pointed out this morning in the Washington Post the Nationals have the third highest winning percentage without Strasburg.
Back to Prince Fielder for a moment. There is no way to know how the Nationals offense would have looked with Fielder instead of LaRoche. It is possible to know how the Nationals offense has looked with a healthy LaRoche, Morse, and Werth. Since Werth returned on August 2 the Nationals have averaged 4.9 runs a game. That is quite an offense. In fact if they had done this all season long then they would be the best offense in baseball, but the Nationals weren’t healthy.
The Nationals played the months of April and May without Michael Morse. In those two months without Morse they averaged 3.84 runs per game. In the 81 games since getting Morse back on June 2 the Nationals offense has averaged 4.79 runs per games. The Nats offense with Fielder very well could be scoring over five runs a game, but the Nats offense isn’t the flat and toothless creature it was imagined to be without Fielder.
The Nats pitching staff will be the same way when Strasburg is shutdown on September 12. There is a bias in sports for people to focus on who isn’t there more than who is. The Nats pitching staff won’t have Strasburg after September 12, but they will still have Gio, Zimmermann, Detwiler, and Jackson, and that is a front for capable of matching up with any in baseball. Strasburg isn’t what makes the Nats good. He is only a part of it, and like the Nats offense has performed without Fielder, so will the pitching staff without Strasburg.