The Washington Nationals will open their highly anticipated 2013 campaign today at Nationals Park against the Miami Marlins, a team which is on the opposite end of the prognosticated success spectrum from the Nats.
When Sports Illustrated elected the Nationals as its World Series victor, and nearly every other set of predictions has the Nats going nearly as far, it became expected that they will beat teams like Miami, which finished last in the National League East last year. However, the Nationals have a history of struggling against the Marlins.
Since 2005, the Nats are 56-84 against the Fish (.392 winning percentage). They split 18 games evenly last season, and won six of nine at Nationals Park.
This year’s Marlins are rebuilding after trading in nearly their entire roster in exchange for prospects, while the Nationals are already built, and ready to win. So despite their past, there is no reason to think that the Nationals won’t be able to finish this season with their first winning record against the Marlins since 2007.
The Marlins that the Nationals will play today are a nearly unrecognizable version of the team the Nats faced last year. After an off-season fire sale, just one of the Marlins’ Opening Day starters from last year is slated to start this season, and only two of last season’s starters remain with the organization at all (Logan Morrison and Giancarlo Stanton). Talk about a makeover.
In addition to having an entirely different composition on the field, the Fish also have a new face in the dugout, with the addition of manager Mike Redmond. Redmond will take over for former-manager Ozzie Guillen, who was fired at the end of last season after serving for only one year in that role. This will be Redmond’s rookie season as a big-league manager, as prior to 2013 the highest post he held was manager for the Blue Jay’s Class A affiliate.
Giancarlo: Marlins’ MVP
Almost everything about the Marlins has changed since last year. The one constant, however, is right fielder Stanton, who hit .405/.463/.919 with five home runs off Nationals pitchers last season. The 2012 All-Star had the highest slugging percentage (.608) and the second-most home runs (37) in the National League last year, and went 4-for-5 with two doubles and a home run off Stephen Strasburg.
Any pitcher would be nervous to face him, but considering the caliber of the rest of the Marlins’ lineup, pitchers have no incentive to throw the slugger anything good to hit. One National forecasted that Stanton would draw 160 intentional walks this year, as reported in The Washington Post.
The Opening Battery
It was no surprise to the baseball community when Davey Johnson announced Strasburg as his Opening Day starting pitcher. A bit more surprising, though, was whom he chose to put behind the plate to catch for him. Originally, Johnson had said he would start the season with Kurt Suzuki so Wilson Ramos could be eased back into the program after he sustained a season-ending knee injury last May. However, Johnson saw how much effort Ramos was putting into his extensive rehab, and decided to reward him with “a carrot for hard work” by giving him the Opening Day job.
Johnson wants to alternate catchers every other day, so Suzuki is scheduled to catch for former-Oakland battery-mate Gio Gonzalez on Wednesday.
Giancarlo Stanton (RF) .359 AVG, .435 OBP, .718 SLG, 39 ABs (Spring Training)
Adieny Hechavarria (SS) .183 AVG, .254 OBP, .283 SLG, 60 ABs (Spring Training)
In The Zone
Bryce Harper (LF) .478 AVG, .500 OBP, .716 SLG, 3 HR, 6 SB (Spring Training)
4/1, Stephen Strasburg vs. Ricky Nolasco
4/3, Gio Gonzalez vs. Kevin Slowey
4/4, Jordan Zimmermann vs. Wade LeBlanc