Five Questions for the 2016 Nationals

Can the key guys stay healthy?

The Cardinals and Mets all suffered major injuries, and either barely missed a beat, or at least had enough depth to avoid completely cratering.

The same cannot be said for Washington.

The big guns went down, and aside from Harper, Clint Robinson, and the now-departed (and defensively deficient) Yunel Escobar, nobody else stepped up.

Anthony Rendon made two disabled list trips and played in a mere 80 games. Jayson Werth had two DL stints and managed only 88 games. Stephen Strasburg had two DL stints and managed only 23 starts. Going on and off the DL is a cycle much longer than 15 days; once treatment itself is done, a player needs weeks of precious plate appearances to ramp back up to game speed. For a player, one round of the process is tough enough; but multiple rounds of disabled list appearances is devastating.

Obviously, the Nats had to try something different and indeed have done so, investing in a total overhaul of the medical approach, now focusing on medical analytics. I believe, personally, that injuries are more or less random and bad luck, but maybe this new analytic-driven approach, which seemed to help in European soccer leagues, will help the Nationals stay ahead of the injury bug better.

In introducing Daniel Murphy, Rizzo mentioned “veterans backing up veterans,” and while injuries cannot really be predicted, having better backups and better depth can be. This is an area where the Nationals have already improved, simply by adding Murphy and Stephen Drew.

Murphy’s ability to play multiple infield positions is tremendously helpful, and even if Drew doesn’t really hit, even if he’s not a Gold Glove defender, he has experience and the skills to play shortstop and second base. Adding Ben Revere means the Nationals have an explosive power-speed fourth outfielder on the bench in Michael Taylor. Robinson offers left-handed punch and Matt den Dekker brings a terrific glove.

By making the Murphy-Revere-Drew moves, the Nationals have upgraded their “worst-case scenario.”

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