Washington Nationals: 2 Keys to Having a Successful 2012 Season

Marcus AdamsContributor IMarch 13, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 25: Drew Storen #22 of the Washington Nationals works the ninth inning against the Atlanta Braves at Nationals Park on September 25, 2011 in Washington, DC. The Washington Nationals won, 3-1. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

This year the Washington Nationals are finally sporting a lineup and starting rotation that promises to compete with the perennial powerhouses of the NL East: Philadelphia and Atlanta. With the power bats of a healthy Ryan Zimmerman, Michael Morse and Danny Espinosa, along with what one can only assume will be a rejuvenated Jayson Werth, the Nationals should have no problem getting runs across the plate.

Meanwhile, with a healthy Steven Strasburg at the helm of a dominant (at least on paper) rotation of Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmerman, Edwin Jackson and John Lannan, the Nationals should have no problem being in games late, when two of the most important parts of the team come into action. 

In comes setup man Tyler Clippard. Clippard is one of the best at his role in the entire league. In the 2011 season Clippard posted an exceptional 1.83 ERA in 88.1 innings pitched while leading the National League in holds with 38. Clippard also posted an impressive strikeout-to-walk ratio with 104 K’s to just 26 walks. With Clippard coming into the game in the eighth inning, the Nationals are almost certain to hold their lead going into the ninth. 

Pitchers have to be a different breed to be successful coming in as the closer in the ninth inning. Most of the time they have no room for error, meaning every pitch could be make or break.

In just two seasons in the MLB, Drew Storen has positioned himself as one of the top closers in the game. His 43 saves through 75.1 innings pitched in the 2011 season were tied for fourth in the National League. Storen also posted a notable strikeout-to-walk ratio with 74 strikeouts to just 20 walks. While the Nationals will have to hope that he can lower his ERA from 2.75 in the 2011 season to something closer to 2.00, Storen will play a huge role in any success that the team has this season.