Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
Washington, which was ranked first in ERA and third in strikeouts in the National League in 2012, boasts a talented starting five that can match any throughout the league.
With pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg fully recovered from Tommy John surgery, he's set to be unleashed with no anticipated restrictions heading into the season.
It has been noted that he could approach or exceed the 200-innings-pitched threshold in 2013. That alone is dangerous for the Atlanta Braves and the rest of the league for that matter.
As it's clear that the Nationals are at worst a top-three rotation in the NL, the addition of veteran Dan Haren will certainly solidify this team for a deep playoff run.
Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez provide perhaps one of the top 1-2 punches throughout the league. Both are without a doubt capable of eclipsing the 20-win mark as well.
That duo alone should cause fits for Atlanta throughout many divisional bouts over the span of the season. Collectively, the Nationals’ rotation ranked first in the NL in five significant statistical categories – ERA, FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), WAR (Wins Above Replacement), strikeout-to-walk ratio and WHIP – and in most it is not even close.
Simply put, excelling in the aforementioned categories almost guarantees the Nationals the chance to compete and win games regardless of the opponent.
In this case, the improved (on paper) Atlanta Braves offense will still be challenged consistently when facing the pitching of the Washington Nationals.
The backend of the Nats' bullpen was also solidified with the addition of closer Rafael Soriano, an area that caused an early exit from the postseason in 2012 for Washington.
Soriano is coming off a year where he tallied 42 saves and an ERA of 2.26 with the New York Yankees.
The trio of Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Soriano now rival the Braves' esteemed combination of Eric O'Flaherty, Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel. This should keep them in close games throughout the year.
With the Braves' lineup being stocked full of primarily right-handed hitting, the likes of starters Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Dan Haren will be sure to throw a wrench in Atlanta's respective offensive plans this season.