News & Politics

What Different Sports Media Are Predicting for the Washington Nationals’ 2021 Record

A look at how experts see the season playing out for the home team.

What's going to keep the Nationals here after their lease is up? Photograph by Flickr user Adam Fagen.

As the Washington Nationals make their final preparations for Thursday’s Opening Day game, the local fanbase is wondering what sort of season it will be. Will Washington celebrate another World Series victory, as we did in 2019? Or will the team fall apart like they did last year? 

Though the club said goodbye to All-Star third baseman Anthony Rendon after the 2019 season and fan favorite Sean Doolittle after last year’s, there are a number of reasons to remain optimistic about the team. Their pitching staff is anchored by three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer and 2019 World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg. And their offense will be led by slugger Juan Soto and speedster Trea Turner. But how will the team stack up against the tough competition in the National League East? Here’s a look at what various experts are predicting.

Sports Illustrated

In its annual Major League Baseball preview, Sports Illustrated predicts that the Nats will finish third in the divison:

“National League East

1.Atlanta Braves (92-70)

2. New York Mets (89-73)

3. Washington Nationals (88-74)

4. Philadelphia Phillies (82-80)

5. Miami Marlins (71-91)”

But all is not lost. Elsewhere in its MLB preview, Sports Illustrated Staff Writer Emma Baccellieri picked the Nats as a potential “surprise” team for the 2021 season.  “Maybe it seems a little silly to call a potentially good season a ‘surprise’ from a team that’s not so far removed from a World Series—but after its disastrous run in 2020, plus the increased level of competition in the NL East, it seems like it’s been mostly written off, which is fair,” Baccellieri writes. “But this is still a talented roster! Juan Soto and Trea Turner along with a rotation that remains strong? There are still holes here, but if we’re putting the bar for ‘surprise’ around ‘could potentially end up in contention for a wild-card berth,’ I think it’s on the table.”

USA Today 

Likewise, USA Today expects the Nats to finish in the middle of the pack:

1.Atlanta Braves (93-69)

2. New York Mets (86-76)

3. Washington Nationals (85-77)

4. Philadelphia Phillies (83-79)

5. Miami Marlins (75-87)

While the Braves are the division’s clear favorite, USA Today says there’s less certainty about the race for second, third, and fourth place. “You might have better luck hitting the trifecta at your local dog track than properly aligning the Mets, Nationals and Phillies,” according to USA Today.

ESPN 

As part of its 2021 season preview, ESPN released a power ranking of all 30 teams in Major League Baseball. It also projected that the Nats would finish the season in third place in the NL East.

1.Atlanta Braves, 96-66 (85.9% odds of making the playoffs)

2.New York Mets, 91-71 (68.6% odds of making the playoffs)

3.Washington Nationals, 84-78 (28.4% odds of making the playoffs)

4.Philadelphia Phillies, 76-86 (7.1% odds of making the playoffs)

5.Miami Marlins, 67-95 (0.7% odds of making the playoffs)

According to ESPN’s experts, the best case scenario for the Nats this year is that “Juan Soto does what he did last year, only this time for 162 games,” and the team “remind[s] everyone that even in 2021, it’s quite a luxury to roll out three legit aces every five days.”

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Senior Writer

Luke Mullins is a senior writer at Washingtonian magazine focusing on the people and institutions that control the city’s levers of power. He has written about the Koch Brothers’ attempt to take over The Cato Institute, David Gregory’s ouster as moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press, the collapse of Washington’s Metro system, and the conflict that split apart the founders of Politico.