The Washington Nationals 2006 season went worse than the 2005 season. They lost more games and gave up 199 runs more during the 2006 season. They still draw more fans in Washington D.C. than they did as the Montreal Expos. 2004 was their first season as the Nationals.
The offense had first baseman Nick Johnson, who had a good season. Johnson played in 147 games hitting .290, 46 doubles, 23 home runs, and 77 runs batted in. It was his best season as a National. Alfonso Soriano in his first year as a National had a 40-40-40 season. Soriano hit .277, 41 doubles, 46 home runs, 95 runs batted in, and 41 stolen bases. Ryan Zimmerman had an outstanding season in his first full major league year. Zimmerman batted .287, 47 doubles, 20 home runs, 110 runs batted in, and stole 11 bases. Second baseman Jose Vidro hit .289, 7 home runs, 47 runs batted in. Vidro battled injuries during the season. Only one other player reached double digits in home runs, that player was Ryan Church. Church played in just 71 games hitting .276, 10 home runs, 35 runs batted in, and stole 6 bases.
The pitching staff was not good. The Nationals had the worst era in the National League. The starting rotation saw only two guys make at least 30 starts. Ramon Ortiz started 33 games with an era of 5.57 in 190.2 innings. Tony Armas was the other man with 30 games started. Armas threw 154 innings and had an era of 5.03. Livan Hernandez started the season with Washington but was traded to the Diamondbacks during the season. His era with the Nationals was 5.34. Mike O’Connor made 20 starts and ad the lowest era for the starts with at least 10 starts. O’Connor posted an era of 4.80 in 105 innings.
The bullpen did see some good things. Closer Chad Cordero had 29 save in 68 games. His era was 3.19. Jon Ruach appeared in 85 games and had an era of 3.35. Saul Rivera appeared in 54 games with an era of 3.43. Gary Majewski was having a good year and was traded to the Reds during the season.
During the off season the Nationals replaced manager Frank Robinson with Manny Acta. Acta is the third youngest manager in professional sports in the United States. Washington released pitchers Brian Lawrence, Pedro Astacio, Felix Rodriguez, Zach Day, Ryan Drese, and Joey Eischen. None of them had good seasons with Washington. The Nationals traded second baseman Jose Vidro to the Seattle Mariners for hard throwing reliever Emiliano Fruto and outfielder Chris “Doyle” Snelling. Second baseman Ronnie Belliard signed a minor league deal and they gave a three-year contract to Austin Kearns.
While they did not add much to the pitching staff they may be better by addition by subtraction. Guys in the minors should be able to improve on all those pitchers that were let go because they pitched terrible. Belliard and a full season of Kearns should improve the team. Snelling will also improve the team if he stays healthy as he is full of potential. The ball jumps off his bat. The Nationals should show an improvement in 2007. However, it is going to be tough for them to make the playoffs since they are in such a tough division.