The Nationals have had an excellent bounce back season after last year’s struggles, and have already locked up the NL East with a 91-65 record. But all is not well in Washington.
The team was already dealing with the potential absence of Stephen Strasburg, who had to leave his first start back from the disabled list with lingering soreness. Daniel Murphy, probably the team’s MVP this year, has not played in over a week due to a glute strain, and while it doesn’t seem like a major injury, you never like to see important players dealing with issues right before the playoff start.
And now, the Nationals will need Murphy more than ever, because Dusty Baker just confirmed that starting catcher Wilson Ramos has suffered a torn ACL, ending his season a week before the team takes on the Dodgers in the NLDS.
There it is. Wilson Ramos has a torn ACL, Dusty Baker says.
— CSN Nationals (@CSNNationals) September 27, 2016
Ramos’ career year has been one of the primary reasons the Nationals have been better this year than last year, as he’s posted a 124 wRC+ and +3.5 WAR, solidifying what was a black hole in 2015. He gave the lineup depth it didn’t have last year, and provided some right-handed thump to counter team’s left-handed pitching; he had a 160 wRC+ against LHPs this year, second-best on the team.
Jose Lobaton will take over as the Nationals starting catcher, and the offense is going to suffer as a result. Lobaton has a career 77 wRC+, and is putting up a normal-for-him 82 wRC+ this year. He takes some walks and makes okay contact, but there’s not much power there, and the Dodgers pitchers will probably have no problem coming right after him and making him do damage with his swing. Facing a pitching staff as good as Los Angeles’, especially one with two frontline left-handed starters, Lobaton is going to be a huge dropoff from Ramos.
This injury doesn’t sink the Nationals chances, of course; no one player is that important in baseball, and Ramos isn’t the kind of impact player that can swing a series by himself. But no question, this is a significant loss for Washington, especially given that the Dodgers are a formidable opponent. The team has had a great season, but they’re likely going to need some Murphy and/or Strasburg to make it back for the NLDS, because without Ramos too, they’re going into the playoffs undermanned.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.