The Nationals’ team earned-run average was a stingy 2.97 going into Thursday’s series finale against the Mets – best in the majors. That’s a good place to be. I just researched the last 10 NL clubs to post sub-3.00 ERAs. (The most recent was 23 years ago.) Here’s what I found:
● Their combined winning percentage was .5707, which figures out to 92 wins in a 162-game season.
● All but one of them would have made the playoffs under the current format.
● One of them won the World Series, another reached the Series and three others reached the NLCS.
● Hall of Famer Don Sutton was in five of the 10 starting rotations.
● The Nats’ Davey Johnson managed one of the teams (the 1988 Mets).
The Nationals, by the way, were 32-22 heading into Thursday’s game. That projects to 96-66. Keeping their ERA this low the rest of the way won’t be easy, though. As I said, it hasn’t been done in more than two decades.
The last 10 NL pitching staffs to post ERAs under 3.00:
● 1989 Dodgers (77-83, 4th in NL West) – Starters: Orel Hershiser, Tim Belcher, Fernando Valenzuela, Mike Morgan, Tim Leary. Top relievers: Jay Howell, Alejandro Pena. ERA: 2.95.
● 1988 Dodgers (94-67, 1st in NL West, won World Series) – Starters: Hershiser, Leary, Belcher, Valenzuela, Don Sutton. Top relievers: Howell, Pena. ERA: 2.96.
● 1988 Mets (100-60, 1st in NL East, lost NLCS to Dodgers) – Starters: Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling, David Cone, Bob Ojeda, Sid Fernandez. Top relievers: Randy Myers, Roger McDowell. ERA: 2.91.
● 1985 Dodgers (95-67, 1st in NL West, lost NLCS to Cardinals) – Starters: Valenzuela, Hershiser, Jerry Reuss, Bob Welch, Rick Honeycutt. Top relievers: Tom Niedenfuer, Ken Howell. ERA: 2.96.
● 1981 Astros (61-49, 1st in NL West in second half of strike season, lost NLDS to Dodgers) – Starters: Joe Niekro, Sutton, Bob Knepper, Nolan Ryan, Vern Ruhle. Top relievers: Joe Sambito, Dave Smith. ERA: 2.66.
● 1976 Mets (86-76, 3rd in NL East) – Starters: Tom Seaver, Jon Matlack, Jerry Koosman, Mickey Lolich, Craig Swan. Top relievers: Skip Lockwood, Bob Apodaca. ERA: 2.94.
● 1975 Dodgers (88-74, 2nd in NL West) – Starters: Andy Messersmith, Doug Rau, Sutton, Burt Hooton, Rick Rhoden. Top relievers: Mike Marshall, Charlie Hough. ERA: 2.92.
● 1974 Dodgers (102-60, 1st in NL West, lost World Series to A’s) – Starters: Messersmith, Sutton, Rau, Tommy John, Al Downing. Top relievers: Marshall, Hough. ERA: 2.97.
● 1972 Pirates (96-59, 1st in NL East, lost NLCS to Reds) – Starters: Steve Blass, Bob Moose, Nellie Briles, Dock Ellis, Bruce Kison. Top relievers: Dave Giusti, Ramon Hernandez. ERA: 2.81.
● 1972 Dodgers (85-70, 2nd in NL West) – Starters: Sutton, Claude Osteen, Downing, John, Bill Singer. Top relievers: Jim Brewer, Pete Richert. ERA: 2.78.
Sources: baseball-reference.com, mlb.com