Are the 2012 Washington Nationals better than the 1994 Montreal Expos?
The last gasp for baseball in Montreal may have been that legendary 1994 team, the one that led the National League East with a record of 74-40 after 114 games. It was up six games on the Atlanta Braves before the strike ended the season.
The Nationals have been nearly as dominant this year. So position-by-position, are they better than that legendary 1994 Expos squad at about the same point of the season?
With Adam LaRoche (.266, 23 home runs, 75 RBIs), Washington has the edge over Cliff Floyd (.281, four home runs, 41 RBIs) at first base. The Nationals barely win out at second base in a battle of two second-year players -- Danny Espinosa (.244, 11 home runs, 39 RBIs, 60 runs scored, 17 stolen bases) and Montreal's Mike Lansing (.266, five home runs, 35 RBIs, 44 runs scored, 12 stolen bases).
Shortstop goes to Washington. Wil Cordero was having a good season with 15 home runs, 63 RBIs and a .294 average in 110 games. But in just 89 games, Ian Desmond has blasted 17 home runs, driven in 53 runs and batted .286.
Sean Berry was a nice third baseman for Montreal with 11 home runs, 41 RBIs and a .278 average. But Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman is the gold standard. In an injury-shortened year, he still has pounded 16 home runs, driven in 65 runs and is batting .278.
Montreal wins at catcher with Darrin Fletcher (.260 average, 10 home runs, 57 RBIs) over the depleted Nationals backstops.
The outfield is where the Expos dominate: Moises Alou in left (22 home runs, 78 RBIs and a .339 average), Marquis Grissom in center (11 home runs, 45 RBIs, .288 average, 96 runs scored) and Larry Walker (.322 average, 19 home runs, 86 RBIs) in right. Washington has had injury troubles this season, countering with Michael Morse (.299 average, 11 home runs, 39 RBIs in 64 games), Bryce Harper (.249 average, 10 home runs, 32 RBIs in 92 games) and a mixture of Rick Ankiel, Roger Bernadina and Jayson Werth in the other spot.
Pitching is the real battleground. Montreal's starting rotation featured Ken Hill (16-5, 3.32 ERA), Pedro Martinez (11-5, 3.42), Jeff Fassero (8-6, 2.99), Butch Henry (8-3, 2.43) and Kirk Rueter (7-3, 5.17).
Washington's rotation features Stephen Strasburg (13-5, 2.90), Gio Gonzalez (14-6, 3.32), Jordan Zimmermann (9-6, 2.35), Edwin Jackson (7-7, 3.74) and Ross Detwiler (6-5, 3.18). Advantage Nationals.
The bullpen may be a wash between closers John Wetteland (25 saves, 2.83) and Tyler Clippard (24 saves, 3.04). The rest of the crews are fairly even.
So position-by-position, these Nationals are better than the revered 1994 Montreal Expos.