Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Pre-Season DC-IBWAA survey; how’d we do with our Predictions?


Nice Hair bro. Photo via his instagram

Nice Hair bro. Photo via his instagram

Every year, Dave Nichols over at runs a fun little pre-season survey, asking the various Nats bloggers to do predictions about various things.  Here’s a navel-gazing look back at how my predictions turned out.

1) Question: Who will lead the Nats in home runs in 2015?
My Prediction: Bryce Harper.  Actual leader: Harper with 42.  Not only did Harper lead the team, he tied for the league lead in homers during his monster season.  No one else on the team even had 20 homers; 2nd place went to Ian Desmond with 19.
2) Question: Who will lead the Nats in RBI?
My Prediction: Bryce Harper.  Actual leader: Harper with 99, good for 5th in the NL.  2nd place went to Ryan Zimmerman with 73, no small feat considering that he only played in 95 games (that’s a 134 RBI pace for a full season … not that Zimmerman will ever play a full season again).
3) Who will lead the Nats in stolen bases?
My Prediction: Denard Span.  Actual leader: Michael Taylor with 16.  Span ended up with 11 SBs in his 61 games and clearly would have led the team had he played a full season.  The Nats were 14th out of 15 NL teams in total steals, an infrequently noted fact about the team.
4) Who will lead the staff in wins?
My Prediction: Max Scherzer.  Actual Leader: Scherzer with 14.  I may have been right here, but not in the fashion I thought i’d be right.  I figured Scherzer would have a monster season in his first taste of the NL, going 21-3 or something ridiculous.  Instead he scuffled in the middle of the season, got poor run support and finished the year with a 14-12 record.
5) More plate appearances: Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth or Denard Span?
My Prediction: Jayson Werth.  Actual Leader: Ryan Zimmerman, who got 390 PAs to Werth’s 378.  Span finished with 275.  Three important hitters to this team and none of them played much more than a half a season.
6) Who has more appearances: Craig Stammen, Tanner Roark, Blake Treinen, Casey Janssen or Aaron Barrett?
My Prediction: Casey Janssen.  Actual Leader: Blake Treinen with 60, tying for the team lead with Matt Thornton.  Stammen made just 5 appearances before season-ending surgery, Barrett made 40 before the same issue befell him.  Janssen ended up being 5th in appearances, posting an ugly 4.95 ERA for the season.  Roark spent the entire season flip-flopping between roles, even being sent back to A-Ball at one point (not on merit but to stretch him out a bit); not exactly what you’d expect of a guy who posted a 5 win season the year before.
7) Who has more appearances: Jerry Blevins, Matt Grace, Xavier Cedeno or Matt Thornton?
My Prediction: Jerry Blevins.  Actual Leader: Matt Thornton: the battle of the loogies.  I wrote Blevins before he got angry-traded and gave the Nats zero appearances. Cedeno was run out 5 times before being summarily DFA’d; he was the only guy outrighted off the 40-man roster this entire season.  Grace was so-so in 26 appearances while Thornton earned his contract, putting up a sterling 2.18 ERA in 41IP across his 60 appearances.  Why exactly did  New York waive him?  He’s a FA and I hope he signs on for another tour of duty.  The real revelation of lefty relievers this year was Felipe Rivero, who i’d be clamoring for in the rotation if he had anything resembling a third pitch.
8) More plate appearances: Danny Espinosa, Dan Uggla or Yunel Escobar?
My Prediction: Yunel Escobar.  Actual Leader: Escobar by a large margin; Escobar became the team’s 2nd best hitter and played nearly every day he was able.  Uggla proved to be what a lot of people thought he’d be; an aging slugger no longer able to hit, but somehow he stuck on the roster *the entire season* thanks to the constant injury parade.  Espinosa ended up getting 412 PAs thanks to Rendon’s injury issues and may have bought himself another year with the organization.
9) Over/under for number of games for Wilson Ramos at 85 1/2.
My Prediction: Over.  Actual answer: indeed it was the Over; Wilson Ramos was healthy for the entire season (a first) and played in 128 games.  Unfortunately he was badly, badly exposed at the plate, putting up an awful slash line of .229/.258/.358.  His backup was even worse; I have a feeling this team is going shopping for catcher depth this off-season.
10) Which single minor leaguer are you most interested in keeping tabs on this season?
My Answer: Trea Turner.  Actual Results: its probably safe to say Turner (and his trade-mate Joe Ross) made the most waves of any minor leaguer this season.  However, Lucas Giolito is clearly set to make some serious waves in this game by virtue of his lofty status as the best pitching prospect on practically everyone’s list.
11) How many all-stars will the Nats have? Who?
My answer: 3: Scherzer, Zimmermann, Harper.  Actual Result: Harper and Scherzer.  As discussed here, it was an odd year for the Nats, with only two players really making any sort of case for inclusion thanks to injury and downturn.
12) Total wins and what place in the division?
My Prediction: 94 wins, 1st place.  Actual: 83 wins and 2nd place.  I feel like we may have talked about this a bit.
Essay: What should be the single most important development for the Nats this season?

My answer in March: Simple: World Series or bust.  The team has been way, way too good to have *just* two weak NLDS “3-and-outs” to show for it the last few years.  With the (ridiculously expensive) Scherzer signing and a significant personnel shift coming this off-season, this is the year.  Anything less than a WS appearance will be a disappointment.

Actual: yup; disappointment is an understatement for what happened to the 2015 nats.

5 Responses to 'Pre-Season DC-IBWAA survey; how’d we do with our Predictions?'

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  1. That’s not too bad, given how badly things worked out for the team. How did you compare to the others?

    Here’s my trade proposal: Rendon and a non Giolito pitching prospect for Carrasco and either Zimmer or Frazier. Would you do it? Would CLE or WAS?


    11 Oct 15 at 3:21 pm

  2. One tough season for the team and Bryce goes gray?

    Wally, I wouldn’t declare Rendon 100% untradeable (heck, I’d probably even trade Bryce . . . for Trout and Richards), but all things considered, I doubt Rendon is going anywhere. First of all, a trade now would be selling low after an injury/down year. Second, if the 2014 Tony Two-bags is the real Rendon, he’s one of the top-ten hitters in baseball in overall value. Can he be that consistently? We still don’t know. But if he’s healthy and hitting in front of Bryce, he’s going to get strikes to hit as no one is going to want to walk him. I think the Nats have to invest at least one more year in Rendon and hope that 2014 wasn’t a fluke.

    The regulars I would vote as most likely to be on the trading block would be Escobar and Ramos. Both would pose issues to replace, though, as Escobar was the second-best hitter in the Nats’ lineup in 2015, and while we’re disappointed in Ramos, it doesn’t take much looking at catcher hitting stats to see just how bad the whole field of them is.


    13 Oct 15 at 8:22 am

  3. When proposing trades, I try to use a couple of rules of thumbs: (i) to get something of value, you have to give something of value, (ii) players have ranges of value, not precise ones (Harper is a 5-7 WAR player, not a 6.3 WAR player) and (iii) the trade has to fit into a team’s overall philosophy and perceived place on the win curve (so, all things being equal, a rebuilding team like MIL isn’t interested in trading for a Jayson Werth type). And then, even beyond that, the reasons that trades make sense usually fall into 2 categories – you trade from surplus areas to fill a need, or you trade someone to a team who values him at the upper end of his range, while maybe you are lower. And these things all kind of run into each other.

    I doubt Rendon goes anywhere either, but I was offering a proposal, not a prediction. My thinking was as follows: it only makes sense for WAS if a team values him more like the 2014 version, a 4-6 WAR, plus IF defender with 4 years of cost control. I think that is most likely how he’ll be viewed – high quality prospect pedigree, substantial MLB success and an explainable reason for underperformance (injuries). So that kind of player is most attractive to a small-mid market team that believes it is on the cusp of the playoffs (CLE). They have pitching and a good farm system (especially some high quality OFs reasonably close to the majors, an area of need for us). So I started with Frazier, a top 25 OF prospect, then needed to balance out the value, which is why I added Carrasco, a 28 yr old pitcher who looks to be a 3-5 WAR guy with 4 years of control himself. I think it probably overbalanced it, so we probably have to kick in a pitching prospect, although not our top guys. While we don’t really need Carrasco, it does free up a Stras trade, or just a rotation hedge when he leaves. And while Rendon grades out as the best of our IF group, we do have Espy (3 yrs), Escobar (2 years), Turner and Difo to fill beyond, so while they are less than Rendon, the cupboard isn’t bare.

    I don’t think WAS does it (but CLE probably does), but it is the kind of thing that Rizzo can consider with the flexibility on the current roster. I like it actually. I don’t see Ramos bringing anything back worth discussing, probably better to just keep him. And Escobar definitely has value, but I see a reliever or platoon guy, not a high ceiling, controllable guy as his return.


    13 Oct 15 at 12:11 pm

  4. I fear that after the success of the Cubs and the Astros, MLB is going to go even more prospect-crazy than it already is. With the Nats’ narrowing window, though, they don’t have a lot of time to wait for prospects, at least beyond Turner and Giolito.

    Unless they extend Bryce, the prime window is three years. Rendon is ready now and here for four. They’ve only got one more year for Stras and Ramos (and Storen if he’s still here). So if we’re talking trades, I’m more interested in trying to get established players like Lucroy, Bruce, or Todd Frazier, or signing someone like Justin Upton.

    Also for what it’s worth, as has already been seen in some of the posts here, the season ticket folks are in no mood for a rebuild. There would be major consternation if the Nats started flipping established guys for wishful ones.

    Will the Nats add more pieces by trades, or by signings? They’ve got ~$50M coming off the books with which to play. Of course the early targets may not be as sexy, guys like Darren O’Day and J. P. Howell, unless they re-sign Thornton instead of Howell.


    14 Oct 15 at 5:29 am

  5. MLB Trade Rumors has a poll on whether the Nats should make a QO to Span:


    14 Oct 15 at 1:42 pm

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