Nationals Arm Race

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

Obligatory 2014 MLB Prediction piece


Predicted Division Winners and why:

  • NL East: Washington.  I thought it was going to be a close race in 2014 until Atlanta lost 3/5ths of their rotation.  The rest of the division is awful; there could be a 20 game gap between 2nd and third place.
  • NL Central: St. Louis.  What they lost in offense via FA they’ve more than made up for in their off-season acquisitions, plus they replace Jake Westbrook‘s awful starts with Michael Wacha‘s potentially ace-level starts.  No reason they’re letting off the gas now.  The best organization in the game.
  • NL West: Los Angeles Dodgers.  Essentially the same team that ripped off a 42-8 streak last year, and they can only get better when injured super stars like Matt Kemp and Chad Billingsly come back from injury.  Can and will buy whatever they need to stay on top.
  • AL East: Tampa. Lots of people are trendy-picking Tampa … and I think Tampa’s improved for sure.  But Boston hasn’t exactly regressed, and they won the most games in the sport last year to go along with the WS crown.  Boston has replaced key veterans with uber-prospects, who could go either way.  Meanwhile Tampa is rolling out basically the same team that would have won any other division easily, they kept David Price, and they’re getting a full season out of ROY Wil Myers.   I see this race going down to the wire with Tampa winning it.
  • AL Central: Detroit hangs on for another year, despite some curious personnel moves this off-season.  It helps to have two of the best arms and the best hitter in the game.  But it’ll be much closer over Kansas City and Cleveland than they want, thanks to
  • AL West: OaklandTexas can’t go 48 hours without losing another player to injury.  The Angels have half a rotation and a bunch of overpaid underperforming sluggers on their team.  Seattle spent hundreds of millions of dollars in the off-season so they can lose 85 games again.  And Houston remains a laughing stock; they’ll be pressed to win 60 games again.  Oakland’s got as many SP injuries as Texas … but also has Billy Beane at the helm and he’s always ready to make a move.

Wild Cards

  • NL: Atlanta and Cincinnati: Atlanta may have lost a lot of their rotation … but Minor’s only out a month and the kids they’re throwing out there may be able to tread water.  Atlanta’ still has the same offense basically that bashed their way to 96 wins.  But it’ll be close.  Meanwhile I see both Cincinnati and Pittsburgh taking steps back.  The question will be who steps back furthest.  Cincinnati lost some offense but replace it with a potential 100-steals guy who’s a defensive whiz in center; it could be a net gain on both sides of the ball.  Meanwhile Pittsburgh mostly stood pat, letting their #2 pitcher walk away and replaced him with a guy who was flat out released last year by one of the worst teams in the game (Edinson Volquez).  Maybe he’s just a place holder for Jamison Taillon … but that’s still 2 months of potential 6.00 ERA/bullpen sapping performances coming their way.   The Pittsburgh fans have to be somewhat dismayed that their 90+ win team did basically nothing to maintain their competitiveness the following year.   There’s not another team close in the NL: Arizona was a .500 team but they seem like they’ll be at best a couple games better, but not enough to be in the discussion.  Does anyone think the Giants are winning 15 more games this year than last?   Perhaps Milwaukee could make some noise and get into the race; that’d be my dark horse.
  • AL: Boston and Kansas City: Tampa’s a great team and may very well switch places with the Red Sox as division champs, but for now we’re predicting that Boston has lost *just* enough to lose the division.  Meanwhile I think KC finally makes the leap.  They had last  year to improve; this year they gel and overtake Cleveland in the division.  They’re going to press Detroit (who always seems better than their record; how do they *only* win 93 games last year with the pitching and hitting they had?).

Its folly enough to do divisional predictions on day one of the season … even more so to predict who will finish with the best records and thus predict who gets the wild cards.  But i’ll give it a shot.  In the AL: Tampa, Detroit, Oakland in that order of victories, meaning Tampa gets the WC winner.  In the NL: Los Angeles, St. Louis and then Washington, meaning LA gets the wild card and StL would have home-field over the Nats.

Playoff Predictions:

  • NL play-in: Cincinnati has the better big-game pitcher and squeaks out one against Atlanta
  • AL play-in: Kansas City may have gotten there … but they’re not in the post-season for long as Boston bashes them to make the
  • NL Divisional Series: St. Louis outlasts Washington in a heart-breaking revisit to the 2012 NLCS.  Los Angeles pummels the ace-less Reds behind their own 1-2 punch of Kershaw and Greinke.
  • AL Divisional Series: Tampa outlasts Boston in a 5-game tear-jerker, while Detroit beats out Oakland in a complete re-peat of 2013’s playoff series.
  • NLCS: Los Angeles  solves St. Louis’s pitching staff enough to win the Pennant.
  • ALCS: Tampa gets the better of Detroit’s aces.
  • World Series: NL over AL: Los Angeles’ spending pays off with a 6-game victory over Tampa.


9 Responses to 'Obligatory 2014 MLB Prediction piece'

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  1. The only NL team I really see making a run is the Giants honestly. The team got some poor performances last year and I could easily see Sandoval and Cain having big years. I don’t think they were really as bad as they played last year either so making up 17 games may not be the true talent of the team. The only reason I think they have a chance is I just don’t see any of the 2nd tier teams going after the 2nd wild card being that good.


    2 Apr 14 at 12:30 pm

  2. I am still more worried about Atlanta than any of the forecasters out there. Yes, they lost Medlen and Beachy, but they didn’t have Beachy last year, and Santana was equal to Medlen while pitching in the AL. If you compare to last year, Wood’s extra starts can easily replace Huddy, and Hale / Harang can be better than Maholm. Once Floyd is healthy they’ll have a little depth at least, and maybe they’ve already had all their bad luck. Also, I know it is just 2 games, but Freeman, Heyward, Simmons, etc. are all looking really good … that offense can be a powerhouse when clicking.
    If the Nats play at their potential, I agree we can win the division, but I expect it to be a dogfight all the way.
    Finally, I agree that the Mets and Phillies look like they will be awful, but those young Marlins pitchers could surprise and keep it interesting, at least for awhile.


    3 Apr 14 at 9:45 am

  3. DaveB: here’s your counter points on Atlanta’s pitching:

    2013 rotation: Hudson, Medlen, Minor, Teheran, Maholm with Wood giving them 11 starts. That’s fWAR of (in order): 1.7, 2.5, 3.4, 2.4, 0.7 and 1.6 for those 6 guys in 2013 (12.3 total).
    2014: No Hudson, No Medlen, Minor missing first month, No Maholm. Rotation apparently to be Teheran, Wood, Harang, Hale and I guess Schlosser, with Minor and possibly Floyd slotting in. That’s 2013 fWARs of (again in order): 2.4 for Teheran, 0.4 for Harang, a projected 1.5 for Wood, *maybe* 1.5 for Floyd, perhaps 3.0 for Minor if he repeats 2013 after missing a month, and maybe give Hale and Schlosser a combined 1.0 wins … that’s already 3-4 wins less in value just by the numbers. In reality “wins” in SP analysis doesn’t correlate directly to wins on the field (just look at the WAR of Detroit’s and Minnesota’s rotations last year; they were 20 fWAR wins apart but that translated to nearly 30 wins in the standings).

    I like Wood’s numbers … but he’s a shoulder injury waiting to happen. Hale is completely unproven. There’s a reason Harang was available for free. Santana may have been good in 2013 but he was god-awful in 2012 in a hitters park; i don’t think he’s a guarantee to be a 3win pitcher. Gavin Floyd is .500 career pitcher who’s just getting older and more hittable.

    Atlanta isn’t going to be 20 games worse than they were last year; htey’re still going to hit, as you said. But I can see this rotation costing them 8-10 victories versus what they could have counted on last year … and it should be enough to take them from division winners to WC.

    Todd Boss

    3 Apr 14 at 11:29 am

  4. Todd … so in adding the fWARs you left out Santana (3.0 fWAR last year) which gets them to almost exactly where they were last year. I “get” that this year’s list has lots more risk to it (but they were also 10 games ahead of us last year). I’m a pessimist / worrier at heart, but it still looks to me like a close race if their horrible injury luck doesn’t continue.


    3 Apr 14 at 2:15 pm

  5. I did leave out Santana, my bad. Buuuuuuut is he 2013 Santana (3.0 war) or 2012 Santana (-1.0 war?). Was 2013 the aberration because he was pitching for a contract? I almost entirely ditched that whole line of reasoning because it’s so speculative. Are we sure that Alex Wood will hit his projected WAR, if he accumulated most if it last year in the latter parts of the season when teams were playing out the string? Is it fair to assume both Teheran and Minor are going to equal last year’s numbers just because they’re a year older? What if last year was the anomoly and this year the league adjusts to the moreso than they adjust ot the league? I dunno.

    Todd Boss

    3 Apr 14 at 2:41 pm

  6. Put it this way; two off-seasons ago when we signed Haren I did a big WAR-analysis piece where I made the argument basically that the Nats were goign to win 108 games. And I did it by projecting WAR. I was only off by 20 games. 🙂 I shouldn’t have even put those numbers in there, nor should I have just based analysis on it. Bad Todd, Bad.

    We’re just arguing opinions. Your opinion is that the Braves rotation won’t be that bad off even though they’ve lost 3 of their 5 projected starters, plus another two starters from last year’s rotation. I maintain that this will have a significant effect on their team .. you can’t just remove a team’s Ace (Hudson), #2 (Minor), #3 (Medlen) and #5 (Beachy) starter and think they’re going to magically find replacements (Santana, Wood, Hale/Scheppers, and Harang/Floyd I guess) and be the same quality team. You’re replacing valuable guys with replacement level guys. I do not think Hudson is replaceable with a guy in Hale who has 11 major league innings. I don’t think Santana is the equivalent of Medlen (an underrated starter thanks to a crummy W/L record last year). I think there’s a reason both Harang and Floyd were hanging around spring training facilities in late March with their cups out hoping for a contract.

    Lets hope so. Because i’d like to see the Nats beat down the arrogance of the 2013 Braves team this year.

    Todd Boss

    3 Apr 14 at 2:53 pm

  7. TOdd,

    To be fair, the Braves signed Floyd well before the end of spring training. He got his contract back in December so there was obviously some sort of market for him. I do agree that he is maybe only a tick above average as a starter and is coming off surgery. His control was an issue before TJ surgery. What does that mean for him going forward?


    Harang was awful last year for the Mariners so I don’t think it is fair to say that he and an unproven rookie can “easily make up for Maholm”. Without delving too deep into statistics simply looking at FIP, xFIP and ERA shows that Harang was about a full run higher in all areas than Maholm last season.

    Ervin Santana had a career year in a contract year and was awful in 2012 as Todd point out. Most projection system have him marked for 2 WAR or lower. I think he could be a 2 win guy but the Braves will still be worse in the rotation than they were last season.

    This is before we even talk about the position player side. Losing McCann is going to hurt them more than people are projecting. He was a leader on that team and his defense doesn’t get enough credit. He is a very good pitch framer and good at blocking balls in the dirt and that is before you factor in he has a pretty good bat. Him not being there should also have an effect on that pitching staff.

    I still think they will challenge the Nationals but I do not think they are as good as they were last year.


    4 Apr 14 at 8:58 am

  8. Follow up on the Braves dilemna in 2014, following on some information I gleaned from a Will Leatch podcast with Joe Sheehan. He pointed out just how amazing the Atlanta bullpen was last year .. can that repeat? They’re still starting this year with three massive holes in their lineup (pitcher and two sub-200 hitters in BJ Upton and Uggla). And, they’re replacing a professional hitting catcher with a guy in Gattis who may have awesome power (and a great backstory) but barely gets on base. So that’s 5/9ths of your lineup with expected OBP of .300 or less (since i’m assuming Andrelton Simmons will continue to be a sub-.300 hitter for the time being.

    Todd Boss

    4 Apr 14 at 9:36 am

  9. Man, today’s game sucked. I am not going to overreact to one game, but this one just gives me all those bad feelings. Seems like most people are talking about Desi’s non-homer or the poor base running, but to me, the bottom of the eighth made my stomach turn. I usually hate ambiguous terms like ‘gritty’, but I can’t help feeling like we are a talented but ‘soft’ team. What’s next: Stras gripping the ball so hard tomorrow that he bounces a few off the backstop. Or Harper shatters his helmet over a strike call, and the helmet will bounce up and hit him. Now would be a good time for Matt Williams to step up and get his club to relax.

    Oh well, at least the weekend is here.


    4 Apr 14 at 5:03 pm

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