Updated Predictions : 6 out of 11 picking the Nats to win it all. A perfect 12 for 12 in NL East Pennants
OK enough pussyfooting around. The season is just around the corner and unless the team falls into a cult and loses half its players to missions in Asia, the team is set. It's time for a season prediction.
94-68, NL East Champions
Offensively the Nats are ripe for a regression. I wouldn't be surprised if Desmond and LaRoche both took steps back, if the bench played more like we'd expect them to, if Werth couldn't repeat the average of last year and his power is still gone, if Span hits more like 2011 and 2010 Span than 2012 Span, if the injury bug again hits this team. With all that you might think the Nats would be in line for a big step back, but there's something standing in the way of that. Bryce Harper. I can't see him getting worse. He could get better. A lot better. Best in the majors better. All these little things might hurt but the ascension of Bryce will cover most of that. Add in chances for better production from 2B and C, and you get a team that might take a small scooch back, but it's not going to fall back below average.
Pitching wise they should remain on top. The unreliability of relief pitching is still ever present but the Nats have done what they needed to. They've filled the back of that corps with great arms. The starting pitching might also fall back. Haren has looked bad. Detwiler and ZNN both could pitch a little worse. But I'm still betting on Haren to be at least ok, and when I say a little worse, I mean a little. No ticking time bombs here. Gio was legitimitely great last year and Strasburg could be even better. This is a squad that's going to be tops in the NL. Maybe not #1, but right up there.
They were a mid 90s win team last year, who managed to have a couple wins go their way. I stripped out that luck and added that tiny regression and settled at 94. At 94 wins, I just don't see anyone passing them in the NL East. They have to win those games vs their competition and frankly, I don't see the Braves or Phillies as being better than the Nationals.
What happens in the playoffs? Playoff prediction is a fools game, especially at this point. Who's injured? Who's tired? Who's come up from the minors? There's way too much about October 1 we don't know now to make any reliable prediction. I think the Nats will have the best team in the NL, for what that's worth. They also will have a top of the rotation that can battle with anyone. So NL East title, home field advantage, just like last year. This year though will carry the expectations of much better results.