The other thing is that I kind of balanced winning and losing around a central point of 96 wins where really at that point, each additional win is harder to get than each loss, if that makes any sense to you. So 110 really shouldn't have been in play. So this year we'll have a dream of 100 wins, tough but not nearly the rarified air of 110 wins. And we'll make the nightmare a .500 season. Ugh.
84 wins is the starting point based on the pythag numbers, and looking at baseball prospectus' adjusted standings.
First, much like last year, we do have to adjust the win total upwards. Why? Because I have to factor in reasonable health estimates for Bryce and Wilson Ramos. Give Bryce about 25 more games and you get almost a win more. Let Wilson start more, something like the 113 games he had in 2011 and bring in Lobaton. That's another couple wins over last years bunch. Notice I'm not predicting perfect health for either. Just something reasonable. And I'm not predicting an increase in production, which you probably would. We're trying to make this a worst case remember. So we're at 87 wins.
The Blevins acquisition is nice but you can't expect me to bump up the wins for the 4th in line reliever. Now Fister deserves something, but because Haren was decent for half a year, and Roark and Jordan were pretty good too, it's not as much as you might think. I say if we look at "Fister + 5th" vs "Haren + Detwiler + Roark + Jordan"... let's say we can expect only +1.5 more wins conservatively. 88.5 wins.*
Anyone have an unusually bad year that we just don't think will be repeated? Sorry but no. You could argue LaRoche, but I'd argue that his 2010 season was about as mediocre and he's only gotten older and suffered injuries since then. No dice. 88.5 wins is where we'll start going back down.
This is harder than you think it might be because no one did unusually well for the Nats in 2013. What don't we like on the Nats? The bench. Ok, age wise, and talent wise I can predict a complete bench implosion, but that would only match the bench implosion from last year. So that's doesn't really get us anywhere.
The next easiest place to lose some value is 2nd, with a sophomore slump from Rendon, who doesn't have enough major league experience for us to feel bad about docking his performance. But Rendon actually only played like 60% of the season. Expect him to play the whole thing and any value lost from slumping is made up from increased playing time. We're still treading water.
We can maybe predict a slight dip from Ian Desmond, though only slight given the consistency in past two years. -1. We could say Zimm is trending down, (I mean he IS but its not anything conclusive just yet) but his generally young age makes it hard to predict a big fall from his relatively modest level now. -0.5 wins. Werth is probably the best bet to underperform. If we expect about the same amount of playing time (fair considering age and time missed the past two seasons) and a drop to something even just under his prime Phillies years, continued defensive decline.. we could probably pull a win and a half from him. -1.5 wins.
We're back out of the playoffs now but basically at last year's level of play. How do we drop further without injury? Span and LaRoche could both be on the decline with no return. You could probably pull a win and a half from the continued degradation of their offensive skills. 84 wins. We're pretty much done with the offense at this point.
It's hard to pull anything from Zimmermann, Strasburg, and Gio. It's not like they were crazy good as they were in 2012. Let's say a half win between the three of them, mostly from ZNN. 83.5 wins.
The Nats relief core is talented but these things fluctuate. If you think Soriano is also on the way down that helps. Maybe a win here? 82.5 wins.
Much like previous attempts I'm stuck. I've run out of ways the players could reasonably disappoint. Bad luck could take the Nats the rest of the way and there is always injury, which like I said I don't predict but we all know can happen.
What does this tell you? Well, it tells you that the Nats are talented. We're looking at a second straight year of disappointments across the board and still the Nats would have a hard time finding themselves below .500 if they are healthy. This would be a very bad scenario for the future. Zimm and Werth trends would be troubling considering the years left on their contract. The Nats would have to replace first and CF (and in this scenario obviously nothing is ready to replace in the minors) and fix the pen. But I can't see this scenario actually playing out. I mean a team with this relative youth and no one gets better? I think if the Nats do drop under .500 then it will be much like last year's nightmare, the injury bug will get them. The slightly improved bench makes it more likely that it would have to be a pitching thing, too.
OK, go to sleep now and next week we can all wake up to the 100 win scenario.
*This is why the Nats are still picked to make the playoffs by many. Conservative estimates put them in the playoffs, at least in the Wild Card.