Nationals Baseball: Dream!

Friday, February 13, 2015


The dream scenario is a team for the ages. A team talked about in hushed tones and reverence. "You know what team was really good? That 2015 Nationals team. What a powerhouse!" It takes more than winning a lot of games to do it, it takes a championship, but winning a lot of games helps (see our comment discussion on the 2001 Mariners). What is a team for the ages? Last time the Nats were coming off a crazy good year I defined it as 110 wins. That turned out to be quite a challenge to put together. So we're scaling back just a couple games to 108 wins. Why 108? Well it ties for the most wins by a National League team in 100 years. That's pretty immortal.

Let's put our heads on our pillows, dial in our sleep numbers (mine is "whatever - I'm not the goddamn Princess and the Pea"), and get to this!

Ok so we will start in the same general area we did for the nightmare scneario, adjusting up and down for various things we would consider fair. Ramos/Bryce/Zimm more playing time, Max here, LaRoche gone.  That takes us down to... 101 wins? Well I was fudging a bit and that 102 point was really more like 101.5 so how about 100.5 wins? I'll also knock off some value for Clippard being gone - but instead of forcing 2 wins, we'll stick with 1. And I'll knock off some for Werth, who again is old and injured, but best case decrease instead of worst case. Let's say half a win vs 3 wins. We're now at... 99 wins.*  All we have to do is piece together 9 more wins.

Ok the easiest place to get wins is with Bryce Harper. We adjusted him up based on last years WAR numbers but those were the worst of his short career. It doesn't take much to think he'll be closer to his previous years' totals if he plays everyday. Let's say 2.5 more wins and we can come back as needed. 101.5 wins. We also scaled Zimm up to a mere 120 games. While that number might be hard and fast for Ramos (He's never played that many in fact) Zimm has played more than 120 games in 4 of the last 6 years. If he's healthy 145 or so seems more reasonable. Defense won't be a factor as much but that's a good thing after the last two years. Another win here, too? 102.5 wins.

A couple more paths of least resistance. I figured Yuney to be a win worse than LaRoche was last year. Instead, let's say he really bounces back and call it even. 103.5 wins. And let's say Janssen, Barrett, and company keeps the pen closer to the level of last year. 104 wins. Only 4 away!

But we've hit a philosophical wall here. We're to the point where simple positive thinking is not enough to get the Nats where they need to be. The Nats need guys not only to maximize what we've seen from them recently, but take actual steps forward. Strasburg, everyone thinks he should be more of an elite pitcher. Let's say that happens - 105 wins. Bryce, too, people think should be a STAR, so let's make him one with another win and a half of production. 106.5 Ummm


How about...

We're kind of running out of young guys / guys not reaching potential talent level. This is what happens when you have players who are really good and they play really well. There's no room for them to go up. Are you going to adjust Rendon up? That would make him arguably the 2nd best player in the majors today behind Mike Trout. Denard Span a win or so better? You've given the Nats a guy who made himself a Top 5 CF around age 30. Adjust ZNN or Max up? Hello Clayton Kerhsaw dominance.

But we're not giving up. Let's say Gio has one last great year in that arm. Sure that 2012 looks fluky and he's been trending down, but we're not asking for a full return to that form, just a strong move in that direction. It isn't crazy, he's only 29 for God's sake. 107.5.  Ok a half-win can come from anywhere but what makes the most sense? Werth? The guy is nearly 36 and may not start the season. I can't go there. Fister? Nah I like where he's at and wrong side of 30 for a jump. Ramos? No, I think I'm already probably over estimating him. Desmond? Tempting given it's a contract year but no, I'll go with the simplest way to 108. The bench gets a little better. Might be hard to see that with the main players being the same but the sample is so small here it amounts to a coin flip if we see better or worse results. That's how the 2012 bench ended up best in three counties. 108 wins! (and if you want to go to 109 - let's say Desmond has that contract year) 

What did we learn? A lot went right for the Nats last year to get to 97 wins, so even saying everything goes right isn't enough to get them to historic levels. There's an extra step needed and a couple young guys who should be very good, Strasburg and Bryce, need to be great. I'm tempted to say an easier path to this level of winning is rather than have all this go right is simply to have these two become the generational players it was expected they could be. Add like 3 wins for Stras, 5 additional for Bryce. These are huge jumps, but that is probably as reasonable as saying everyone takes a half-step forward.

All in all getting to 108 is hard. I'd say it's slightly less hard then making the Nats miss the playoffs without injury but just slightly less and given the fact you never have 0 injuries, missing the playoffs has to be the better bet. But neither are good ones. I would say I like 100 wins more than 90. That's saying something. Early thoughts on a final prediciton right now... I'd have to say 96-97 wins, but nothing official until we see Spring Training play out, and see how Werth is doing.

The Nats are a high 90s win team here who, despite a slight uptick in competition, should cruise to a division title. If they don't something has gone terribly wrong. It may be injury, it may be surprise collapses in performance, or it may be managin', but something would have to keep this collection of talent from reaching the playoffs. 

* I'd say the the Nats "everyone is healthy" base level is 98-99 wins. That might seem low, coming off a 96 win season with some injury issues, but this is EVERYONE is healthy, like everyone on every team. In the real world if the Nats got lucky and had perfect health likely they win a bunch more games because everyone other team wouldn't be so lucky. However, I will say the Nats history makes me think they are a little more prone to the injury bug.


cass said...

One more note on Rendon from the conversation on the last thread:

As I recall, when we drafted Strasburg, people were saying it was a pity the Nats didn't get to pick #1 the next year because then we'd get Harper and Harper is better than Strasburg.

Then the next year, when we drafted Harper, there were people saying it was a pity that we didn't get to pick #1 the next year because then we'd get Rendon and Rendon is better than Harper. Yes, draft people really were saying that!

And then Rendon got injured and dropped to us. So yeah, there is precedent for people thinking Rendon would be a generational player. Of course, these things usually don't work out but, on the other hand, Strasburg, Harper, and Rendon are pretty much our three best players right now and I believe have the highest projections. Well, now there's Scherzer, but still, they've all been great so far even if none of them are yet on HoF paths.

To tie this back into the above post, well, if they start getting on HoF-paths this year, we could have the dream scenario!


And as for true talent level, when a player breaks out, you usually assume they out-performed their true talent level. I don't like line-drive % because there are biases in the way it's collected. I'd much rather have Hit f/x data or the new system MLB is working on because they'll be much more reliable at telling us real data about batted ball direction, speed, angle, etc. Right now, it's a judgment call.

Mark twain said...

Off topic but I saw where Boras said a player is worth about 40-45 million at the beginning of his contract and you pay for it on the backend. I don't see any player worth 40 mill a year.
The benefit of Laroche being gone is we dont see that crazy shift anymore on him.

Zimmerman11 said...

Damn this makes me happy.

JWLumley said...

One thing I think gets them to 108 wins a lot easier: competition. Barves and Philthies that should be worth 3-4 wins for the Nats versus the 2014 Philthies and Mets. Probably another 1-2 wins playing the AL East instead of the AL West. Best case, that's 103 wins before we even start factoring in player improvement. Here's my two other pie in the sky scenarios:

1. It clicks for Michael Taylor in spring training and he goes beast mode. Outplays Span and winds up as the Nats starting CF while going 20-20 in his rookie season.
2. Espinosa hits against right handed against righties they way he hit right handed against lefties. Toss in his defense (better than Escobar and Desmond's).

Obviously, the second one is far more likely to happen, but it's a dream right.

JWLumley said...

Also, in this dream my grammar is apparently unintelligible.

Espinosa hits as a full time righty, plays GG defense and steals bases. All in all, he turns himself into a 4 win player no one worries about Desmond leaving and in the offseason the Nats trade Trea Turner for a second basemen who can hit, probably Tulowitzki.

Bjd1207 said...

Lol JW, I think you sit and home and dream up scenarios to get Span off the field.

Harper said...

JW - The AL East was BETTER last year than the AL West (ok exceedingly marginally true but true) 6 of the top positional FAs went to the AL East, 3 to the West, the only FA SP worth a damn signed in either division was signed by an East team, and while the Astros bulked up their pen, the Yankees arguably got the best pen guy available.

I'm not arguing superiority or that the Nats won't win more interleague games (they could) but not because the East is clearly worse than the West at this moment. They aren't

As for the NL East... maybe a game. The rivalries in interdivision play can mix up the whole better vs worse sched. The Phillies were the worst and weren't killed by the Nats last year (10-9 or 9-1) the Mets might have been 2nd best and the Nats crushed em

Bilbo said...

The real question. Which is more likely? Uggla finds it and he is our second baseman on opening day, or Espinosa kills as a right-handed hitter and he's our second baseman on opening day??

I think neither happens, but I think Uggla has better odds than Espinosa. Uggla says he had an eye problem tracking the ball after getting beaned a few years ago. Says he saw a doctor and had it "fixed" with exercises. We'll see. Can't wait until next week.

John C. said...

I can't see Uggla as the starting second baseman on Opening Day unless Escobar is hurt. Rizzo is a big believer in "speed, pitching and defense" and Uggla contributes in precisely none of those areas. Even if his eyes are better due to concussion therapy, Uggla will be 35 on Opening Day. That's very late in life to expect a rebound at the major league level.

JWLumley said...

@Bjd - Guilty as charged, except I sit around my office. I guess I just really like(d) Alex Meyer. If Trea Turner turns out to not be good and Souza does look out. I will probably have some irrational dislike there too.

@Harper I guess it's how you define "better". Maybe the AL East won more games, but that's largely a reflection of the bottom of the division being better, not the top. Even still, the Orioles were smoke and mirrors last year and got worse this year, the Jeters got older. the Red Sox wasted a bunch of money on a fat declining player, I have no clue what to make of the Jays so I won't and the Rays got considerably worse. Last year, 3 of the top 5 teams in the AL were in the AL West. Yes, the A's collapsed, but it would be tough to make an argument that the Royals were a better team than the Mariners, even if you did 3 of the top 6 were in the West and only 1 in the East.

KW said...

If you're looking for additional WAR points, don't forget Escobar, who posted a 3.9 fWAR as recently as 2013. I don't know what your starting baseline was for 2B, but he should certainly add a win or two over the Espinosa/Cabrera combo.

There's more hope banking on an Escobar rebound than one from Espinosa and and Uggla. I would like to see Uggla regain some form near his 30-HR past and make the bench (all the better if he makes Frandsen disappear), but as John C. notes, age isn't on his side. Escobar is quite capable of being a quality starter.

JWLumley said...

Really, I just want to see what kind of defensive stats Espinosa could put up over a full season. I actually think that he could be a 1.0 - 2.0 WAR player at SS even with his bat not getting any better.

blovy8 said...

I kind of agree that the bench was bad enough last year, that a win from there could happen just from randomness and McLouth being healthy. I suspect Espy has to be "less bad" regardless, certainly, in a normal scenario he's no longer starting, and his defense can be leveraged a bit better while the awful atbats go to an average hitter. Scherzer is a high-K guy that ought to help mitigate some defensive issues, since you're swapping out a more defense-dependent Roark for him.

Zimmerman11 said...

@Harper... I am disappoint!!! The soulless automaton is accounting for the interdivisional rivalry factor? Are you also taking grit, heart, and veteran savvy into account in your analysis?

How about the teams that have come into camp in the best shape of their lives and developed new pitches? With a new focus on fundamentals and playing the game the right way? :P

Bjd1207 said...

@JW - No if Turner's bad and Souza's good that would be a RATIONAL dislike. Your dislike of Span however, seems to persist despite him outperforming certainly YOUR expectations, probably everyone elses expectations, and 2/3 of the center fielders in the NL last year. That's where I'm chalking you into the irrational column

Donald said...

If the Nats are going to get to 108 wins, they need to come up with the one thing they have lacked the last 3 years, and that's that they have no superstars. They are a team that is good to very good across the board, but they don't have greatness yet. And that's what all the really historic teams have. It's why the Nats can win their division going away 2 out of the last 3 years and be represented by a set-up reliever in the all-star game.

If Harper challenges Stanton for MVP, or Scherzer challenges Kershaw for the Cy Young, they could reach that level. But they really need that super star or two.

Zimmerman11 said...

Is it just me or is the only thing Arod should be allowed to say to the media... in Yankee stadium... is "I've decided to retire". Otherwise, shut your mouth, play baseball and collect what's left of your joke of a contract, you lying cheating narcissist jagoff???

Anyone? Does ANYONE have any time or patience for another "apology" from this guy??? REALLY? LOL.

Anonymous said...

Z11, agree. I imagine Assrod would probably stand on the pitcher's mound, drop trousers and get on his knees and beg forgiveness for $60 mil. Super sincere like and all.

How can MLB allow him to stay and keep Pete Rose out?

Anyway, back to the dream scenario...I could give a crap about 100 wins. I dream for a season of totally healthy players and that's it. 145+ games out of everyone will get us to the WS.

Anonymous said...

Question on war stat if 2 first baseman put up identical numbers but ones replacement is significantly better than the others who has the better war?

Bjd1207 said...

@anon its not dependent on the actual replacement behind them. Replacement level is established league-wide each season by some averaging of the numbers

Anonymous said...

If you think the team needs a superstar it is probably going to happen. There is scherzer, stras if he pitches like he did in his last ten starts, harper if he hits like it is October, and Rendon if he has a jump like last season. I think we can win it all without a superstar but some might disagree.