This nightmare scenraio, the Nats to miss the playoffs next year (without injury), would have deeper implications than just 2015. It would mean that in the 4 year window where the Nats were arguably the best team in baseball, they would have made the playoffs twice and never made it past the first round. There's no good way to spin that as a positive. This nightmare scenario doesn't condemn Rizzo (despite the Strasburg decision, anyone want to argue the talent isn't here?) or the Lerners (weren't big spenders to start, they at least bought in to 2015) but it'll be real tough on Matt Williams who will have missed the playoffs with a better team than Davey missed with. How can he be kept around? (Answer : the missed playoffs was not a reason to get rid of Davey but an excuse - but they can't say that). It also would bear poorly for the upcoming seasons where the Nats were expected to remain competitive.
Ok let's head down the deep dark path shall we?
First let's set the base - how good were the Nats last year? The answer is... pretty damn good. Checking out B-Pro's adjusted standings (3rd order) the Nats were a 97 win team in a vacuum. We'll start with that. We do have to bump up some totals too, due to injuries. We can't have Ramos or Zimm play full seasons with their history but 120 games is reasonable. That's about 2 more wins. Plus Bryce will play a bit more. 3 more wins? 100 win team? Yikes. This team is really good under the "everyone is healthy" caveat.
Now we need to factor in the Scherzer replacing Roark. Roark was good but Scherzer is around 2 wins better. 102 wins? Yikes a second time. That's not exactly where the Nats will end up - we have to factor in the losses but again, damn this team is really good.
We can finally start moving back down. Can't really argue for dropping Ramos outside of injury. Zimmerman, too, we're also being more than fair with. Zimm does replace LaRoche or more accurately Yuney replaces LaRoche in the scheme of things. That could be a lost win. 101 wins. Desmond could continue to slide especially as age catches up with him in the field. Let's say another lost win there. 100 wins. Rendon is still a young enough player that you can question his performance last year. We're not going to make him terrible but you can knock two wins off easy. Still a good player, just not All-Star level. We're at 98 wins now!
In the outfield I think my guess on Bryce here is fair enough. Werth has an injury and while we can't carry into this a loss of playing time, we can remember how bad he was the last time he had a major injury. Remember I'm not predicting this injury, it happened, so no rule breaking here. Different body parts sure but let's go ahead and say he plays but he's 3 wins worse. Could happen. You'd like to do something similar to Span but the truth is he wasn't that far out of line overall last year. Let's knock him just one win. 94 wins. That's still a solid division winner.
The bench wasn't anything special last year. It had ups and downs... I'm not going to do anything here just yet.
Starting pitching? ZNN, Stras and Max were all at the top of their games last year, and while Fister didn't pitch as well as his stats showed, he got all the luck. They could each be a win worse and still be good pitchers. If you think I'm being harsh here this is pretty much what happened between 2012 and 2013. Everyone was awesome in 2012, took a step back in 2013 and the team wasn't good enough to absorb that drop. Pitching was still really good, but the team needed great. Gio has potential to be better but I don't know. I think anyone watching him last year thought he was trending in the wrong direction. That's just a feeling but that's good enough for this scenario. Another win away. 89 wins. A couple more wins away from being home in October. Can we get there from the bullpen alone?
That's tough. Surely it's down losing Clippard and Soriano but Janssen adds some value and the bullpen isn't likely to be overall that impactful, you know. I'd rather say a 1 win worse than 2. 88 wins. Hmmm 88 wins could miss the playoffs but I like 87 wins better, given that three 88 win NL teams have made the Wild Card game in 3 seasons. What the hell, 2 wins worse. 87 wins.
OK I think by now you've gotten the point though. To miss the playoffs (without injury) this team has to have EVERYTHING go wrong and nothing go right but player health. No one gets better. You can't have it. The base talent is too high.
Missing the playoffs without injury is almost unreasonable. I think you can gash huge win amounts from the team fairly. I think you can say the whole pitching staff and the pen will take a step back. They wouldn't be bad in that case. They wouldn't even be average. They'd still be Top 10 good. That's how good they were last year. In fact I think it's quite reasonable to assume that they will lose something from the pitching. Is 2 wins or 6 I don't know, but something. I think that the Werth guess is quite possible given his injury and saying Rendon is a question mark and knocking him for it, again he'd still be good, is fair. All in all that could be 9-10 wins lost.
But that would still put the Nats around 93 wins and now you get into having nothing else go right. Bryce doesn't break out. Zimm doesn't flourish with the bat at first. Escobar is just as bad as last year. Desmond doesn't at least hold his own in a contract year. The bench doesn't surprise. That's a lot of things that need to, while not "go wrong", they need to "not go right".
I think the most reasonable scenario the Nats fans should worry about is that the pitching steps back, Werth is really hurt, Rendon can't match last year and then either the Marlins or Mets are surprisingly good. I think missing the playoffs is too much but having New York or Miami pull a Nats 2012 and go from "should challenge for playoffs" to "magical division winning ride" would be potentially enough to knock the Nats into the Wild Card and no one wants to be there. I'm not betting on it, but if you want something to keep you up at night during a slow April start this would be it.