Nationals Baseball: The Nightmare Scenario - can the Nats reach .500?

Friday, March 04, 2016

The Nightmare Scenario - can the Nats reach .500?

Ok so even though I do this every year I guess I should clarify some points. I don't factor in injuries beyond what I think is a reasonable playing time estimate. "Healthy" doesn't mean "100% completely healthy, playing 154-160 games" but "the most reasonable expectation of health given age/recent history". Still given that, it generally that means a full season of playing time, outside a few players (Zimm, Werth). I am a little more conservative with pitchers so I won't go 200+ innings for Strasburg, rather 170ish.

This isn't really scientific, more about general feeling. How good can the Nats reasonably expect to be if nothing really surprises in a negative way, and vice versa? Then how can we get to the nightmare or dream scenario from there.  So on Wednesday I kind of felt it out and the Nats can be say in the 94 win range without having any major positive surprises (or negative ones).  Not quite where I'd like them to be for an easy division title. Let's flip things around now.

We generally stick to the assumptions made with injury returns and replacements, assuming they were fair and not positive. Looking at it I can only see one place that might have been a bit positive which was Roark replacing Zimmermann. Like I said Zimmermann's year wasn't all that great but Roark was a little disappointing last year. I could see a fair assessment matching ZNN but also coming in under it. So knock a half-win away. 92 wins.

Then we get to the "plays a little better/worse" expectations. I think we can probably pull that half-win away from Rendon that we gave him here (remember we are being on the negative side of fair) keeps him around league average at 3B. 91.5 wins. We can also go ahead and pull a half-win from Ramos/Lobaton who I liked to stay same, since they are trending down. 91 wins. I don't feel fair taking from Strasburg since it was mostly a inning increase thing, or taking more from Espy (right now at least). Oh I could take from Gio too, who surprising not only arrested his fall but got a little better. 90.5 wins.

Now we get to some bigger disappointments that would still not surprise me. I took 1.5 wins from Bryce and 1 win from Max before. This still made them MVP worthy and in the Cy Young discussion. But you could probably fairly pull another win from Bryce and a half-win from Max. They were that good last year that they can fall alot and still be good. Bryce would still be in the MVP debate (just probably wouldn't win it). Max would still be a likely All-Star. That's not bad! It's good! And it's another 1.5 wins lost. 89 wins.

Anyplace else to cut fairly? I could probably assume that the bench isn't much better. I gave them a win and a half, instead let's give them just a half. 88 wins. And the bullpen could get no better. 87 wins. Oh I forgot about Trea. Yesterday in the comments I kind of bumped the positives up a win for him. Let's say a half-win up instead. 87.5 wins  Any other place that would be a fair take before we get into other things? Werth was so bad last year and he's 37 so you can probably justify him barely being worth playing this year even without injury. Not a negative mind you, and not where I'd bet, but a tiny positive and in the realm of possibility. Take away a win 86.5 wins.  We all know Espy can be terrible, We saw it in 2013 and 2014. Let's knock off a win there. That's still better than most #5s I bet. 85.5 wins. I still think we could knock another half-win at least from Roark. Hell, I'm trying to get down here let's make it a win. 84.5 wins. I guess maybe Ross regresses a little and Gio gets back to falling? Another win... 83.5 wins.  Hmmm... maybe Revere/Murphy could get a half-win worse combined? They've been pretty consistent so it's not fair to knock them too much.

I think I've hit my floor at 83 wins. Nothing surprises here but basically everything is on the wrong side of fair. Werth doesn't come back. Rendon is merely ok. Espy was kind a fluke. Roark is just rotation worthy. Max and Bryce come back to Earth. Gio, Ross, Ramos, all slide a little. The bench, the pen, Stras, Zimm, Murphy, Revere, don't get any better. There isn't any single event here that jumps out as unlikely, but the combination of all of it going in that direction is.

Can I get to .500 from here without injury? Sure. Roark completely flames out and they never get a good 5th starter. That alone would do it from here. Or Bryce could "struggle" and merely be All-Star good. Or Werth could be flat-out done. Or Trea Turner could give the Nats nothing. There are ways.

So the Nats range of possibility is pretty large in my opinion, from like 83/84 to 93/94 wins. That doesn't mean I think they'll win 88-89 wins, just that this is the "no surprises, no injuries" range for the team. It's pretty variable to begin with. Toss in the youth involved (Ross, Turner, Taylor, Rendon maybe, Bryce - though really how much better could he be?), the injury returnees (Rendon, Zimm, Werth), the age issues (Werth), the potential career years (Scherzer, Bryce), and the intangibles and the inherent variability of the pen and bench, plus the usual crashes and soars of a baseball season and you have a team whose fortunes fly all over the place. Could it all come together and the Nats have a team like 2012 or 2014? I can see that. Can the Nats have a couple key injuries and have a team that finishes below .500.... That's a little tougher given the competition in the NL East, but if say the Marlins surprise, ok sure.

Where do I put the Nats? Well no official prediction until Spring Training is over (it'd be stupid to do that - guys can get hurt). I think I like the Nats for about 91 wins or so. But like the previous paragraph said that's a very weak bet. I have as little confidence in knowing how this season will play out as I've had in years.


SM said...

Nats fans will talk about their dreams. No one, apparently, wants to talk about their nightmares.

Jay said...

I think the nightmare scenario all comes down to injuries and aging. If Zim can't play (and the fact that he is already taking it easy on his feet worries me) that's a big problem. If Werth is now too old. If Strasburg only makes half of his starts. If Ross and Roark both flame out as starters. If Arroyo can't find it. If Ramos and Lobaton keep dropping off. If Rendon really is an injury risk. If Espinosa can't hit and Turner is a year away. There are a lot of things that could go south. Hopefully, it doesn't.

Mythra said...

A couple of things with the nightmare.

If Zim is now partially broken all the time Zim..Well, I'll be sad because he's been a great player for this team and city and would hate to see him fade. But I think the Bat Collector filled in well last year and would hope he could do so again.

Werth accelerates the MAT warranty plan. Of course, that assumes MAT can improve and is better than Werth replacement.

Strasburg accelerates the Giolito call up.

Espy/Drew would be gutting it out until June, then Turner called up.

Not sure there is an option for Ramos/Loby. That one could be a boat anchor all year, unless Ramos' eyes are much improved and the bat/glove follows.

Ross and Roark/Arroyo will have to take some lumps. But honestly, Ross looks like a very solid #4. You expect your 4 and 5 starters to be league average as a rule. We've been really spoiled with potential in the rotation since 2012. Now we're closer to average on the back end of the rotation.

Bullpen can't really blow anymore games than last year and the Mike Maddox history with clubs would point out this to be a a very far outlier. Knocking on wood here, but I can't see this costing the Nats as much as Matty and the Bullpen of 2015.

Yeah, it's early spring and the glass is half full. At least give me a couple weeks to enjoy before you guys turn me into a depressed troll.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, it's all too believable that this team could more or less pull a repeat of last year.

I submit that we're probably going to know the most likely trajectory of how this season will go after that three and a half pillow at the very start.

Al Anon said...

I think this is the season we learn whether we have a perennial contender (STL) or a rebuild (ATL) in our immediate future. For the good scenario (as has been pointed out here), Taylor, Turner and Rendon step up. Roark, Ross and Espi do well. Change has come and more is coming. Kinda exciting, really. Another good sign would be Cole, Robles and Difo having good years in the minors.

Jim said...

My biggest concern is Ryan Zimmerman. There is no reason to expect him to be healthy through a whole season, and neither Tyler Moore nor Clint Robinson would be an adequate replacement, individually or as a platoon. David Freese is still available, and he would come cheap, and though he did not have a great last couple of years, is still fairly young and a proven clutch performer with a ring. If Werth stumbles, Michael Taylor can easily fill his shoes. Espi will be ok at SS until Turner takes over sometime around Memorial Day. I expect another division title and about 93 wins.

John C. said...

If Zimmerman stumbles and the clock chimes on Clint Robinson's Cinderella act then Murphy moves to 1b (where his defensive numbers are actually pretty good) and Turner gets an early call up to play 2b to while Espi plays SS (possibly in a straight-up platoon with Stephen Drew, with Drew against RHP and Espi against LHP). Although the team would miss Zim's bat, the defense might actually improve.

Anonymous said...

The Nat's have a big bunch of variables as already listed, too many for a team that at this point should be set to go for a few years, with only minor tweaks.
C: Seems solid to me with Kieboom an outstanding defense in the minors.
1b: aging/fragile, I still like TMo when he plays steady.
2b/ss: these should be set, not ifs and maybes.
3b: Rendon, All-Star here.
LF: aging/fragile again, maybe Taylor here.
CF: this s/b Taylor, and I believe it will be before mid-season, [bad news for LF].
RF: THE MAN. and he isn't gonna sign that big contract till he is confident that team can put him on the big stage x% of 15 years.
SP: Letting J Zim go was a huge mistake, I like Roark but those are some big shoes to fill.
RP: Again Storen or Papelbon ?, another huge mistake.
M: Williams was bad [my call year and a half ago] but Baker is no improvement. And DJ before them, reread RF.
Opening Day: The Nat's better be ready, a loss in April is as big as September.

Unknown said...

Nats will shock with 100 wins. Pappy wins CY YOUNG

blovy8 said...

My wildberry kool-aid prediction would be six .300 hitters in the starting lineup since it's contagious. Revere, Werth, Harper, Zim, and Murphy have done it before, and Rendon should be able to if he gets pitches to hit. Hell, it's possible Turner could do it to make seven and Ramos has now acquired Ted Williams-vision.

Harper said...

Jay - injuries are going to be key, of course. It's like that for pretty much every team and the Nats are even more susceptible given their history and their lack of in-season adjustability. But I think it could even be bad without major injury

Mythra - there are decent plans for most areas (I don't think Giolito will be up this year though). It's not going to be any one though, it'll be a bunch, like last year, that will take the team down (if it happens).

Anon - you'd think but given the NL East there's a good chance that unless Mets pull away the Nats can be in it for the long haul even being disappointing for a good chunk of season.

Al - A rebuild would be interesting on how it would get done exactly. If things go badly likely Werth/Zimm untradable. So who goes? Espy? MAT? There isn't an abundance of middle age talent here. Bryce for EVERYTHING would probably be smartest rebuild but won't happen. (and isn't that smart actually)

Jim - Clint was ok, I don't know if he can recreate that though.

John C - an undertalked about thing is how Murphy on D is like Zobrist-lite. He's played 1b, 3b so there is flexibility with him moving to cover other positions. Although I'm wary about Espy in the line-up all year long. I like him much better as a placeholder and bench guy.

dc - my take on the 2017-2019 time frame (question marks - Bryce/Turner/Rendon/Murphy should be set)
C: Kieboom needs to prove he can hit first. Mediocre at 24 in upper A is not a good start. Needs big showing this year.
1B: We all know I don't like Moore and for god's sake he'll be 30 next year. Maybe Skole but that doesn't look as promising anymore. Zimm's health really is key.
LF/CF : Taylor is a ? after last year's struggles, but this year will be more telling. Can he adapt? Victor Robles could be answer here but how sure we are of that and how far off are still very much up in the air.
SP : Should be fine and at least 3 deep with ~ very good pitchers in any one year.
RP : We'll see. There's potential and young arms from outside now, not just inside.

Unknown - 100 wins would shock me. Papelbon winning Cy would shock me more.

Weav said...

Ramos needs to go vamos..Lucroy would be a great fit. Ramos is so slow behind the plate and the Nat`s lost a few close games because he misplayed throws home. He is a terrible base runner as well. Lets hope for a season with less injuries and a winning chemistry on the field. I also would love to hear new commentators on TV. One has to go. They have no chemistry and Carpenter is as nerdy as any I have ever heard. No personality,. "See..You ..Later"! At least F.P. has a sense of humor.

blovy8 said...

If you have a healthy lineup around him, you can live with Espy as a defense-first SS. Part of that working would be Ramos hitting again though. 100 wins would be possible if the pitching stays healthy and performs. I still don't see offense as a big problem even with Zim missing a lot of time if the other RH hitters (Rendon and Werth in particular) are healthy enough to play and protect Harper and you aren't having to play Lobaton and Drew much. Sure, the lineup wouldn't be as good, but it'll still be enough to win. Middle relief will be key again since Gio and Ross probably wont' go deep into games, and there will be a few "precautionary" moves with Strasburg as always. Besides Petit, it would be helpful for some guy like Treinen to be able to go more than one inning reliably. It's feasible that Kelley/Rivero/Papelbum will be the go to pattern, but the lower-leverage innings probably can't turn into a mess either to win that many games. I know the days of 3 inning relief stints are pretty much gone, but it would be interesting to let Petit or Treinen do that once in a while if the lead is big enough to let them bat once. You give the whole pen a day off once every two weeks or so and you keep Petit sharp enough for those games where you need him more. If you have two guys who can sort of do it, you're not stuck if you go extra innings the next day have a rainout/double header come up. Seems like managers get as afraid to use the long man as they do pinch-hitting their second catcher.

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