Time for the annual exercise where we go over what it would take to get the Nats to 100 wins or out of the playoffs. We'll start with the good news first, the 100 win shot, which the Nats probably won't get to, but it'll be more about their opponents then their own talent. Note this is all rough and stuff with my afro-puffs so don't get on me about exactness.
First we need to set a baseline win total for the Nats. Is last year's 95 wins good enough? Maybe. Let's look at other "in a vacuum" records in order to take luck out of it. 97 Pythag. 100 2nd order wins, 98 3rd order. I'm not saying the Nats were a 100 win team last year but the general trend is the luck worked against the Nats a game or two last year. I'm fine starting with 97 wins as the base.
Now we need to adjust for anything we see going into the year. Players brought in, players who have left, injuries and recoveries.
Max is hurt. I don't think it's going out on a limb to say being forced to adjust the way he throws his fastball may have a negative effect on him. How negative? I don't know so to be cautious I'll only cut out a win and a half for now (95.5 wins) That's not bad. That basically puts him back into Roark/Strasburg territory. I don't see any reason to change anyone else. Gio is tempting but he pitched better than his ERA suggested so while I think he'll continue to drift down, he'll probably just match last year's effectiveness.
The Nats are essentially replacing Belisle, and Lopez/Melancon with Blanton. Maybe a half-win less to be conservative? (95) They actually had a good bullpen last year and they'd still be above average with this take.
At catcher the Nats take a big loss as Ramos was a fringy MVP type for most of the year. Weiters is perfectly acceptable but the Nats lose like a game and a half here. (93.5). At first base, I can't bring myself to knock Ryan down anymore than he already was, but I have no reason to bring him up either. And unless I hear "platoon" I can't bring Lind in here. He has to be talked about on the bench. Murphy should regress a bit. Let's take a win off and go from MVP to All-Star (92.5). We'll get to SS/CF in a second. Rendon is healthy and put up a Rendon type season after a slow start. If we take that slow start to be recovery we can add a half-win here (93). Werth though, aging as players have done forever, takes it right back (92.5). Bryce? I'm trying to be conservative here but it's hard. I see a big bounce back. Maybe not a repeat of his historic season but he can at the very least pick back up a win and a half (94)
Ok onto SS/CF. We're taking out Danny and his not-the-worst bat and very good glove and MAT and Revere who did nothing to help the Nats. That's probably only a win total loss (93) The also lose the 3 wins Trea put up in CF. (90) But immeidately we put back a full season of Trea at SS. I don't think he'll double his half-season but 5 wins, given his speed and likelihood to play 160ish? I'm ok with that. Then again might be high.. I'll stop at 4.5 then. (94.5) And then we add Eaton. Let's be conservative given the position change and say 3.5 wins. (98).
As for the bench it's the same as last year. I'm going to say Drew won't pull the same performance out that he did in 2016 but Lind can't be worse than Robinson so the whole thing equals out.
There is one more thing to consider. The competition the Nats face. The Mets seem healthy. The Braves are better. The Phillies are probably a smidge better too. That increased competition is going to cost the Nats some wins as they were an amazing 41-16 against these teams last year. If you want to be honest you could see the Nats being 31-26. But you gotta mitigate it because if they beat up on their own division they didn't do as well outside and it's not like outside was so great. 7-12 against the Brewers, Padres and Rockies? Let's say the Nats should lose about 4 more games to competition increases and leave it at that.
Ok so a conservative me puts the Nats around 94. How do we get to 100 from here? If Bryce goes historic again he almost does it by himself. But let's say he's merely MVP worthy and toss another 2 wins there. That's not crazy at all. 96. We can probably throw a half-win more in if we expect more use of Lind than Robinson and him to be ok. 96.5. We can give Trea back that other half-win. 97. Make the pen no worse than last year 97.5. I feel good about where we are with doing nothing crazy.
What's most likely now? I guess I'd say Murphy and Scherzer don't decline as much as I have - I'll add back a win and a half combined. 99. Almost there. Let's give Rendon another half-win 99.5 and say someone in the pitching staff Ross or Stras improves by half a win. There you go 100 wins!
Now as I always say - you see what it took to get there. Nearly across the board peak performance. Bryce and Murphy are MVP candidates and Rendon and Turner are only not fringy ones because Bryce and Murphy are solid choices taking their votes away. Max is Cy Young worthy and Roark and Stras are in the conversation. No injuries. No disappointments. If you get one of those last two then even with all that you need a surprise. You need a Bryce historic year, or Trea to be no-doubt MVP caliber or Strasburg to finally put up that amazing Cy Young year. But that's 100 wins. It's also easy to see how the Nats can weather some adversity and still be a division title contender. It didn't take anything crazy to get them to the 94-97 win range. A few nicks and bumps and a disappointment still puts them in the 91-94 area and that's good enough to be right there.
Tomorrow we see how we get from 94 wins to out of the playoffs. I'm telling you now, it's gonna take injuries in the end.