So everything is looking good for Scherzer. Dusty admits what we've been saying all Spring - Max can't start on Opening Day. There's just not enough time to get ready. He also notes something else we've said, the first game is just the first game and he may in fact sneak into the first round the rotation goes through. I'll go ahead and adjust my guess, as he's been hitting all his targets after just a week ago looking like he'd have to throw more BP. I'll guess he slots into his #1 role after someone (Fedde? Cole?) eats up a start.
But today isn't about Scherzer. It's about making you worry about the Nats. How can the 94 win Nats miss the playoffs? Well let's start with an idea of how many wins that would be. Looking back at past years I'd say 87 is a fine guess. What did I say last year? Oh last year was about hitting .500. These things change based on the starting point. One year the dream was setting the record in wins!. Ok so we'll go with 87. Let's roll up those sleeves and get to work
I'll go ahead and take a half-win from Gio as his decline outpaces his performance. (93.5 wins) and I'll make the pen a little worse (93 wins) as well. I can take another full win and an half from Murphy. That makes him more like all his other years (91.5). If Rendon's slow start wasn't injury related but just part of a normal up and down season there's another half-win (91). Let's temper Bryce's comeback a lot and pull a win from there (90).
I guess I can pull a half-win from Trea (89.5) and the same from Eaton (89) and maybe make the bench below average (88.5).
Ok well right now we're at a point where there are disappointments across the board. The starting pitching holds up ok (but we're still factoring in a drop from Scherzer that looks less likely today than a couple days ago), but the relief pitching and bench both do nothing of note. Murphy reverts to his career norms. Trea is good and Eaton is solid instead of being very good and good respectively. Bryce barely improves from his .243 24 HR line.
I suppose at this point I could pick half wins here and there. Maybe Ross never gets going again. Maybe Trea sophomore slumps. Maybe the bench or pen just stink. But rather than do that I'll just go ahead and throw in an injury here. Let's say Strasburg misses a couple months. That probably gets us down to the 87 win totals and being outside looking in.
It may seem easier to have gotten to 87 than 100 but I think that should be the case. Each successive win is harder and harder. That's why you don't have many 100 win teams.
What did it end up taking for the Nats. Well to my surprise it didn't take everything going wrong, however it did take pretty much nothing going right. Roark is again great. Rendon puts up a good year and you'd still like what you see from Turner even if it wasn't an MVP type situation like he put up for 70 games last year. Otherwise nothing you'd view as a positive.
I think an actually more likely scenario than nothing going right, would be several injuries. However I can't predict who and what.
I also think there's a lot of room for variation for this Nats team but not because we don't have a good feel for these players. I think we know what most of them can do. Instead of that variation being spread out the Nats two players have had wildly different performances in recent years and where they end up in 2017 will make a big impact on the Nats
2015: about 2.5 wins
2016: about 5.5 wins
2015: about 9 wins
2016: about 3 wins
If Bryce and Murphy are both hitting as well as they have in the past two years that's 14.5 wins. If they are both hitting as poorly as they have in the past two years that's 5.5 wins. That's a 9 win discrepancy. That may seem crazy but you are going from having a historic season coupled with an MVP season, to a couple of solid, but nowhere near special, major league season. In my 94 win setting I tempered both projections. I think I have Murphy and Bryce around 4.5 wins, hitting a near perfect middle between the best and worst cases you see above.
If both these guys come out swinging the Nats have best team in the majors potential. If both these guys don't, they'll struggle to win the East. Safe bet is somewhere in the middle but who wants to go with the safe bet?