Nationals Baseball: Happy "Opening" Day

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Happy "Opening" Day

Is it raining in Cincinnati?  It better be raining in Cincinnati.

The season starts today so I guess I gotta put out predictions at least for the Nats.

I have them a little worse than last year. The team is probably a wash. The bullpen should be better - having three competent and dependable arms to start the year covering the late innings. Wieters can't be any worse. Eaton returning covers for Murphy being out. Yes, the 5th starter should be a mess - but it was a mess last year.  Didn't matter.

If anything is going to take out this team it will be the always present threat of injuries. Will Eaton come back ok? Will Murphy come back ok? Is Zimmerman 100%? The depth on the Nats is as shallow as it has been in a while. Outside of Kendrick the talent the Nats are relying on in emergency (Difo, Goodwin, Cole) is theoretical rather than proven.

But because I can't base a guess on injury I can't knock the Nats for that.  Instead the little worse comes from the increased challenge from within the NL East. The Mets are better than a 70 win team that they stumbled to last year and should challenge for a Wild Card. The Phillies aren't quite there yet, but will make a substantial gain from the 66 wins they had in 2017. The Nats were a combined 24-14 against these two teams and it's too much to expect a similar result this season. The Braves are a question mark - so we'll leave them matching last year. The Marlins are susbstantially worse but the Nats beat them up to the tune of 13-6 in 2017.  Asking for more than that is a strong ask.

The Nats were a 97 win last team by the record and about that by the stats.  I can ding them a few games based on the increased competition but I can't ding them enough to take them out of the NL East pennant. Giving all teams remain relatively injury free I have the Nats as :


in 2018 with a NL East title. I don't do playoffs. Certainly not now.

I'm still out on work so I'll get to the media round-up I usually do tonight I hope.  Let me know what you think the Nats will do so we can all laugh at our stupidity come October.


Anonymous said...


Ole PBN said...

Here are some of my predictions (I think 93 wins is spot on btw, this division sucks, I could care less who wins 60-65 games, they just fill the schedule):

Wieters loses his job to Montero, which isn't a kudos to Montero. Zimm has a terrible year, bringing us back to the situation black hole at first base from 2013-2016. Murphy bounces back nicely. Turner leads the league in stolen bases. Rendon is a finalist for MVP (not Bryce). Eaton is productive but is on/off the DL. Taylor regresses to form, and still runs like he can't bend his elbows. Bryce has a great year, but not like 2015. Max comes up just short for the CY - finishing second to Stras who has a phenomenal season. Gio is mediocre, healthy all year but not as good as last year. Roark takes a nose dive and gets relegated to the pen, but not before a stint in AAA to get his confidence back (which doesn't actually come back). Cole gives us 8 starts before being released and replaced by Hellickson, who earns a postseason start over Gio (surprise). Following Tanner's demise, Nats pony up for a quality SP at the deadline. Davey Martinez wins MOY (cheers to Matt Williams). Team is primed to a run...

But it was all for naught as the Nats are eliminated again in the NLDS. Bryce signs elsewhere in the offseason and Rizzo's contract is not renewed... Yikes, I've been thinking too much. Let's just get this thing started already.

cass said...

Hard to quibble with your analysis. That's what I got.

I think it's fair to guess this team will deal with injuries so maybe knock them down to 91 wins? But 93 sounds fair.

Unless they make serious upgrades at the deadline to cover for their holes at catcher and fifth starter, they'll face a superior team in the NLDS and rely on a hot hand to get by. But that's not too different from if they were the favorite.

The Nats are the worst of the best teams in baseball. Not a terrible place to be, but why go this route when it's the last year of Harper? Arrieta (+3 wins) and Realmuto (+2.5 wins) would have made this team a juggernaut for relative peanuts. But we've rehashed that all winter.

Ole PBN said...

Ahh, forgot about the 'pen... the group as a whole is not great, but not a weakness either. The law firm pulls their weight, with Suero trying to join the party. Glover debuts 2 innings in July before being shut down for the year. Kelley ends the year with a Flintstones band-aid on his elbow and 11.47 ERA. Rizzo brings back Cole at the deadline, and converts him to a serviceable bullpen arm, thus changing my opinion of him. Carlos Torres' padded hat rallies the team and is the top selling item in the Nats Merchandise Store (wait, wrong Torres, never mind)...

Robot said...

0-162. This is a team of losers, has-beens, and bums. No way they win a playoff series.

Zimmerman11 said...

105 wins. This is our year. Oh, wait, we didn't sign Arrieta and trade for Realmuto? Damn.

Anonymous said...

That's an ok prediction, but I thought Difo got tested last year when Trea went down)and came through...ok? Good defense, average to slight below average bat? Replacement level-ish, right?(I didn't look up the stats yet). I wouldn't call Difo untested...and the same with Goodwin, who played and got tested while Eaton and Michael A were down last year and did, again, replacement level, right? Was he worse? Anyone have stats for this??

Chas R said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chas R said...

I think 93 wins is about right and gets them another NL East title. I think Max and Stras will have great years, but Stras will have the most wins and best ERA and finish close to winning a CY Young. Harper will also have a phenomenal year and be the team MVP. Harper will hit 40 bombs and finish with 9.1 fWAR. Harper, Max, Stars, Rendon, Turner, and Doolittle will be selected All Stars. Wieters has a mild bounce back year and hits .240 with 15 HRs. Murphy and Eaton both have solid come backs and hit around .300 all year. Zim finishes the year with a .270 AVG and 25 HRs. Kelley gets DFA'd. The 5th SP remains a mess and Rizzo finally has to make a move by the deadline. I think the Nats finally get past the NLDS but lose in the NLCS to the Dodgers or the Cubs.

G Cracka X said...

I will present the DOOM! scenario (feel free to call me out, John C. I am a pessimist by nature):

2015 repeats itself. Mets win the division, while the Nats miss the playoffs. Lots of injuries and lack of chemistry. Martinez keeps his job, but Nats go full rebuild mode in '19.

Hopefully I am dead wrong!!!

KW said...

Unless the Mets have a Sister Jean comp with magical healing powers on their bench, they aren't gonna break .500. The NL has strong wild card contenders in AZ, COL, MIL, and STL, so it's hard to see the Mets being in that class. The Phils, meanwhile, could have improved a lot more than they did if they had spread the bucks lavished on Arrieta and Santana across five or six players.

If the Nats do somehow have an "off" season and leave the door open for other teams, the issue will be starting pitching. I have no faith in Cole whatsoever, and Roark is worrying me. Gio is due for some regression. Some year, Max will start to age. I'm not predicting doom and gloom; I'm just saying that if cracks start to show, that's where it's going to be.

Anonymous said...

The statue in LF is gone, replaced by a plus defender and a guy who hits better (better than the elder days of Werth for sure), but I think that's offset by a degrading Murph who can't stay healthy and Zimm regressing. I do think Michael A will be a bit better than last year, and Rendon is the golden boy, along with Turner who literally runs away from everyone for the stolen base title!

Bjd1207 said...

Zimm declines, murphy declines, 5th starter is a problem all season. Gio is once again solid, Turner, Rendon, and Bryce all have excellent years, Eaton is solid.


Fries said...


I see Max taking a small step back while Stras continues his dominance from the end of last season. Roark bounces back and Gio is perfectly serviceable, while the 5th starter will just eat innings as necessary.

Bullpen will be strong with Kelley, Solis, and Co only having to come in for the 7th/8th when some rest is needed.

Offense I'm worried about, though. Rendon/MAT will take small steps back, Zimm/Murphy take major steps back, Turner/Bryce/Weiters take small steps forward, and Eaton takes a big step forward compared to Werth. But with Difo/Kendrick/Adams getting a lot of playing time, the impact will be rough to start the year.

I see the Nats being behind the Mets or Phils (I think they'll be sneaky good) come June, and then they'll pick things back up and win the division handedly

Anonymous said...

"Wieters can't be any worse." -Harper

"Hold my beer." -Wieters

blovy8 said...

Since there are still "people" playing the game, umpiring the game, and making decisions about the game, it seems pretty silly to predict a damned thing. However, I'm not entirely sure the commissioner is one of the people yet...

sirc said...

Why is 5th starter such a big factor in these predictions? It isn't an important component in a team. 3 wins, maybe? 4? The Nats won 97 games last season with awful pitching from the 4th and 5th slots.

dc rl said...

Good write up - 93 wins seems about right, but just to be different I'll say 92. I think that will be enough to take the division, though I wouldn't be surprised if both the Mets and the Phils are better than many are expecting. In particular, I can see the Phils as this year's Brewers - battling for the division lead into July or early August before they fade. The Mets' fortunes are reliant on good health of Thor, Conforto, and Cespedes - based on history, hard to believe that will work out for them.

BxJaycobb said...

I don’t think you can overestimate how big the difference is between Werth (horrid. Truly horrid) and Eaton. And same with the pen. I do think the regression or injury from zimm and Murph will cancel that out almost entirely. I think Gio will regress but roark will be less rough. But it’s fair to expect improved years from Trea and possibly a healthy Bryce and Catcher position. I think it’s definitely a team in the 90s in wins. I’m not totally sure where.

Robot said...

Yeah, realistically, the benefits of having (1)an actual fielder in LF plus (2) a bullpen that doesn't repeatedly blow 6-run leads will go far to make up for the inevitable regression of Zim (which began mid-season last year, anyway). Murphy is my big worry, followed by Tanner and Gio.

Robot said...

Wieters, though...I'm not hoping for a season-ending injury because that'd be terrible, but if he decided baseball isn't really his thing and quit to spend more of his time whittling soap sculptures, well, I'd buy him a case of Dove

Anonymous said...

KW, I hope you are right about the Mets, but IF that rotation stays healthy, and thats a BIG if, they could be scary good. Plus Harvey is motivated because it is his walk year. I personally think the Mets are going to surprise a bunch of people, including you.

Ole PBN said...

I find it odd that people are now concerned about Tanner, as I have been since last year. I suppose ST stats do, in fact, matter/change opinions? When I inadvertently criticized him a few months back by saying we need a solid #3 because Gio/Tanner are not the answer, I was bashed because Tanner is a "good guy who has been a solid pitcher for us - how dare you!" In the context of "what have you done lately," I'm concerned for the future in regards to Tanner. Glad some of you are seeing that as well. It has never meant I don't like the guy. For the sake of the Nats, I hope he's his normal self this year, I just haven't had a good feeling about it for some time. Reminder... we will NOT advance past the NLDS with 2 reliable starters. Hopefully one of Tanner/Hellickson/Cole emerges from this group. I've left Gio off that list, for reasons we already know.

DezoPenguin said...

@BxJaycobb put their finger on something significant: this year's outfield profiles to be a lot better than last year's. Harper is Harper, so that's a wash. But last year, Eaton was the center fielder, where his average-ish defense made him worth three wins or so. This year, he's the left fielder, where his defense profiles as well above average. Meanwhile, while Michael Taylor comes with all kinds of question marks about his bat, the shambling corpse of Jayson Werth that we ran out in LF last year had just as many questions. plus Taylor has been an excellent defender all his career (last year he was absolutely stellar) while Werth was...not.

So our opening-day OF has improved defense at two positions while holding steady at the third, and suffered no decrease of projected offense to do it. Catcher, as you note, is likely to be better just because it would be really hard for Wieters to get any worse and Montero is likely to be better than Lobaton. Zim's weird spring gives rise to worry, but on the other hand in 2017 we had Zim's 2016 to give rise to worry; I was pretty much convinced that he was cooked then, so at least this year he's actually played good baseball in recent memory. Turner and Rendon are Turner and Rendon. The top four starting pitchers are the same guys. The back end of the bullpen are good players we didn't have at the start of last year, and the low-leverage guys this year include several of last year's back-end guys (Kelley, Solis). Fifth starter is no worse, albeit no better, and at least Hellickson and Fedde give us functional Plans B and C.

Which means that the only area where the 2018 Nats look worse than the 2017 Nats is second base, on account of the injured Murphy.

So really, any drop-off in our expectations for this year's record have little to do with the Nats, and everything to do with our expectations for the rest of the division: the Mets fell apart from injuries and surprise incompetence last year and that's not predictable; the Phillies and Braves both look like better teams (not good teams, but not better teams), and while the Marlins are teardown-years-Astros bad, they weren't particularly good last year. So I'd say 93-95 wins and a division championship is a pretty good prediction, barring hellish injury luck.

KW said...

Anon 6:23, Harvey can be "motivated" all he wants, but he's been a shell of his former self since they abused him in 2015.

The Mets have more talent than any other team in the division besides the Nats. Most of that talent is old and/or oft-injured, though. I just think they would need an extraordinary combination of good health and Fountain of Youth production to get above .500. It's not impossible, but it's also not highly likely.

As for the Nat 5th starter concerns, it's not just for that one slot in the rotation; it's also for the depth if one or more of the Big 4 struggle or are hurt. I have no faith in Cole, whose AAA numbers last year were awful. Hellickson was very good as recently as 2016, so there's some hope for a bounceback, but if you look at what he, Jackson, and Milone did in 2017, and at how much Fedde struggled in the majors last year, it doesn't inspire confidence. I'm not expressing doom and gloom; I'm just saying it's an area of concern.

Ric said...

ChasR: "I think 93 wins is about right and gets them another NL East title. I think Max and Stras will have great years, but Stras will have the most wins and best ERA and finish close to winning a CY Young. Harper will also have a phenomenal year and be the team MVP. Harper will hit 40 bombs and finish with 9.1 fWAR. Harper, Max, Stars, Rendon, Turner, and Doolittle will be selected All Stars. Wieters has a mild bounce back year and hits .240 with 15 HRs. Murphy and Eaton both have solid come backs and hit around .300 all year. Zim finishes the year with a .270 AVG and 25 HRs."

Chas, if Harper, Redon, Turner are All-Stars, Murphy and Eaton hit .300, Zimm hits .270 and Weiters hits .240, then the odd man out, MAT, can hit .180 and this team would still win 100+ games. Your win prediction does not line up with our individual player predictions, and that doesn't even take into account Strasburg, Scherzer and Doolittle being All-Stars.

mike k said...

A nice, logical, conservative guess Harper. I can't find any faults with it, and would probably guess the same.

Other pluses and minuses: Zim probably won't do the same as he did last season (minus); it's not just Eaton returning, it's Eaton replacing Werth (so double plus); MAT might not do as well as last year (slight minus since he's starting now) but might get replaced by Robles later (slight plus); full season from Turner (plus). Of course this all assumes no injuries.

Really these are adjustments from last year rather than major changes. No one should decline too much due to age. Nats should win the division again.

My apologies to all those who commented above me - I don't have time this morning to read it all.

Robot said...

Zim is sitting on the second game of the season? Yeah, that's nothing to worry about at all...

Mark said...

Do you wake up every morning expecting it to rain? Do you get excited about anything? Your analysis puts more emphasis on potential negatives, and even when you point out positives, it somehow comes across as neutral at best. I somehow end up feeling depressed after reading your blog about our 97 win, defending NL East champion team.

You skeptical of Adam Eaton all spring. After the opening weekend proved that wrong, you state Adam Eaton replaces Daniel Murphy's production... but Daniel Murphy is coming back. Maybe he won't be the same guy as last year, but he probably will be close. The reality is a potential 5 WAR guy is replacing a -.7 WAR guy. Bryce and Trea missed a LOT of games. As you pointed out, Weiters can’t be worse, but if catcher turns into a cluster they’ll probably fix it. To me the biggest worry is Zim regressing. Still, this offense should be better than last year.

Pitching looks great. Max and Stephen missed time last year… should be pretty equivalent to last year.

The Bullpen blew 10 games last year before Doolitle, Madson and Kinsler showed up, but they are here for the year. Bullpen is improved.

As per tougher competition in the NL East… You point out the Nats record against the Mets and Phillies, but not the Braves, and state the Mets and Phillies will be better (don’t apply the same negative filter to them... will they be better???) and take wins from Nats and then randomly state the record should be about the same against the Braves and Marlins? Well.. they went 10-9 against the Braves last year and the loses were during the high injury phase when they had things wrapped up. The Braves are likely a mediocre team this year and the Nats could certainly do better against them. You have the Nats having the same record against Miami, but Miami is MUCH worse than last year. I bet the Nats do about as well collectively (baring significant injury issues) against the NL East as last year.

There is certainly nothing wrong with a 93 win projection, but I think they are more likely to win 100 than 93. The biggest risk to repeating 97 (outside of major injury trouble) is resting players in August/September because its wrapped up.

The only thing I can think of is that you are overly negative because you don’t want to look like a homer or because you are one of those people that sets low expectations so you are not disappointed.

Anyways, I enjoy reading your blog... It just aggravates me sometimes.

Mark said...

In predicting record, who you play and where matters also. I think schedule looks pretty equivalent to slightly more difficult than last year.

Washington Schedule 2017 (record) vs 2018 ( # of games)

2017 2018
record # Games
ARI 4-2 7 (4 away) probably not as good, and extra game
ATL 10-9 19 (10 away) maybe slightly better
CHI 4-3 7 (4 home) extra game at home
CIN 6-1 7 (4 home) already swept away
COL 4-3 7 (4 home) probably not as good
LAD 3-3 6 (split) play early missing turner
MIA 13-6 19 (10 home) miami is worse
MIL 3-4 6 (split) better (lost series, plays one less time)
NYM 13-6 19 (10 away) maybe better
PHI 11-8 19 (10 away) maybe better
PIT 3-4 7 (4 home) worse and extra at game home
SD 5-2 6 (split) equivalent but one less against them
SF 5-1 6 (split) maybe better
STL 3-3 7 (4 away) maybe better, extra game away
BAL 2-2 6 (split) worse get 2 extra games
HOU 2-1 0 na
SEA 2-1 0 na
OAK 2-1 0 na
CAL 2-2 0 na
TX 0-3 0 na
NYY 0 4 (split) somewhat equivalent to playing houston
BOS 0 3 (home) better than OAK but at home
TOR 0 3 (away) equivalent to SEA
TB 0 4 (split) equivalent to CAL