Nationals Baseball: The Dream Scenario : 110 wins

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Dream Scenario : 110 wins

The Nats season should be pretty predictable.  They should win about 95 games and probably win the division, depending on if the Braves or Phillies have a remarkable season themselves. They should definitely make the playoffs.  The months of next season are basically a long injury watch.

But we must allow for anything to happen in any season, so I'm going to present two drastic scenarios and what it will take to get there.  Today we'll look at the dream scenario, a Nats team that wins 110+ games.  It challenges for the best record of all-time and runs basically wire to wire in first place*.  This is going to be similar to Dave Schoenfield's work at ESPN that shows if EVERYTHING goes right for the Nats they are actually better than that Seattle team that won 116 games. Of course EVERYTHING isn't going to go right so we're going to try to pick out the path of least resistance to this kind of remarkable season. 

*If you win 110 games, this kind of has to happen.  If you start slow (13-13 say) then you can only lose about 8 games a month the rest of the year. So you have to catch up to any leader very early in the season.

Last year the Nats won 98 games, but the pythag has them as a 96 win team so let's start there. We'll also make the BIG assumption that no one will get injured. I know it's not likely but to make a run at 110 you kind of need that kind of season.We're also assuming that no one decreases production in any noticeable way, so career years from LaRoche, Span and Desmond will have to be repeated.  A stretch for sure, but better than saying they need to do something they never did before.

OK based on the no-injury assumption we are going to get a big bump from Werth.  Let's assume he bounces all the way back to his banner times in Philly and puts up a 3.5-4.0 WAR.  That's about 3 more wins for the Nats. (a little more but you have to consider they'd lose some of that fine bench replacement time they got this year from the likes of Bernie and Moore. Trust me I'm being more than fair here).  99 wins.

Strasburg too would have an opportunity for a full season, and his potential is up there with the best in the league.  Let's say he meets it. That would be about a ~5.0 WAR or so or two more wins. 101 wins. 

What about Storen? The pen was very very good last year. So time gained for Storen is likely time lost from a pitcher who did ok, same with Soriano. Plus, it's the pen, it doesn't generate a lot of wins because in total it pitches maybe 40% of all innings. No one guy can make that big a difference. Just can't happen. I'll be generous though and say the Nats gain half a game in the pen. so 101.5 wins.

Haren?  He bounces back but he can't quite make it back to his old levels just because he's going to lose 15% of his innings to the Nats being safe. (A lot of his value is that he pitched SO many innings, look! You see the Nats doing that?)  Remember too that it's not from Haren's last year, it's Edwin's production he's replacing and Edwin was ok. Let's be generous again 1.5 more wins and the Nats are up to 103 wins.

Ok, we've kind of run out of non-developmental improvement.  Where can the Nats get that? Bryce Harper of course. Let's say he has that Mike Trout like 2nd year.  That's a big jump from Morse (we're taking Span to match 2012 Bryce based on last years production) but all that extra production from Bernie, Moore, has to go somewhere. I cut out a little from Werth but most falls here. STILL Bryce nets the team an extra 3.5 wins with a season for the ages. 106.5 wins.

Now let's start stretching.  Catcher was a bit of a problem, but not as much as you'd think. Suzuki was good at the end.  Ramos was good at the start.  Over all maybe a half a win more if they both can keep it up over the whole season? 107 wins.

We're still not there and there's not much room for more improvement.  What we need now is a break out year and the one place that we can get that is from Danny Espinosa.  I can't make him into a superstar, we are trying to be vaguely reasonable here, but he can improve a lot. Let's say 1.5 more wins than last year (he really was still good last year.  Fielding! Power!) that puts the Nats at 108.5 wins.

At this point I'll stop because there's one way to 110 wins from here that I think is more likely than 200 IP of Detwiler getting even better or Zimm returning to his best form. What is that way? Same way the 96 win-talented Nats won 98 wins last year. Luck. 1-2 wins is easily in the realm of error for this type of estimation.

There you have it. If the Nats don't get injured, don't see any drops from the career years their roster had last year, and have these 8 things happen in their favor they could get to 110 wins... if they get a little lucky. Take home lesson : getting to 110 wins is hard.  That's why only 6 teams have ever done it. 

But you see a couple of these 8 things should happen, so even if/when they do get injuries or regression on some of those best years, they should still be about a 95 win team. It all should even out.

Tomorrow : The nightmare scenario - missing the playoffs.


Anonymous said...

I think you missed one other place to get that last win or two--Dan Haren. I see him as a definite improvement over Jackson and the last little piece is a whole year from Detwiler.


Anonymous said...

I like this scenario. Lets just go with this, and assume the Capitals are in the process of delivering the DC nightmare.

Donald said...

If we're assuming no injuries, then you probably pick up a 1 or 2 from Ryan Zimmerman being healthy all year. Until the cortizone shot heard round the world, he was pretty miserable.

There's also another way to look at this. In order for the Nats to win, some team has to lose. If the other teams in the NL east have historically bad years, it could add those extra wins even if the Nats didn't improve at all

For a mailback response some time, do you care to rate the Nats OF versus the Braves in light of their acquisition of Justin Upton today?

Harper said...

Chaos - Dan Haren is in there. Det is tricky he didn't pitch as good as showed on the field (for one his BABIP was lowest among Nats starters) so if he pitches more innings the same way, the value he adds would be negligible, less than half a win. He has to get better and pitch more.

Anon - Ok done. Now I'll take bets on it. I'll be the house.

Donald - Zimm was so good post cortisone it almost evened things out. He doesn't seem to be the fielder he once was either. I doubt you'd pick up a whole win unless Zimm was post-cortisone good all year long. (which would give him a significantly better year than he's ever had)

Now the rest of the NL East petering out... that's another way, but I don't see it in 2013. Not all or even most of them

blovy8 said...

The trouble with that deal for the Braves is that they opened a hole at third to fill a hole in the OF, and some depth because of how versatile Prado is. Now one year vs the three Upton is signed for is worth the deal, but Arizona probably will be able to extend him for less than Upton is getting, or get a pick back in 2014. The weird thing is how much they wanted to dump that guy, it makes you wonder what the issue is, although I suppose the simple answer could just be that they need more help than just him to compete with LA and SF and are hedging their bets with Prado.

So does JUpton become a nice 3-4 WAR sort of guy, or a 6-7 WAR star his talent might predict? His home/away splits are really stark.

DezoPenguin said...

Yeah, that Braves OF is one where there could be a huge gap between potential upside and actual performance at any one of the three positions. The defense will be good, but their defense was godlike last year anyway, so no real improvement. But just look at 2011 versus 2012 for J. Upton, or for Heyward going the other way. If all their cards fall right, that could be an 18-20 WAR outfield. If they all go wrong, they might collectively put about 6. I'm very surprised that they've gone and installed a high-upside, will-he-match-his-potential guy at every OF position. Maybe they figure playing the Upton brothers together will raise both of their performances through sibling chemistry? Barring injury (which I'm more worried about with the Nats due to Span and Werth's history), I still like ours better.

A Fly Moses said...

My (possibly too-hopeful from a Nats perspective) is that the move from Chipper/Bourne/Prado to the Brothers Upton and Chris Johnson is basically a lateral one. So any real improvement would come in later years (three years of Justin for one of Prado) and a healthier pitching staff.

Which is to say, I still see the Nats as a moderately strong favorite over them. Agree?

Chas R said...

Good stuff, Harper. I BELIEVE.

Nattydread said...

Schoenfields' article was great. In real life team super-performances, though, unpredictable factors often make the difference. Remember -- an injury to LaRoche let Morse shine at 1B.

Say Zimmerman, Strasburg and Bryce all have superstar years. An injury to an infielder or outfielder might create a space for [insert unknown breakout player here -- Rendon? Moore?] to come in and shine.

What is the odds analysis on "dream" scenarios vs nightmare scenarios? My guess is nightmare scenarios are far more common.

blovy8 said...

Zimmerman actually can have better numbers than last year, he showed his offense can regain the 2009-2010 level if he stays relatively healthy. A 6 WAR season is still there for him if his arm is ok, and now that top of the lineup features a bit more OBP, it suits his more aggressive tendencies because he should get pitches to hit, and have a few more guys on. If Ryan plays 155 games, the Nats figure to have plenty of depth, but naturally, I'm still really hoping Lombardozzi has done some arm-strengthening exercises.

Harper said...

blovy8 - Chris Johnson isn't terrible. But the Prado loss is bigger than most people would think. I don't think the Braves necessarily felt something was wrong with Prado, just that a guy that hit well and could play decent corner OF could be found.

I like Justin to be ok...really I like Heyward and Freeman to bust out though.

Dezo - I like theirs. I think Bryce is obviously the best player of the six but I might actually choose all three Braves before the next Nat. Span has a limited upside and he really could have just careered out last year. Werth is going to crash - because of injury or age - we just don't know when. the worst OF of the bunch is still good.

AFM - That's quite possible but you have to think they were losing Chipper anyway. They were going to let Bourn go because while his 2011 value was high there's no way he keeps that up over a contract. They managed to keep level. That's an accomplishment.

I think that's about right. I'd give the Nats a 4-5 game edge in wins.

Chaz R - don't believe too strongly. go for the 100 first. That's pretty doable actually.

ND - Yeah if anything this has shown me even more clearly that it's the breakouts, collapses, and injuries that matter most. The gradual improvements and decreases in production, the numbers within reasonable expectation, they don't drive your season.

That's why last year worked out - unpredictably good years from LaRoche, Desmond, and Bernie (which helped cover injuries). As good as could possibly be expected years from Moore, Lombo, Gio, the pen.

I'd agree. Nightmare happen more often. I think breakouts and collapses even themselves out, but nightmares can also be caused by the very common injury.

blovy8 - he COULD, but his best years were balanced by GREAT D and he hasn't played great D since 2010. He's in a "show me" year defensively as far as I'm concerned. If he doesn't have great of very good year he'd have to have his best season ever with the bat to get up to that 6 WAR.