I’m going to cut to the chase. I project the 2014 Washington Nationals to win 96 games.
I caught a lot of static last year when I predicted the 2013 Nationals to win 98 games and take the NL East.
They won 86, of course. Bryce Harper hit a wall–literally. That cost about 100 plate appearances, which had to be allocated to a series of bench players that were, frankly, terrible. Adam LaRoche was not the hitter we knew from his amazing comeback season in 2012.
The one thing I can’t do in my projection system is anticipate playing time. I have tried to correct for that factor this year. Last year, I assigned each of the starting 8 batters the average number of plate appearances that a batter in that NL would face in a year.
That, I have decided, is an error. Looking over at defense, I had also picked a total number of games that I expected each player to play at each position. The defensive projections are based on UZR per 150 games–which means I had to reduce the number of plate appearances for each starter accordingly.
Looking at it again, I had to further discount the number of plate appearances for each starter to the extent that I expected them to miss time. Notably, I have assumed that Adam LaRoche will miss around 20 games, and Jayson Werth will miss around 30–not unreasonable, given their respective ages and injury histories.
Going through and discounting each batter in that way, we come down to a projection of 677 runs scored in 2014. That’s up from 656 runs scored in 2013. Having more Bryce Harper helps, not to mention more of Wilson Ramos.
On the other side of the ball, we have one of the more interesting problems already. Doug Fister’s lat injury is incredibly worrisome. Our latest information is that he will be out another two weeks, and then probably have his innings severely limited for a while. In this optimistic scenario, then, we end up with 160 innings for Fister.
I have picked Taylor Jordan, rather than Tanner Roark, as the probable “fifth” starter. That means Roark’s innings are limited to 60–which should cover the time I expect Fister to be out. Fister’s innings deficit is consumed further with a heavier workload for Detwiler (who I expect to come in as a “piggyback” reliever to allow Fister to build innings)..
Taylor Jordan, incidentally, cannot be counted on to pitch more than 170 innings this year. That’s 120% of his previous high in innings pitched at all levels, in line with organizational rules.
I’m projecting 190 innings for Strasburg, too. I don’t think that’s out of line, given Zimmermann’s progression from the same surgery.
There’s nothing much to report on the defensive end. So, given the pitching and the defense, I see the 2014 Nats allowing 564 runs.
I’ll have more details out over the next couple of days so that I can make this a bit more transparent. But I’ve been so busy with other stuff (y’know, the day job), that I haven’t been able to devote my full attention to these projections.
I really expected this to be worse. I really did. But, fundamentally, I think the 2014 Nats are the same talented bunch we expected to see in 2013. The only thing they’ve got left to do is show up and show us.