Projecting the 2013 Nationals, Part 4: 94 Wins or Bust?

Having determined that the 2013 Nationals are projected to allow 591 runs and score 692 runs, how many games does that mean they will win?

This is a job for the Pythagorean win expectation formula:

Wins/Losses= 1/1+(runs allowed/runs scored)^2)

Which yields us the shocking total: The 2013 Nationals are projected to win 94 games. That’s right. They’re projected to have a record of 94-68, playing .579 baseball.

Just let that wash over you for a second. I just projected this team to win over 90 games. This is exhilerating. This is terrifying.

And the thing that gets me about this is that these are all fairly conservative estimates. I’ll be playing with these numbers from time to time over Spring Training. But I’m going to go with this as my baseline estimate for 2013.

To be honest, I sat on these results for about a month, looking at them over and over and over again, utterly terrified of posting them. I am not used to being this optimistic about the Washington Nationals, ever. And now, suddenly, I am in the position of rooting not for the underdog, or the lovable loser–no, this year, I am rooting for the favorite. This is bizarre and wonderful and terrifying at once.

Normalcy

So the Nats went 4-4 on the road trip (including an ignominious sweep at the hands of the Dodgers). They hold a record of 14-8, tied (for now) for first place in the National League East.

Like I’ve said previously, the Nats were bound to cool off. To date, they have scored 74 runs (an average of 3.36 runs per game). They have allowed a total of 59 runs (an average of 2.68 runs per game). According to our handy-dandy Pythagorean Win Expectation calculation, they should be 13-9. The Nats are thus performing at the level that we should expect.

They continue to outperform my pre-season calculations. According to my pre-season projections, the Nats should be  12-10, having scored 84 runs, while allowing 77 runs.

Again, the Nats pitchers have done a tremendous job of keeping opposing runs off the scoreboard. Indeed, the actual Nats have allowed  18 fewer runs than I had initially supposed they might.

But the continued dominance of the Nats pitching staff has been almost entirely negated by the continuing impotence of their offense: according to my calculations, the Nats should have scored 10 more runs than they have actually done. A vastly improved Adam LaRoche and Jayson Werth are welcome news. But this line-up still misses Michael Morse and (now) Ryan Zimmerman. Recent arrivals Bryce Harper and Tyler Moore look to shake things up, but I did not include them in my initial projections, and have no real way of knowing just how much they will contribute.

This is the new normal, Nats town.

 

The Ten Percent Problem

12-4.

12-4.

Twelve and four!

If you had told me in January that today, with ten percent of the baseball season behind them, the Nats would have lost only four games and won twelve–I would have laughed at you.

But as I type these words, I’m watching the last-place Phillies founder against the Diamondbacks. I never thought I’d see the day.

The Nats continue to outperform my pre-season projections. According to my calculations, the Nats should be about 9-7 (I actually had them projected .543). They should have scored 61 runs and allowed 59 runs.

As I predicted last post, the offense has cooled somewhat. To date, the Nats have scored 58 runs, marginally fewer than my preseason predictions would have suggested.  What should really amaze us, though is this: to date, the Nationals have allowed only 45 runs. Look again: that’s a whopping fourteen fewer runs than the preseason prediction.

That means that the Nats success is largely attributable to dominant pitching–especially the K Street rotation.

You know the statistics. As I write this, the Nats pitching staff leads all baseball in staff ERA (2.34), FIP (2.30), xFIP (3.16), and strikeouts (144). The Nats’ pitching staff, collectively, has the lowest opponents’ batting average (.199).  Of the top fifteen pitchers in all baseball in xFIP, four are Nationals: Gio Gonzalez (no. 2), Ross Detwiler (no. 9), Edwin Jackson (no. 13), and Stephen Strasburg (no. 14).

Add all of that up, and that’s worth three wins, I suppose.

It all makes for thrilling baseball. But the Nats are scoring only 3.63 runs per game so far. Again, that’s less than the Natstradamus-predicted rate of 3.80 runs per game. The National League average so far is 3.90. This does not bode well for the long term.

Then again, the Nats have the fewest runs allowed per game so far (2.80)–vastly outperforming the Natstradamus-projected 3.5 runs allowed per game.

If the Nats are going to stay hot, they are going to need to find offense somewhere. With Michael Morse hurt, all eyes will turn to Tyler Moore, whose arrival in Nats Town seems imminent. Until then, the Nats are going to balance on the razor’s edge–and Nats town is going to watch their every move breathlessly.

 

Convergence.

The Nats lost to the Reds in extra innings today–so I’m more than a little agitated at the moment.

Amid the Natstown delerium after the Nats Friday 13th 13th-inning walk-off, before Edwin Jackson’s dominant complete-game win on Saturday, I tweeted thus:

The #nats continue to outperform my projections–and all this with LESS offense than I predicted. Wild ride: how long can it last?!

Today, I guess we’re beginning to find out. Despite scoring a mind-boggling 5 runs, the Nats could not beat a Reds team that should have been swept.

Thus far this year, the 7-3 Nats have scored 39 runs while allowing 27 runs.

My preseason projection to this point would have had them scoring 38 runs and allowing 35 runs, for a record of somewhere between 5-5 or 6-4.

As time has gone on, the Nats offensive production has begun to get closer and closer to my preseason prediction. I take no particular joy in this, because, personally, I think even that might not be right, either. With Michael Morse out of the lineup for at least two months (six weeks of “shutdown,” plus another two weeks of rehabilitation), the Nats offense is without its biggest producer.

The surprise here is the pitching. The Nats’ pitching staff has been exceptionally good at keeping opposing teams off the scoreboard. They’re outperforming the projections to date by a whopping 8 runs–good enough for 1-2 wins so far. Time will tell if that kind of performance is sustainable.

Wild Ride

Mr. Walkoff did it again for the Nats at Opening Day in Nats Park…with a walkoff wild pitch!

It’s too bad the usually-reliable shutdown artist Brad Lidge blew the save in the top of the 9th. Gio Gonzalez’s pitching was a joy to behold from my perch in Section 309. Watching highlight reels of him grinning like a Little Leaguer after getting a hit? Amazing. How can I not love this kid?

Oh. Uh, ahemSorry. The Nats walk-off win at home today gives them sole possession of first place atop the National League East, a half-game ahead of the Mets. The Nats now have a record of 5 wins against 2 losses (.714 winning percentage!). They have scored 28 runs, allowing only 17.

If current trends hold, the Nats Pythagorean win expectation is .731. Wow.

How’s my model looking? Well, my preseason Natstradamus projection has the Nats scoring 26.66 runs by now and allowing 24.59 runs.

Even without Michael Morse, Drew Storen, Chien-Ming Wang, and Bryce Harper, the Nats are, to this point at least, outperforming my preseason projections. My rational mind knows this may not be sustainable. But when I’m sitting up in 309 and rooting for my Nats, it’s really really tough for me to care.

Nats Take 2 from Cubs in the Second City.

I will never understand what Jordan Zimermann must have done or said to the Nats’ batters to make them hate him so–they never give him any run support. The Cubs’ Jeff Samardzjia pitched a gem, and not even Carlos Marmol could screw it up enough to give the Nats the Curly W.

So with 3 games played, the Nats are 2-1, having scored 12 runs and allowed 9. As down as I am about the loss today, I have to say that the Nats are more or less where I expected them to be.  My projection had them scoring 11.43 runs by this point, and allowing 10.35 runs. Pretty darn close to what we’ve seen so far.

Here’s where projections and prognostications get you into trouble: if the Nats continued to bat all season the way they batted this series (scoring 12 and allowing 9), their Pythagorean Win Expectation would be .640. They could ride this all the way out to a 104-win season! Of course, that’s ludicrous–you can’t predict a 162-game season based on the outcome of a 3-game series against a ballclub that nobody really thinks will amount to much this season.

But if the Nats actually do keep this up all year–and if they don’t bunch up their runs, but produce consistently–they’ll have an even better year than I expected. And then I will be as happy as this guy: