When I projected that the 2013 Nats were going to win 94 games, I did so with a bit of trepidation. Not only did this mean that I was projecting a performance so good that it would have been literally unbelievable only a few years before, but because I have certain doubts about the construction of my model.
As you might have gathered from the title of this post, I think my model has been systematically undercounting playing time for pitchers and hitters. In the spirit of Top of the Inning/Bottom of the Inning nature of the Natstradamus projections, I’ll deal with the pitching issues first, and then the batting problems in the bottom of the inning.
EDIT: Astute readers noted that I should have reduced relief pitcher innings by as much as I increased starting pitching innings. I have amended the relevant analysis. This results in a 98win total.
Executive Summary for the TL;DR Crowd: Our earlier projection wasn’t as accurate as it should have been in counting playing time: A slight adjustment in innings pitched for starters–with a corresponding reduction in relief pitching innings– yielded a decrease in runs scored by 2—but a better/more nuanced look at plate appearances by the starting lineup yielded an astonishing increase in runs scored, from 692 to 725. This revises our win projection for the 2013 Nats to 98 wins.
Innings, Limits, and Other Stuff to Tear Your Hair Out With
First, pitching. If you look back at the projected innings pitched column in my pitching runs allowed projections, you will notice that I assume that pitchers in the starting rotation will pitch about 190 innings each, with Strasburg pitching only 180. How does that stack up with reality?
 Gio Gonzalez (199.1 IP);
 Jordan Zimmermann (195.2 IP)
 Edwin Jackson (189.2 IP).
Looking at things like this, it’s starting to look like our 180inning starting rotation baseline is off by a little bit. Is it really, though? None of the top three for the Braves (Minor, Hudson, Hanson) pitched over 180 innings last year. The Phillies had Hamels (215.1) and Lee (211.0), then a sharp dropoff (injuries). The Mets had Dickey (232.2) and Niese (190.1), and then a precipitous dropoff to Santana (117.0).
Things get a bit better when we look at the Reds, whose top five were remarkably consistent as far as innings, with Cueto (217), Latos (209.1), Bailey (208), Arroyo (202) , and Leake (179). Likewise, the Giants got a lot of innings out of their starters, with Cain (219.1), Bumgarner (208.1), Vogelsong (189.2), Lincecum (186), and Zito (184.1).
In fact, it’s the rare National League team that gets more than 180 innings from all of its top five starters–only the Giants managed this in 2012, and we all know how that worked out for them, right?
Anyway, returning to our projections: is there a better way we can match the innings expectations for Nationals starting pitchers? Maybe we can. During the height of the Strasburg Shutdown hysteria last year, I wrote that the organization has a general inningslimiting principle:
The Nats have a policy–and a remarkably enlightened one, at that–of limiting startingpitcher workloads to 120% of the innings a pitcher had pitched the previous year, wherever those innings happened (whether as an amateur, the minor leagues, or the majors). For pitchers returning from major injuries, the innings limit seems to be about 120% of the pitcher’s previous singleseason career high total innings pitched.
The conventional wisdom is that this limit may not apply to pitchers like Gio Gonzalez (age 27) and Dan Haren (age 32). Jordan Zimmermann (age 26) might have arguably “aged out” of this system, too, since he pitched 195.2 innings last year. Detwiler (age 26) might have aged out, as well, but last year’s 164.1 IP represented his professional maximum, so let’s assume we’re stretching him out more carefully and put him on the limit. Strasburg (age 24), it should go without saying, is probably under this silent limit as well.
Applying those limits, and looking at last year’s performances, we get the following:
 Stephen Strasburg. 120% of last year’s innings for Strasburg works out to 190.2 innings for Strasburg. Plugging that into our model, that works out to 54.23 runs allowed, an increase of 3.03 runs.
 Jordan Zimmermann. JZ pitched 195.2 innings. It would be foolish to assume he would pitch any more. Let’s assume he pitches 195 innings, then. That works out to 80.38 runs allowed, an increase of 2.06 runs.
 Gio Gonzalez. 199 innings is a lot, but he pitched over 200 innings in the two preceding years, so I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to give Gio 200 innings in 2013. Ten more innings of Gio than in our initial model yields 84.67 runs, an increase of 4.24 runs.
 Ross Detwiler. Detwiler’s 151 innings in 2012 was a career high for him. Increasing that by 120% yields 181 innings. Fortunately, the old model pegged him at 180 innings to begin with. We’ll leave well enough alone, then.
 Dan Haren. Haren’s a little harder to judge. He only pitched 176.2 innings in 2012, but before his back got balky, he pitched well in excess of 200 innings for seven consecutive seasons. Various projections have him pitching as many as 218 innings and as few as 170. Let’s say he recovers form and pitches 190 innings–which is what we had in the original model. Great.
After adjusting for an increase in innings pitched, we see that the Nats give up a few more runs– 9.33 runs. That’s enough to cost them one full game in the Natstradamus projection–so that leaves them with 93 wins, instead.
Not so fast. You will notice that we’ve increased Gio’s innings by 10, Strasburg’s innings by 10, and Zimmermann’s innings by 5. That means we need to reduce relief pitcher innings accordingly. If we reduce Craig Stammen’s 110 innings to 95 innings (6.6 runs allowed) and Zach Duke’s innings from 90 to 80 (4.8 runs allowed), we actually end up saving about 2 runs. That keeps us steady at 94 wins for now. But how about the hitting?
Batters: Up.
The crude assumption built into the model was that every one of the starting position players got 600 plate appearances each. This is, of course, false. The everastute David Huzzard reminded me that the number of plate appearances varies with position in the batting order. Fortunately, Baseball Reference lets us look at exactly how many plate appearances, on average, each batting order position got in the National League in 2012. As you can see, the leadoff batter gets, on average 750 plate appearances–125% more than our model assumed! What does it look like?
Split 
Pa 
Batting 1st 
750 
Batting 2nd 
732 
Batting 3rd 
716 
Batting 4th 
699 
Batting 5th 
684 
Batting 6th 
666 
Batting 7th 
647 
Batting 8th 
625 
Batting 9th 
606 
In fact, we see that in the NL, the only batting average position that gets even close to 600 plate appearances is the number 9 batter–which is usually the pitcher’s spot! Safe to say, then, that the model is broken as far as runs scored. To fix it, we need to figure out what the batting order is going to be and award plate appearances in proportion to that player’s spot in the batting order. To keep things consistent with our defensive statistics, we’ll assume that each “every day” position player appears in 150 games. With that in mind, let’s assign some plate appearances to a hypothetical order:
Player 
PA 
Denard Span 
695 
Jayson Werth 
678 
Bryce Harper 
663 
Adam LaRoche 
647 
Ryan Zimmerman 
633 
Ian Desmond 
617 
Danny Espinosa 
599 
Wilson Ramos/Kurt Suzuki 
579 
Pitchers 
561 
That leaves us with some 453 plate appearances to distribute among the other bench players. Let’s assume, crudely, that we distribute them evenly among Tracy, Moore, Lombardozzi, and Bernadina, giving them 113 plate appearances each. Let’s also further assume that the “Pitchers” spots are evenly distributed among all the starting pitchers, giving each of the starting five 112 plate appearances each.
The results are shocking:









Player Name 
4year total PA 
4year total wRC 
4yr moving avg wRC/PA 
Projected PA 
Projected wRC 
Team Total wRC 

Jayson Werth 
2803 
425 
0.151623260792009 
678 
102.80 


Ryan Zimmerman 
2844 
426 
0.149789029535865 
633 
94.82 


Tyler Moore 
171 
26 
0.152046783625731 
113 
17.18 


Bryce Harper 
597 
86 
0.144053601340034 
663 
95.51 


Adam LaRoche 
2622 
361 
0.13768115942029 
647 
89.08 


Denard Span 
2671 
334 
0.125046798951703 
695 
86.91 


Wilson Ramos 
613 
76 
0.123980424143556 
290 
35.95 


Ian Desmond 
1849 
214 
0.115738236884803 
617 
71.41 


Danny Espinosa 
1428 
164 
0.11484593837535 
599 
68.79 


Roger Bernadina 
1150 
121 
0.105217391304348 
113 
11.89 


Chad Tracy 
845 
85 
0.100591715976331 
113 
11.37 


Kurt Suzuki 
2703 
274 
0.101368849426563 
290 
29.40 


Steve Lombardozzi 
448 
42 
0.09375 
113 
10.59 


Stephen Strasburg 
83 
3 
0.036144578313253 
112 
4.05 


Drew Storen 
2 
0 
0 
0 
0.00 


Dan Haren 
240 
19 
0.079166666666667 
112 
8.87 


Craig Stammen 
90 
3 
0.033333333333333 
30 
1.00 


Jordan Zimmermann 
166 
4 
0.024096385542169 
112 
2.70 


Zach Duke 
226 
1 
0.004424778761062 

0.00 


Tyler Clippard 
14 
0 
0 
0 
0.00 


Gio Gonzalez 
84 
5 
0.05952380952381 
112 
6.67 


Ross Detwiler 
97 
9 
0.092783505154639 
112 
10.39 


Ryan Mattheus 
1 
0 
0 
0 
0.00 


Rafael Soriano 
0 
0 
0 
0 
0.00 


Bill Bray 
0 
0 
0 
0 
0.00 
















725.252999244993 
That’s a huge jump in runs scored, from 692 up to 725!
Putting it Together
Having adjusted our playingtime expectations somewhat, our revised projection has the 2013 Nats allowing 600 runs, while scoring 725 runs. Running that through the Pythagorean Win Expectation Formula gives us a revised win projection for the 2013 season of 98 wins, or four more than we had initially projected. The vast undercount of offensive plate appearances made a huge difference in terms of runs scored, and added two whole wins. The increase in starting pitching at the expense of middle relief yields two more wins.
There are a few caveats, of course. Naturally, this all assumes that every player involved will stay healthy all year, and that they all perform according to their fouryear trailing average performances. A realignment of the batting order will affect runs scored in very real ways: this is particularly true in the case of Bryce Harper. The current line up puts two lefthanded power hitters, Harper and LaRoche, backtoback, which may be suboptimal in matchup situations. But moving Harper down in the order will deprive him of plate appearances and runcreating chances.
I have goosebumps just thinking about this.