How Good Can the Nationals Be

The Nationals roster isn’t complete. There are two bullpen spots to be won
in Spring Training or filled in a trade of Michael Morse, but those two spots
will have little impact on the Nats prospects for 2013. In my curiosity I
decided to make a spreadsheet of the average fWAR for the Washington Nationals
roster. I left a couple things out. I didn’t calculate pitcher’s batting, but
as the Nats pitchers were fairly decent in 2012 that could be a marginal
positive, but even if they aren’t that good it isn’t something that matters a
great deal. I also got a bit lazy with the bullpen and sense the Nats have
virtually the same bullpen as 2012 and that bullpen was middle of the pack in
fWAR I figured the 2013 Nats bullpen will be much the same. The bench I added
up, hoped for fewer injuries, and subtracted a win or two off. The
grand total of all this is that the Nats will be a 52.8 fWAR team.

In 2012 they were a 50.1 fWAR team. With
a team of replacements being figured to win around 45-50 games the Nats win
total of 98 fits comfortably in there. Now in 2012 the Nats had a number of
players below their career average fWAR. Jayson Werth has averaged 3.3 fWAR for
his career and in 2012 he was worth 1.0 fWAR. Ryan Zimmerman was closer to his
career average fWAR than expected, but still lower at 4.5 compared to 4.8
average for his career. Either way the Nats two highest paid players had below
average seasons. The biggest improvement in fWAR for the Nats though comes from
the addition of Dan Haren. His career average fWAR of 4.7 would be a great
boost to the Nationals, but as he wasn’t even worth 2.0 fWAR in 2012 that can’t
be expected, but then that is somewhat balanced out by Ross Detwiler being
rewarded with 1.8 fWAR when he could be closer to 3.0 in 2013. All this means
is you take this average fWAR add it to 45 and 50 and get a good range total
for the number of games the Nats should win in 2013.   

But estimating the Nats to win between
98-102 games is if everyone on the team plays to their career averages. It has
Gio Gonzalez going from a 5.4 fWAR to 3.4 and Ian Desmond dropping from 5.4 to
2.7. The point isn’t to say that won’t happen. It is highly likely that both of
those players could regress some, but it is also likely that 2012 was a
breakout year for both players and they could repeat that performance. There is
also a chance that Danny Espinosa could have a breakout season and be much
better than his career average fWAR of 3.7. There is also a chance that Jayson
Werth could return to his 5.0 fWAR Philly days and Zimmerman could have a fully
healthy productive season and be back to the 7.0 fWAR player he was in 2009.

Add all that to the 52.8 projected fWAR
and it could push it close to or above 60 which would give the Nats a win range
of 105-110. Now that has a lot going right, but none of those things are out of
the realm of possibilities. It is very realistic to imagine Werth
having one more great season, Zimmerman as an MVP candidate, Gio Gonzalez and
Ian Desmond picking up in 2013 where they left off in 2012, and Danny Espinosa
having a breakout season much like Desmond in 2012. All of these things are
very possible along with Jordan Zimmermann learning a third pitch and becoming
the third Ace everyone knows he can be, Wilson Ramos coming back stronger and
better than expected, or Dan Haren finding his past glory and being the 6.0
fWAR pitcher he once was.  

The Nats roster is so deep and filled with talent that there is something
that could go right for nearly every player that pushes them well above their
career average fWAR. Still that 110 looks like a good ceiling for the Nats.
That is four things going right while nothing else goes wrong. That looks to be
the top. Certainly more can go right, but that isn’t how baseball works.
Magical seasons like that are very rare. For every good action on a team there
is an equal and opposite one. Meaning that the middle ground of the first
projection is the most likely one, but then there are also things that can go
wrong which could knock the Nationals projected fWAR down to 40 or below making
the total expected range of a win total between 85-110.

All that means is that no matter what
happens for the 2013 Nats they should be a good to great team. If more things
go right than go wrong they will be one of the best teams ever put on a
baseball field, and if more things go wrong than right they will be a decent
team that could grab a second Wild Card slot. All of these things are in the
realm of possibilities and none of them are as awful as watching an outfield
that contains Lastings Milledge and Elijah Dukes. The Nats have come a very
long way and their floor is still above any win total this team saw in Washington
before 2012.




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  1. Did you really just do an entire projection post without mentioning Bryce Harper at all? I just wanted to see something like;"If Harper is a 10.0 fWAR player like Mike Trout was at 20…"


  2. Projecting Harper is a difficult task in itself. He is in no way a typical player so expecting a sophomore slump is a bit foolish as is expecting him to jump by the same percent as Mike Trout. Of course he was better than Trout at 19 and his 4.9 fWAR from 2012 doesn’t include April. If I had to guess I would think Harper will be better than he was in 2012, but not a 10 fWAR player like Mike Trout. Maybe a 5-6 fWAR player and on the edges of an MVP debate.


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