Mr. 25 and the Nature of Predictions

There is really nothing to write so why am I trying. That is the question
that entered my mind the moment I sat down to write this. I had an idea to
write about who would be the 25th man on the Nats roster, wondering if people
are right or wrong to back off their predictions for the Nats, or if we were
wrong in predicting a mid-80s win total for the 2012 Nats. None of these are
really enough for a full 500-1000 word blog post so I will address them all.

First of all I will say it is too early
to be talking about Spring Training battles. Pitchers and catchers report in
just about three weeks and while it isn’t likely that something could happen
before then, something could happen, and it doesn’t even have to be baseball
related. Henry Rodriguez’s work visa could get lost in the mail handing the
25th spot on the roster to Bill Bray. Until everyone is in camp writing about
who is going to be the last man on the roster is pointless in some ways. The
Nats could also go out and sign Jose Velverde or K-Rod to minor league deals
with an invite to Spring Training. While that may not instantly give them the
heads up on Bray or H-Rod, both Velverde and K-Rod are better pitchers when
they are healthy. And if you are worried about both Velverde and K-Rod being
right handed while Bray is a lefty I would like to point you to this post by Tom
Tango from April 30 of last year

Next up in the thoughts that have been
racing through my mind is my wonder at people backing off their predictions.
People I have talked to have all been very excited for the Nats season and
think that the 2013 roster is going to be better than the 2012 vintage, but yet
when they put a number to it they aim low. Somewhere around 93-95 wins. Always
less wins than the Nats had in 2012. They in one breath say they think the
roster is better, but yet not good enough to match or exceed the Nats win total
of 98 in 2012. Now is this because 98 is such a high number and it appeared to
be a magical season for the Nationals or is it something in human nature that
if they predict 102 wins and the Nats win 97 they will feel more wrong than if
they predict 92 and the Nats win 97. Both of those predictions are five wins
off and neither is any more or less wrong than the other. This isn’t the Price
is Right. No one is going to penalize you for going over on a win prediction
for a baseball team. 

Let’s examine some quick facts here. The
Nats had terrible defense in left field last season and bad OBP from the
lead-off spot. They added Denard Span. The Nats had Jayson Werth, Stephen
Strasburg, Ian Desmond, Bryce Harper, Drew Storen, and Wilson Ramos all miss a
month or more of the season in 2012. All of those players should have increased
playing time in 2013. Certainly some regression should be expected from
Desmond, Gio Gonzalez, and LaRoche, but it isn’t like they are going to regress
to 0 WAR players. Even if 2 entire WAR is shaved off their 2012 totals they
will all be productive major league players and the increased playing time for
Werth, Harper, Storen, and Ramos, a full year of a post-cortisone Zim, and the
additions of Span and Soriano should help to balance any regression from the
previously mentioned three.  

My last thought of this morning was “were
we so wrong in predicting 86 wins for the 2012 Nationals?” I thought Desmond
would be better in 2012 than he was in 2011, but I never imagined he would be
as good as he was. I was expecting closer to a 2 or 3 WAR player than a 5 WAR
one. The same can be said of Gio Gonzalez. Before the 2012 season the knock on
him was he walked way too many people, and while he still walked a lot of
batters in 2012 it was less than his career norm and it led to him being a 5.4
fWAR pitcher instead of the 3 WAR pitcher he was expected to be. Then of course
there is Bryce Harper. While it should come as no surprise that he lived up to
the expectations, no one knew how to project him before the 2012 season. Most
projections didn’t even account for him at all. After all Mike Trout at 19 was
a near 0 factor for the 2011 Angels. That was really who Harper was being
compared to. Instead Harper had a great deal of influence on the 2012 Nats
finishing the season with 4.9 fWAR and the rookie of the year.

Take away six wins from the failure to
predict Gio and Desmond’s breakouts and five wins for not accounting for Harper
and the Nats should have been predicted to be around an 87 win team. So really,
all of us that predicted them to be an 86 win team weren’t that far off when
you figure in the nature of the unknown. We didn’t predict breakouts for Gio
and Desmond because there was no evidence they were coming just as there was no
evidence that Harper was going to be one of the best 19 year olds to ever play
the game. So as we try and predict what the 2013 Nats are going to do based on
what the Nats players have done in the past remember as right as our logic may
be there will be unpredictable events that occur during the course of a
baseball season.    

That is it for these thoughts, but until
some real news starts breaking I feel it may get harder and harder to write as
we finish up this slow crawl to February 12. If you do have anything you would
like to see here on the pages of Citizens of Natstown feel free to leave your
suggestions in the comments section and we will process them in the order in
which they were received.

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One comment

  1. In many roster discussions I’m often stuck by how much worry is given to the non-catchers on the bench vs the second catcher. It seems most teams give more credence to guys (on the Nats roster) like Moore, or Tracy who are basically PHers who can fill in for tired or hurting starters when needed, as opposed to a backup catcher who will start 2 games a week.My opinion is it would be much more effective to prioritize the backup catcher, who (if you have anyone who can be your emergency catcher – for the remote possibility that one catcher is injured after the other is pinch hits.The Ramos-Suzuki situation puts some clarity on this, why must Rizzo trade one of them if/when Ramos is healthy? if they each start 3-4 games a week and the other PHs on his off days you allow them to split between 30-42 PAs a week as opposed to on getting about 20 and the other less than 10.

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