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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