Predictions regarding the Nats for 2011:
- 80 or more wins.
I think the progress of the young guys from within the organization plus the acquisitions will provide a mini-version of the Tampa Bay Rays move from last to first a few years back.
2. Jordan Zimmermann will emerge as the number one starter and lead the starting staff to the biggest surprise of all the team segments. Net improvement from among Detwiller, Marquis, Lannan, and Maya will greatly help as well.
3. There will be slight improvement in the offense, not so much in the headline stats. as with better productivity.
Better baserunning (net faster and smarter from the guys playing the most time) plus better situational hitting will be behind this. For example, ‘replacing’ the at bats of Dunn, Willingham, and Morgan (I predict many fewer ABs from him) with Morse, Laroche, and Werth will accomplish this.
4.There will be slight improvement in the defense.
The outfield is not likely to contribute to this assessment since Morse (a negative on D) will get a lot of playing time, but this will be countered by the improvement in RF (Werth). CF is a big question mark, both because it is unclear who will play and how well any of the candidates will perform. The various statistics aside, Morgan is below average overall mainly because of poor decision making and a weak arm.
- Quality of the closer. If this is not solved then 80 wins will go out the window. I worry greatly if Storen is not the answer. My gut says he will get it together, but the uncertainty is great. Ditto for Clippard.
- Ramos at catcher. Is he ready for prime time?
- Will the combined batting average of Desmond and Espinosa be above .270? If yes, and Ramos has decent productivity, then I believe the offense will be good enough for an 80 win season, given even modest improvement by the starting pitching.
Most confident about:
- The offense provided by Morse, Laroche, Werth, and Zimmerman.
- Improvement in the infield defense at 1B, 2B, and SS to go with gold standard at 3B.
- Significantly fewer errors committed.
- Morse merging as the big RBI man. I stand by my off season prediction regarding him of .280, 30+ HRs, and 110 RBIs.
Hope springs eternal before the season starts, but I really think the organization is on the right path. Perhaps a trade of one of the catchers and an outfielder (I would hate to see Morse go but he might have decent trade value for someone looking for a DH) for a pitcher will help.
In any case, like most of you, I greatly look forward to this season, especially since I will be able to attend several games in mid-April on our trip ‘back home’ to the DC area. I lived in the area until 25 years old and grew up in Silver Spring. I now live in Newfoundland but visit DC about every two years, when I take in several games. I have been following the various Washington baseball iterations since 1958 (my first memories) and I am now hopeful that the promised land is close at hand.