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I like to hold off on having any opinion on the season until at least 20 games have been played, which is still a small sample, but it is much better than using Spring Training games. I know it is only 17 games, but I felt an urging to opine today. Obviously I am happy about the first 17 games for two reasons. First, as a long term (suffering) Washington baseball fan, and second, I predicted a 93-win season (conditionally, when the Nats had just lost 11 straight ST games). I leave the sabermetrics to others and do what I do best-observe, analyze, and predict. Here are my first 17-game segment comments:
The performance of H. Rod, Lombo, and Burnett so far (my three predicted surprises for 2012).
The exceptionally low ERA for the starting staff. I will stick with my prediction that Stras. Gio., and J. Zimm. will be top 15 in low ERA.
Winning without a great improvement in offense, though I expected incremental improvement there, which in some respects has happened. Since I joined this forum two years ago I have been a vigorous advocate that pitching and defensive improvement is the fastest way to improve the winning pct. With the pitching potential that existed in the pipeline two years ago it looked to me that first enhancing what were the organization's strength was the way to go. The development of Stras, Storen, Det. and J. Zimm. plus the brilliant trade for Gio., and losing Dunn (sorry Dunn fans) is the main reason for the Nats improvement over the last two seasons.
My projection of a 93 win season was mainly based on starting pitching improvement from 2011 plus the return of Zimm. to a full season and the expectation of at least two of the following occurring: 1. acquire an outfielder with good all around skills, 2. Harper establishes himself in RF before mid-season AND hits the full season equivalent of 25 HRs and 70 RBIs to go with a .280 BA; 3. the young guys of Ramos, Espy, Desmond, and Bernadino have a net improvement of 30 pts. for on-base pct., and strikeouts decrease by 20 percent; 4. Werth has a stellar year meeting or surpassing his average stats. for his last three years in Philly, and 5. LaRoche surprises by playing a full season and hits 25 HRs, 75 RBIs, and .270 BA. Number 4 and 5 are in place early on, but the possibility that Morse may be out for a third of the season or more subtracts from one of these positives. If Zim. is out for a similar amount then the offense is back to square one, and the defense will suffer. In the case of an offensive net status quo I projected 88 wins and that looks reasonable based on what we know at the moment. And numbers 1 to 3 could still occur, which would put 93 wins back in play, as far as I am concerned.
The Nats schedule is ramping up and the new loss of Zim. plus the indefinite loss of Morse leads me to believe in a .500 level winning pct. over the next 20 to 40 games. I have also factored in my belief that the Nats have had more than their share of on-the- field breaks from umpire calls and other random acts thus far. I do not think it will be worse than .500 because the pitching staff is likely to remain among the elite. The return of Storen in this period should help also. After about the 50 game point I think a higher winning pct. will return, esp. if three or four of my five listed items occur and Zim. and/or Morse returns.
I think it is quite possible that Flores is as good or better than Ramos. We will probably not know unless Ramos gets hurt. Ramos loses concentration sometimes, though he is certainly a good defensive catcher and signal caller. Flores is now healthy and may be as good on the defensive side. Also, he may hit better (higher BA and fewer SO). Just a thought.
DeRosa is certainly a disappointment with the bat, but I think he will mimic Hairston from last year, when Hairston couldn't hit a lick until late April as he filled in for Zim. Fans, give DeRosa a little slack.
I agree with some that Nady is dead weight and should be released.
Lombo is being under utilized, which Davey is likely to realize soon.
Like just about everyone else I am critical of Davey at times, but in general he is by far a superior manager to Acta or Riggleman, mostly from the intangibles more than the in-game moves.
That's all I can think of for now-thanks for listening. And thanks for many thoughtful analyses, esp. the quantitative ones as the season progresses. Go Nats.