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How do 81.6 wins sound?

Sounds nutty to me, but I'm still in Holidays Vacation Mode&trade, so I'm not going to think too hard about it. But, letting the links do the walking, we'll attempt to address the vexing questions of how a team can win six-tenths of a game and how this particular Plantastic dog of a team is even going to sniff the hindquarters of a .500 season.

Let's start with this thread at the BPG forum, which provides a belated yet helpful reference/link to this post at the Replacement Level Yankees Weblog, which referenced/linked to these projections at this blog, with said projections residing at this EXCEL link. (I hesitate to mention the projector guy runs an Angels blog, but I love the fact that the guy calls himself---and his projections---"Chone," a reference, of course, to my favorite Ryan Freel-type other than the actual Ryan Freel.) Back at the Yankee guy's blog, this dude ran the projections through the Diamond Mind thingamaroo 100 times---and, while he seemed more excited at the Yankees projecting to have the best record in the majors ([editor's note, by Basil] boring), what caught the BPG poster's eye was the Nats averaging out at 81.6-80.4 in those 100 seasons.

Oh, did I mention that's also third place? Nope? Well, yep.

Over the course of the simulated century, the Nats projected (based on the projected projections) to win 13.5 division titles and four wild card berths. The 81.6 wins put the Nats in third position in the NL East, behind the Mets and Braves but just above the Phillies. Philly projects to more division titles and wild card berths, which must indicate something more volatile about that team (age?), but whatever it is, let's just say the Phillies suck; they must, if they're going to finish behind the Nats.

But back to the underlying projections, by which I mean the "Chone" ones. This preliminary post describes the system, given a typically shoehorned long-form name of Comprehensive Holistic Objective Numerical Estimations. For position players, "Chone" stipulates "[a]ll players are park adjusted and projected to a mythical stadium that is completely average, and somewhere between the American and National leagues, just off the interleague play highway." The projections "include[] baserunning and fielding projections, a position adjustment, and a figure for total runs over replacement level." I downloaded the Excel file, and just eyeballing the numbers, the offensive landscape is somewhat conservative. That's okay, of course, if the entire league is scaled the same way; just keep this in mind if you download the Excel file and scan the Nats' numbers. I'm not going to lift the numbers and throw them in a table, but I will note that among the projections: a) Nick Johnson's OBP deity status predictably pumps him up; b) Ryan Zimmerman is pretty solid but not yet spectacular; c) Felipe Lopez is really hurt by that defense thing (he's still projected as a shortstop); d) Cristian Guzman doesn't exist (it's probably better that way); e) giving Nook Logan two-thirds playing time is only slightly less harrowing than giving two-thirds playing time to Melvin Dorta; and f) a full season from Ian Desmond might just inspire Stan Kasten to pull out his remaining hair, grow a new set of hair, and then pull that out too.

I also downloaded the pitcher projections. Not to belabor the "innings gap" theme explored in previous posts, but I think this is where the projections/simulations fall apart. Chone's projections include Tony Armas and Ramon Ortiz as Nats for 2007. At first blush, this might seem to the Nats' detriment for the purpose of the simulated seasons, but I don't think this is the case. Although we must take playing time predictions with a heavy grain of salt, the fact of the matter is that Chone pegs Ortiz as tops on the team in innings pitched, with Armas third. (Matt Chico, on the basis of his starting experience in the minors, is projected second in innings---and last in ERA.) Remove Ortiz and Armas from the predictions, and you have to add in the Uncertain Suspects with whom we will apparently become familiar in 2007: Tim Redding and Joel Hanrahan, as well as Mike O'Connor, Beltran Perez, and Shawn Hill---guys projected as better than Armas and Ortiz, though in much less action. Replace known dreck with unknown dreck, and the potential for volatility increases; I'd expect, over the course of 100 seasons, the unknown guys would fail more than succeed, as compared to the projections currently plugged into Diamond Mine by the Yankees guy. Plus, as Chone himself notes, pitching projections are tough to do---perhaps an exercise in futility. There's a greater level of confidence associated with position player projections. Insofar as the Nats' pitching is already uncertain, relying on a projection of that performance only adds to the uncertainty.

In short, 81.6 wins would be nice, but I wouldn't bank a year's worth of contentment on that result.

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Outside of the lamentably occasional review of this blog's favorite minor league pitcher, I don't focus too much on the minor leagues. That will change during the upcoming season, at least to an extent; if the Lernastens want us to look to the future, we might as well look to places from where the future will reveal itself, even if the current occupants of those places might not themselves be in our future. To state that less confusingly, although I'm not a prospecthound or even a wannabe prospecthound, I should probably focus on the minors a bit more.

Of course, there are always sources to inform and supplement this attention. Just today, for instance, Nats Farm Authority published an interview with prospects guy Deric McKamey, who opined on the state of the organization's farm system. Read the whole interview, but for a brief synopsis: McKamey's choices for the top three organizational prospects have combined for like two weeks of professional experience. While you filter out the slight hyperbole in that statement, read it again---and then consider the No. 4 guy is a Rule 5 pick from another organization.

In all, six of McKamey's top ten weren't in the organization twelve months ago, and a seventh, Justin Maxwell, was drafted in June 2005. Among the three remaining guys---Kory Casto, Colin Balester, and Clint Everts---only one, Casto, has performed to expectations.

I don't mean to sound so dour about the minors, though. Things could look dramatically different in a year, after Smiley Gonzalez, Chris Marrero, Colten Willems, and the rest of the Class of 2006 starts developing a track record. Plus, the Nats hold the sixth pick and several compensation picks in next June's draft. By my recollection, the talent lined up for the '07 is viewed as considerable.

At any rate, there are two other recent minor league interviews worth a read: NFA's interview with Bobby Holland (general manager, Potomac Nationals) and Beltway Boys' interview with C.J. Knudsen (general manager, Vermont LakeMonsters). As of yet, no one has interview Hagerstown's fry guy.

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The Red Sox seem to like the idea of Chad Cordero closing games for them, and Banks of the Anacostia likes to evaluate trade rumors. It's a good match, so read up. More prospects for The Plan® ? Maybe so! Capitol Punishment demonstrates we're not the only idiots out there; Saux Fan is plenty stupid, too.

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Lots of goin's are a'doing at Oleander and Morning Glories, but rather than pimp the whole flubbin' site, I thought I'd note OMG has a new author, its third, which makes that place three times better than this one. The new guy, Anthony, takes a swing at the Nats' offseason (or, more fittingly, like a catcher's indifference or something?). Among other insights, he makes the entirely reasonable point that Tim Redding is probably the key to the 2007 starting rotation.

Well, other than John Patterson's health . . .

And whether Mike O'Connor can duplicate his decent '06 debut . . .

And whether Beltran Perez was for-real in September . . .

And whether . . .

Say, how many keys comprise a question mark?