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In AD 2009 W.A.R was beginning.

What happen?

With the start of the season nearly upon us, it's time to revisit our Wins Above Replacement projection (click the 'WAS' tab on the bottom), in which we try to project how well the Nats will do in the 2009 season.  Let's see what's changed since our last update last month.  Revised lineups, rotation, and bullpen after the jump, as well as yet another plea for the wisdom of the crowd (that's you guys) to make the projection better.

Someone set us up the bomb.

Big changes in the last 30 days, as if getting Adam Dunn weren't enough!  Shawn Hill released, Joe Beimel signed, Julian Taverez compares us to a 600-pound J.Lo...  Plus, even more back-up catchers, and the continuing unresolved glut of outfielders.  Time to take another look at the lineup.  WE GET SIGNALWHAT !

Main screen turn on !

Let's start with the lineup.  Recall that our W.A.R. calculation divvies up 695 plate appearances (PA) for each IF/OF spot, plus 340 for pinch hitters (PH).  We give the starters most of the PA at each position (if we can figure out who they'll be...), and then assign the rest to one or more backup players.  If we figure someone might get hurt, or it's not clear who will start, then we split up the PA based on what we figure the odds are.  I use the CHONE projections for expected batting and fielding performance, and my own half-baked fudge factor to represent baserunning (basically, Milledge, Dukes, and Harris all add 0.1 win per 695 PA from speed, so it's almost not worth including... still, I did the math, so I'm adding it in!).  I've got an excerpt from the W.A.R. spreadsheet for each position, below.  After the each player's name, it's the number of PA, projected OBP and SLG, baserunning adjustment, and fielding adjustment (ignore the stuff in the grey columns--those are part of the W.A.R. calculation).

It's you !!

In spite of his injury and Manny's desire to have someone to "push" him, I don't think anyone doubts Jesus Flores will get the majority of the time behind the dish.  Call it 500 PA for Home Run Jesus--but who gets the other 195? Wil Nieves and Flores both bat righty, and we all know Manny loves him some platoon advantage.  Javier Valentin and Josh Bard are both switch hitters.  CHONE projects 2009 batting lines of 251/297/350 for Nieves, 254/338/369 for Bard, and 251/320/382 for Valentin.  Defensively, Nieves projects to be worth -4 runs, Bard -9 runs, and Valentin -4 runs. In spite of how pretty Mrs. Doghouse thinks Wil is (although she disapproves of his current goatee), he may be reinforcing an impressive Syracuse squad this year.  Valentin and Bard are actually equivalent, W.A.R.-wise, once you plug them in for the back up 195 PA, so I put in Bard's numbers as representative of either.

At first base, I don't think we see any changes.  I'm choosing to believe Nick Johnson doesn't get traded, and that he has a 50% chance of losing half the season--400 PA for NJ at 1B, with 100 for Josh Willingham (filling in if NJ gets hurt) and 95 PA for Ronnie Belliard (giving NJ days off).  Right now, I don't think Dmitri Young plays much, despite Bowden's promises.

At second, I think Anderson Hernandez still has the inside track, especially after seeing some of the nice Dee last night, am I right?  Of course, we don't know how serious the Hammy strain will end up being, but I already hedged by only giving him 400 PA, with the rest split up among Alberto Gonalez, Belliard, and Willie Harris.  I don't see a change here.  There may not be room for "Teh General" on the 25-man, but we can consider his PA to be a hedge against injuries (as below in other IF spots, too).

At short, I think we can safely pencil in Cristian GUUUUUZZZMMaaaaannnnn! for most of the playing time, with Gonzalez picking up the rest, assuming he spends some time up in the big club.  Anyone think I should maybe put in Harris or someone else there as backup, instead?  Speak up in the comments!

Lessee, who do we put at third?  I let TAWH and Teh General split Zimmy's days off.

How are you gentlemen !!

It's still pretty muddled in the outfield.  We'll give Dunn the start in LF, Milledge in CF, Dukes in RF.  Kearns, Willingham, and TAWH fill in the rest (recall Hammer has some time at 1B in this projection).  Kearns and/or Willingham look like trade-bait right now, so I only have each of them in for 200ish PA.  No, I don't see Wily Mo or Corey Patterson in the lineup.

All your base are belong to us

The W.A.R. spreadsheet leaves us with 340 miscellaneous PA for PH.  In past versions of the calculations, I've filled those in mostly with Belliard, Willingham, and TAWH--good (or at least not crappy) hitters.  I'm going to give in to my inner Dave from NNN, however, and fill in this area with the Inevitable Scrubs who will show up because of injuries, visa trouble, misguided auditions, or who knows what.  To represent Scrub Nation, I'm putting up Kory Casto (in spite of the likelihood he won't pass waivers when we try to send him to Syracuse) and Ryan Langerhans.  I'm also putting in a few PA for DaMeathook--I can't be all doom and gloom, and we can't have seem the last of him.

You are on the way to destruction.

This brings us to the rotation.  For the W.A.R. estimate, we assign 940 innings pitched (IP) to starters, and 505 IP to relievers.  For relievers, we also assign a "leverage" number to represent them pitching in tight spots--closers have a leverage higher than 1, mop-up guys have a leverage lower than 1 (starters have a leverage of 1).  The total average leverage for the bullpen has to be 1 (the junk-time appearances balance out the save oppurtunities).  I'm using CHONE again for the projected ERAs.

What you say !!

Okay, so what's our rotation?  The first three spots have been ordained as John Lannan, Scott Olsen, and Orlando Cabrera.  Shawn Hill is no longer a contender, so that leaves Collin Balester, Jordan Zimmermann, and Shairon Martis competing for the last two spots. I think they all have a chance to appear in the bigs at some point, so I'm just going to split up the IP evenly among them (okay, I gave a few extra to Double-N and Shairon "I need a nickname" Martis because they've been hot in Spring).  I figure Jason Bergmann is pretty much set to be the long man in the bullpen, but we'll pencil him in for a spot start or three.  Figure it shakes out like this:

You have no chance to survive make your time.

Let's move on to the bullpen.  You think the OF is muddled?  If you recall the last worksheet, I basically threw everyone into the bullpen.  I'm going to take another stab at it, but this is where I can really use some advice!  Got an idea of how the 'pen will shake out?  Leave a comment!

Ha ha ha ha....

Okay, we have "Wild" Joel Hanrahan as our closer, so he gets the highest-leverage spot (1.8). Saul "Sa-oool the old reliable" Rivera is now our bridge guy (1.0 leverage), because Joe "Watch this space" Beimel has been declared our new 8th inning guy (1.3 leverage--CHONE projects a 4.03 ERA for him). Figure we can pencil each of them in for about 70 IP.  That leaves 295 IP for the other 5 spots, scattered among various Rule-Fivers, prospects, retreads (Kip Wells' CHONE ERA is 5.05), and Julian "Any Port in a Storm" Taverez (CHONE ERA 4.42).  Bergmann in long relief ought to be good for 40 IP, and who doubts that Jesus "no, the other Jesus" Colome will be there with the mop for 45 IP (leverage 0.5)?  And the rest... geez, we'll just throw it out to the peanut gallery:

Captain !!

Seriously, help me out with this, people.  What do we do with this bullpen?!  Who do you think is in, who do you think is out?  Leave a comment and I'll do at least one more revision before Opening Day.

Take off every 'ZIG' !!  You know what you doing.

So, where does this get us?  Let's turn the crank and see how many wins pop.


We're still getting 75 wins or better on average--assigning the scrubs to PH loses us a bit of win, as does giving Willingham more PA in LF over TAWH (compared to the last version).  Here's how the probabilities work out for wins this season:

Move 'ZIG'. For great justice.

Even with the 'coming to earth' of the offense from the infusion of scrubs into the lineup and the grab-bag extravaganza in the bullpen, we're looking at an 80% chance of 71 wins or better.  And we still get to 75 wins more than half of the time. Little chance of playoffs in 2009, but a big improvement over last season and a decent shot at the best season since the magic of 2005.  BELIEVE!