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Looking back on our 2021 preseason predictions for the Washington Nationals

We take a look back at whether our preseason predictions for the Nationals aged like fine wine or like milk...

Boston Red Sox v Washington Nationals Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

In case you’ve somehow missed it the last few weeks, Major League Baseball remains in a lockout while owners and players attempt to negotiate a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

With free agency and other transactions paused at the major level, there’s not much news for the Washington Nationals lately — though they were active in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft and signed a couple of interesting guys to minor league deals!

That makes it a perfect time to look back on the previous season and see just how terribly we did in our preseason predictions. And this year, we did even more terrible than usual.

Before we get into the predictions, let’s remind ourselves of who participated in the predictions.

The Participants

  • Patrick Reddington - Editor-in-chief, probably catching up on sleep
  • Blake Finney - Preparing his FBB arbitration case
  • Marty Niland - FBB’s own Viejo
  • Brett Barnett - Just like some Nationals players, traded away midseason

Who will lead the team in HRs? How many?

  • Patrick - Juan Soto, 37
  • Blake - Josh Bell, 35
  • Marty - Juan Soto, 50
  • Brett - Juan Soto, 37

Answer: Juan Soto, 29

Winner: Patrick and Brett

As the 2021 season wound down, one of the lesser storylines to follow was who would take home the team’s home crown, Josh Bell or Juan Soto. They were seemingly neck and neck for most of the year and hit their stride in September, but Soto snuck one ahead late and won it.

While I was the closest to the number of home runs, I got the player wrong, so Patrick and Brett take the first win in our predictions.

Which pitcher will lead the team in Wins? How many?

  • Patrick - Max Scherzer, 16
  • Blake - Stephen Strasburg, 14
  • Marty - Max Scherzer, 20
  • Brett - Stephen Strasburg, 13

Answer: Patrick Corbin, 9

Winner: Nobody

Despite having one of the worst pitching seasons in franchise history, Corbin still led the team in wins, though that was mostly volume, as he made four more starts than Erick Fedde, and had 12 more starts for the team than anybody else.

Between the four of us, we picked two players. One was traded away at the deadline, and the other failed to get fully healthy and made only five starts in 2021. I can’t call anybody a winner for that.

Who will lead the team in Saves? How many?

  • Patrick - Brad Hand, 25
  • Blake - Brad Hand, 28
  • Marty - Brad Hand, 35
  • Brett - Brad Hand, 35

Answer: Brad Hand, 21

Winner: Patrick

It’s easy to forget, but Hand was actually a pretty serviceable closer for the Nationals early in the season. That form meant he led the team in saves despite a pair of blown saves in late July and a trade to Toronto ahead of the de facto end-of-season closer, Kyle Finnegan.

Patrick ended up only being four saves out. Poor Marty and Brett way overshot the save total, though maybe if Hand had been a Nat the whole season, he’d have gotten close to 35.

How many games will Victor Robles hit leadoff this season?

  • Patrick - 125
  • Blake - 140
  • Marty - 95
  • Brett - 119

Answer: 27

Winner: Nobody

Despite experimenting with Robles atop the order for most of Spring Training, the Nationals quickly reverted back to Trea Turner as their primary leadoff man. Even after Turner departed to Los Angeles, Robles only got a few more opportunities to lead off before Lane Thomas arrived and occupied that spot the rest of the way.

Clearly, we all bought into what the Nationals were doing down at West Palm Beach and overshot by a long way. No winners here.

How many games will Carter Kieboom start this season? How many games will Luis García start this season?

  • Patrick - Kieboom, 89; García, 50
  • Blake - Kieboom, 81; García, 55
  • Marty - Kieboom, 0; García, 25
  • Brett - Kieboom 75, García, 40

Answer: Kieboom, 59; García 62

Winner: Blake

Even coming into the season, the development of Kieboom and García in the majors was a big talking point, and as the season got away from the Nationals their playing time increased as the front office wanted to see how both of them handled everyday roles.

Three of us were on the same wavelength and it was pretty close between us, but I ended up the closest when combining the difference between the two players’ game time this season.

What will be the combined total OPS of Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber?

  • Patrick - 1.630
  • Blake - 1.688
  • Marty - 1.760
  • Brett - 1.550

Answer: 1.733

Winner: Marty

While both Bell and Schwarber had previously been fearsome bats at the major league level, they came into the year with looming questions over whether they could get back to that form. It’s fair to say that Bell, with an OPS of .823, and Schwarber, who had an OPS of .957 with the Nationals, lived up to their expectations in the nation’s capital.

At the time, it looked as though Marty may have gone a bit high, but he only just overshot their eventual combined OPS. A good effort.

Rank these players in order of fWAR (highest to lowest): Juan Soto, Trea Turner, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg

  • Patrick - Juan Soto, Trea Turner, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg
  • Blake - Juan Soto, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Trea Turner
  • Marty - Juan Soto, Trea Turner, Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer
  • Brett - Juan Soto, Trea Turner, Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer

Answer: Juan Soto, Trea Turner, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg

Winner: Patrick

Well, looking back on this foursome might bring back some bad memories for Nationals fans. Two of the players didn’t see the season out with the team, and Strasburg was only able to make a handful of starts. But at least we still have Juan Soto! For now...

Patrick got the order spot on, but I’m not sure even he would’ve imagined why it ended that way.

Will any Nationals win any awards at the end of the season? If so, who and what?

  • Patrick - Juan Soto, NL batting title, again
  • Blake - Juan Soto, Silver Slugger; Victor Robles, Gold Glove
  • Marty - Juan Soto MVP, Max Scherzer Cy Young
  • Brett - Victor Robles, Gold Glove

Answer: Juan Soto, Silver Slugger

Winner: Blake

A wide range of guesses here, but realistically as the 2021 season wound down, it was only really Soto who looked likely to collect silverware. The now-23-year-old collected a predictable Silver Slugger and was an MVP finalist but lost out to Bryce Harper.

I’ll give myself half a point for getting Soto’s Silver Slugger right, but credit to Patrick and Marty who were oh so close with their MVP and batting title predictions.

How many wins will the Nationals have?

  • Patrick - 90
  • Blake - 83
  • Marty - 87
  • Brett - 89

Answer: 65

Winner: Nobody

Ooof, well we were all way off here. Given the roster that the Nationals had assembled coming into the year, even with some of the question marks, didn’t look like a roster that would completely put their season down the drain by July to force a trade deadline sell-off.

With the fact that all of our predictions were almost 20 wins off, nobody wins this round.

What will the final NL East standings be? (Wildcard marked with a *)

  • Patrick - Braves, Nationals*, Mets, Phillies, Marlins
  • Blake - Braves, Mets*, Nationals, Phillies, Marlins
  • Marty - Nationals, Braves*, Mets, Phillies, Marlins
  • Brett - Braves, Mets*, Nationals, Phillies, Marlins

Answer: Braves, Phillies, Mets, Marlins, Nationals

Winner: Nobody

The NL East was the butt of many jokes for most of the season with seemingly every team underwhelming to some extent. Then as the Mets faded in the second half of the season, the Braves took charge of the division to claim a third successive division crown, and... well... we don’t like to talk about what happened with them in October.

While three of us did predict that the Braves would win the division, the rest of our division predictions were generally a bit of a miss, so no winners here.

How will the Nationals season end?

  • Patrick - NLCS loss
  • Blake - Fail to reach the playoffs
  • Marty - NLCS loss
  • Brett - Fail to reach the playoffs

Answer: Fail to reach the playoffs

Winner: Blake and Brett

Not much needs to be said here for the Nationals after the well-noted dismal first half that led to a sell-off and several young and inexperienced players finishing out the season in DC.

Brett and I were able to get this right, as our divisional predictions indicated.

One bold prediction not covered by the above...

  • Patrick - Stephen Strasburg will make 30 starts again.
  • Blake - Carter Kieboom will finally figure it out at the major league level, after a midseason call-up, hitting above .280 and an OPS above .800
  • Marty - The Nationals will make a move to beef up their lineup. My guess is a trade for Chicago Cubs’ 3B Kris Bryant, at least as a rental.
  • Brett - Josh Bell hits 30 home runs.

Winner: Nobody. Nobody wins.

These bold predictions couldn’t have gone a whole lot worse, really. Patrick stuck his neck out for Strasburg again and he missed most of the year through injury. Kieboom looked like he might have figured it out briefly but then slumped back to his poor previous big-league form. The Nats certainly didn’t buy at the deadline like Marty predicted. Even Brett’s conservative prediction for Bell to get 30 home runs didn’t quite come to fruition either.

Patrick would quite happily never have another bold prediction again, especially after this result, but we’ll keep trying to throw them against the wall and see if anything sticks.

So, uh, who won out of the FBB staff? Well, Patrick and I ended tied with a top score of... 3. Yes, three.

For perspective, our 2019 predictions were won with 8 points and our 2020 predictions were won with 5 points. Maybe just like the Nationals, our collective predicting ability is going through a rebuild, or a retool if you ask Mike Rizzo.

Assuming we do get baseball next year, we’ll be back with more wrong predictions in 2022. Just make sure to keep everything crossed that it does happen...