It's almost February and, being obsessive baseball fans, we feel that it's time to lay out our visions for the 2012 Nationals season. Today we will go over our thoughts on the team's Win/Loss record and the keys to the season. Later in the week we will take a look at individual players and who might lead the team in several statistical categories. Let the prediction and prognostication begin!
Sean's W-L prediction: 91-71
An 11 win improvement seems like a large jump. But take a look at where the Nationals' pitching staff will be. If you were to ask any Major League GM to rank pitching staffs, from ace to last man out of the pen, on talent, youth, and contract friendliness, the Nationals would be on top, and I don't think its close. A full year of Strasburg, Zimmermann and Gio, plus an improved pen with talented and experienced reserves at Syracuse, may very well allow for that 11 win jump on its own.
But the offense will also be better. Ryan Zimmerman is healthy, Mike Morse is power-hungry, Jayson Werth is eager to shove success in the face of doubters, and the rest of the young Nats will be another year older, and smarter. A few questions remain, most notably the make-up of the outfield. I see a platoon of Mike Cameron and Roger Bernadina (or Rick Ankiel) until Mike Rizzo is ready to allow Bryce Harper to play in the majors. While a long term solution would be ideal, I do not see the Nats finding that solution (unless it is Bryce Harper) this year. A 2 or 3 month platoon would not sink the season and may, in the long run, add value to the Nationals roster if Cameron, Bernie or Ankiel breakout. Other issues to watch: how Adam LaRoche and Wilson Ramos recover, how Mike Morse deals with left-field, and how quickly Strassy reaches his IP limit.
Sean's Key to 2012: Ian Desmond. He is poised to make a big leap this year and realize his potential. If he does that, the Nationals will be a special team and could compete for the Division and easily win one of the two wild card spots.
Craig's W-L prediction: 87-75
This season is going to be one of the most interesting in recent memory, not just for the Nationals but all throughout MLB. The Marlins made a splash for the first time in their existance, we had once-in-a-generation players bolt their homes for money, we had managers and GMs being traded, and there may be 10 playoff teams for the first time ever - there was no projecting these kinds of things and because of that I think that the book is going completely out the window for 2012. And that is why my prediction is one of tempered optimism.
The Nationals made a fantastic move to acquire a young left-handed stud from Oakland but they have done little else aside from a few minor moves - Cameron, DeRosa, Perry, and Lidge. No doubt that a 160IP season of Strasburg and the appearance of Harper at some point will help the team, but I honestly don't know how much. Assuming the Nats have a standard season with normal injuries and average regression/progression, than I would expect the team to increase their win total by about 7 wins.
Craig's Key to 2012: Adam LaRoche. His career slash-line leading up to 2011 was .271/.339/.488, and last year he had a .172/.288/.258... That's right, he slugged .258. Or, .007 BELOW Brian Bixler. Also known as the lowest of all MLB 1st basemen with at least 175 ABs.
Now, I know that LaRoche was trying to play through a torn labrum, but it still goes to stand that at the biggest power position in the NL we had the absolute worst offensive production. If he is still feeling ill effects at the dish then the Nats will once again have a hard time trying to replace that power again.
Your turn, CapBallers. What are your W-L predictions for 2012? The Comment's section awaits.