Nats News Network's 2011 Predictions Edition

Posted by Dave Nichols | Tuesday, March 29, 2011 | , | 17 comments »

We did this last season with varying degrees of success, so we'll try it again.

Feel free to leave your predictions in the comments section, but as always, please refrain from vulgarity when ripping my predictions to shreds.

2011 Record:  The final number comes first.  I've been waiting until rosters were set to make last minute adjustments to estimated playing time before finalizing my win projection.  There's been a lot of movement in the win total number over the last week with all the transactions that GM Mike Rizzo has made in sculpting his Opening Day roster.

First, despite being sent down, I still think Roger Bernadina will get the most playing time in center field for the Nats this year, unless a trade happens to acquire a legitimate center fielder and leadoff man.  Rick Ankiel is injury prone and not great to begin with, and I think The Shark will be swimming again sooner than later.

But the bigger problem of not having a high-OBP guy at the top of the order will haunt the Nats just as it has in their entire history in D.C.

The best chance for improving upon the 69-win season the Nats recorded last year is in the starting rotation, as they'll (hopefully) get a full season from a healthy Jordan Zimmermann, the apparent No. 2 to Stephen Strasburg. 

The Nats think Jason Marquis can give them what they expected out of him last season, John Lannan to provide his consistent ground ball routine, and Livan Hernandez not to regress to his 2008-09 performance.  But I don't see all of those things happening in concert, which would have to happen for the Nats wins to significantly improve.

If Michael Morse gets exposed playing every day for the first time in his career, or Adam LaRoche ends up under the knife to correct his torn rotator cuff, these numbers are off the board completely.  And if they BOTH happen, the Nats are looking at 100 losses again.

As for the defense, Rizzo stated on many occasions he wanted to get more athletic and better defensively this off-season, yet traded and demoted his two fastest, most athletic players in Morgan and Bernadina, giving the center field job to a 31-year old former pitcher and left field to man-without-a-position Michael Morse.  Expect plenty of catchable balls to fall in between them.

I'll officially set my prediction at 68 wins, just like I did last year.

There's just not enough pitching to compete yet.

Biggest Pleasant Surprise?  Wilson Ramos.  The young catcher will get his chance this year and not look back.  Had a dominating winter league and follwed that with a strong spring.  It's his time.

Biggest Disappointment?  Michael Morse.  He's a great story and had a ridiculous spring, but players don't become regulars in the Major Leagues at 29 for a reason. 

I just don't see anything in his history, other than his resemblance to Jayson Werth, that leads me to believe he's going to break out this year any more than he did last season while they were managing his at bats.  If he duplicates last year, I'll be happy and surprised.

I know that's going to make me a bad guy around these parts, and I'll be perfectly happy to have folks tell me they told me so at the end of the year.

Best off-season move:  Signing Jerry Hairston.  He'll platoon with Ankiel in center (and Bernadina later this summer), and serves as insurance for both Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa.  He's not a world beater, but he is a credible Major League player at three different positions.

Worst off-season move:  Trading three mid- to low-level prospects for Tom Gorzelanny.  He can't throw strikes.  Never has.  I can't imagine Steve McCatty figuring him out now.

Most Critical Decision of the Year?  What's replacing Five Guys at Nats Park?

Seriously though, it's whether or not to exercise the option on manager Jim Riggleman's contract.  We discussed the situation at length last week, but now that the cat is out of the bag, the decision will be looming over NatsTown all season.

Whether you like Riggleman's "smart ball" or not, Rizzo thinks he's put together a team that will compete this year, adding veterans with every spring training decision he made, so if the team doesn't perform to his expectations, it'll be the manager's job on the line.

What are the middle infielders going to do?  I expect Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa to both continue their career progression.  I have always been high on both of them and continue to be coming into the new season.

I'm not predicting All-Star games, but I think they are both capable of 15-15 seasons, which is pretty sweet out of your double-play combo.  Desmond goes .268/.320/.397 and Espinosa goes .248/.312/.415

As for defense, I'll go out on a limb and say Desmond will cut his errors down to 20-25, and Espinosa will be in the talk for a gold glove, but will lose out to a more veteran player.  But his time will come.

What about Wang?  We asked the same question last year.  At this point, I don't envision ever seeing Chien-Ming Wang take the mound at Nats Park.

Teams Leaders  The DC-IBWA made their predictions a few weeks ago and I posted my answers at the time, but I will now adjust for playing time after spring training.

HR: Ryan Zimmerman, 34
RBI: Adam LaRoche, 98 (if healthy)
SB: Roger Bernadina, 19
Wins: Jordan Zimmerman, 12
Saves: Drew Storen, 18
Starts: John Lannan, 32
More starts (Detwiler/Maya/Gorzelanny): Ross Detwiler, 14
More at bats (Ankiel/Hairston/Cora):  Jerry Hairston
Most catcher at bats:  Wilson Ramos
All-Stars:  One, Ryan Zimmerman
Wins and Place:  68, fourth.

Most important development for 2011?  The successful recovery of Stephen Strasburg from Tommy John surgery.  I said it a few weeks ago and I stick by it:  There is no more important player to this franchise and his successful recovery is paramount to anything else that happens in NatsTown this summer.

It's a 12-18 month recovery process, and everyone will be watching and hoping Strasburg can follow Zimmermann's timetable and return to a major league mound in September.

Will we see Bryce Harper in D.C. this season?  No.  I can't imagine in any way that Harper makes his big league debut this year, short of him hitting .400 with 20 home runs the first two months of the season and the Morse/LaRoche doomsday scenario being in place at that time.

You went the entire post without even mentioning Jayson Werth?  Um...yeah. 
Okay, so short of an MVP season Werth won't come close to justifying his contract.  Does that mean if he puts up 25 homers and 75 RBIs in the No. 2 spot that he'll be a huge disappointment?  Probably. 
But that's where the money clouds the issue, because that's the player he is.  He benefited greatly by playing his home games in Citizen's Bank park the last few years.  In fact, the last two years he hit 39 homers at CBP and just 24 on the road.  Normalize those numbers for playing his home games at Nats Park, and what you get is a good overall hitter, but not the home run slugger he has been and will be portrayed as.
And we won't even get into Rizzo's proclamation about how he thinks Werth will get better with age.
There you go -- have at them! And remember, have fun this season!  Don't get bogged down with wins and losses, enjoy the baseball for what it is and you'll get more out of it.


  1. bdrube // March 29, 2011 at 1:58 PM  

    I'm a bit more optmistic that you are as I am predicting 75 wins based on the fact that the starting pitching should at least slightly improved overall and I think this lineup, while flawed, will score more runs overall than last year. The defense should also be at least slightly improved with Werth, Espinosa and LaRoche in the lineup and Desmond (hopefully) cutting down on the errors.

    Regarding Morse I would just point out that not only did Werth not bat 500 times in a season until he was 30, Jose Bautista of Toronto never hit more than even 16 home runs before bashing 54 last year at age 29.

    Morse has shown the ability to hit both lefties and righties, so there is no reason to believe he can't break out this year. Yeah, the team is taking a gamble by handing him the full time LF job, but the Blue Jays took an even bigger gamble by putting Bautista in the position to get over 500 ABs last year after he put up a .235/.408/.757 slash line playing part time in 2009.

    Will Morse likely be a long time answer? No. Best case scenario is he puts up some decent power numbers for a few years. But the dude is even hitting opposite field bombs right now, so we should enjoy this ride while we can.

  2. Dave Nichols // March 29, 2011 at 2:24 PM  

    bd: I don't have any problem with any of your retort re Morse. will be interesting to see how Bautisa responds this season.

    like I said, I hope I'm wrong about Morse and will be willing to eat crow if the need be.

    i'm not anti-Morse at all, and can certainly see him duplciating his numbers from last season. but i think most of NatsTown thinks he's going to his 30 homers, and that i just don't see.

  3. Anonymous // March 29, 2011 at 3:06 PM  

    Morse's minor league stats lend credence to his current performance.

    You keep ignoring real facts and 'history' in your posts. Morse missed the entire 2008 season because of an injury while with the big club: Seattle. That is basically why he was not on the major league roster at age 27-28.

    In 2009 he raked demolishing two AAA leagues in the process. Not just with power but with league highs in batting average and OPS.

    His defense in left field should improve with time spent there ... that wasn't going to be the case with Adam Dunn at first or in left field ... right? And consider Morse is younger than Dunn.

    As for Gorzelanny. You will be writing about how fortunate the Nats were that Rizzo traded for him very, very soon. That you can take the bank because with the brutal early schedule and at top 3 rotation of LIvo, Marquis, and Lannan the Nats are ripe for the kill.

    Otherwise, I think your predictions are close. Except the bright spots will be Morse, Gorzelanny, Espinosa and hopefully someone from AAA Syracuse will be able to pick up this starting pitching staff when Lannan, Marquis, and Livo collapse, which real stats indicate they will and Gorzelanny DOESN'T? Remember, this guy started for the Cubs who were in the thick of things.

  4. Dave Nichols // March 29, 2011 at 3:36 PM  

    @anon, i appreciate the comments and debate.

    i am fully aware Morse missed almost all of the 2008 season while in Seattle. but the reason he never stuck there was he did not have a defensive position, having played first, short, third, left and right fields for the Mariners between 2005 and 2008.

    also, his numbers as a big leaguer (in about one seasons worth of sample spread across six) are more impressive than anything he did as a minor leaguer.

    yes, he's gotten better as he's gotten older, but wouldn't you expect a 27-year old to tear up the minors at his peak age?

    again, as I've said twice now, I am hopeful Morse can duplicate his performance from last season, and if he out-performs that I will happily write a post detailing how wrong I was.

    but please, don't insult me by insinuating i am "ignoring real facts" though. i assure you the level of research and study i do on this team is more than adequate.

  5. Maddy // March 29, 2011 at 4:22 PM  

    I think we know you wrote ghost-wrote that Morse column.

  6. Maddy // March 29, 2011 at 5:07 PM  

    Regarding Morse I would just point out that not only did Werth not bat 500 times in a season until he was 30, Jose Bautista of Toronto never hit more than even 16 home runs before bashing 54 last year at age 29.

    That is interesting because Morse is the only one who has been caught using steroids of the three.

    As Dave pointed out he should be demolishing the hitting at his age. He's playing against guys who are 20-22. Likewise, if I pulled a "Billy Madison" shouldn't I be expected to have more knowledge than my classmates?

    The Jason Heyward comparison you keep making in other forums is laughable. He is SEVEN years older than Heyward. Better question what was he hitting at Jason Heyward's age? So because Gorzy was starting when the Cubs were good is relevant because? Does that mean Joe Blanton will necessarily be relevant in 5 years because he's on the Phillies now? And also, why didn't Aubrey make the team?

  7. Anonymous // March 29, 2011 at 5:40 PM  

    How about,"Damn...did we just catch lightning in a bottle with Morse" or would you still want Langerhans or Dukes? How's it working out for them? Who cares about an admittance to steriod use that happened 6 years ago. What does that do for him today? I don't understand why we can't embrace a breakout season for a guy that never got the opportunity to showcase his talent in a full season. Clearly Seattle had no clue what to do with him as that organization is a complete joke with new GMs surfacing about every 3 years. If you don't think Morse has extra motivation this year to prove he can be a long term solution, you're misguided. There is no reason to believe his "long swing" and "inability to hit against 1 & 2 starting pitching"-perhaps my favorite criticism- can't produce a .280 25HR 80RBI season with good health and 500 ABs. As for his age....irrelevant, 29 isn't that old especially for someone without the wear and tear of a 162 game season on his resume.

  8. Dave Nichols // March 29, 2011 at 6:09 PM  

    anon and Maddy, appreciate furthering the discussion. Morse is definitely an integral part of the Nats offense this year and they obviosuly are banking on him to continue to progress.

    as for Gorzy, I have no confidence in him whatsoever, but that's just me.

  9. DG628 // March 29, 2011 at 9:16 PM  

    Gentlemen (and I use that term VERY loosely here)... How about we focus on one thing and one thing only... What can the guy bring to the team NOW?! Why look at a player's performance from 6 years ago (not that any team wouldn't have wanted a player like Morse 6 years ago). Here is a guy that came up with a clutch hit almost every time he was asked to do his job by the manager last season, then when he was called on to play almost every day, he came up with a horrid .290avg, 15HR, and 41RBI, playing in 98 games. Let's not forget how that has carried over into this spring where Morse is batting a miserable .364 with 9HR and 18RBI in 21 games. So DN, I understand your job is to get a response out of people on your blog, and you do a great job of that, but how about pointing out some of the positives this team has to look forward to?! Let's not hear about, "LeRoche can be good...if he isn't under the knife," "Morse probably won't be as good as you all think," "Ankiel is injury prone," "hopefully J. Zimmermann can be healthy," "this guy sucks, that guy sucks".... How about we hear, "DAMN! There is a ton of talent on this team, and with the injuries to the Phillies and the fact the Mets will not be very good, and the Marlins are not very good either, this team has a chance to compete!" I know that may be asking a lot of you, and since you think the best off-season move was to pick up a career .257 hitter, you lose some credibility with me. Look forward to a wonderful season of positivity!

  10. Dave Nichols // March 29, 2011 at 10:24 PM  

    DG628: thanks for your comment.

    Sorry you didn't like my post. My theme is to take a critical, realistic look at the team, not to be a cheerleader. There are plenty of places if all you're looking for is gloss and fluff.

    i don't think, as you do, that this team has a "ton of talent". I think Ryan Zimmerman is a legitimate all-star, Desmond and Espinosa are budding major league players, and Jordan Zimmermann and Drew Storen are big league arms and will be with this team when it is competitive.

    other than that, there are a ton of questions about the assembled talent, and the point of this piece was to point some of that out.

    so again, sorry if you came here looking for a cheerleader. i'm happy to recommend some other blogs if that's what you're looking for.

  11. Maddy // March 30, 2011 at 12:19 AM  

    To further Dave's point. One of the reasons I come here as opposed to some blogs which will nameless is the fact Dave is a Nats fan yet he has a realistic take on the team. There are very few fan sites, which can be as critical.

  12. Dave Nichols // March 30, 2011 at 1:12 AM  

    thanks for reading Maddy and thanks for your support!

  13. Anonymous // March 30, 2011 at 12:47 PM  

    As Dave pointed out he should be demolishing the hitting at his age. He's playing against guys who are 20-22. Likewise, if I pulled a "Billy Madison" shouldn't I be expected to have more knowledge than my classmates?

    Maddy's back from over on the Orioles side of the fence eh? How do the O's look?

    I suggest you guys become stat hounds and FIND any guy at ANY age who posted the stats Morse did in AAA at age 26-27 in 2009. First start by finding someone in the Nats organization. AT ANY LEVEL? You'll surely find a few all are now playing in the majors ... and Jason Heyward is one; he had similar stats that year almost exclusively in A+/AA ball

    Another guy with similar stats? Someone else Rizzo and his scouts had their eye on. His name is Corey Brown and at the end of last year went on a huge tear ending up as a AA allstar and AA Topps player All Star.

    AAA has pretty close to major league pitching. Its where teams stash their veteran depth in case of injury and poor performances on the 25-man. These pitchers aren't going to lie down and let a hitter AT ANY age get the best of them. They want in, the want to be in the SHOW.

    To denigrate Morse's AAA performance in 2009 is to denigrate all of those pitchers and designate them as shiftless and completely worthless. Its either that or Morse is actually that good? It just happened later than Seattle and Dave Nichols would have liked age-wise.

    This may also be the case with one Corey Brown. And wait this guy bats left, has speed and is a pretty fair CF to boot.

  14. Anonymous // March 30, 2011 at 12:51 PM  

    as for Gorzy, I have no confidence in him whatsoever, but that's just me.

    I have absolutely no confidence in Marquis. Gorzelanny is just a better pitcher. I have little in Lannan, and slightly more in LIvo.

    Fortunately for we Nats fans I think you are going to eat those words and maybe go back and look at his stats and read with the Cubs and Pirates blogs had to say about him when he was pitching for them.

    This guy is the real deal. He is a solid #3 on most rotations in the major leagues. He will prove to be better than Lannan, Livo, and Marquis. What we have to hope for is that JZimm proves himself better than every starting pitcher and Detwiler works his way finally and irrevocably into the rotation along with Maya.

  15. Maddy // March 30, 2011 at 1:05 PM  

    "Maddy's back from over on the Orioles side of the fence eh? How do the O's look?"
    -->I'll post those opinions on "Orioles News Network."

    "I suggest you guys become stat hounds and FIND any guy at ANY age who posted the stats Morse did in AAA at age 26-27 in 2009. First start by finding someone in the Nats organization. AT ANY LEVEL? You'll surely find a few all are now playing in the majors ... and Jason Heyward is one; he had similar stats that year almost exclusively in A+/AA ball"
    -->Let me repeat myself and I think Dave would agree with me, Morse is SEVEN years older than Heyward. The comparison is beyond laughable. Heyward was playing against mostly older competition, Morse was playing against almost exclusively younger competition. Did anyone think Ichiro was a "rookie" when he was in his first year in the majors? I would expect any 26-27 year old who is MLB bound to be dominating the minors. The Jason Werth's of the world, the so-called "late bloomers" are the exception to the rule, not standard.

    There is a reason the NHL limits ROY to 25 and under.

    When is the Orioles failed prospect in Michael Aubrey making his debut? And stop posting under "anonymous" your fooling no one.

  16. Anonymous // March 30, 2011 at 3:35 PM  

    I keep asking my self what was wrong with a line up of, Morgan, DEZ, ZIMM, DUNN, Werth, BERNIE, Ramos, ESPI??? Then add Morse, Flores, Cora, Ankeil and Hariston.

  17. Anonymous // March 30, 2011 at 3:40 PM  

    I think 68 is a little low. this team is going to miss DUNN. The key however is JZIMM becoming a #2 and Marquis, Lannen and Livo all pitching to the 9-12 win range. This defense better respond after all these position decisions. DUNN:O(