October 22, 2014

DC-IBWA Predictions revisited: What we got right & wrong

For the last several seasons, the members of the D.C. Chapter of the Internet Baseball Writers Association have conducted a pre-season survey and post-season awards based on the current Washington Nationals season. This year’s post-season awards will be announced Friday. But I thought it would be fun to look back at our pre-season predictions group-think to see what we got right about 2013, and where we went horribly wrong.

1) Who will lead the Nats in home runs?  Answer: Ryan Zimmerman–26

Survey Results
Bryce Harper — 15
Ryan Zimmerman — 8
Adam LaRoche — 5
Ian Desmond — 1
Danny Espinosa — 1

Most folks picked Harper, expecting him to explode in his second year. We shouldn’t feel too bad, most of the pros had Harper winning the MVP. Two months of injury after colliding with the Dodger Stadium wall put a dent in Harper’s counting stats, but the quality stats were right where we’d want them to be.

My pick was Ryan Zimmerman.

2) Who will lead the Nats in RBIs?  Answer: Ian Desmond–80

Survey Results
Ryan Zimmerman — 19
Adam LaRoche — 6
Bryce Harper — 3
Ian Desmond — 1
Denard Span — 1

Matt from Matt’s Bats was the only person to pick Desmond. Nice call Matt. Desmond followed up his breakthrough season with another terrific year, cementing his position as one of the top three shortstops in the N.L. Has he priced himself out of a long-term deal in D.C., or will the Nats find a way to sign him to an extension before he becomes a free agent?

My pick was Zimmerman.

3) Who will lead the Nats in Stolen Bases?  Ian Desmond–21

Survey Results
Denard Span — 22
Ian Desmond — 6
Bryce Harper — 3

Desmond beat out Span by one stolen base, though if Span hadn’t taken so long to get adjusted to the N.L., he probably would have topped this list.

My pick was Span.

4) Who will lead the Nats in wins?  Jordan Zimmermann–19

Survey Results
Stephen Strasburg — 15
Gio Gonzalez — 8
Jordan Zimmermann — 6
Dan Haren — 1

A handful of folks had the stoic righty from Wisconsin as the surprise leader of the staff this season. Except for a few starts after the All-Star break, Zimmermann was consistently excellent. As with Desmond, he’s quickly earning a big payday himself.

My pick was Zimmermann.

5) Who will lead the Nats in bullpen appearances?  Tyler Clippard–72

Tyler Clippard — 20
Craig Stammen — 8
Drew Storen — 1
Rafael Soriano — 1

Tyler Clippard has been the workhorse of the Nats bullpen for three years now. He just finds a way to continue to pump high fastballs and wicked changeups past everyone, lefty or righty. I’ve stopped worrying about overuse, so next year is when he finally gets hurt, right?

My pick was Craig Stammen.

6) Who will lead the Nats in catching at bats?  Wilson Ramos–303

Survey Results
Wilson Ramos — 18
Kurt Suzuki — 13

Ramos narrowly beat out Suzuki due to his hamstring injuries robbing him of two months. His return, coupled with Werth’s, were the catalysts to the Nats second half offensive surge.

My pick was Ramos.

7) Which minor leaguer are you most interested in watching this season?

Anthony Rendon — 13
Matt Purke — 6
Nathan Karns — 3
Lucas Giolito — 3
Matt Skole — 1
A.J. Cole — 1
Eury Perez — 1

Rendon debuted in the bigs much earlier than anyone expected. Nate Karns got a brief tryout. Giolito was terrific in Rookie and Low-A. Purke continues to come back from shoulder problems. Skole missed the entire season after requiring Tommy John for his catching arm. Cole will be on everyone’s top prospect lists next year. Perez had a decent year in AAA but is losing the luster off his prospect shine.

My pick was Purke.

8) What will be the date of Anthony Rendon’s MLB debut?  April 21

Survey Results
Sept. 1 — 9
July 19 — 2
June 1, June 14, June 24, July 1, July 8, July 27, Aug. 1, Aug. 15, Sept. 2, Sept. 3, Sept. 5, Sept. 9, Sept. 13, Apr. 1, 2014 — 1

No one came close. Rendon made his debut in April and was back for good in early June when the Nats finally gave up on Danny Espinosa. Rendon finished his rookie year .265/.329/.396 with seven homers and 35 RBIs in 394 plate appearances.

My guess was June 1. But I did state the reason would be Danny Espinosa’s inability due to injury.

9) How many All-Stars will the Nats have? Who?  2—Jordan Zimmermann & Bryce Harper

Survey Results
4 — 13
5 — 6
3 — 8
6 — 2

Stephen Strasburg — 27
Bryce Harper — 24
Ryan Zimmerman — 20
Ian Desmond — 18
Rafael Soriano — 8
Gio Gonzalez — 7
Jordan Zimmermann — 7
Tyler Clippard — 3
Adam LaRoche — 3
Danny Espinosa — 1
Denard Span — 1

Everyone thought Strasburg was going to dominate, but he struggled some in the first half. He didn’t look dominant, had trouble with unearned runs and visibly showed frustration with things out of his control. Something triggered as some point and he was a much tougher pitcher down the stretch.

My picks were Jordan Zimmermann, Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman. Like Meatloaf said, two out of three ain’t bad.

10) Number of wins and finish in the division?  86, second

98 — 6
94 — 4
99 — 4
101 — 3
100 — 2
95 — 2
92 — 2
97 — 2
96 — 1
93 — 1
90 — 1
89 — 1
86 — 1

First — 26
Second — 4

Congratulation to Steven Biel, the artist formerly known as FJB. He correctly predicted 86 wins and second place in the division. He had the lowest prediction of any Nats blogger, or pro for that matter. Remind me to consult FJB when picking lottery tickets next time.

My guess was 98 wins and first place.

Essay: What is the most important development for the Nationals this season?

Health for starting pitchers — 5
Managing high expectations — 3
Forgetting how last season ended — 2
Bullpen health — 2
Starters pitching more innings/deeper in games — 2
Getting younger in the minors
Draft without a first round pick
200 innings pitched for Strasburg
Managing the running game/pitchers holding runners
Overall defensive improvement
Continuing the development from 2012
Addition of Rafael Soriano to end of bullpen
Addition of center fielder/ lead-off hitter

Now that we can look back, the most important development for the Nats this season was health from their everyday players. Of the opening day lineup, Werth, Harper, Ramos, Espinosa and Zimmerman all suffered from injury or adjustments following surgery.

My answer was health in the starting rotation. The “Big Three” were all solid, but Detwiler missed four months and Haren spent two weeks on the D.L. as a rescue from being released.

About Dave Nichols

Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Washington Nationals, Capitals, Wizards and Mystics. Dave also covers national college football and basketball and Major League Soccer for Associated Press. He spent four years in radio covering the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Redskins and the University of Maryland football and basketball teams. Dave is a life-long D.C. sports fan and attended his first pro game in 1974 — the Caps’ second game in existence. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveNicholsDSP

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