With opening day right around the corner, each day until then District Sports Page’s Nats staff will take a look at one of the biggest issues concerning your 2013 Washington Nationals. We borrowed a quote for the title of the series from Nats manager Davey Johnson’s Spring Training proclamation that he expects a “World Series or Bust” in Natstown this season.
We’ve also invited the other credentialed blogs to chip in with their answers. Then on Opening Day, look for the results to the DC Chapter of the Internet Baseball Writers Association Preseason Survey, where we polled The Natosphere on various topics related to the Nats, as we have for the last several seasons.
Dave Nichols, Editor-in-Chief, District Sports Page
Alyssa Wolice, Staff Writer, District Sports Page
Ted Starkey, Contributor to DSP, author and Editor at SBNation.com
Ryan Kelley, DSP Prospects Writer and founder of BaseballNewshound.com
Patrick Reddington, Editor, Federal Baseball
Joe Drugan, Managing Editor, The Nats Blog
Tom Bridge, Editor, WeLoveDC.com
Part I: Grading the Offseason
Part II: What do you expect from Bryce Harper?
Part III: What aspect of the Nats has you most excited for the coming season?
Part IV: What aspect of the Nats has you most concerned?
Part V: Which prospect are you most looking forward to following this summer?
Part VI: What will be the final record of the team and where will they finish in the division?
Dave: I expect the Nats to win the N.L. East again this season. The Braves will be good and will offer the stiffest challenge and most likely earn a wild-card spot. But I think the Phillies demise continues this season, while the Mets and Marlins struggle in the basement of the division — and probably the National League. Predictions for win totals for the Nats are wild — we’ve seen as high as 106 games! I won’t go that big, as the Nats were extremely fortunate to go all season without injury to a starting pitcher last year, but 95-98 wins won’t surprise me. And if the “old” Dan Haren, and not just an old Dan Haren, shows up as the Nats’ fifth starter this season, 100-plus wins isn’t out of the question.
There’s a lot of baseball to be played between now and then, but the Nats are talented, deep and focused — plus they have the extra added incentive to send Davey Johnson out a winner — again — and solidify his Hall of Fame managerial career.
Alyssa: 97 wins and first place in the NL East.
Ryan: 95-67. The Nats are more talented than any team in the National League, especially when you count their farm system. But, this year they have play-off expectations and pressure for the first time. More importantly, for them to do what they did last year they’ll need their rotation to stay healthy like they did. Considering their young rotation’s mechanics, Strasburg and Zimmermann’s injury histories, and the high rate of arm injuries in the game, it’s a roll of the dice on whether their starters will stay healthy.
Also, they’ll need Zach Duke to really prove himself as a lefty-neutralizer. Storen, Clippard and Garcia can all get lefties out, and luckily, most of the league’s best left-handed hitters are in the AL (Fielder, Mauer, Cano, Hamilton). But, Davey would still undoubtedly want a match-up guy on the mound late in the game when Joey Votto, Carlos Gonzalez, Adrian Gonzalez or Chase Utley are at the dish with runners on.
Ted: Nationals win 98 games and win the NL East. It may not be as smooth a ride to the division title as in 2012, but in the end, that may not be a bad thing.
Patrick: 95-98 wins and 1st Place in the NL East again. I don’t think it’s far-fetched. I don’t want to go overboard and say 108 wins like the Mets had in ’86 after their 98-64 season in 1985. I think somewhere in the mid-90′s is more likely depending on how the rest of the NL East does this year. The Braves should be a challenge again. The Phillies are old, but I’m not ruling out the possibility that their pitching can carry them if they’re able to stay healthy. The Mets have some young pitchers on the way that are going to be good, though I’m pretty sure they have a rough 2013 ahead of them.
The Marlins? More than anything else, I hate the fact the Fish can trade away everyone they signed last year and still field a team with promising talents like Adeiny Hechevarria, Mike Stanton, Jacob Turner, Henderson Alvarez and prospects like Jose Fernandez and Christian Yelich behind them. It’s just frustrating that you already see the makings of the next good team that they’ll eventually dismantle. The Marlins always play the Nats tough, the Nationals have to really pound them and the Mets and get the best of the Phillies and Braves over the course of the season if they want to repeat as NL East champs.
Joe: A final record is the worst thing to have to predict of all baseball predictions. I always predict, and I’m rarely ever right. So, take this for what it’s worth. I expect the Nats to win the NL East with 97 wins. That’s my official number. However, can I see the Nats winning 105 or more games if everything goes according to plan? Definitely. And can I see the Nats at 90 wins with just a few key injuries? Yes.
Tom: If they gel and turn into a single whole? 105 wins and they walk away with the East. If they choke and can’t handle the pressure of the X on their back? 92 wins and sneak in with the wild card, 2nd in the East. Which team do we get?