10 Predictions about the 2018 Nationals

Records and the like? Nah, I’m going all over the place with this one.

1) Joaquin Benoit won’t last the season( If he plays that is) and Koda Glover Won’t See the Field

I know that he’s been one of the better relievers in baseball as recently as 2016 but he just looks cooked, and at age 40 he might be. Opening the season on the DL with a forearm strain is ominous because injuries like that can be things that linger. Also because “forearm strain” often translates to “the UCL of this pitcher is screaming for repair more than a normal pitcher” and a hurler like Benoit might not make it. Also because things such as a tendency to throw pitches that lead to this home run are less fun when he’s pitching for you.

The Koda Glover prediction makes me sad as I remember how absolutely beautiful his slider could be . And while I REALLY REALLY hope I’m wrong, he hasn’t played in a game that counted in almost 9 months. To make it worse he hasn’t been throwing since February and his current injury seems like the continuation of a long trend of injuries. The bottom line is that even if he makes it back, he’s going have missed roughly the same amount of time as if he had Tommy John Surgery but without the benefit of a replacement to the problem.

2)Juan Soto will skip AAA and end up on the , major league roster. Somehow.

The Nats have a tendency to give the top tier talent either abbreviated stints in AAA ball or just simply skip it straight up. Juan Soto may not quite have the name recognition of Victor Robles yet but he hits incredibly well and given how quickly his stock has risen over the course of 83 games in the minors it would not be surprising at all if he found his way into September call ups as the Nats have shown themselves to be willing to start the service clock early when a guy has been strong. Admittedly the loaded outfield works against this prediction but given that the team had so many injuries that Alejandro de freaking Aza started some games in Center, what’s to stop this from happening?

3) Davey Martinez will win Manager of the Year

There are two general ways to get the stupidest award in baseball. The first is to manage a team that’s expected to be bad and either make the playoffs or be less bad(Joe Girardi, Torey Lovullo) . The second is to be the manager of an already good team and make the playoffs in your first season by winning a large number of games (Dave Roberts, Matt Williams). Martinez has the potential to be the kind of guy who ends up winning because he’s able to keep the talent from self destructing and the voters give him credit for not tripping over himself. Outside chance that Gabe Kapler gets the award if the Phillies end up being closer to winning than I think they are.

4) Matt Wieters or Miguel Montero will be off the 25 man roster by Aug 1

I actually hope I’m wrong on this one because it would mean that Wieters or Montero improved on what were some really really bad 2017 seasons and would give the team some strength at a position they’ve consistently struggled to get good production out of (Wilson Ramos 2016 break out being the exception). Yes I’m aware that Matt Wieters is in “the best shape of his life” but given that’s one of the biggest fallacies of spring training I’m not convinced it will buck his long downward trend. Admittedly this prediction is cheating since I have a sneaking suspicion that part of the reason for Montero’s assumption of the backup job is in order to screw with Severino’s service time.

5) The Nationals will win the NL East again, but it will be tight and they won’t have home field in game 1

Even with a rash of injuries that saw 13 members of the 2017 Opening day roster go on the disabled list, last years NL east was the biggest cake walk the team has had in any of its 4 NL East runs. This year will not be quite as easy. While every team in the division has its clear flaws, including lack of big league ready pitching depth (Braves), no real impact position player (Phillies) and a general reliance on veterans and fragile pitchers (Mets) the problem for the Nats is that all of them are better than last year, in some cases significantly so. The Mets are likely to improve by sole benefit of being unlikely to repeat having the worst injury luck imaginable combined with that oh so special Terry Collins-Dan Swaarthen ineptitude that (Letting Noah Syndergaard decline an MRI and pitch still seems like malpractice) but are limited in depth. The Phillies have added a lot of interesting pieces in the bullpen and rotation as well as having a very young core and Carlos Santana, while aging should help them produce some amount of runs greater than last years paltry number. The Braves are already a pretty good offense that will potentially become deadly once Ronald Acuna comes up after his service time clock is fucked with. I could (and probably will in the future) write about how the Nats can and probably will weather this but the end result is I don’t see them having another season where they go 15-4 against the Mets. The end result of this being I have a gut feeling that they lose enough games to be the #3 seed and enter a playoff series without home field for the first time ever.

6) They will lose one early game due to a defensive shift, and people will flip the fuck out

I like the shift, it helps teams cover up bad fielders and creates some entertainingly silly alignments like the Joey Votto shift. That said, sometimes you get things like an extreme pull hitter managing to hit to the opposite side of the field. It sucks, it looks stupid but it happens. While this strategy works more often than not, sometimes it fucks up and when we have a blown save/loss/whatever there will be hell to pay as analytics all of a sudden becomes unpopular in DC until the season continues on and the averages start to win out.

7) The new rain delay policy will anger people even more than last seasons bullshit

In 2017 the Nationals and rain delays were not a good mix and the team is generally agreed to have wildly botched them. This led to a PR campaign/initiative for this season called the “Curly W Commitment” which has the following to say about rain delays:

 If a game is delayed prior to the sixth inning for more than an hour due to weather, fans attending the game may exchange tickets purchased through nationals.com for a future game at the Nationals Park Box Office on the night of the game

If a game is delayed before the sixth inning for more than an hour due to weather, fans who did not attend the game may exchange tickets purchased through nationals.com for a future game, from a select list of available games

In case you were wondering, yes that does mean that they have two tiers based on if you made it into the park or not on a stormy night and one of them involved “select list” of games. I’m going to venture a guess that “select list” means things like “Tuesday night versus the Marlins” and not “the Friday Dodgers game you had tickets to”. I can already imagine the reactions of fans when they find out that the game that they planned on going to can only be exchanged for some low attendance weekday game. Combine that with some obscenely overpriced beer and there are going to be some very angry fans at Nats park this season.

8) The Nats will get into some next level weird dress shit during road trips

I have this working theory that Joe Maddon is actually not a crazy genius but was in fact Davey Martinez’s foil from doing weird stuff. Since taking over the Nationals we’ve seen the team practice walk offs and something to do with camels and Fergie songs. Given that Maddon/Martinez were known to have players dress in an anchorman theme for road trips that involve the phrase “sex panther” this could get interesting.

9) This Will be Mike Rizzo’s last season in DC

Look the man deserves it , he more than deserves it for all the crap that he’s handed with this team and ownership group. That said, I’m already seeing the “ownership is being weird” signs on the wall. From unclear status of negotiations to the fact the Lerner family historically doesn’t like paying it’s staff, I think that the Lerners are going to use this as an excuse for some kind of “let’s move on and/or need fresh voice” bullshit. Yes, I know them letting Rizzo go at this juncture in the teams history is epically stupid given the decisions that have to be made in November, but given some of the teams past epically stupid decisions this one is right in character for the group. Bonus points for when we try and find a new GM and nobody wants to take our extremely low offer.

 

10) Stephen Strasburg will be better than Max Scherzer, who will also be really good

Yeah I know, Strasburg is the most injury prone pitcher of all time and Max Scherzer is a back to back Cy Young winner. Here’s the thing, after Strasburg got back from injury in July he was good. Really really good. Essentially after the All star break he allowed 7 runs the rest of the season, in the playoffs his ERA was 0 with 2 runs allowed and and me might not have given up a run the entire damn playoffs if Anthony Rendon hadn’t had a run creating brain fart in game 1. People forget that even before Scherzer had an ill timed hamstring injury push him to game 3 of last years NLDS it wasnt out of the realm of possibility that Strasburg was going to start game 1 anyways. While the injury risk will always be there, I think the amount of DL time and severity of his injuries has gotten better each year, so maybe there is something to all the “pitching out of the stretch” stories. Also Scherzer didn’t have a single no hitter or record setting strikeout game last year so he’s clearly preparing to fall off a cliff.

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