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BACK TO REALITY & IT'S GOOD TO BE BACK

[April 4th] -- I thought it prudent to wait to begin blogging about the 2008 season until after the Nationals lost a game. It was important to lose a game in Philadelphia. All too often, teams that start 4-0 or 7-0 begin to press so hard to keep their streak alive that when they finally lose, they really lose. Case in point (though it's a much larger sample) was the Nationals' 2005 season when they - either through luck, or smoke or mirrors -started the season 50-31 and rolled into the All Star game in first place. They didn't have the offense, or the defense, or the pitching, to have won those many games in the first half. I think we all felt that sooner or later, things would resolve themselves.

And so they did. The Nationals finished 31-50 and limped home with a .500 record.

So, thirty-seven innings into the season, we really don't know much more than we did during that last week of spring training. The great majority of journalists and bloggers are predicting anywhere from 75-85 wins, and that sounds about right.

I think it's great that players on the Braves and Phillies have remarked that the Nationals seem much improved. They are right, of course. How much improved still remains to be seen. There is no question, however, that the new players have a far higher upside than those they replaced. So they could be much better than anticipated if they all play up to their potential.
How much better? In the perfect world, this is how good the Nationals' offense could be:

Cristian Guzman (SS) - .275-7-50

Lastings Milledge (CF) - .289-24-75

Ryan Zimmerman (3B) - .290-30-110

Nick Johnson (1B) - .280-20-90

Austin Kearns (RF) - .270-24-88

Pena/Dukes (LF) - .265-25-75

Ronnie Belliard (2B) - .275-13-55

LoDuca / Estrada (C) - .270-10-50

That's 153 homers for the starters, more than the entire team hit last year. If Kearns and Dukes/Pena do well when they return from the DL, it could even be more than that. And I'm not sure about Milledge; he could amaze us all as the season progresses.

The starting pitching staff could be equally potent - again - if health issues stop dogging the Nationals:

Odalis Perez: 12-10 4.00

Matt Chico: 12-11 4.22

Tim Redding: 13-8 3.66

Jason Bergman: 11-9 3.88

Shawn Hill: 10-5 3.44 (assuming he returns in time)

These five could amass 57 wins this year, a good number compared to last year's 39 wins by the all of those starters. Add those 18 extra wins to last years 73 and the Nationals could end up with a record of 91-72. Of course, there is no way that every player is going to play healthy or up to expectations.

So lets cut those 18 extra wins in half.

Voila! The Nats will finish 2008 at 82-78.

The wild card in all of this is how well the team's minor league pitchers will do this year. I mean, did you see that starting rotation for Columbus? Mike O'Connor. John Lannan. Tyler Clippard. Colin Balestar. Garrett Mock. Lannan of course, will join the Nats over the weekend. If these pitchers can fill the holes in the team's rotation due to injuries or poor performance, those 82 wins seem a certainty.

Of that group, O'Connor was the only one not considered to be a future major leaguer, and yet he has pitched extremely well both in spring training and in his first start with the Clippers, allowing just two hits and two walks while striking out four in five innings. Remember, before he was injured, he was one of the Nationals most consistent starters in 2006. In his first 12 starts - through the end of June - O'Connor had a record of 3-4, 3.39 in 12 starts, allowing just 49 hits in 58 innings while striking out 45. Over his next four starts, O'Connor gave up 22 runs in 15 innings (13.29 ERA) and ended the year 3-8, 4.80. I think it safe to assume that's when his elbow problems began.

So it's not like any success O'Connor might have this year would come as a surprise. He's already had success - good success - at the major league level. If he returns to form, the Nationals could then have five - count 'em, FIVE - major league caliber pitchers at the AAA level.

Who said that all that pitching help is years away?

First Impressions of 2008:


Comments:
Hey, my favorite blogger's back! Great to see you posting again, Farid! I hope the Curly W crew manages to hold your enthusiasm despite the distance. I'm trying to stay engage from way over here in Yerevan, Armenia...but I only left DC a year and a half ago and I get back there about every 6-9 months, on average, so that's quite different. I hope you get a chance to make it out to the new park. I'm looking forward to seeing it myself for the first time in June.
 
this blog is my favorite......thank
 
Really great to read something that is interesting.
 
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