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Revisiting the Predictions

Preseason predictions never make you look good. Either you're wrong (and there's no fun in being wrong) or you're right, in which you're bound to feel compelled to say so. (And nobody in world history has invited goodwill by pronouncing the magnificence of his foresight.) These days, in fact, it seems that more and more sportswriters haven found the wisdom in trumpeting the wrongness of their predictions. You had the Indians in the ALCS? You figured Sabathia would be an epic bust? Shout it from the rooftops! Everybody loves a dope.

Anyway, this year's Nats' season made dopes of plenty. Baseball Prospectus, most notably, used its PECOTA system to predict a 77-85 finish for the Nats. I've spent the last few minutes (while taking the Acela up the NY for the Yanks-Twins series) reviewing the Journal's Official 2009 Prediction thread. More predicted an above-.500 season than a year with fewer than 70 wins. Only one poster, jdschulz50, predicted a win total below 60 (57, he said). My guess: 69.

That's not to say every prediction went wrong.

I guessed that Adam Dunn would hit 38 home runs and Ryan Zimmerman would represent the Nats in the All-Star Game. I guessed John Lannan would finish the year with a 3.93 ERA (he had a 3.88) and that Craig Stammen would "make an impact." But where did I go wrong? Egads. My home attendance guess (1.95 mil) would have required about a 12-game series against the Red Sox. And somehow, I envisioned an Aug. 4 debut for Stephen Strasburg.

This was long before I developed an understanding for Scott Boras.

As a bonus question, NJers were asked to predict the end-of-the-year pitching rotation. Not many of us ever imagined so much turnover. Goodbye, Shairon Martis. Goodbye, Jordan Zimmermann. Goodbye, Scott Olsen. (Looking through the various posts, more NJers predicted an end-of-the-year rotation with Jarrod Washburn [one vote] than with J.D. Martin [no votes].) That said, four posters guessed that Detwiler would be in the mix.

Before I finish this post, let me prove, with finality, that baseball is unpredictable, and that falling for foolish possibilities is part of its charm.

I confess, I wrote all of these sentences.

"With Opening Day almost a week away, the Nationals' biggest looming question extends not from a shortage, but a surplus. With Willingham, Kearns, Dunn, Dukes and Lastings Milledge, the Nationals have five outfielders accustomed to, and perhaps deserving of, starting jobs. The Nationals have more than they need, and perhaps more than they can accommodate."

"Right now, pitcher Shawn Hill feels confident -- cautiously confident -- that his arm will allow for a solid season."

"With pitchers in camp for more than a week, pitching coach Randy St. Claire and Manager Manny Acta categorize only two relievers -- Joel Hanrahan and Saul Rivera -- as locks for the roster."

By Chico Harlan  |  October 7, 2009; 12:30 PM ET
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Next: Guzman, Norris to Undergo Surgery


Tell him what he won, Johnny.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | October 7, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

A shot of bourbon and Maalox, perhaps? :-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | October 7, 2009 12:35 PM | Report abuse

"With pitchers in camp for more than a week, pitching coach Randy St. Claire and Manager Manny Acta categorize only two relievers -- Joel Hanrahan and Saul Rivera -- as locks for the roster."

That is too funny right there.

Posted by: FloresFan | October 7, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Please stand by as we all go back to torture ourselves (and prepare to torture one another) with our spring foresight, such as it was.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | October 7, 2009 12:44 PM | Report abuse

I still like mine...


I'm not so much into predictions, so I'll take a pass on this one. hmmm, maybe I'll just take the opposite of what Buster (whatever) Olney predicts...

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 6, 2009 10:24 AM

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | October 7, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

I hope to be pleasantly surprised with whatever Rizzo cooks up. Kind of like the 1 gamer with the Twins and Tigers.

Posted by: periculum | October 7, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Chico -- Of your confessed "three sentences," two are just the reporting of opinions expressed by others. It's what people were saying back then.

I also recall something on the Nats website about the team brimming with confidence. It was just reporting, but it is wince worthy now, as it was just days before the crash and burn that started the season.

I guess we need optimism in the spring and perspective in the fall.

Posted by: KenNat | October 7, 2009 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Derek Norris broke his hamate bone?!?!

Posted by: goexpos2 | October 7, 2009 1:45 PM | Report abuse

I was in Vegas right before the season started, so I put my money where my mouth is and bet the season over on the Nats (71 wins, I believe). I was pretty confident they would win a dozen more games than last season with all of the injuries they had. Little did I know just how disastrous the bullpen would be. Once again, I broke my own rule of not betting on my favorite teams and paid for it!

Posted by: slewis1 | October 7, 2009 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Chico. It's funny going back and reading this stuff. How giddy we were on opening day and how quickly that tanked!

Posted by: NatsNut | October 7, 2009 2:11 PM | Report abuse

It's awesome that you preserved that predictions post Chico. What a great trip down the memory lane where all things seemed possible, even a 70+ wins season. And I am proud to have predicted AD's homerun total and that Millege would be the team's biggest disappointment (though Kearns gave him a run for his money). Can someone post the actual answers to the statistical questions (Willingham's at bats, NJ's games, etc.)?

Posted by: Section222 | October 7, 2009 2:38 PM | Report abuse

per Bill Ladson, Guzman will undergo shoulder arthroscopy tomorrow in D.C., & Norris will have his fractured left hamate bone removed (in Baltimore). So much for Norris' "power" numbers in 2010.

Posted by: BinM | October 7, 2009 2:38 PM | Report abuse

New post re. medical procedures.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | October 7, 2009 2:57 PM | Report abuse

And the players who could be considered to have won the lottery.

Young and Kearns. Especially Young who made $10 million for doing NOTHING.

Nice gig if you can't get it.

Posted by: fearturtle44 | October 7, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Yeah me! I got ridiculed by the host. :)

(I'm the one who predicted Jarrod Washburn would be in the Nats' rotation. Worse, I did it thinking Washburn would suck. I had no clue he would actually be good this year.)

Posted by: natbiscuits | October 7, 2009 8:53 PM | Report abuse

Who's Manny Acta?

Posted by: fischy | October 8, 2009 10:18 AM | Report abuse

He was the one standing in the dugout, hands on hips with a glazed look pre-all star game. Sad, but true.

Posted by: cokedispatch | October 8, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse

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