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With one day left, predict the Nationals season

In about, oh, 26 1/2 hours, President Obama is going walk to the middle of the Nationals Park diamond and throw out the first pitch. A few minutes later, the Nationals will start their season against Roy Halladay and the Philadelphia Phillies. They have a seven-game winning streak.

Expectations and predictions will soon cede to reality, but first, let's build a consensus for those expectations. (And speaking of predictions, don't forget to enter Sheinin's Baseball Insider picks contest.) With Opening Day so close, what do you think?

  • Stephen Strasburg
  • Nyjer Morgan
  • Garrett Mock
  • Craig Stammen
  • Adam Dunn
  • Livan Hernandez
  • Ian Desmond
  • Jason Marquis
  • Matt Capps
  • Josh Willingham
  • Adam Kennedy
  • Drew Storen
  • Ryan Zimmerman
  • Ivan Rodriguez
  • Other
  • Brian Bruney
  • Willie Harris
  • John Lannan

Thanks for participating, and Happy Easter. Later on today, the Nationals will work out at Nationals Park. Mike Rizzo is expected to give his take on the final roster decisions.

By Adam Kilgore  |  April 4, 2010; 9:45 AM ET
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Next: For now, Adam Dunn still open to contract extension talks


I do think they will finish 4th, ahead of the Mets.

Posted by: chekhov1 | April 4, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse

I'll go with 66-96, thanks to SS.

Meridian was right in his post from the last thread. DC has the 8th largest region, but the Nats act as it they are much smaller than Cincy, Milwaukee or Minnesota--or just about anyone else. Just about all the Nats' moves, from saving money on the draft, to trades for low-salaried guys only, to the cheap international signings, to the lack of free agent moves, are absurdly low-budget.

The bright side I see is Mark Lerner. Ted has realized he has a nice money-maker model with his approach to spend low and still attract 20,000 fans to his free ballpark. And Ted is right in that regard, solely from a short-run perspective.

Mark is wisely supporting his father publicly (see today's Metro column). However, Mark is part of the Leonsis investment group and is undoubtedly learning how to become a top major league owner. He is learning from this region's best owner in Leonsis.

We all wish Teddy great health and a long, happy life. When Mark takes over, whenever that may be--and hopefully with the talented Stan Kasten by his side--the Nats may then be able to truly begin the long climb to the championship level with major league-level investments.

Posted by: EdDC | April 4, 2010 10:26 AM | Report abuse

I'm going with 75-79 on the strength of a 51-30 second half. They will struggle the first half, and will once again be slow out of the gate in April. Each month better than the previous. Why? Wang, Strasburg, Olson, and the players acquired after the season starts including a right fielder, another catcher, and a first baseman. Dunn does not sign, gets traded along with Guzman and perhaps Marquis and Rodriguez. Desmond and Strasburg finish in the top five for ROY. And the Nats knock Atlanta out of the playoffs late in the season. I'm going to lock in on 77 and 85.

Posted by: natbiscuits | April 4, 2010 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the poll and holiday wishes. fwiw, the All-Star item redirected to the twiigs site rather than displaying the results here.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 4, 2010 10:35 AM | Report abuse

For the first time, I feel like the team is being honest about what it is and what it is not. We're not pinning our hopes on maybe's and could be's. There's seemingly a clear understanding of the skills and shortcomings of everyone on the roster and it's being managed accordingly.

Posted by: rumbaugm | April 4, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

This will be one of the years when the Nats exceed expectations. I predict Chien-Ming Wang will win 10 games, which will boost the team from having a poor rotation to having a respectable one. Lannan, Marquis, Wang, Strasburg and Stammen/Olsen, with Zimmermann coming back at the end of the sesaon.


Posted by: kevincostello | April 4, 2010 10:51 AM | Report abuse

If they get to 70-74 wins, that is an accomplishment, considering they have lost 100 games two years in a row. That would represent at 10-15 game improvement this year, and I think that is possible... and, on this beautiful April day, I would like to think that is enough to beat the Mets for 4th place.

If they can avoid a horrid start, then at least this season could be interesting, with the June call-ups of Strasburg and Storen on the horizon... and maybe even Wang bolstering the rotation if we are lucky...

Now, if we only had a RF...

26 hours to opening pitch!

Posted by: Ghost7 | April 4, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

07:23 AM ET 04.04 | The Washington Nationals are clearly in the hunt for a rightfielder since they released Elijah Dukes. Some names are beginning to emerge as possible trade candidates to fill that need in Washington. Corey Hart of the Brewers has long been considered a possibility. The Nationals have also reportedly contacted the Cubs regarding Kosuke Fukudome and the Tampa Bay Rays about B.J. Upton. Unless one of these deals works out, the Nationals will go with a combination of Willy Taveras and Willie Harris in rightfield.

Posted by: EdDC | April 4, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse

I predict that the most pleasant surprise of the year will be Stammen. If he is truly as healthy this year as he claims then I think you will see a noticeable improvement. The toughness is already present as was shown by him throwing with the bone chips in his elbow.

The right field situation will work itself out and will be an improvement over Dukes' 2009 efforts. Dunn at first base still scares me but not as much as seeing him totally flounder about in the outfield. The bullpen is my area of greatest concern at the start of the season. It will be interesting to see how Riggleman manages this bullpen.

I see 70 to 75 wins.

Posted by: driley | April 4, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Happy Easter everyone.

Anyone notice a difference between the team that played yesterday in the exhibition and the '09 Nats? Unfortunately, I didn't. Weak hitting, medium to bad pitching, and totally overmatched.

Adam - did you ask Riggleman or Rizzo why they chose Mock? It's interesting for us to offer our own theories but I'd like to know what they thought. Riggleman offering up his coin flip analogy after what we all saw performance-wise in the last couple of weeks is just lame.

I desperately want to be optimistic but I don't see how this team is going to win 10 games in April and that really gets me down.

Posted by: natslifer | April 4, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

My first comment is that is such a pleasure to see such optimism! on a beautiful Easter morning. I am so hopeful that Wang will work and also want Olsen to not develop an attitude but to just go and work hard and come back stronger than ever. That plus SS and Storen in the bullpen and yes, maybe we will be closer to 81 wins. I am looking for 74 and that would be a nice jump. Hard to answer that last question about Obama with his weak throwing motion. Not crazy about Bush the President but Bush as a first pitch guy was spectacular! His game in NYC after 9/11 still gives me goose bumps.

Posted by: sjm3091 | April 4, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

You know, Natslifer, it's easy to take your view if you just look on the surface of things. As a Senators fan growing up, a Nats season-ticket holder since they got into Nats Park, and someone who was at the game yesterday, I think it's iffy right now but nowhere near as hopeless as you described.

First of all, Wakefield is a tough guy to figure out if you haven't hit against him much, but as Adam Kilgore, noted, there aren't any knuckleballers in the NL so how they did against him is basically irrelevant to anything.

The starters were beginning to get to Dice-K (a pretty good pitcher in his own right) in the later innings, and he was saved from more damage by a couple of great fielding plays that half the NL teams might well not have made. Then Riggles took out the starters after the 7th.

Stammen was pitching pretty well over all except for the two big HR mistakes, which also came against a couple of good hitters (Youk and Drew), and was pulled at 73 pitches, a lot earlier than he would have been in the regular season.

The bad? Except for Bruney and to some degree Capps, the bullpen was very depressing. They need to get Storen up sooner than June, and get rid of Burnett and Bergmann ASAP for whatever they can get.

RF? Short of grafting Dukes' arm onto Guzman, they need reinforcements there too -- all the current options are hopeless, and no team that hopes to be decent can afford to have such big fielding holes at both corner positions.

Dunn's fielding at first is not such a big deal, as he made a couple of decent plays and is not such a big step down from Nick Johnson's mostly lousy fielding last year. The worrisome thing there is that he hasn't seemed to break out of his hitting slump from last September.

Let's hope the on-the-surface, stupid choice of Mock over Olson is just a way to hope Mock will look OK enough to get something in trade for him (the fifth starter gets, what, at most half a dozen games before Wang and/or SS get here?).

With an OK right fielder and a couple of adequate stopgap relievers, they can hold the fort until June.

Posted by: mailinator | April 4, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Why would you think players like Mock and Bergmann will bring anything in trade?

Posted by: EdDC | April 4, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Looking for positives coming out of Viera, I managed to find a few, but some carry caveats. Here we go, by position...
CA - Pudge is an improvement defensively over Bard, and may be a wash offensively.
1B - Dunn seems to be taking to the position (.977FPct, 11.25RF). Let's hope his hitting comes around once the season starts.
2B - Kennedy is both rangy & steady at 2B; A very good pickup, imo; Will combo well with either Desmond or Guzman at SS. Hit him 7th or 8th in the lineup & take what you can get.
3B - With RZimm, never a doubt; Range, glove, and a steady 3-5 slot lineup presence.
SS - Desmond has great range, but is still a little erratic defensively. Guzman provides a steady, but soft backup.
LF - Willingham is limited defensively, but provides a solid bat as a 5-6 slot hitter.
CF - Morgan was a little less than impressive in Viera, both offensively & defensively; May be part of the reason that Taveras made the 25-man.
RF - A Harris/Taveras platoon leaves a lot to be desired offensively. Harris has looked less than comfortable defensively, and Taveras is just not good at the plate.

The bench - Nieves(CA) is a given; Soft bat, fair defense behind the plate. Morse(1B-3B-RF) offers some pop offensively, and versatility on defense. Guzman(SS-2B) can hit, but does little else at this point. Gonzalez(2B-3B-SS) offers no power, and limited range defensively at any position. Harris(OF-2B-3B) while in a platoon in RF, offers some pop at the plate, and can play five positions. Taveras(RF-CF) is the other side of the RF platoon (for now), is rangy defensively, has some speed, but is not a good hitter historically.

Posted by: BinM | April 4, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

I see where some people are picking Colorado to go all the way this year, and the Nats have the Phillies (twice), Dodgers, Brewers, Rockies the first 19 games of the season of the season. Then they have Florida twice, Atlanta - who's got the best starting five in the NL, then Colorado again. I mean, they're not better than any of those teams, the Mets is the only breather, with maybe the Cubs. That's the first 35 games.
I don't think there's any doubt that the staff will get better when Strasburg and Storen come up. Jury is still out on Olsen, Wang and JZimmerman until they prove consistently otherwise. Olsen still needs to build a lot of arm strength without getting injured. I believe that Marquis, Bruney and Capps are fundamentally damaged goods. I think they've already been stretched out. If they don't get any movement on their pitches, they're all three in trouble. Clippard is tenacious, which makes him look like a freak on this team. Burnett's success is to nibble successfully because he doesn't throw hard enough, or have a sharp enough break to fool people all the time.
RF situation is ridiculous. Mike Morse is going to look like swiss cheese at the plate the more video they get on him. Big guys like that all have places in their strike zone that they just can't make good contact in. If the bat hits the ball, it goes a long way. Harris playing there is going to rob a bunch of power for a power position. It's just bad baseball to have him out there, because it moves everyone up a slot in the order, because he'll either hit second, or 7th or 8th. I say put Bernadina out there the first couple of months. See what he has. Maybe he can learn some patience at the plate once he gets to know some of the pitchers. There's only one way to find out.
They have to decide whether Adam Kennedy's bat or Fat Boy Guzman's bat is the best. At least they're letting Desmond play now. I fear his throwing accuracy, he can be good for around 40 errors, which is ridiculous. He can have all the range he wants, but if he's making an error every other or third night, it's a problem. I think he can be fixed, it's purely a mental approach with accuracy, I just don't know if it'll be this year.
Johnny Boy Lannan goes 16-7 with 200 innings. Marquis goes 10-10. Hernandez goes 10-8. Mock goes 1-4. Olsen goes 8-4. Strasburg goes 7-2.
Bullpen goes 14-61.
Nats go 66-96. Too many holes. Again.

Posted by: Brue | April 4, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

EdDC -- Read carefully: "whatever they can get."

They're at best a roll of the dice for another team with a lousy bullpen, so we could try out someone else's roll of the dice in exchange. You never know when a change of scene might produce a turnaround that gives you a marginally useful player. At worst we'd be no worse off than if we kept these guys, because we do know they're not going to work out here.

And as it is they're worth less than nothing, because they take up roster space.

Posted by: mailinator | April 4, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

"Mark is wisely supporting his father publicly (see today's Metro column). However, Mark is part of the Leonsis investment group and is undoubtedly learning how to become a top major league owner. He is learning from this region's best owner in Leonsis.

We all wish Teddy great health and a long, happy life. When Mark takes over, whenever that may be--and hopefully with the talented Stan Kasten by his side--the Nats may then be able to truly begin the long climb to the championship level with major league-level investments."

Ed, I would love to subscribe to this reading of the tea leaves. It gives one hope that some Leonsis magic can rub off on the younger Lerner. So all we have to do is wait for Papa Lerner to pass on to his reward?

Posted by: JohnRDC | April 4, 2010 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Ed, I would love to subscribe to this reading of the tea leaves. It gives one hope that some Leonsis magic can rub off on the younger Lerner. So all we have to do is wait for Papa Lerner to pass on to his reward? Posted by: JohnRDC | April 4, 2010 1:51 PM |


Again, I wish Teddy a much longer and ever happier life.

But down to baseball business: A long time ago, Clark Griffith, the Senators' owner, was a cheap owner, who gave way to his son Calvin, who turned out to be just as cheap. We have been stuck with cheap and lousy owners forever in this town.

Mark could also be a chip off the old block. But he doesn't have to be.

I do find hope that he is part of the Leonsis investment team. Mark has to be learning all the right things from Leonsis, so that by the time Mark takes over as the Nats' owner, the Nats can start to do things right. Part of doing things right is making a level of investment in the future of the club that is commensurate with the 8th largest region in the US, rather than a market that is apparently viewed by Ted Lerner as much smaller than Cincy's or the Twins' market.

We waited 30 years for the return of baseball to DC. We will just have to wait a little more, that's all. Meanwhile the Nats, by virtue of their crappiness, can pick up top-5 draft picks and help get ready for the new day. It's not all bad! We have a new stadium, the Nats have signed a long lease, and we can look ahead.

Posted by: EdDC | April 4, 2010 2:13 PM | Report abuse

I'm basically in agreement with you, save on one or two points. I hope Kennedy's glove wins out over Guzman's bat, and that Desmond can lower his errors simply by learning to 'eat' a ball occaisionally.

The first 35 games are no picnic, but the Dodgers & Brewers aren't locks, and the team has to get over "the Marlins = Our Daddy" at some point. If the Nationals can play to 14-21 at that point in the season, there may be a rainbow on the horizon.

Posted by: BinM | April 4, 2010 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Edit: Stammen goes 5-6. People start laying off his sinker out of the zone, wait on his fastball.
Bullpen goes 9-55.

Posted by: Brue | April 4, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Looking at the pitching...

Starters: Lannan should be solid, with steady results, but he's not a true #1. Marquis is a #2 here (for now), but would be a #3-4 starter with most other teams in the NL. Stammen has #3-4 potential, and can hopefully hold position through mid-season, to be bumped by Strasburg. Hernandez is an inning-eating, bottom of the order pitcher at this point in his career; Perfect for where he's positioned (for now). Mock is simply a place-holder; Between him, Olsen & JD Martin, the team hopes to get to a healthy & useable Wang sometime in June-July.

Bullpen: Clippard & Bruney are the steady arms in this lot, imo. Batista might be a little better than J.Taverez, and Capps is probably an improvement over Hanrahan, but still leaves me wanting for an improved closer. Walker has a decent track record of late, and Bergmann 'is what he is', while Burnett's production in Viera leaves me nervious. English, while productive, may go down to the minors once Hernandez is activated.

Overall, certainly no worse than 2009, and probably deeper with Strasburg, Wang, Detwiler, Chico, Storen, MacDougal, Wilkie & others coming up.

Posted by: BinM | April 4, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Hey Gang...well y'all know where I stand regarding wins...85+, bab-eee!!!
But I ain't blind-and I think Meridian(apologies if it was someone else) summed it up MANY of us have in the past.I keep referring to 'em as the "Slow" Lerners in the hope that they prove to be merely-well, slow learners-rather than well as seriously tone deaf.I also want the Riz to BE "The Whiz".And I also wanted Elijah to be an All-Star.So....I'm totally bewildered as to what to make of things.But for today...all's good.Tomorrow I take boy to Opening Day(only negative is that he's still on spring break-I don't get to pull him outta school to see the game!)His H.S. team just got back from spring training in Fla.-W.T.F.? And he's got a, really-that's other folks opinion...Especially with teams like the Pirates, K.C., etc. still part of MLB. Hope one day I don't have to add our beloved Nationals...
GO NATS!!!!!

Posted by: zendo | April 4, 2010 4:01 PM | Report abuse

If the OD starting rotation of Lannan-Marquis-Stammen-Hernandez-Mock becomes Lannan-Marquis-Stammen-Strasburg-Wang by late July, this team has a chance in 2011.

Posted by: BinM | April 4, 2010 4:58 PM | Report abuse

BinH --

If you're going to be optimistic -- and as to starting pitching, I'm inclined to be -- one can hope by 2011 the rotation is something like Strasburg-Wang-Lannan-Zimmermann (with Z hopefully moving up, and Wang down, as Z's arm strengthens), with the best 2 or 3 among Marquis, Stammen, Martin, Detwiler, and Olson alternating between fifth starter and long reliever, and the rest (with Mock and Chico) traded away for a good right fielder and some relief help.

Posted by: mailinator | April 4, 2010 5:13 PM | Report abuse

There is reason to e optimistic about the rotation, yes. Less so about other parts of the team's development.
Strasburg may have 60 innings behind him by the time he arrives in early June. So I'm guessing he gets 12 - 14 starts this year, for another 80 innings, and by late August he goes to the bullpen.
This could be around the time Zimmermann is ready.

It would be neat if, to control innings and to give them both predictable outings, we had a few games where one was slated to throw 5 innings and the other was slated to throw the final four.

How cool would that be?

And pitching today for the Washington Nationals, Stras-ermann!

Posted by: Sunderland | April 4, 2010 5:27 PM | Report abuse

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