Early predictions broken down by position
So SuperNova and I had a debate today where we tried to break down each position on the Nats and deduce how many games the Nats would be better or worse with the 2006 version of x fielder/batter/pitcher than the 2005 version. From that we could extrapolate how the Nats would do compared to the 81-81 record of last year. Here's the results:
Catcher: Brian Schneider and Gary Bennett vs. Schneider/LeCroy/Fick.
SNV and I both think that Schneider will take a slight bump down in his offense (and I would say slightly in defense) from last year. The bat of LeCroy/Fick breaks even or a slight upgrade over the loss of Bennett's defense (but see bench rating). Overall, SNV and Dexy both say -1 game.
First Base: Not much comment here, as we both think Nick will stay relatively even. Dexy has 1B as a straight Even while SNV has -0.5 games.
Second base: If Vidro is truly healthy, it goes up more than this, but that is hard to know. This assumes Vidro playing second at moderate-good health. Dexy: +1 game; SNV: +1.5 games.
Shortstop: I have to believe that while Guzman will still be positively awful, he will a) be better than last year and b) they will get someone else in there if he is as bad. Dexy: +2 games; SNV: +1 game.
Third base: This is where we had a big difference. I think that Zimmerman will post an OBP in the .355-.360 range with a little upside above it. Add in a .445-.450 slugging and you get a guy with an .810 OPS (I'd say .800-.830). SNV sees Zim's stats at more like: .330 OBP and .420 SLG. Dexy is being way bullish and saying: + 4 games. SNV says Castilla wasn't horrible and Zim translates into: +1 game.
Left Field: Soriano (if he even plays) vs. Church/Byrd/Wilson platoon: I hate the Soriano signing, but I have this position staying relatively even (i.e. we could have saved $10 million) for this position. SNV says Soriano will definitely be worse than if we had the 2005 platoon in there. Dexy: Even; SNV: -1 game.
Center field: Another big difference of opinion here. I see Ryan Church, IF he gets most of the playing time, as being a slight downgrade from Wilkerson. SNV sees the Church/Byrd/Watson CF platoon as being disasterous compared to Wilky. Dexy: -1 game; SNV: -3 games. So, note that even if Soriano wasn't being paid $10 million, just Wilkerson money, Dexy views the Soriano/Wilkerson trade as costing the Nats 1 game total and SNV sees it costing the Nats 4 games. If Church rides the pine, it gets even more negative for me.
Right Field: SNV and I both worry about Guillen's injuries. Dexy: -2 games; SNV: -1.5 games.
Offensive bench: We did get better in this area, especially now that the lefty-killing LeCroy will see a lot of pinch hitting opportunities. Dexy: +1 game; SNV: +1 game.
Total offense: Dexy: +3 games; SNV: -3.5 games.
SP #1: Livan 2005 vs. Livan 2006. SNV sees this as a wash. Unfortunately, I think second half 2005 Livan was more like the pitcher we will see in 2006. Not that bad, but closer to that than first half Livan. Dexy: -2 games; SNV: Even.
SP #2: Patterson vs. Patterson. He's our real ace now. We both think he will come a little back to Earth this year though. Dexy and SNV both: -1 game.
SP #3: Ortiz vs. Loaiza: You go from a guy who was league average, maybe even slightly better, to a guy well below. We are assuming Lawrence is out for the season (or any real Brian Lawrence is). Dexy: -3 games; SNV: -4 games.
SP #4: Ohka/Carrasco/Armas to Armas: Ohka and Carrasco had some nice starts for the Nats. Armas didn't. We now get to see a guy that barely held on to a major league spot last year operate as a #4 pitcher. Dexy: -3 games; SNV: -3.5 games.
SP# 5: Armas/Drese to Drese/Rauch: It's hard to know what will happen here. I suppose there is a chance that Drese could be better, that Rauch will be as good or better than Armas and I am being too negative. That being said, this isn't going to be pretty (and I will be thrilled to apologize if I am wrong). Dexy: -3 games; SNV: -1 game.
Relief pitching. SNV didn't go position by position and says that the bullpen overall will be -1 game worse than last year. I wish I could believe that. With this starting pitching, I see them being overworked even faster this year. I'll say Eichen: Even; Ayala: -1 game; Majewski: -1 game; more use of Stanton: -1 game; Cordero: I hope I am wrong but can see him coming down a bit off his great 2005: -2 games. Total relief prediction for Dexy: -5 games.
After all of that, BOTH Dexy and SNV get to a total of: -13 games. We got there in different ways, with SNV thinking the offense will actually be a bit worse than last year and me thinking that Zimmerman will be a bunch better and the Soriano trade will only hurt a little, but that the bullpen will suffer more this year. We both believe that the majority of the Nats' decline will be due to the starting pitching. Take our 13 game prediction from the 2005 base of 81-81 and you get a 68-94 record assuming, of course, we start the season with the same info we have today.
Here's hoping we are completely wrong.