Revisiting our opening day media predictions

The Nationals’ season is far from over. If anything, the last six months were nothing but a big tease for what is still to come over at least the next week, possibly more.

But the regular season has concluded, and that means it’s time to revisit all those predictions all of us on the Nats beat made way back on opening day. This always leads to embarrassment for us (though traditionally some more than others) but I have to say the crew did a pretty good job overall this year, with a couple of notable exceptions.

But since we ask for those we cover to be accountable for their performances, it’s only fair that we now be accountable for ours. And so without further ado, here’s what we all thought would happen back on April 3, and how it actually happened as of Oct. 3. ...

Bryce-Harper-at-bat-gray-sidebar.jpgWHICH NATIONALS WILL BE SELECTED FOR THE ALL-STAR GAME?
Jorge Castillo (Washington Post) - Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg
Jamal Collier (MLB.com) - Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, Max Scherzer, Trea Turner
Todd Dybas (Washington Times) - Bryce Harper, Max Scherzer, Trea Turner
Craig Heist (106.7 FM) - Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Max Scherzer, Trea Turner
Chelsea Janes (Washington Post) - Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Trea Turner
Byron Kerr (MASNsports.com) - Bryce Harper, Max Scherzer
Bill Ladson (MLB.com) - Bryce Harper, Max Scherzer, Trea Turner
Pete Kerzel (MASNsports.com) - Bryce Harper, Max Scherzer, Trea Turner
Eddie Matz (ESPN.com) - Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, Tanner Roark, Max Scherzer, Trea Turner
Mark Zuckerman (MASNsports.com) - Bryce Harper, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Trea Turner

Correct Answer: The Nationals matched their record from 2016 with five National League All-Stars. For the first time in club history, they had three position players voted into the starting lineup (Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Daniel Murphy) and the game’s starting pitcher (Max Scherzer). Stephen Strasburg rounded out the quintet of players who wore curly W caps in Miami for the Midsummer Classic.

Winner: Nobody correctly predicted all five All-Stars (nobody had Zimmerman making it) but both Washington Post staffers got the other four correct. Since Chelsea Janes mistakenly added Trea Turner to the mix, we’ll give this one to Jorge Castillo, who named four players and was right about all of them.

WHAT WILL TOTAL HOME ATTENDANCE BE?
Jamal Collier - 2,700,072
Byron Kerr - 2,643,921
Craig Heist - 2,600,000
Bill Ladson - 2,600,000
Jorge Castillo - 2,569,237
Eddie Matz - 2,555,555
Mark Zuckerman - 2,537,914
Chelsea Janes - 2,521,104
Pete Kerzel - 2,519,744
Todd Dybas - 2,493,859

Correct Answer: The Nationals drew a total of 2,524,980 fans to 81 home games this season, an average of 31,173 that ranked 11th in the majors and was up 1.4 percent from last season.

Winner: This was very close, coming down to Sunday’s regular season finale. In the end, Chelsea Janes missed by only 3,876 fans, narrowly edging Pete Kerzel, who only missed by 5,236. Nicely done by both of them.

HOW MANY HOMERS WILL BRYCE HARPER HIT?
Byron Kerr - 44
Craig Heist - 38
Pete Kerzel - 38
Eddie Matz - 38
Mark Zuckerman - 37
Jorge Castillo - 36
Todd Dybas - 36
Bill Ladson - 35
Jamal Collier - 33
Chelsea Janes - 33

Correct Answer: Harper was on pace to hit 41 homers this season until he suffered his scary-looking knee injury on Aug. 12. He returned to play five games at the end but didn’t come close to hitting anything else out of the park, leaving him stuck on 29 homers.

Winner: Everybody overshot this prediction, though who would’ve guessed Harper would miss seven weeks? Jamal Collier and Chelsea Janes ended up the closest, missing Harper’s final total by four homers.

WHO WILL LEAD THE PITCHING STAFF IN WINS? HOW MANY?
Byron Kerr - Max Scherzer, 21
Pete Kerzel - Max Scherzer, 21
Todd Dybas - Max Scherzer, 19
Jorge Castillo - Max Scherzer, 19
Eddie Matz - Max Scherzer, 19
Mark Zuckerman - Max Scherzer, 19
Jamal Collier - Max Scherzer, 18
Craig Heist - Max Scherzer, 18
Chelsea Janes - Max Scherzer, 18
Bill Ladson - Max Scherzer, 15

Correct Answer: Despite having three of the NL’s top four starting pitchers in terms of ERA, the Nats’ win leader was Scherzer with only 16.

Winner: Bill Ladson wins this category, though it might’ve gone to Jamal Collier, Craig Heist and Chelsea Janes had Scherzer not been pulled after tweaking his hamstring in the fourth inning Saturday night, disqualifying him from earning a win.

WHO WILL LEAD THE PITCHING STAFF IN STRIKEOUTS? HOW MANY?
Byron Kerr - Max Scherzer, 285
Todd Dybas - Max Scherzer, 279
Mark Zuckerman - Max Scherzer, 278
Jamal Collier - Max Scherzer, 277
Jorge Castillo - Max Scherzer, 268
Eddie Matz - Max Scherzer, 263
Craig Heist - Max Scherzer, 260
Bill Ladson - Max Scherzer, 250
Chelsea Janes - Max Scherzer, 248
Pete Kerzel - Max Scherzer, 212

Correct Answer: Scherzer didn’t reach his club-record total of 284 from the previous season, but his 268 strikeouts still were enough to lead the league again.

Winner: Big props to Jorge Castillo, who got this one exactly right (and thus gets a crisp $100 bill straight out of Bob Barker’s suit coat pocket).

WHO WILL BE THE SIXTH PITCHER TO START A GAME?
Byron Kerr - A.J. Cole
Eddie Matz - A.J. Cole
Pete Kerzel - Erick Fedde
Bill Ladson - Erick Fedde
Jorge Castillo - Jeremy Guthrie
Jamal Collier - Jeremy Guthrie
Craig Heist - Jeremy Guthrie
Mark Zuckerman - Joe Ross
Chelsea Janes - Jacob Turner
Todd Dybas - Austin Voth

Correct Answer: This wound up being a bit of a trick question. The Nationals actually opened the season with four starters, then called up Jeremy Guthrie for the fifth game for what turned out to be a disastrous performance in Philadelphia. Eleven days later, once a full-time fifth starter was needed, Joe Ross was promoted from Triple-A Syracuse, which technically made him the sixth starting pitcher of the season.

Winner: Only one experienced, talented and handsome beat reporter properly did the math on this one and got it right.

WHAT WILL DANIEL MURPHY’S BATTING AVERAGE BE?
Jorge Castillo - .321
Craig Heist - .320
Todd Dybas - .318
Mark Zuckerman - .317
Jamal Collier - .316
Chelsea Janes - .316
Pete Kerzel - .313
Eddie Matz - .313
Bill Ladson - .290
Byron Kerr - .289

Correct Answer: This one came down to the final week of the season. With seven games to go, Murphy’s batting average had sunk to .315. But he finished strong, going 9 for his last 17 to finish at .322.

Winner: That late push made all the difference for Jorge Castillo, who won another category in impressive fashion.

HOW MANY STOLEN BASES WILL TREA TURNER HAVE?
Craig Heist - 73
Bill Ladson - 70
Byron Kerr - 65
Jorge Castillo - 64
Mark Zuckerman - 62
Eddie Matz - 58
Pete Kerzel - 51
Chelsea Janes - 43
Jamal Collier - 42
Todd Dybas - 42

Correct Answer: Despite missing two months with a broken wrist, Turner still wound up stealing 46 bases to set a new club record.

Winner: Everybody on the panel expected Turner to break Alfonso Soriano’s record. Few thought he’d just barely do it as a result of injury. But Chelsea Janes came closest, missing by three steals to continue the Post’s solid run through this year’s predictions.

adam-eaton-close-white.jpgWHERE WILL ADAM EATON BAT IN THE LINEUP THE MOST TIMES?
Jamal Collier - 2nd
Craig Heist - 2nd
Byron Kerr - 2nd
Pete Kerzel - 2nd
Bill Ladson - 2nd
Mark Zuckerman - 2nd
Jorge Castillo - 6th
Chelsea Janes - 6th
Todd Dybas - 7th
Eddie Matz - 7th

Correct Answer: This was a major storyline coming out of spring training, with Dusty Baker left to decide how to arrange Adam Eaton and Trea Turner atop his lineup, or whether to use Jayson Werth in the No. 2 spot and bump Eaton down a ways. In the season’s first week, the answer was Turner leading off and Eaton batting second. But then Turner suffered a minor hamstring injury, so Eaton took over leadoff duties ... which he retained even after Turner returned ... only to tear his ACL on a freak play at first base on April 28 to bring a sad and abrupt halt to his season. In the end, Eaton hit leadoff 16 times while batting second six times.

Winner: We’ll never know what might’ve been had Eaton not suffered his season-ending injury (or had Turner not suffered the first of his two injuries). But what we do know is that none of us correctly predicted Eaton would bat first more than any other spot in the lineup.

RANK RYAN ZIMMERMAN, JAYSON WERTH AND MATT WIETERS IN ORDER OF HOME RUNS.
Jorge Castillo - Zimmerman, Werth, Wieters
Todd Dybas - Zimmerman, Werth, Wieters
Chelsea Janes - Zimmerman, Werth, Wieters
Pete Kerzel - Zimmerman, Werth, Wieters
Bill Ladson - Zimmerman, Werth, Wieters
Eddie Matz - Zimmerman, Werth, Wieters
Craig Heist - Zimmerman, Wieters, Werth
Jamal Collier - Wieters, Zimmerman, Werth
Byron Kerr - Wieters, Werth, Zimmerman
Mark Zuckerman - Werth, Zimmerman, Wieters

Correct Answer: This looked like it would be a close, three-way race when the season began. Then Zimmerman put up MVP-caliber numbers in the first half and finished with a career-best 36 homers to leave the other guys in the dust. Werth and Wieters, however, finished deadlocked with 10 homers a piece.

Winner: Everybody who had Zimmerman leading the pack (and that means seven of the 10 voters) ends up winning this category, because it didn’t matter in the end how they ranked Werth and Wieters.

WHO WILL LEAD THE PITCHING STAFF IN SAVES? HOW MANY?
Jorge Castillo - Blake Treinen, 37
Jamal Collier - Blake Treinen, 37
Chelsea Janes - Blake Treinen, 36
Todd Dybas - Blake Treinen, 29
Pete Kerzel - Blake Treinen, 27
Eddie Matz - Blake Treinen, 26
Craig Heist - Blake Treinen, 25
Byron Kerr - Blake Treinen, 25
Mark Zuckerman - Blake Treinen and Koda Glover, 21
Bill Ladson - Shawn Kelley, 20

Correct Answer: The Nats bullpen obviously was a question mark back on opening day, but nobody could’ve foreseen just how much turnover there would be in the closer’s role. By season’s end, 11 different relievers were credited with at least one save, seven of those with at least two saves. At the top of the list, though, by a long ways was Sean Doolittle, who wasn’t acquired until mid-July but still led the club with 21 saves.

Winner: A lot of people had way too much faith in Blake Treinen to get the job done. A few of us had a hunch somebody else would take over as closer somewhere along the way. But nobody was bold enough to pick a guy who wasn’t even in the organization at the time. Looking back, I kind of wish I did.

baker-rizzo-press-conference.pngHOW MANY GAMES WILL THE NATIONALS WIN?
Byron Kerr - 99
Mark Zuckerman - 97
Todd Dybas - 94
Eddie Matz - 94
Jamal Collier - 93
Craig Heist - 93
Pete Kerzel - 93
Jorge Castillo - 92
Chelsea Janes - 91
Bill Ladson - 84

Correct Answer: The Nationals were remarkably consistent this season. On May 31, they were on pace for 99 wins. On July 18, they were on pace for 99 wins. On Aug. 31, they were on pace for 99 wins. And on Sept. 25, they were still on pace for 99 wins. Then they had a little bit of a letdown in the final week, losing four of their last six to the Phillies and Pirates, and that left them with a 97-65 record at season’s end, one shy of the franchise record.

Winner: Suffice it to say, those last two games against Pittsburgh proved to be awfully important. Not for the Nats, but for your two trusty MASNsports.com beat writers. I’m not saying my victory over Byron Kerr proves my overall superiority, but ...

HOW WILL THE NATIONALS’ SEASON END?
Chelsea Janes - Lose World Series
Eddie Matz - Lose World Series
Jorge Castillo - Lose NLCS
Craig Heist - Lose NLCS
Byron Kerr - Lose NLCS
Pete Kerzel - Lose NLCS
Mark Zuckerman - Lose NLCS
Jamal Collier - Lose NLDS
Todd Dybas - Lose NLDS
Bill Ladson - Miss playoffs

Correct Answer: We don’t know yet.

Winner: We don’t know yet. We do know that our longtime pal Bill Ladson, for years the most optimistic member of this beat by leaps and bounds, turned awfully pessimistic in his first year off the beat and is now paying the price for that.

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