We spent all week holding everyone with the Nationals - players, the manager and coaching staff, the front office, ownership - accountable for their disappointing season. Now it’s time to hold someone else accountable for a disappointing season: ourselves!
Yes, it’s time to revisit those opening day predictions made by all of us who cover the Nationals. It has become an annual tradition, and I want to take a moment to thank my colleagues (even those who are no longer on the beat) for subjecting themselves to the ridicule they’re about to face.
But you know what? It’s only fair that we acknowledge how wrong we were about so many things with this team. And point out the few instances in which at least some of us actually did have a good idea how something would play out this season.
And so here you go, a full revisit of our season-opening predictions, and how things actually worked out in each category ...
WHICH NATIONALS WILL BE SELECTED FOR THE ALL-STAR GAME?
Jorge Castillo (ex-Washington Post) - Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Trea Turner
Jamal Collier (MLB.com) - Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Trea Turner
Todd Dybas (TheSportsCapitol.com) - Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg
Craig Heist (106.7 The Fan) - Sean Doolittle, Anthony Rendon, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Trea Turner
Chelsea Janes (Washington Post) - Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Ryan Zimmerman
Byron Kerr (MASNsports.com) - Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg
Pete Kerzel (MASNsports.com) - Bryce Harper, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Trea Turner
Bill Ladson (MLB.com) - Bryce Harper, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Trea Turner
Eddie Matz (ESPN.com) - Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg
Mark Zuckerman (MASNsports.com) - Sean Doolittle, Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg
Winner: Well, everyone here predicted at least four All-Stars, so that didn’t work out. Everyone correctly predicted Scherzer would be selected, and all but Craig Heist correctly predicted Harper would be selected as well. We could rip Heisty for that glaring omission, but to his credit he was one of only two (along with yours truly) who did correctly predict Doolittle would make the team.
WHAT WILL TOTAL HOME ATTENDANCE BE?
Jorge Castillo - 2,720,569
Byron Kerr - 2,720,000
Craig Heist - 2,700,000
Bill Ladson - 2,700,000
Mark Zuckerman - 2,637,845
Pete Kerzel - 2,621,543
Jamal Collier - 2,583,107
Eddie Matz - 2,565,993
Chelsea Janes - 2,550,000
Todd Dybas - 2,548,978
Correct answer: Official home attendance was 2,529,604, which was up ever-so-slightly from last year’s total of 2,524, 980.
Winner: Nitpickers could claim nobody wins because everyone overbid. But we don’t play by Price is Right rules here. (Otherwise, what’s to stop somebody from predicting a total attendance of one for the entire season?) Besides, how can we, in good conscience, not salute Todd Dybas for missing by a mere 19,374? That’s only off by 239 fans per game! Well done, Todd.
HOW MANY HOMERS WILL BRYCE HARPER HIT?
Jorge Castillo - 42
Craig Heist - 42
Chelsea Janes - 42
Jamal Collier - 41
Mark Zuckerman - 39
Todd Dybas - 38
Pete Kerzel - 38
Eddie Matz - 36
Byron Kerr - 34
Bill Ladson - 30
Correct answer: Harper had a wild season, one in which he actually hit for more power during his struggle of a first half than he did after he started hitting like his old self in the second half. The end result was 34 total homers.
Winner: Let’s hear it for MASNsports.com’s very own Byron Kerr, who nailed this one!
HOW MANY STOLEN BASES WILL TREA TURNER HAVE?
Byron Kerr - 79
Jorge Castillo - 71
Bill Ladson - 70
Chelsea Janes -- 68
Craig Heist - 65
Mark Zuckerman - 62
Eddie Matz - 61
Jamal Collier - 55
Pete Kerzel - 51
Todd Dybas - 41
Correct answer: After stealing 12 bases in April, Turner appeared well on his way to a record-setting season. But he stalled midsummer, going a shocking 23 games without any steals. And so even after a late uptick, he finished with *only* 43 stolen bases ... which still led the National League.
Winner: Todd wasn’t nearly as optimistic as the rest of us, a point he repeatedly reminded us about as Turner’s season played out. In the end, he again was proven right.
WHAT WILL MATT WIETERS’ BATTING AVERAGE BE?
Byron Kerr - .257
Pete Kerzel - .257
Craig Heist - .255
Jorge Castillo - .252
Mark Zuckerman - .251
Bill Ladson - .250
Eddie Matz - .249
Todd Dybas - .248
Jamal Collier - .243
Chelsea Janes - .241
Correct answer: Wieters was headed for an absolutely abysmal season at the plate before a strong finish. He hit .284 over his final 34 games, raising his season-ending batting average to .238.
Winner: Everyone guessed too high, but Chelsea wasn’t much higher than Wieters’ final number, so she wins this category.
WHEN WILL DANIEL MURPHY MAKE HIS SEASON DEBUT?
Eddie Matz - April 8
Craig Heist - April 27
Chelsea Janes - April 27
Jamal Collier - May 2
Jorge Castillo - May 4
Todd Dybas - May 15
Byron Kerr - May 15
Bill Ladson - May 15
Mark Zuckerman - May 18
Pete Kerzel - May 31
Correct answer: After a very slow recovery from offseason knee surgery, Murphy finally made his 2018 debut on June 12 at Yankee Stadium.
Winner: Some were optimistic Murphy would be ready to play in April. They were wrong. Most were optimistic he’d be ready to play in May. They were wrong. Nobody expected Murphy to need until mid-June to take the field, but in predicting May 31, Pete Kerzel came closest.
RANK RYAN ZIMMERMAN, DANIEL MURPHY AND ANTHONY RENDON IN ORDER OF OPS
Jamal Collier - Rendon, Murphy, Zimmerman
Todd Dybas - Rendon, Murphy, Zimmerman
Craig Heist - Rendon, Murphy, Zimmerman
Chelsea Janes - Rendon, Murphy, Zimmerman
Byron Kerr - Rendon, Murphy, Zimmerman
Eddie Matz - Rendon, Murphy, Zimmerman
Jorge Castillo - Rendon, Zimmerman, Murphy
Pete Kerzel - Rendon, Zimmerman, Murphy
Bill Ladson - Rendon, Zimmerman, Murphy
Mark Zuckerman - Rendon, Zimmerman, Murphy
Correct answer: Rendon topped the list with a .909 OPS. Zimmerman finished second at .824. Murphy had a .784 OPS in 56 games before the Nationals traded him to the Cubs, and though he improved slightly after that it still wasn’t enough to surpass Zimmerman.
Winner: Four of us were higher on Zimmerman than Murphy at the beginning of the season: Castillo, Kerzel, Ladson and me. And it turns out we were right to feel that way.
HOW MANY MAJOR LEAGUE PLATE APPEARANCES WILL VICTOR ROBLES GET?
Jamal Collier - 317
Bill Ladson - 250
Jorge Castillo - 231
Pete Kerzel - 174
Mark Zuckerman - 162
Byron Kerr - 100
Chelsea Janes - 86
Eddie Matz - 53
Todd Dybas - 42
Craig Heist - 40
Correct answer: Robles surely would have been ticketed for a lot of playing time this season as scores of Nationals outfielders went on the disabled list. Unfortunately so did Robles, who hyperextended his elbow making a diving catch for Triple-A Syracuse in early April, missed three months and didn’t reach Washington until September. He finished with only 66 plate appearances.
Winner: If only we were predicting plate appearances for Juan Soto, Jamal would’ve been sitting pretty. Alas, we weren’t, and so the final weeks of the season were important for this contest as Robles finally got some playing time. In the end, Eddie came a bit closer to the correct total than Chelsea.
HOW MANY TIMES WILL THE PITCHER BAT EIGHTH IN THE STARTING LINEUP?
Mark Zuckerman - 57
Jamal Collier - 52
Eddie Matz - 41
Todd Dybas - 26
Chelsea Janes - 25
Byron Kerr - 21
Pete Kerzel - 21
Craig Heist - 20
Bill Ladson - 20
Jorge Castillo - 3
Correct answer: Davey Martinez used this lineup tactic somewhat regularly during the early portion of the season, making it appear as though we were headed for a large number. But it didn’t happen very often in the second half, and so the final total was only 39.
Winner: Poor Jorge, who was already eliminated by April 16. Serves him right, though, for leaving us (and all the rain) behind midseason and bolting for sunny L.A. Meanwhile, props to Eddie, who won his second category and only missed this total by two games.
WHO WILL LEAD THE PITCHING STAFF IN WINS? HOW MANY?
Todd Dybas - Max Scherzer, 21
Craig Heist - Stephen Strasburg, 21
Byron Kerr - Max Scherzer, 21
Bill Ladson - Max Scherzer, 20
Eddie Matz - Max Scherzer, 20
Pete Kerzel - Max Scherzer, 19
Chelsea Janes - Stephen Strasburg, 19
Mark Zuckerman - Max Scherzer, 18
Jorge Castillo - Stephen Strasburg, 18
Jamal Collier - Max Scherzer, 17
Correct answer: You could argue Scherzer deserved to win about 23-to-25 games this season as well as he pitched (and as poorly as the Nats lineup and bullpen performed during several of his starts). But Max only got to 18, which still was enough to lead the league.
Winner: Hey, I got one! About time!
EXCLUDING SCHERZER, STRASBURG, GONZALEZ AND ROARK, WHAT PITCHER WILL START THE MOST GAMES?
Todd Dybas - A.J. Cole
Craig Heist - A.J. Cole
Chelsea Janes - A.J. Cole
Bill Ladson - A.J. Cole
Jorge Castillo - Jeremy Hellickson
Pete Kerzel - Jeremy Hellickson
Eddie Matz - Jeremy Hellickson
Jamal Collier - Erick Fedde
Byron Kerr - Edwin Jackson
Mark Zuckerman - Danny Duffy
Correct answer: This was probably my favorite category of the entire contest, because there were so many different possible answers (some of which looked awfully bad by season’s end). The correct answer, of course, was Hellickson, who made 19 starts to Fedde’s 11 and Cole’s two.
Winner: Jorge, Pete and Eddie were right. Jamal gave it a valiant effort. Todd, Craig, Chelsea and Bill really should’ve known better than to have any faith in Cole. Byron’s gamble wasn’t a bad one ... if only Jackson hadn’t opted out from his minor league deal with the Nats and instead made 17 starts for the A’s. And then there was my out-of-the-box prediction. Duffy made 28 starts for the Royals, none for any other team. So I was very wrong. And yet I’ll forever stand behind my choice, because if nothing else my hunch that the Nationals needed to acquire another quality starter from outside the organization was proven correct.
HOW MANY SAVES WILL SEAN DOOLITTLE RECORD? HOW MANY BLOWN SAVES?
Bill Ladson - 40, 5
Mark Zuckerman - 39, 4
Todd Dybas - 36, 3
Jorge Castillo - 36, 4
Craig Heist - 36, 4
Jamal Collier - 35, 4
Chelsea Janes - 35, 4
Pete Kerzel - 34, 4
Eddie Matz - 32, 4
Byron Kerr - 30, 4
Correct answer: Doolittle was on his way to a 40-save season until he went on the DL in early July with what he assumed was a minor foot injury. Turned out not to be so minor. He missed two months and finished with only 25 saves. To his credit, he only blew one save.
Winner: Everyone overshot this one, but Byron wins by default. (The two greatest words in the English language: De Fault!)
HOW MANY GAMES WILL THE NATIONALS WIN?
Chelsea Janes - 96
Pete Kerzel - 96
Eddie Matz - 96
Jorge Castillo - 95
Todd Dybas - 95
Craig Heist - 95
Bill Ladson - 95
Byron Kerr - 94
Jamal Collier - 93
Mark Zuckerman - 93
Correct answer: By now, you are painfully aware that the Nationals won only 82 games this season.
Winner: Uh, no.
HOW WILL THE NATIONALS’ SEASON END?
Pete Kerzel - Lose World Series
Eddie Matz - Lose World Series
Mark Zuckerman - Lose World Series
Jorge Castillo - Lose NLCS
Jamal Collier - Lose NLCS
Todd Dybas - Lose NLCS
Craig Heist - Lose NLCS
Chelsea Janes - Lose NLCS
Byron Kerr - Lose NLCS
Bill Ladson - Lose NLDS
Correct answer: By now, you are painfully aware that the Nationals did not reach the postseason.
Winner: Pessimists everywhere!