Question: How many wins is an acceptable number for the 2010 Nationals?
I've said for several weeks now that I see this team winning somewhere between 75-78 games. I think they're head and shoulders better than the club Manny Acta took to Viera a year ago, a club I thought would win in the low 70's, basing that number on how they played while I was at spring training last year.
A big mistake, in retrospect.
Baseball Prospectus has changed their predictions for the Nats a couple of times this winter; currently it's 76 wins. That's a 17-game swing from last year.
Several weeks ago I wrote that a 20-game swing is a real rarity in baseball. It's happened a few times, but it's tough to predict. The 2009 Nationals lost 103 games. That's a fact. But over the last 70 games of the season, they went 33-37. Does that count for anything?
The people I speak with inside the game who work for other ballclubs think it does. Not that they think it guarantees a .500 record for 2010; just that it shows a more stable roster and a more settled bullpen.
You may be familiar with the "Pythgorean" W-L record, based largely on runs scored and runs allowed. Based on last year's numbers - 710 runs scored, 874 runs allowed -, the Nationals' Pythagorean record was 66-96. The Nats hit .258 as a team; the league average was .259.
The National League in 2009 had a combined ERA of 4.20, and therein lies the greatest disparity: the Nationals' team ERA was 5.02.
Just for kicks I went back to the 1967 Senators, a team that actually won 76 games, the equal of the Baseball Prospectus prediction. That club scored just 550 runs, and allowed 637. Their Pythagorean win total is 69 or 70, so they overachieved.
The game during the years just prior to divisional play in 1969 was offensively challenged. The 1967 AL combined batting average was just .236, and the Senators batted .223. The league ERA was 3.70, and the Senators' pitched to 3.96.
But enough about history. What's the 2010 win total that will convince you the ballclub is on the path to respectability? No need to explain your rationale - just a simple number will do.