Revisiting our 2022 opening day predictions

 

We always knew the Nationals weren't going to be good this season. We just had no idea how bad it would get, not only in terms of their 55-107 record, but the fact they traded Juan Soto in early August in an attempt to completely revamp their farm system.

Sometimes, it's tougher to predict how a bad season will play out than a good one. That certainly was the case for me and my colleagues on the Nationals beat, who attempted way back on April 7 to guess how things would go this year and in most cases failed miserably.

There were a few spot-on predictions, but plenty more swings and misses, as you'll see below. As has been our tradition since we first made these predictions in 2010, we always come back to revisit them after the season ends, just to show everyone out there how misguided we were all along ...

WHICH NATIONALS WILL BE SELECTED FOR THE ALL-STAR GAME?
Bobby Blanco (MASNsports.com) - Juan Soto
Jessica Camerato (MLB.com) - Juan Soto
Jesse Dougherty (Washington Post) - Juan Soto
Andrew Golden (Washington Post) - Juan Soto
Craig Heist (106.7 The Fan) - Josh Bell, Nelson Cruz
Chelsea Janes (Washington Post) - Keibert Ruiz, Juan Soto
Pete Kerzel (MASNsports.com) - Juan Soto
Bill Ladson (MLB.com honorary) - Juan Soto
Mark Zuckerman (MASNsports.com) - Juan Soto

Correct answer: Soto was the Nationals' lone representative at Dodger Stadium (aside from Davey Martinez, who was selected as one of Brian Snitker's coaches). Josh Bell probably deserved his first All-Star selection, even more so than Soto, but he was left out.

Winner: Everybody who participated correctly had Soto making the All-Star team, which wasn't exactly a bold prediction. Everybody, that is, but Craig Heist, who inexplicably had Nelson Cruz going to L.A. and not his far superior teammate who is 20 years younger.

WHAT WILL TOTAL ATTENDANCE BE AT NATIONALS PARK?
Pete Kerzel - 2,355,333
Bobby Blanco - 2,330,358
Bill Ladson - 2,300,000
Jessica Camerato - 2,133,008
Craig Heist - 2,102,500
Chelsea Janes - 2,000,001
Andrew Golden - 1,673,801
Mark Zuckerman - 1,627,812
Jesse Dougherty - 1,522,310

Correct answer: Despite their worst-in-baseball record, the Nationals actually did quite well at the gate. They drew 2,026,401 fans to Nationals Park, a more-than-respectable average of 25,017 per game.

Winner: Let's hear it for Chelsea Janes, who was off by a mere 26,400 fans. If only the Nats had made up that last rainout against the Phillies a single-admission doubleheader instead of a day-night doubleheader.

WHAT WILL JUAN SOTO’S OPS BE?
Bill Ladson - 1.099
Pete Kerzel - 1.091
Jesse Dougherty - 1.078
Jessica Camerato - 1.053
Mark Zuckerman - 1.047
Andrew Golden - 1.024
Chelsea Janes - 1.008
Bobby Blanco - .993
Craig Heist - .960

Correct answer: It never even occurred to me to specify we would only consider Soto's OPS as a member of the Nationals, though that wouldn't have changed the outcome. We all thought too highly of Soto, who produced an .894 OPS in 101 games before the trade to San Diego, then a disappointing .778 OPS in 52 games after that, giving him a season OPS of .853, about 100 points below his career average.

Winner: We all overshot Soto's OPS by a healthy margin, but if we have to give the award to somebody, it goes to Heist by default. (Then again, how exactly did Craig think Soto would produce a .960 OPS and NOT get selected to the All-Star Game?)

HOW MANY WALKS WILL SOTO DRAW?
Mark Zuckerman - 152
Pete Kerzel - 151
Jessica Camerato - 139
Andrew Golden - 134
Bobby Blanco - 133
Craig Heist - 132
Chelsea Janes - 132
Jesse Dougherty - 128
Bill Ladson - 120

Correct answer: Again, we didn't specify if this was only for his time with the Nationals or overall for the season. Turns out he drew 91 walks as a Nat, then 44 more as a Padre for a grand total of 135, tops in the majors.

Winner: Some very good guesses, and the best of them came from Andrew Golden, who missed by only one. Nicely done, rookie!

RANK JOSH BELL, NELSON CRUZ, KEIBERT RUIZ AND JUAN SOTO IN ORDER OF HOME RUNS HIT FOR THE NATIONALS.
Bobby Blanco - Soto, Bell, Ruiz, Cruz
Jessica Camerato - Soto, Bell, Ruiz, Cruz
Bill Ladson - Soto, Bell, Ruiz, Cruz
Andrew Golden - Soto, Bell, Cruz, Ruiz
Pete Kerzel - Soto, Bell, Cruz, Ruiz
Chelsea Janes - Soto, Cruz, Bell, Ruiz
Jesse Dougherty - Bell, Soto, Cruz, Ruiz
Mark Zuckerman - Bell, Soto, Cruz, Ruiz
Craig Heist - Cruz, Bell, Soto, Ruiz

Correct answer: This one we did specify, because at the time we were thinking both Bell and Cruz were logical trade candidates, not Soto. Now, the crazy thing: Even though he played in only 101 games for the Nationals, Soto still led the team with 21 homers. Among these four candidates, Bell finished second with 14 homers, followed by Cruz (10) and Ruiz (seven).

Winner: We've got a tie between Golden and Pete Kerzel, who retired in April but I suppose is still entitled to his moment of glory here.

WHO WILL BAT LEADOFF THE MOST TIMES?
Bobby Blanco - César Hernández
Jessica Camerato - César Hernández
Jesse Dougherty - César Hernández
Andrew Golden - César Hernández
Chelsea Janes - César Hernández
Pete Kerzel - César Hernández
Mark Zuckerman - Lane Thomas
Craig Heist - Dee Strange-Gordon
Bill Ladson - Dee Strange-Gordon

Correct answer: Lane Thomas may have finished out the season as the Nationals' everyday leadoff man and started 55 games in total as the No. 1 batter, but he couldn't catch up to César Hernández, who despite all his struggles still led off 80 times this year.

Winner: Did the six writers who got this one right pick Hernández because they believed he would hit well enough to bat leadoff all season, or because there just wasn't anybody else?

RANK LUIS GARCÍA, CARTER KIEBOOM AND VICTOR ROBLES IN ORDER OF PLATE APPEARANCES FOR THE NATIONALS.
Andrew Golden - Robles, Kieboom, García
Chelsea Janes - Robles, Kieboom, García
Pete Kerzel - Robles, Kieboom, García
Bobby Blanco - Robles, García, Kieboom
Jessica Camerato - Robles, García, Kieboom
Jesse Dougherty - Robles, García, Kieboom
Craig Heist - Robles, García, Kieboom
Mark Zuckerman - Robles, García, Kieboom
Bill Ladson - García, Robles, Kieboom

Correct answer: Though he didn't have a good season at the plate, Robles did stay on the big league roster all year and finished with 407 plate appearances. That topped García, who didn't get called up from Triple-A until June and finished with 377 plate appearances, and Kieboom, who wound up having Tommy John surgery and missed the entire season.

Winner: There actually were five of us who got this one right. Though I doubt any of us would've predicted Kieboom wouldn't ever be on the big league roster.

WHO WILL START THE MOST GAMES IN LEFT FIELD?
Bobby Blanco - Lane Thomas
Jessica Camerato - Lane Thomas
Jesse Dougherty - Lane Thomas
Andrew Golden - Lane Thomas
Craig Heist - Lane Thomas
Pete Kerzel - Lane Thomas
Bill Ladson - Lane Thomas
Mark Zuckerman - Dee Strange-Gordon
Chelsea Janes - Justin Upton

Correct answer: It wasn't Thomas. It wasn't Strange-Gordon. It wasn't Upton (who wasn't ever a National). It was Yadiel Hernandez, who started 75 games in left field before landing on the 60-day injured list with a calf strain.

Winner: Nobody even considered Hernandez. But I always appreciate a good out-of-the-box prediction like Chelsea gave us. So, props to her for going out on a limb (and crashing down to earth in the process).

WHO WILL LEAD THE PITCHING STAFF IN WINS? HOW MANY?
Bobby Blanco - Patrick Corbin, 13
Craig Heist - Stephen Strasburg, 12
Jessica Camerato - Patrick Corbin, 11
Pete Kerzel - Patrick Corbin, 11
Bill Ladson - Patrick Corbin, 11
Mark Zuckerman - Patrick Corbin, 11
Chelsea Janes - Erick Fedde, 11
Andrew Golden - Patrick Corbin, 10
Jesse Dougherty - Patrick Corbin, 9

Correct answer: It's not often a pitcher will lead his team with seven wins. That's exactly what happened here, though. Josiah Gray earned his seventh win on July 6, then didn't earn another one the rest of the way and still somehow wasn't surpassed by anyone else on the staff.

Winner: Not only did nobody predict the team's top pitcher would win so few games. Nobody even predicted Gray would lead the staff with any number of wins.

HOW MANY STARTS WILL STEPHEN STRASBURG MAKE FOR THE NATIONALS?
Bobby Blanco - 25
Craig Heist - 22
Andrew Golden - 19
Jessica Camerato - 18
Jesse Dougherty - 17
Chelsea Janes - 16
Bill Ladson - 15
Pete Kerzel - 14
Mark Zuckerman - 12

Correct answer: After a long rehab from thoracic outlet surgery, Strasburg was finally ready to make his season debut June 9 in Miami. He insisted his arm felt strong after that ragged start, then didn't feel right throwing in the bullpen a couple days later and never returned. He now faces a very uncertain future after making one measly start in 2022.

Winner: Some of us were highly optimistic about Strasburg's chances of a full and healthy season. Others were quite pessimistic about his chances. But none of us was so pessimistic we predicted he'd make only one start all year.

WHEN WILL CADE CAVALLI MAKE HIS MLB DEBUT?
Jessica Camerato - May 10 vs. Mets
Jesse Dougherty - May 27 vs. Rockies
Mark Zuckerman - May 27 vs. Rockies
Craig Heist - June 1 at Mets
Andrew Golden - June 10 vs. Brewers
Bobby Blanco - June 17 vs. Phillies
Chelsea Janes - June 18 vs. Phillies
Pete Kerzel - June 18 vs. Phillies
Bill Ladson - Sept. 1 vs. Athletics

Correct answer: After pitching in Rochester for nearly five months, Cavalli finally got the call to make his Nationals debut Aug. 26 against the Reds. (Like Strasburg, that would prove to be his only big league start of the season after he reported shoulder soreness a few days later.)

Winner: Most of us assumed Cavalli would get the call early in the season. Only one of us was bold enough to predict his debut wouldn't come until late in the season. As Bill Ladson himself would say about his unlikely victory in this category: "WHOA!!!!!!!!!"

RANK PATRICK CORBIN, ERICK FEDDE, JOSIAH GRAY AND ANÍBAL SÁNCHEZ IN ORDER OF ERA.
Bobby Blanco - Corbin, Fedde, Gray, Sánchez
Andrew Golden - Corbin, Fedde, Gray, Sánchez
Jessica Camerato - Corbin, Gray, Fedde, Sánchez
Jesse Dougherty - Corbin, Gray, Fedde, Sánchez
Bill Ladson - Corbin, Gray, Fedde, Sánchez
Pete Kerzel - Gray, Corbin, Fedde, Sánchez
Mark Zuckerman - Gray, Corbin, Fedde, Sánchez
Craig Heist - Gray, Fedde, Corbin, Sánchez
Chelsea Janes - Fedde, Corbin, Sánchez, Gray

Correct answer: Would you believe the lowest ERA out of this foursome came from Sánchez, who sported a 7.20 ERA after his sixth start but was great the rest of the way and finished with a mark of 4.28? Next closest was Gray at 5.02, then Fedde at 5.81 and Corbin at a gaudy 6.31.

Winner: None of us thought much of Sánchez's chances of pitching well after sitting out the 2020 season. We did have far more faith in Corbin to bounce back from his awful 2021 season. We were sorely misguided in both cases.

WHO WILL LEAD THE TEAM IN SAVES? HOW MANY?
Bobby Blanco - Sean Doolittle, 23
Andrew Golden - Kyle Finnegan, 22
Bill Ladson - Sean Doolittle, 20
Jessica Camerato - Tanner Rainey, 19
Pete Kerzel - Tanner Rainey, 19
Jesse Dougherty - Tanner Rainey, 18
Craig Heist - Steve Cishek, 17
Chelsea Janes - Tanner Rainey, 17
Mark Zuckerman - Tyler Clippard, 14

Correct answer: It was a tight race between Rainey (who notched 12 saves before needing Tommy John surgery) and Finnegan (who got 11 after taking over as closer).

Winner: Camerato, Kerzel, Dougherty and Janes all correctly predicted Rainey would lead the staff. All of them overestimated how many saves he'd record, though.

RANK STEVE CISHEK, TYLER CLIPPARD, SEAN DOOLITTLE, KYLE FINNEGAN AND TANNER RAINEY IN ORDER OF APPEARANCES FOR THE NATIONALS.
Bobby Blanco - Doolittle, Cishek, Clippard, Rainey, Finnegan
Bill Ladson - Doolittle, Cishek, Rainey, Finnegan, Clippard
Pete Kerzel - Cishek, Rainey, Doolittle, Finnegan, Clippard
Jessica Camerato - Finnegan, Rainey, Cishek, Doolittle, Clippard
Jesse Dougherty - Finnegan, Rainey, Cishek, Doolittle, Clippard
Mark Zuckerman - Finnegan, Rainey, Cishek, Clippard, Doolittle
Andrew Golden - Finnegan, Cishek, Rainey, Clippard, Doolittle
Chelsea Janes - Finnegan, Cishek, Rainey, Clippard, Doolittle
Craig Heist - Finnegan, Cishek, Rainey, Doolittle, Clippard

Correct answer: Though he didn't have a great year, Cishek both stayed healthy and wasn't traded at the deadline, which allowed the veteran to lead the staff with 69 total appearances. He was followed by Finnegan (66), Rainey (29 before his surgery), Doolittle (six before his season-ending elbow injury) and Clippard (only four appearances before he was released).

Winner: Nobody got it exactly right, but only Kerzel correctly predicted Cishek would make the most appearances. So we'll give him the nod on this one.

WHO WILL HIT THE MOST HOMERS AGAINST THE NATIONALS THIS SEASON?
Bobby Blanco - Bryce Harper
Pete Kerzel - Bryce Harper
Jesse Dougherty - Kyle Schwarber
Mark Zuckerman - Kyle Schwarber
Jessica Camerato - Pete Alonso
Andrew Golden - Pete Alonso
Craig Heist - Pete Alonso
Bill Ladson - Pete Alonso
Chelsea Janes - Ronald Acuña Jr.

Correct answer: There were no shortage of NL East foes who hit a bunch of homers off Nationals pitching this season, but nobody did it more times than Schwarber, the former Nats slugger who launched 10 homers in 85 plate appearances against them as a member of the Phillies. The Braves' Austin Riley was next with eight, followed by the Phillies' Rhys Hoskins (seven) and Alonso (six).

Winner: Well, well, well. Look who nailed this one. I'm talking about me, not Jesse, who was probably peeking over my shoulder when I filled out my ballot.

HOW MANY STRIKEOUTS WILL MAX SCHERZER RECORD AGAINST THE NATIONALS THIS SEASON?
Bill Ladson - 50
Mark Zuckerman - 42
Jessica Camerato - 35
Andrew Golden - 35
Bobby Blanco - 30
Craig Heist - 29
Chelsea Janes - 27
Jesse Dougherty - 26
Pete Kerzel - 23

Correct answer: It was awfully weird to see Scherzer in a Mets uniform pitching against the Nats, but we got that scenario three times this season. Max was human in those starts, posting a 3.06 ERA. He struck out 16 batters in 17 2/3 total innings.

Winner: Had Scherzer not missed considerable time with an oblique strain, he might've faced the Nationals once or twice more, and that would've driven his total up. Instead, he came in well below the lowest of the predictions.

HOW WILL THE NL EAST FINISH FROM TOP TO BOTTOM?
Andrew Golden - Braves, Phillies, Mets, Nationals, Marlins
Chelsea Janes - Braves, Phillies, Mets, Marlins, Nationals
Pete Kerzel - Braves, Phillies, Mets, Marlins, Nationals
Jesse Dougherty - Braves, Mets, Phillies, Marlins, Nationals
Mark Zuckerman - Braves, Mets, Phillies, Marlins, Nationals
Jessica Camerato - Braves, Mets, Phillies, Nationals, Marlins
Craig Heist - Braves, Mets, Marlins, Phillies, Nationals
Bill Ladson - Braves, Phillies, Marlins, Nationals, Mets
Bobby Blanco - Mets, Phillies, Braves, Marlins, Nationals

Correct answer: It went down the very end, and it actually went down to a tiebreaker. The Braves and Mets each went 101-61, but the Braves were awarded the division title based on their 10-9 head-to-head record against the Mets.

Winner: It's another tie between yours truly and Jesse. We both not only liked Atlanta over New York, but also Philadelphia and Miami over the Nationals.

WHAT WILL THE NATIONALS’ RECORD BE?
Craig Heist - 79-83
Jessica Camerato - 72-90
Chelsea Janes - 72-90
Bill Ladson - 71-91
Andrew Golden - 67-95
Mark Zuckerman - 67-95
Pete Kerzel - 64-98
Bobby Blanco - 63-99
Jesse Dougherty - 63-99

Correct answer: You know by now the Nationals finished 55-107, the worst record in the majors in 2022.

Winner: Nah, nobody even predicted 100 losses. We can't credit Bobby and Jesse for overestimating by eight wins.

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