How Nats pitchers are projected to perform in 2019

Yesterday, we looked at FanGraphs.com’s’ Steamer projections for the Nationals’ primary position players, an interesting assortment of optimism and pessimism, depending on the individual.

Today we’ll look at those projections for the Nationals pitching staff. Fair warning: This one trends more toward the pessimistic end of the spectrum.

Here we go ...

MAX SCHERZER
Actual 2018 stats: 18-7, 2.53 ERA, 220.2 IP, 300 SO, 0.91 WHIP, 7.2 WAR
Steamer 2019 projection: 15-8, 3.13 ERA, 208 IP, 271 SO, 1.04 WHIP, 5.7 WAR
Comment: One of these years, Scherzer isn’t going to be elite. He’s just going to be really, really good. The projection seems to think this is the year that happens. History suggests it’s possible, maybe even probable. Max may suggest otherwise.

STEPHEN STRASBURG
Actual 2018 stats: 10-7, 3.74 ERA, 130 IP, 156 SO, 1.20 WHIP, 2.3 WAR
Steamer 2019 projection: 12-9, 3.66 ERA, 177 IP, 192 SO, 1.19 WHIP, 3.2 WAR
Comment: The good news: Strasburg is projected to make more starts and throw more innings, always the key to any of his seasons. The bad news: He’s not projected to return to the dominant form he displayed through much of 2017. If healthy, it seems like he should be expected to perform better than this.

PATRICK CORBIN
Actual 2018 stats: 11-7, 3.15 ERA, 200 IP, 246 SO, 1.05 WHIP, 6.3 WAR
Steamer 2019 projection: 13-9, 3.43 ERA, 182 IP, 189 SO, 1.21 WHIP, 3.5 WAR
Comment: Given his career trajectory, it’s not surprising this projection is somewhat skeptical of Corbin’s breakthrough 2018 season. It’s perfectly reasonable to wonder if he’s going to come back to earth. The Nationals didn’t pay him $140 million to come back to earth, though. They’re counting on him picking up right where he left off last season in Arizona.

ANÍBAL SÁNCHEZ
Actual 2018 stats: 7-6, 2.83 ERA, 136.2 IP, 135 SO, 1.08 WHIP, 2.4 WAR
Steamer 2019 projection: 9-8, 4.29 ERA, 144 IP, 136 SO, 1.31 WHIP, 1.7 WAR
Comment: The kind of season projected here is the kind of season Sanchez had become known for prior to 2018. The kind of season the Nationals are projecting from the veteran is a duplicate of his 2018 season with the Braves, believing his change in pitching philosophy and repertoire was a legitimate career makeover.

JOE ROSS
Actual 2018 stats: 0-2, 5.06 ERA, 16 IP, 7 SO, 1.31 WHIP, -0.1 WAR
Steamer 2019 projection: 8-8, 4.59 ERA, 128 IP, 105 SO, 1.35 WHIP, 0.9 WAR
Comment: The Nationals have high hopes for Ross, now fully healed from Tommy John surgery. They believe he can flash the form he displayed before injuring his elbow (12-10, 3.52 ERA in his first 35 major league games). But that was three seasons ago, and there’s no guarantee the right-hander returns to that form. This projection does see him staying healthy enough to pitch 128 innings, but the results are middling at best.

Fedde-Delivers-Blue-Sidebar.jpgERICK FEDDE
Actual 2018 stats: 2-4, 5.54 ERA, 50.1 IP, 46 SO, 1.53 WHIP, 0.2 WAR
Steamer 2019 projection: 6-5, 4.04 ERA, 88 IP, 78 SO, 1.35 WHIP, 1.1 WAR
Comment: Is this a make-or-break year for Fedde? It could be. The former first-round pick has yet to really take off, both because of injury and inconsistent performance. Fedde worked hard this winter to bulk up, which he believes will make a big difference. The projection doesn’t expect a whole lot out of him, though.

SEAN DOOLITTLE
Actual 2018 stats: 3-3, 1.60 ERA, 25 SV, 45 IP, 60 SO, 0.60 WHIP, 1.9 WAR
Steamer 2019 projection: 4-3, 3.35 ERA, 22 SV, 65 IP, 78 SO, 1.11 WHIP, 0.8 WAR
Comment: When he wasn’t hurt last season, Doolittle arguably was the most dominant closer in the National League. Assuming his foot injury is a thing of the past, he should continue to be elite. Even if this projection isn’t as optimistic about the lefty’s chances.

TREVOR ROSENTHAL
Actual 2017 stats: 3-4, 3.40 ERA, 11 SV, 47.2 IP, 76 SO, 1.20 WHIP, 1.6 WAR
Steamer 2019 projection: 4-3, 3.11 ERA, 14 SV, 65 IP, 84 SO, 1.21 WHIP, 0.9 WAR
Comment: Because he missed all of the 2018 season while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, we’re using the 2017 season for this comparison. It’s really anyone’s guess what Rosenthal will look like now that he’s back. The Nats believe he can consistently throw in the upper 90s and return to the form that made him an elite late-inning arm for the Cardinals. The projection seems to like his chances, and sees some save opportunities coming his way as well.

KYLE BARRACLOUGH
Actual 2018 stats: 1-6, 4.20 ERA, 10 SV, 55.2 IP, 60 SO, 1.33 WHIP, -0.6 WAR
Steamer 2019 projection: 3-3, 4.04 ERA, 2 SV, 55 IP, 59 SO, 1.42 WHIP, 0.2 WAR
Comment: The Nationals also are taking a chance on the hard-throwing Barraclough, who at times was an effective setup man for the Marlins but really struggled last year when given an opportunity to close. The Nats believe he’ll be better than this projection suggests, but they acknowledge he’s far from a sure thing.

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