So, traditionally we’ve run this feature right after the Nationals’ season ends. But until now, that’s always happened by this point of the year. Obviously, the season isn’t over yet. But since all but one of the prediction categories from opening day has already been settled, and since we’re still trying to fill this long gap between National League Championship Series and World Series, this feels like a good time to revisit our annual media predictions.
In case you don’t remember, a dozen of us who cover the Nationals on a regular basis published our predictions before the season began more than 6 1/2 months ago. As you’ll see, we did a pretty good job in some categories, a terrible job in others.
But as always, accountability is paramount in our industry. And so it’s only fair to republish these predictions now and reveal how we did. ...
WHICH NATIONALS WILL BE SELECTED FOR THE ALL-STAR GAME?
Jamal Collier (MLB.com) - Sean Doolittle, Max Scherzer, Juan Soto, Trea Turner
Jesse Dougherty (Washington Post) - Sean Doolittle, Max Scherzer, Juan Soto
David Driver (Washington Times) - Anthony Rendon, Max Scherzer, Juan Soto
Todd Dybas (NBCSportsWashington.com) - Max Scherzer, Juan Soto, Stephen Strasburg
Brittany Ghiroli (The Athletic) - Anthony Rendon
Craig Heist (106.7 The Fan) - Sean Doolittle, Anthony Rendon, Max Scherzer, Juan Soto
Byron Kerr (MASNsports.com) - Max Scherzer, Juan Soto
Pete Kerzel (MASNsports.com) - Max Scherzer, Juan Soto, Trea Turner
Bill Ladson (MLB.com) - Max Scherzer, Juan Soto, Stephen Strasburg
Eddie Matz (ESPN.com) - Max Scherzer, Juan Soto, Trea Turner
Barry Svrluga (Washington Post) - Yan Gomes, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg
Mark Zuckerman (MASNsports.com) - Sean Doolittle, Max Scherzer, Juan Soto
Correct answer: You may have forgotten that the Nationals wound up with only two All-Stars this season (Rendon and Scherzer) and neither of them played in the game. Rendon stayed home to rest his ailing quadriceps, and Scherzer came off the active roster because he had just pitched a few days earlier and was dealing with the first of two back injuries that sidetracked his summer.
Winner: Nobody got this exactly right. David Driver came closest, correctly predicting both Rendon and Scherzer but incorrectly adding Soto (who, truth be told, deserved an All-Star selection himself).
WHAT WILL TOTAL HOME ATTENDANCE BE?
Byron Kerr - 2,875,301
Craig Heist - 2,700,000
Brittany Ghiroli - 2,600,000
Todd Dybas - 2,548,978
Barry Svrluga - 2,560,000
Jesse Dougherty - 2,530,717
David Driver - 2,528,123
Pete Kerzel - 2,515,333
Mark Zuckerman - 2,497,386
Jamal Collier - 2,473,781
Eddie Matz - 2,424,242
Bill Ladson - 2,400,000
Correct answer: The Nationals only drew 2,259,781 fans during the regular season, down nearly 270,000 from last year and the club’s lowest attendance total since 2011. (Hint for everyone making predictions next season: This number is probably going to go way up in 2020.)
Winner: Ladson came closest. But if we’re playing by “The Price is Right” rules here (and I’m allowed to unilaterally declare that we are) then everybody overbid and nobody wins.
HOW MANY HOMERS WILL BRYCE HARPER HIT AGAINST THE NATIONALS? HOW MANY TIMES WILL HE DRAW A WALK?
Bill Ladson - 10, 30
Byron Kerr - 10, 20
Brittany Ghiroli - 8, 15
Craig Heist - 6, 17
Jamal Collier - 6, 13
Eddie Matz - 6, 11
Todd Dybas - 5, 17
Pete Kerzel - 5, 16
Barry Svrluga - 4, 19
Jesse Dougherty - 4, 18
Mark Zuckerman - 4, 14
David Driver - 3, 15
Correct answer: Harper’s performance against the Nationals in his first season as a Phillie was always going to be a hot topic. And he got off to a hot start, homering in each of the two teams’ April series against each other. But he did very little after that and finished with three homers and nine RBIs in 78 plate appearances. And his 14 walks weren’t too eye-popping, either.
Winner: It’s a tie. I got the walk total right but missed the homer total by one. Driver got the homer total right but predicted one too many walks. So we’ll share the award. David gets to keep it Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I get it Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. On Sundays it’ll be displayed at the Hall of Fame.
WHO WILL BAT LEADOFF THE MOST TIMES?
Jamal Collier - Adam Eaton
Jesse Dougherty - Adam Eaton
David Driver - Adam Eaton
Todd Dybas - Adam Eaton
Brittany Ghiroli - Adam Eaton
Craig Heist - Adam Eaton
Byron Kerr - Adam Eaton
Eddie Matz - Adam Eaton
Mark Zuckerman - Adam Eaton
Pete Kerzel - Trea Turner
Bill Ladson - Trea Turner
Barry Svrluga - Trea Turner
Correct answer: Funny how these things can change in-season. Eaton did lead off the first 16 games of the year and 40 of the first 43 games. But then Turner returned from his broken finger and batted leadoff in 117 of the final 119 games.
Winner: Things didn’t look great for Kerzel, Ladson and Svrluga early on. But like the Nationals, they were rewarded for sticking with it despite a bumpy April and May that may have left them questioning their decision.
WHAT WILL JUAN SOTO’S OPS BE?
Mark Zuckerman - .987
Brittany Ghiroli - .959
Todd Dybas - .942
Bill Ladson - .940
Eddie Matz - .934
Jamal Collier - .925
Pete Kerzel - .902
Byron Kerr - .899
Jesse Dougherty - .888
Craig Heist - .875
Barry Svrluga - .870
David Driver - .823
Correct answer: Soto got his OPS as high as .989 on Sept. 3, but he slumped through the finish line and finished at a still-impressive .949, good for sixth in the National League.
Winner: It was a close one, but Dybas (who was off by .007) narrowly beats Ghiroli (who was off by .010).
RANK BRIAN DOZIER, ANTHONY RENDON, VICTOR ROBLES, JUAN SOTO AND RYAN ZIMMERMAN IN ORDER OF HOME RUNS.
Jesse Dougherty - Soto, Dozier, Rendon, Zimmerman, Robles
Todd Dybas - Soto, Dozier, Rendon, Zimmerman, Robles
Pete Kerzel - Soto, Dozier, Rendon, Zimmerman, Robles
Eddie Matz - Soto, Dozier, Rendon, Zimmerman, Robles
Mark Zuckerman - Soto, Dozier, Rendon, Zimmerman, Robles
Jamal Collier - Soto, Rendon, Dozier, Zimmerman, Robles
Bill Ladson - Soto, Rendon, Zimmerman, Dozier, Robles
David Driver - Rendon, Soto, Zimmerman, Dozier, Robles
Brittany Ghiroli - Rendon, Soto, Zimmerman, Dozier, Robles
Barry Svrluga - Rendon, Soto, Zimmerman, Dozier, Robles
Craig Heist - Rendon, Soto, Dozier, Zimmerman, Robles
Byron Kerr - Rendon, Soto, Dozier, Zimmerman, Robles
Correct answer: This was a tricky one, because it wasn’t just about who would hit for the most power, but who would get how much playing time. In the end, Rendon and Soto tied for the team lead with 34 homers, followed by Dozier (20), Robles (17) and Zimmerman (6). (We also probably should’ve included Trea Turner (19), Howie Kendrick (17), Kurt Suzuki (17) and Adam Eaton (15).
Winner: Nobody got it exactly right, because everybody had Robles last on the list. But Collier, Heist and Kerr came closest, their only mistake having Zimmerman ahead of Robles.
HOW MANY STOLEN BASES WILL TREA TURNER HAVE?
Bill Ladson - 70
Craig Heist - 53
Todd Dybas - 52
Byron Kerr - 52
Jamal Collier - 51
Jesse Dougherty - 51
Pete Kerzel - 51
Eddie Matz - 51
Mark Zuckerman - 50
Brittany Ghiroli - 48
David Driver - 43
Barry Svrluga - 38
Correct answer: Hey, remember when Turner was supposedly going to attempt 75-plus stolen bases? He wound up only attempting 40, successfully stealing 35. Some of that, obviously, was a product of the time he missed with his broken finger. But even when healthy, he didn’t run nearly as much as most expected.
Winner: Like I said, he didn’t run nearly as much as most expected. Svrluga sort of wins by default here, though he did go over by three. (We’ll ignore “Price is Right” rules here for a moment.)
HOW MANY GAMES WILL YAN GOMES START?
Byron Kerr - 111
Brittany Ghiroli - 110
Todd Dybas - 109
Barry Svrluga - 100
David Driver - 93
Eddie Matz - 92
Jamal Collier - 91
Mark Zuckerman - 91
Jesse Dougherty - 86
Bill Ladson - 81
Craig Heist - 75
Pete Kerzel - 74
Correct answer: It was an odd season for Gomes. He started out as the No. 1 catcher ahead of Suzuki, then lost a lot of playing time, then got a ton of playing time late when Suzuki was out with an elbow injury. He wound up starting 90 games behind the plate.
Winner: Ooh, just barely missed it. That’s OK. Collier and I will claim victory here.
HOW MANY GAMES WILL KURT SUZUKI START?
Pete Kerzel - 86
Bill Ladson - 81
Jamal Collier - 69
Craig Heist - 69
Eddie Matz - 67
Mark Zuckerman - 67
David Driver - 66
Jesse Dougherty - 59
Byron Kerr - 55
Brittany Ghiroli - 52
Todd Dybas - 46
Barry Svrluga - 40
Correct answer: If you thought this was a simple question and all you had to do was to subtract Gomes’ total from 162 to get Suzuki’s, you were wrong. That’s because Suzuki not only started 70 games behind the plate. He also started four games as designated hitter, for a grand total of 74.
Winner: Those DH games didn’t change the result. Collier and Heist still came closest, though they would’ve been really close if not for those four extra starts.
HOW MANY STRIKEOUTS WILL MAX SCHERZER RECORD?
Mark Zuckerman - 302
Bill Ladson - 300
Jesse Dougherty - 291
Todd Dybas - 289
Pete Kerzel - 288
David Driver - 283
Eddie Matz - 281
Byron Kerr - 280
Brittany Ghiroli - 275
Barry Svrluga - 275
Jamal Collier - 272
Craig Heist - 270
Correct answer: At the All-Star break, Scherzer was on pace for 333 strikeouts. Seriously, 333. That would’ve been quite a story had he done it. Which he didn’t come close to doing because he missed significant time in the second half with his back injuries. So in the end, he finished with 243 strikeouts, still an awfully impressive total for a guy who made only 27 starts.
Winner: It’s back to “Price is Right” rules here, folks. Sorry, we’re all losers for assuming Scherzer would avoid any significant injury for the 11th straight season.
RANK PATRICK CORBIN, JEREMY HELLICKSON, ANÍBAL SÁNCHEZ AND STEPHEN STRASBURG IN ORDER OF ERA.
Jamal Collier - Strasburg, Corbin, Sánchez, Hellickson
David Driver - Strasburg, Corbin, Sánchez, Hellickson
Todd Dybas - Strasburg, Corbin, Sánchez, Hellickson
Craig Heist - Strasburg, Corbin, Sánchez, Hellickson
Byron Kerr - Strasburg, Corbin, Sánchez, Hellickson
Bill Ladson - Strasburg, Corbin, Sánchez, Hellickson
Barry Svrluga - Strasburg, Sánchez, Corbin, Hellickson
Jesse Dougherty - Corbin, Strasburg, Sánchez, Hellickson
Pete Kerzel - Corbin, Strasburg, Sánchez, Hellickson
Mark Zuckerman - Corbin, Strasburg, Hellickson, Sánchez
Brittany Ghiroli - Corbin, Sánchez, Strasburg, Hellickson
Eddie Matz - Sánchez, Strasburg, Corbin, Hellickson
Correct answer: It was a close race between the top two guys, but Corbin (3.25) finished just ahead of Strasburg (3.32). Sánchez wasn’t too far behind at 3.85. Hellickson, meanwhile, had a 6.23 ERA in nine early-season appearances, spent four months on the injured list with a bad shoulder, was activated in September but never pitched again.
Winner: Dougherty and Kerzel got this one right.
WHO WILL BE THE SIXTH PITCHER TO START A GAME?
Jesse Dougherty - Erick Fedde
David Driver - Erick Fedde
Todd Dybas - Erick Fedde
Brittany Ghiroli - Erick Fedde
Craig Heist - Erick Fedde
Byron Kerr - Erick Fedde
Pete Kerzel - Erick Fedde
Bill Ladson - Erick Fedde
Eddie Matz - Erick Fedde
Barry Svrluga - Erick Fedde
Jamal Collier - Joe Ross
Mark Zuckerman - Joe Ross
Correct answer: The Nationals made it more than 25 percent into the season before needing someone other than their original starting five to take the ball. When it finally happened May 21 in New York after Hellickson was shut down with his shoulder injury, it was Fedde who got called up from Double-A Harrisburg for the assignment.
Winner: Everybody but Collier and me. What were we thinking? (Probably not that Ross would pitch exclusively out of the bullpen early on, which proved to be a disaster.)
HOW MANY SAVES WILL SEAN DOOLITTLE RECORD? HOW MANY BLOWN SAVES?
Jesse Dougherty - 43, 4
Mark Zuckerman - 38, 2
Todd Dybas - 36, 4
Barry Svrluga - 35, 4
Jamal Collier - 31, 3
Eddie Matz - 31, 4
Craig Heist - 31, 5
Byron Kerr - 30, 2
Brittany Ghiroli - 30, 5
Bill Ladson - 30, 7
Pete Kerzel - 29, 6
David Driver - 26, 2
Correct answer: There was a lot of faith in Doolittle to have a big (and healthy) year. That didn’t quite happen, because he finished with 29 saves (all but one of them coming before Aug. 17) while blowing six save opportunities.
Winner: Whoa, let’s hear it for Kerzel, who nailed this one on the dot! Congrats, Pete. You get to stick your hand into Bob Barker’s coat pocket and pull out a $100 bill!
WHAT WILL ROBINSON CANÓ, FREDDIE FREEMAN AND BRYCE HARPER HIT AGAINST TONY SIPP?
Todd Dybas - .362
Barry Svrluga - .300
Bill Ladson - .290
Jesse Dougherty - .274
Eddie Matz - .268
Byron Kerr - .255
Pete Kerzel - .241
Jamal Collier - .238
Mark Zuckerman - .234
David Driver - .231
Brittany Ghiroli - .220
Craig Heist - .212
Correct answer: This was my favorite question of the year, because it was so specific, and it felt back in late March like it was going to be such an important part of the Nationals’ season. They signed Sipp in spring training because they desperately needed a lefty to match up with three of the National League East’s most fearsome left-handed hitters. Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Sipp had a pretty miserable season, and by Aug. 1 he was designated for assignment to make room for the three new relievers Mike Rizzo acquired. And yet, he was still effective - albeit in a limited sample - against Harper, Canó and Freeman. That trio wound up just 1-for-7 against him, good for a .143 batting average.
Winner: Nobody expected Sipp to be that good in these situations. Then again, everyone probably expected him to get more than seven opportunities to face those three hitters over the course of a full season. Oh well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.
HOW MANY GAMES WILL THE NATIONALS WIN?
Byron Kerr - 93
Eddie Matz - 93
Jesse Dougherty - 92
David Driver - 92
Todd Dybas - 91
Pete Kerzel - 91
Barry Svrluga - 91
Mark Zuckerman - 91
Brittany Ghiroli - 90
Craig Heist - 90
Jamal Collier - 89
Bill Ladson - 82
Correct answer: On May 24, it sure didn’t look good. But as you know by now, the Nationals turned their entire season around and finished with 93 wins, becoming the first team in 105 years to go from 12 games under .500 to 24 games over .500 in a single season.
Winner: It all came down to the final Sunday of the regular season, in a game that meant nothing in the standings but meant everything to us. And by virtue of their final win over the Indians, the Nats ensured Kerr and Matz would take home this year’s title over the crestfallen Dougherty and Driver.
HOW WILL THE NL EAST FINISH FROM TOP TO BOTTOM?
Jesse Dougherty - Nats, Phillies, Mets, Braves, Marlins
David Driver - Nats, Phillies, Mets, Braves, Marlins
Brittany Ghiroli - Nats, Phillies, Mets, Braves, Marlins
Todd Dybas - Nats, Phillies, Braves, Mets, Marlins
Byron Kerr - Nats, Phillies, Braves, Mets, Marlins
Pete Kerzel - Nats, Phillies, Braves, Mets, Marlins
Barry Svrluga - Nats, Phillies, Braves, Mets, Marlins
Eddie Matz - Nats, Braves, Phillies, Mets, Marlins
Craig Heist - Nats, Mets, Phillies, Braves, Marlins
Jamal Collier - Braves, Nats, Phillies, Mets, Marlins
Mark Zuckerman - Braves, Nats, Phillies, Mets, Marlins
Bill Ladson - Phillies, Braves, Mets, Nats, Marlins
Correct answer: The Nationals may have won the NL pennant, but the Braves won the NL East. Not that the division title made any difference come playoff time. The race for third place went down the wire, with the Mets eventually finishing ahead of the Phillies. Last place was the Marlins’ from wire to wire, as expected.
Winner: How come everyone was so down on the Braves? Well, everyone but Collier and me. We almost nailed the division 1-through-5, but we wound up incorrectly flip-flopping the Mets and Phillies. Still, a pretty good job, I’d say.
HOW WILL THE NATIONALS’ SEASON END?
Eddie Matz - Lose World Series
Jesse Dougherty - Lose NLCS
Todd Dybas - Lose NLCS
Brittany Ghiroli - Lose NLCS
Byron Kerr - Lose NLCS
Pete Kerzel - Lose NLCS
Barry Svrluga - Lose NLCS
Jamal Collier - Lose NLDS
David Driver - Lose NLDS
Craig Heist - Lose NLDS
Mark Zuckerman - Lose NLDS
Bill Ladson - Miss playoffs
Correct answer: Hey, it’s Oct. 18 and we still don’t know the correct answer! How cool is that?
Winner: Only one sole voice of optimism believed in this team from day one. A round of applause for Mr. Matz, though I suppose all of you out there still hope he ends up being wrong and wishes he was just a tiny bit more optimistic than he already was back in March.