Predicting how a baseball season is going to play out is no easy task. We’ve been trying to do it around here for years, and though we sometimes get a few things right, we’re usually wrong with much more frequency.
And never have we been more wrong than we were this season.
Not that my colleagues on the Nationals beat were alone in that regard. Seriously, how many of you out there predicted they’d lose 97 games? (If you just raised your hand, you’re lying.)
Nobody expected the kind of full-scale collapse the Nats suffered in 2021, nor the complete teardown that would take place in late July, turning the final two months of the season into the first (and often painful) step in a major rebuilding project.
But we remain fans of accountability here. (At least, I do. I don’t give my counterparts a choice.) And so it’s time to continue an annual tradition: The re-publishing of our opening day predictions, so we can now see who got what right. And more importantly, who got what horribly wrong.
As you’ll see, we don’t have very much to hang our hats on this time ...
WHICH NATIONALS WILL BE SELECTED FOR THE ALL-STAR GAME?
Jess Camerato (MLB.com) - Josh Bell, Juan Soto
Jesse Dougherty (Washington Post) - Max Scherzer, Juan Soto
Todd Dybas (Inside the Clubhouse) - Max Scherzer, Juan Soto
Craig Heist (106.7 The Fan) - Josh Bell, Juan Soto, Stephen Strasburg, Trea Turner
Chelsea Janes (Washington Post) - Starlin Castro, Max Scherzer, Juan Soto
Pete Kerzel (MASNsports.com) - Max Scherzer, Juan Soto, Trea Turner
Bill Ladson (MLB.com honorary) - Josh Bell, Max Scherzer, Juan Soto
Maria Torres (The Athletic) - Victor Robles, Max Scherzer, Juan Soto
Mark Zuckerman (MASNsports.com) - Juan Soto, Stephen Strasburg, Trea Turner
Correct answer: The Nationals actually wound up with four All-Star selection: Scherzer, Soto, Turner and Kyle Schwarber (who was injured and couldn’t play in the game but did attend the festivities).
Winner: Nobody predicted Schwarber, but Pete Kerzel did get the other three guys right. And was the only one to do that.
WHAT WILL JUAN SOTO’S OPS BE?
Bill Ladson - 1.111
Jesse Dougherty - 1.042
Mark Zuckerman - 1.037
Jess Camerato - 1.015
Maria Torres - .987
Todd Dybas - .978
Chelsea Janes - .978
Pete Kerzel - .954
Craig Heist - .920
Correct answer: A September surge got Soto’s OPS up over the 1.000 mark, but after cooling off in the final week he finished at an oh-so-close .999.
Winner: Maria Torres gets her first win, coming within 12 points of Soto’s final OPS.
RANK JOSH BELL, KYLE SCHWARBER, JUAN SOTO AND TREA TURNER IN ORDER OF HOME RUNS.
Chelsea Janes - Soto, Bell, Schwarber, Turner
Pete Kerzel - Soto, Bell, Schwarber, Turner
Bill Ladson - Soto, Bell, Schwarber, Turner
Jess Camerato - Soto, Bell, Turner, Schwarber
Todd Dybas - Soto, Bell, Turner, Schwarber
Mark Zuckerman - Soto, Bell, Turner, Schwarber
Jesse Dougherty - Bell, Soto, Schwarber, Turner
Craig Heist - Bell, Soto, Schwarber, Turner
Maria Torres - Bell, Schwarber, Soto, Turner
Correct answer: We didn’t stipulate the homers only counted if hit for the Nats, so the season-ending order for total homers in 2021 went: Schwarber (32), Soto (29), Turner (28) and Bell (27). That was actually a pretty good race!
Winner: I don’t think we can declare any winners here. Nobody had Schwarber leading the pack, and nobody had Bell finishing last.
WHO WILL BAT LEADOFF THE MOST TIMES?
Jesse Dougherty - Victor Robles
Todd Dybas - Victor Robles
Craig Heist - Victor Robles
Pete Kerzel - Victor Robles
Maria Torres - Victor Robles
Mark Zuckerman - Victor Robles
Jess Camerato - Trea Turner
Chelsea Janes - Trea Turner
Bill Ladson - Trea Turner
Correct answer: Davey Martinez wound up using eight different leadoff hitters this season, but Turner (43) was there the most times, followed by Lane Thomas (39), Robles (27), Schwarber (21) and Alcides Escobar (20).
Winner: Jess Camerato, Chelsea Janes and Bill Ladson were the only one who didn’t buy into the “Robles is going to be a good leadoff hitter” narrative this spring. They were correct for doing so.
WHO WILL BAT THIRD THE MOST TIMES?
Jesse Dougherty - Juan Soto
Todd Dybas - Juan Soto
Craig Heist - Juan Soto
Chelsea Janes - Juan Soto
Bill Ladson - Juan Soto
Pete Kerzel - Trea Turner
Maria Torres - Trea Turner
Mark Zuckerman - Trea Turner
Jess Camerato - Josh Bell
Correct answer: This one wasn’t close: Soto batted third 116 times, way ahead of Bell (19), Ryan Zimmerman (14) and Turner (six).
Winner: The prescient quintet of Janes, Ladson, Jesse Dougherty, Todd Dybas and Craig Heist recognized that Soto is the best hitter on the team (maybe in baseball), and as such would bat third way more than anyone else.
WHO WILL START THE MOST GAMES AT THIRD BASE?
Jess Camerato - Starlin Castro
Jesse Dougherty - Starlin Castro
Todd Dybas - Starlin Castro
Craig Heist - Starlin Castro
Chelsea Janes - Starlin Castro
Pete Kerzel - Starlin Castro
Maria Torres - Carter Kieboom
Bill Ladson - Luis García
Mark Zuckerman - Kyle Seager
Correct answer: Martinez named Castro his opening day third baseman late in camp and kept him there almost every day until his season came to an abrupt halt after he was accused of (and, eventually, suspended for) domestic violence. Kieboom took over after that, but his 59 starts didn’t come close to matching Castro’s 84.
Winner: Camerato, Dougherty, Dybas, Heist, Janes and Kerzel were correct. In my defense, Seager wound up with 35 homers and 101 RBIs for the Mariners and would’ve made a heck of a trade deadline acquisition ... if the Nats had been in a position to add instead of subtract at the deadline.
HOW MANY PLATE APPEARANCES WILL RYAN ZIMMERMAN GET?
Chelsea Janes - 398
Maria Torres - 320
Jesse Dougherty - 313
Todd Dybas - 296
Mark Zuckerman - 286
Craig Heist - 285
Pete Kerzel - 265
Bill Ladson - 250
Jess Camerato - 210
Correct answer: Zimmerman (the only Nationals player to make it through the entire season on the active roster, believe it or not) finished with 273 plate appearances in his new role coming off the bench.
Winner: Most of us were in the general vicinity, but Kerzel was closest, missing the total by only eight plate appearances.
WHO WILL LEAD THE PITCHING STAFF IN WINS? HOW MANY?
Bill Ladson - Max Scherzer, 20
Maria Torres - Max Scherzer, 19
Todd Dybas - Stephen Strasburg, 17
Craig Heist - Stephen Strasburg, 17
Mark Zuckerman - Stephen Strasburg, 17
Jesse Dougherty - Patrick Corbin, 17
Pete Kerzel - Max Scherzer, 16
Jess Camerato - Max Scherzer, 15
Chelsea Janes - Jon Lester, 12
Correct answer: Would you believe Corbin led the team with a grand total of nine wins? It’s the first time the Nationals didn’t have a 10-game winner in a 162-game season since 2009, when John Lannan led the way with nine.
Winner: I suppose we could award this category to Jesse Dougherty, the only media member to predict Corbin would lead the staff in wins. But when your prediction is nearly twice as high as the actual correct answer? Sorry, not happening.
RANK PATRICK CORBIN, JON LESTER, JOE ROSS, MAX SCHERZER AND STEPHEN STRASBURG IN ORDER OF ERA.
Maria Torres - Scherzer, Strasburg, Corbin, Lester, Ross
Jess Camerato - Scherzer, Strasburg, Lester, Corbin, Ross
Pete Kerzel - Scherzer, Strasburg, Lester, Ross, Corbin
Bill Ladson - Scherzer, Lester, Corbin, Strasburg, Ross
Jesse Dougherty - Scherzer, Corbin, Strasburg, Ross, Lester
Craig Heist - Strasburg, Lester, Scherzer, Ross, Corbin
Todd Dybas - Strasburg, Scherzer, Corbin, Ross, Lester
Mark Zuckerman - Strasburg, Scherzer, Corbin, Ross, Lester
Chelsea Janes - Strasburg, Scherzer, Lester, Corbin, Ross
Correct answer: As with the home run race, we never specified whether only the stats from the player’s time with the Nationals would count. So we have to use their season totals, even after the trade deadline. And based on that, Scherzer (2.46) was way ahead of the rest of the pack: Ross (4.17), Strasburg (4.57), Lester (4.71) and Corbin (5.82).
Winner: No. There are no winners here.
HOW MANY SAVES WILL BRAD HAND RECORD? HOW MANY BLOWN SAVES?
Jess Camerato - 31, 8
Jesse Dougherty - 31, 7
Pete Kerzel - 26, 6
Bill Ladson - 25, 5
Mark Zuckerman - 24, 4
Craig Heist - 23, 5
Todd Dybas - 21, 4
Chelsea Janes - 21, 4
Maria Torres - 20, 6
Correct answer: With the Nationals, Hand recorded 21 saves in 25 opportunities. But when you include his time with the Blue Jays and Mets, his blown save total goes up to seven.
Winner: Dybas and Janes both got Hand’s save total correct. Dougherty got his blown save total correct. In a case like this, we prioritize getting the save number right, so we’ll give it to Todd and Chelsea.
RANK BRAD HAND, DANIEL HUDSON, TANNER RAINEY AND WANDER SUERO IN ORDER OF APPEARANCES.
Todd Dybas - Suero, Rainey, Hand, Hudson
Craig Heist - Suero, Rainey, Hand, Hudson
Mark Zuckerman - Suero, Rainey, Hand, Hudson
Chelsea Janes - Suero, Hudson, Hand, Rainey
Pete Kerzel - Suero, Hudson, Hand, Rainey
Maria Torres - Suero, Hudson, Hand, Rainey
Jess Camerato - Suero, Hand, Rainey, Hudson
Jesse Dougherty - Suero, Hand, Hudson, Rainey
Bill Ladson - Hudson, Hand, Rainey, Suero
Correct answer: If we’re only counting appearances for the Nationals, it’s Suero (45), Hand (41), Rainey (38) and Hudson (31). But we’re not. We’re counting all major league appearances in 2021. Which means the order is Hand (57), Hudson (54), Suero (45) and Rainey (38).
Winner: Nobody wins. (Do you sense a recurring theme here?)
WHO WILL HIT THE MOST HOMERS AGAINST THE NATIONALS THIS SEASON?
Jess Camerato - Freddie Freeman
Todd Dybas - Freddie Freeman
Craig Heist - Freddie Freeman
Chelsea Janes - Freddie Freeman
Bill Ladson - Freddie Freeman
Maria Torres - Freddie Freeman
Pete Kerzel - Bryce Harper
Jesse Dougherty - Michael Conforto
Mark Zuckerman - Pete Alonso
Correct answer: Harper and Dansby Swanson each hit seven homers against the Nationals this season.
Winner: Nobody predicted Swanson, but Kerzel did predict Harper, and that earns him the win in this category.
WHAT WILL THE NATIONALS’ RECORD BE?
Craig Heist - 93-69
Bill Ladson - 93-69
Mark Zuckerman - 91-71
Jess Camerato - 89-73
Maria Torres - 88-74
Jesse Dougherty - 87-75
Todd Dybas - 87-75
Chelsea Janes - 87-75
Pete Kerzel - 84-78
Correct answer: The Nationals, as surely you know by now, finished 65-97, their worst record in 12 years.
Winner: Ha, that’s funny.
HOW WILL THE NL EAST FINISH FROM TOP TO BOTTOM?
Jess Camerato - Braves, Nationals, Mets, Phillies, Marlins
Maria Torres - Braves, Nationals, Mets, Phillies, Marlins
Todd Dybas - Braves, Nationals, Mets, Marlins, Phillies
Mark Zuckerman - Braves, Nationals, Mets, Marlins, Phillies
Craig Heist - Braves, Nationals, Marlins, Phillies, Mets
Bill Ladson - Braves, Nationals, Marlins, Mets, Phillies
Jesse Dougherty - Braves, Mets, Nationals, Phillies, Marlins
Pete Kerzel - Braves, Mets, Nationals, Marlins, Phillies
Chelsea Janes - Mets, Braves, Nationals, Phillies, Marlins
Correct answer: The Braves won their fourth straight division title, followed by the Phillies, Mets, Marlins and Nationals.
Winner: I suppose it’s noteworthy that nearly every one of us successfully predicted Atlanta would take the NL East. But after that? Well, nobody came close to getting it right. We all overestimated the Nats and underestimated the Phillies.
HOW WILL THE NATIONALS’ SEASON END?
Jess Camerato - Lose NLCS
Craig Heist - Lose NLCS
Bill Ladson - Lose NLDS
Todd Dybas - Lose NL Wild Card Game
Maria Torres - Lose NL Wild Card Game
Mark Zuckerman - Lose NL Wild Card Game
Jesse Dougherty - Miss playoffs
Chelsea Janes - Miss playoffs
Pete Kerzel - Miss playoffs
Correct answer: They were eliminated Sept. 17, with 15 games still left on the schedule.
Winner: Credit to Jesse, Chelsea and Pete, even if all three had the Nationals’ winning at least 19 more games than they actually did this season.