I noticed recently that Las Vegas has the Gnats (ooops, I meant Nats) winning 88.5 games this year. This seems right in line with my own guesstimate of 88-92 wins in my initial post. Everything will have to go right, I think, for them to reach 92 wins–no major injuries; the bullpen performs better than it did last year; Espinosa learns how to hit major-league pitching; Harper and LaRoach improve against lefties; and all the pitchers finally learn how to hold runners on base.
That last point is a real sore-point with me (as a former pitcher in college and semi-pro who LOVED picking sleeping base-runners off). Since early January I’ve been participating in indoor baseball practice with about 30-40 local players and I was chatting this week with our infield coach (who is a former professional minor-league player who is about 30 years old) and the conversation went like this: I asked him what he thought about how bad the Nats pitchers are at holding runners. He reacted by rolling his eyes, then told me he had played with a few of the very Nats pitchers I was referencing. And after he muttered a few choice, unmentionable, epithets I got the clear impression he was as annoyed about this as I was!
It was wonderful to watch parts of the first Nats Spring Training game yesterday! Not much to say other than that. But one thing really made an impression on me. I had had no idea what all the chatter about Michael Taylor was about, and now I KNOW. His triple, to win the game in the 9th inning, let me know in dramatic fashion that this is a player to keep an eye on! Taylor will likely be playing this year with AAA Syracuse, but he may be making an appearance with the big boys in September.