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Opening Day 2018: Our Predictions

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By now I don’t need to tell you how silly it is to predict the outcome of a baseball season in which over 2,400 baseball games are played by over a thousand players, all of whom are subject to injury and/or wild variation from past performance or reasonable expectations. Baseball is freakin’ chaos, my friends. And while that is one of the top things to recommend it, it’s also the thing that makes predicting its outcomes a fool’s errand.

Let no one say that Bill, Ashley and I aren’t fools. We’re gonna make our picks anyway, because that’s what we do:

BILL’S PREDICTIONS

AL East: Yankees
AL Central: Indians
AL West: Astros
AL Wild Cards: Red Sox, Angels

NL East: Nationals
NL Central: Cubs
NL West: Dodgers
NL Wild Cards: Cardinals, Diamondbacks

ALCS: Yankees vs. Astros
NLCS: Nationals vs. Dodgers

World Series: Yankees vs. Nationals, Yankees win in 6 games

AL MVP: Mike Trout
NL MVP: Anthony Rendon

AL CYA: Luis Severino
NL CYA: Clayton Kershaw

AL ROY: Willie Calhoun
NL ROY: Ronald Acuna

AL Manager of the Year: Aaron Boone
NL Manager of the Year: Dave Martinez

 

ASHLEY’S PREDICTIONS

AL East: Yankees
AL Central: Indians
AL West: Astros
AL Wild Cards: Twins, Mariners

NL East: Nationals
NL Central: Cubs
NL West: Dodgers
NL Wild Cards: Mets, Cardinals

ALCS: Yankees vs. Indians
NLCS: Dodgers vs. Nationals

World Series: Yankees vs. Nationals, Nationals win in 7 games

AL MVP: Giancarlo Stanton
NL MVP: Kris Bryant

AL CYA: Chris Sale
NL CYA: Clayton Kershaw

AL ROY: Eloy Jimenez
NL ROY: Ronald Acuna

AL Manager of the Year: Aaron Boone
NL Manager of the Year: Mickey Callaway

 

CRAIG’S PREDICTIONS

AL East: Yankees
AL Central: Indians
AL West: Astros
AL Wild Cards: Red Sox, Angels

NL East: Nationals
NL Central: Cubs
NL West: Dodgers
NL Wild Cards: Brewers, Cardinals

ALCS: Yankees vs. Astros
NLCS: Cubs vs. Nationals

World Series: Yankees vs. Cubs, Yankees win in 6 games

AL MVP: Mike Trout
NL MVP: Bryce Harper

AL CYA: Justin Verlander
NL CYA: Clayton Kershaw

AL ROY: Francisco Mejia
NL ROY: Ronald Acuna

AL Manager of the Year: Aaron Boone
NL Manager of the Year: Craig Counsell

Nats’ success shouldn’t be about Bryce Harper

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Bryce Harper turns 27 years old today. As an early birthday present, he got to watch his former team reach the World Series for the first time in franchise history. His new team finished exactly at .500 in fourth place, missing the playoffs. These were facts that did not go unnoticed as the Nationals completed an NLCS sweep of the Cardinals at home last night.

Harper spent seven seasons with the Nationals before hitting free agency and ultimately signing with the Phillies on a 13-million, $330 million contract. The Nationals offered Harper a 10-year, $300 million contract at the end of the 2018 regular season, but about $100 million of that was deferred until he was 65 which lowered the present-day value of the offer. The Nats’ offer wasn’t even in the same ballpark, really.

Nevertheless, Nationals fans were upset that their prodigy jilted them to go to the Phillies. He was mercilessly booed whenever the Phillies played in D.C. Nats fans’ Harper jerseys were destroyed, or at least taped over.

Harper, of course, was phenomenal with the Nationals. He won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2012, then won the NL MVP Award several years later with an historically outstanding 1.109 OPS while leading the league with 42 homers and 118 runs scored. Overall, as a National, he had a .900 OPS. Pretty good. He was also productive in the postseason, posting an .801 OPS across 19 games, mostly against playoff teams’ best starters and best relievers. Furthermore, if the Nats had Harper this year, he would have been in right field in lieu of Adam Eaton. Harper out OPS’d Eaton by 90 points and posted 2.5 more WAR in a similar amount of playing time. The Nationals would have been even better if they had Harper this year.

The Nationals lost all four Division Series they appeared in during the Harper era. 3-2 to the Cardinals in 2012, 3-1 to the Giants in ’14, 3-2 to the Dodgers in ’16, and 3-2 to the Cubs in ’17. They finally get over the hump the first year they’re without Harper, that’s the difference, right? I saw the phrase “addition by subtraction” repeatedly last night, referring to Harper and the Nats’ subsequent success without him.

Harper, though, didn’t fork over four runs to the Cardinals in the top of the ninth inning in Game 5 in 2012. He didn’t allow the Dodgers to rally for four runs in the seventh inning of Game 5 in ’16 before ultimately losing 4-3. He didn’t use a gassed Max Scherzer in relief in 2017’s Game 5, when he allowed five of the seven Cubs he faced to reach base, leading to three runs which loomed large in a 9-8 loss. If certain rolls of the dice in those years had gone the Nationals’ way, they would have appeared in the NLCS. They might’ve even been able to win a World Series.

The Nationals saw how that looks this year. It was the opposing manager this time, Dave Roberts, who mismanaged his bullpen. Howie Kendrick then hit a tie-breaking grand slam in the 10th inning off of Joe Kelly to win the NLDS for the Nats. The playoffs are random. Sometimes a ball bounces your way, sometimes an umpire’s call goes your way, and sometimes the opposing manager makes several unforced errors to throw Game 5 in your lap.

Reaching the World Series, then thumbing your nose while sticking out your tongue at Harper feels like a guy tagging his ex-girlfriend on his new wedding photos. It’s time to move on.