Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA projection engine has predicted the Washington Nationals to repeat as National League East Division Champions. Here is their overall projection of the division:
Overall, Baseball Prospectus projects that the Nationals will have the third best record in the National League in 2013 and the sixth best record in baseball. That projection would make them the worst division winner in the game, but they would still finish with a better record than any Wild Card winner.
It appears that BP’s computer seems to believe that Washington may have trouble scoring runs this season. They projected Washington to score 707 times in 2013, which would rank them 18th in the league. In 2012 they actually finished 10th. It looks like this is the biggest dig against them as it has them ranking pretty highly with 642 runs allowed.
Part of this projected offensive decline is likely a belief that Adam LaRoche and Ian Desmond will return to their norm, as well as the loss of Mike Morse’s power. It probably doesn’t accurately account for Bryce Harper’s likely improvement, or a healthy Ryan Zimmerman, and Jayson Werth, however. It’s important to remember that Projections usually trend toward the conservative side, so young teams like Washington tend to get projected relatively lower than they actually finish.
To me what’s really interesting here is how closely they rank the Atlanta Braves, the New York Mets, and the Philadelphia Phillies. Personally I think the Phillies are due for a bit of a comeback this season, and I have no reason to believe the Braves will suddenly lose 12 games less than they did last year.
Personally, if I were to project this season by just eyeballing it, it would likely have the Nationals winning the division with 90+ wins, with the Braves and Phillies battling for the Wild Card with 85+ wins.