- The Washington Times - Monday, June 24, 2013

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

As noted previously, predictions are on a long list of things I don’t do well. Every now and then, the “blind squirrel” theory will activate and I’ll get something right, but it is usually an accident.

With the Nationals below .500 after 75 games, revisiting my preseason projections seemed like a good idea. Well, that’s if your idea of a good idea is one where you get proven wrong repeatedly. At least with the 2013 Nats, I’m not alone. They were the trendy pick for the World Series. Not so much anymore.

But with pro golfers in town this week, I’m going to call for a mulligan and try again. Here are the categories we used in our Nats preview section with my picks at the time and my “new” picks. These, I’m sure, will be much better. Or maybe not.

Nats record: 101-61. They only have to go 64-23 the rest of the way to hit that. Or 61-26 to match last season’s record. So let’s go with 85-77. The Nats can’t help but be better in the second half of the season than they’ve been so far.

Place in NL East: First. Now second, where they are now and where they’ll stay.

Nats HR leader: Bryce Harper, 37. He hasn’t played in a month and is still tied for the lead with Ian Desmond with 12. We’ll stick with Harper but lower the number by 10.

Nats average leader:Jayson Werth, .312. Changing to Desmond, .290.

Nats wins leader: Gio Gonzalez, 22. He did win 21 last year. He has three thus far this year despite pitching quite well recently. Showing amazing faith in Jordan Zimmermann’s hot start, we’ll keep the number the same and sub in Zimmermann.

Nats ERA leader: Zimmermann, 2.71. Hey, there’s one that worked. We’ll lower the number to 2.51.

Nats saves leader: Rafael Soriano, 44. Kind of a foolproof pick, barring injury. No change.

Biggest Nats surprise: Ross Detwiler makes the All-Star team. Meant to say Zimmermann. Honest. Must have been an editing mistake or some other glitch. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Biggest Nats disappointment: Stephen Strasburg doesn’t make the All-Star team. Well, he won’t though he has pitched pretty well most of the season and especially well lately.

Anthony Rendon in 2013? Here’s your blind squirrel. I predicted he’d be called up by the All-Star break. He may end up as the average leader, too.

AL East champ: I said Blue Jays. Jumping to Red Sox.

AL Central champ: I said Tigers. Sticking with Tigers.

AL West champ: I said Angels and I just smacked myself hard in the head. Switching to Rangers.

AL Wild Cards: I said Mariners, Rays. Switching to A’s, Yankees.

NL East champ: I said Nats. Now say Braves.

NL Central champ: I said Reds. Forgive me Cardinals.

NL West champ: I said Giants. I have zero clue what’s up with the teams in that division. Sticking with Giants.

NL Wild Cards: I said Braves, Dodgers. I just smacked myself again. Switching to Reds, Pirates. The Central is pretty strong.

AL pennant: I said Angels. That must be a typo. Good thing I wasn’t drug tested that day. I clearly meant to say Tigers.

NL pennant: I said Nationals. That was not a typo. I meant to say Nationals. I now say Cardinals.

World Series: We need to get these computers fixed. It says Angels again. It will be the Cardinals.

There were a half-dozen picks for individual awards, too, but I’ve made my point. I was wrong. A lot. I did have Harper as NL MVP and, who knows, given a full season of health what might have happened? He’s certainly proven his value to the Nats, when he plays and when he doesn’t. To say the offense has been floundering since he’s been out would be kind. Only 20, Harper has already established himself as the lynchpin. If he stays healthy the entire second half, maybe the Nats do have a big run in them that will enable them to make the playoffs.

But the more likely scenario is they’re spectators when the postseason gets going. Injuries, particularly to Harper, have hindered them. But they had injuries last season. Werth missed half the season with a broken wrist. Michael Morse missed the first two months with a muscle problem. Wilson Ramos was lost for the season on May 12 with a knee injury. Injuries happen. Look at this year’s Braves. Two of their best relievers were lost in the same week to Tommy John surgery. Catcher Brian McCann got a late start to his season because of an injury. They’ve somehow managed to overcome that, just as the Nats did last year.

Last year, the Nats got some tough breaks and played well around them. This year, they have not. Some things, it seems, just don’t show up in the crystal ball.