Over the last month or so, FJB, Hendo and Farid have gone over how the Nats can possibly go .500 this year. I'll try too, but with a different method: comparing the 2009 Nats to the 2005 Nats, who went 81-81. I ran the pitching numbers myself using a spreadsheet from Beyond the Box Score. Innings pitched predictions have been done by me with some help from Fangraphs. On a side note, I adjusted the position players post for the addition of Josh Bard. Great move.
Relievers are also going to be depressing. Remember how the 2009 Nats pretty much blew the 2005 Nats out of the water in terms of hitting/fielding? Well, our relievers are significantly worse this year. I'd like to point out that only relief appearances are considered in this post. A pitcher who both started and relieved in the same season (or projects to do so) will be considered two different pitchers to me.
2005: Chad Cordero
2009: Joel Hanrahan
Pretty much no matter how good Hanrahan is this year, he can't even come close to the 2005 Chief. Cordero was worth an incredible 5.5 WAR in 2005-more valuable than every other pitcher on the team except Patterson. Best case scenario pegs Hanrahan around 1.5 WAR, but I'm projecting him at 0.9 for now.
Setup: 8th Inning
2005: Gary Majewski
2009: Joe Beimel
Majewski was also pretty incredible in 2005, throwing more than 80 innings of sub-3.00 ERA ball. All-in-all, it was worth 2.6 WAR. Beimel is solid, but just like in Hanrahan's case, how can you match up to that? I've got Beimel at 0.8 WAR, not bad, but not 2.6.
Setup: 7th Inning
2005: Luis Ayala
2009: Saul Rivera
The gap continues to inch closer, but still is way off. Ayala (who I might add was AWESOME every single year before 2008) was worth 1.9 WAR, even though his high inning count was a factor in his elbow problems starting in the spring of 2006. Rivera's ceiling is certainly high on this team and I think he's a great breakout candidate. If we have an infield of Zimmerman-Guzman-Hernandez-Johnson, there will be significantly fewer ground balls that leave the infield. I've got Rivera conservatively at 0.6, but wouldn't be surprised if he put up a 3-ish ERA season, even though it would stray from his career averages.
2005: Hector Carrasco, Joey Eischen, Jon Rauch, Mike Stanton, Tomo Ohka, Zach Day, Sunny Kim, Jason Bergmann, Darrell Rasner, Travis Hughes, C.J. Nitkowski, T.J. Tucker, Joe Horgan, Antonio Osuna
2009: Jason Bergmann, Jesus Colome, Mike Hinckley, Wil Ledezma, Garrett Mock, Steven Shell, Jorge Sosa, Julian Tavarez, Ryan Wagner, Terrell Young
Carrasco sticks out like a sore thumb in this group, but his swingman role was a little hard to classify. He was worth 2.1 WAR as a reliever in 2005, a ridiculously awesome number. Three other 2005 relievers (Halama, Bergmann and Eischen) were worth 0.5 WAR. The total WAR of all of the above 2005 relievers was 3.3 speaking volumes to the ineptitude of Hughes, Nitkowski, Tucker, Horgan, Kim and Osuna, all of which were worth -0.1 or worse out of the pen.
Of the 2009-ers, only Young is projected to have a negative WAR (and even at that, it's only 0.1), but again nobody is really that special. There are a ton of 0.0's (Bergmann, Hinckley, Ledezma, Sosa, Tavarez and Wagner). The total WAR of all of the non-closer/setup 2009 relievers is 0.7. That kinda sucks.
2005: 13.2 WAR
2009: 3.1 WAR
Another Ruh-Row, a 10.1 WAR defecit.
Conclusions will be up soon.
Here's the dirty math for the projections (will put it up on Google Docs at some point).