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.
I'm not going to lie, this is going to be depressing. Remember how the 2009 Nats pretty much blew the 2005 Nats out of the water in terms of hitting/fielding? Yeah, it's the other way around pitching-wise. I'd like to point out that only starts 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.
#1 pitcher (WAR-wise)
2005: John Patterson
2009: John Lannan
John Patterson was a monster in 2005, putting up a 3.13 ERA in 198 and 1/3 IP (6 WAR). Comparing him to John Lannan isn't fair. Lannan is a decent pitcher, but he doesn't have quite the numbers or the innings to even be half of 2005 Patterson. I've got Lannan at 2.8 WAR, not bad, but it would have been the #4 starter on the 2005 squad.
2005: Esteban Loaiza
2009: Scott Olsen
Again, a terribly unfair comparison. Loaiza sparkled in 2005, with a 3.77 ERA over 217 IP, worth 4.6 WAR. Olsen is projected to be more or less league average over 185 or so innings, worth 2 WAR. Another huge gap.
2005: Livan Hernandez
2009: Daniel Cabrera
2005 Livo was a beast, too! He was worth 4.5 WAR in 2005. Noticing any trends? Cabrera is worth about 1.7 WAR in 2009 in my book, still pretty far from the 2005 rotation.
2005: Hector Carrasco
2009: Collin Balester
Is it sad that Carrasco beats out Martis despite throwing about 75 less innings than I've projected the Wow-in Curacaoan at? Nothing against Martis, though, it was just that Carrasco put up about a 2.00 ERA in 2005, worth 1.3 WAR just as a starter. Martis' projection is conservative-personally, I think he'll outperform a 4.90 ERA and 0.8 WAR, but for the sake of statistical analysis I'll call it that.
2005: Tomo Ohka
2009: Shairon Martis
Ohka only had 9 starts in 2005, but was worth 1.1 WAR. Too bad we dealt him for Junior Freakin' Spivey. Like Martis, I expect Balester to outperform his expectations, set at a 5.00 ERA and 0.7 WAR. I think he'll be the one pitcher to edge out his 2005 counterpart projection-wise.
#6 and beyond (pitchers who started/project to start at least 1 game)
2005: Tony Armas, Jr., Ryan Drese, Zach Day, Jon Rauch, Sunny Kim, John Halama, Jason Bergmann, Claudio Vargas, Darrell Rasner, Matt White
These guys were worth a total of 0.8 WAR in 2005, led by Tony Armas Jr.'s 0.7 and killed by Claudio Vargas' -0.7.
2009: Jason Bergmann, Gustavo Chacin, Matt Chico, Garrett Mock, Kip Wells, Jordan Zimmermann
These guys project to be worth a total of 1.7 WAR in 2009, led by Zimmermann and Bergmann at 0.7 and 0.6, respectively, and not helped by Chacin's 0.0 and Wells and Chico's 0.1's.
2005: 19.2 WAR
2009: 9.9 WAR
Ruh row, a 9.3 WAR deficit.
Here's the dirty math for the projections (will put it up on Google Docs at some point).
As you can see in that link, the relievers' numbers have been crunched. Hopefully I'll be able to finish that post by Sunday afternoon.