If the MLB lockout has made you hungry for any kind of baseball content related to the Washington Nationals, don’t worry this article is for you. For over a decade Dan Szymborski of FanGraphs has put together ZiPs projections for all of baseball. Recently, he shared what the systems had to say about the Nationals for the 2022 season. For those who aren’t familiar with what the ZiPs projections are here, don’t worry we have you covered. ZiPS is a computer projection system developed by Fan Graph’s Dan Szymbroski, and it estimates the baseline expectation for a player and then estimates where that player may be going using large cohorts of relatively similar players. According to Szymbroski, “ZiPS uses multi-year statistics, with more recent seasons weighted more heavily; in the beginning, all the statistics received the same yearly weighting, but eventually, this became more varied based on additional research. And research is a big part of ZiPS.”
While you can read the article itself about the Washington Nationals which we highly recommend — and pour through all of the statistics on your own, we’re here to point out some of the highlights.
The projections that were shared had two distant parts. One with Juan Soto and basically everyone else. We all know that Juan Soto is the hitter that teams fear the most in the Washington Nationals lineup and the zIPS projections prove that very point. Right off the bat, the projections compare Soto to the great Ted Williams, which is incredible to think. “Juan Soto, who got Ted Williams as his top offensive comp. That’s the straight-up, pure, 100% unadulterated Ted Williams comp, too. There’s no trick here; I’m not going to say, “Ha ha! ZiPS was talking about 1980s minor league outfielder Ted Williams.” They also point out the amazing plate discipline that Soto has: “Soto’s plate discipline is other-worldly. In his best season, Joey Votto was still nearly a quarter more likely to swing at an out-of-the-zone pitch than Soto was as a 22-year-old in 2021.” “Soto isn’t going to be the kind of all-around talent that Fernando Tatis Jr. and Ronald Acuña Jr. ate, but he’s the best pure hitting talent we’ve had since prime Barry Bonds or Albert Pujols. And unlike a lot of very disciplined hitters, he’s not passive at all against a crushable pitch. Indeed, crushing those pitches is what he does: his bat generates so many barrels that he should start his own bourbon distillery. If Soto actually has an improvement left in him, teams should start approaching him like turn-of-the-century Bonds.”
The projections then go into how the Nationals’ offsense has dropped since the departure of many other important players such as Trea Turner, however they do highlight newly acquired Keibert Ruiz, one of the players that the Nationals acquired during the trade deadline. “There’s no immediate help on the horizon here outside of Ruiz.” One statement from the projections that stood out was the mention of Carter Kieboom, “the computer isn’t giving up on Carter Kieboom, either, but even if we agree ZiPS for the sake of argument, the Nats haven’t handled Kieboom all that impressively and the fact is that he didn’t hit major or minor league pitching very well last year.
Once a strength of the Nationals, pitching has become a major concern, we all know that and we don’t need a computer to tell us that story, however, the computer projections have a “slightly more optimistic here” which seems to rest on the hope that Stephen Strasburg comes back this year at full or near full strength. One pitcher that stood out in the projections was Patrick Corbin, “One pitcher — and arguably just one — gets a genuinely bullish projection: Patrick Corbin. ZiPS was down on Corbin last season, and he was legitimately lousy throughout 2021, but his velocity also ticked back up to normal and with slight improvements in his contact and swinging-strike rate, ZiPS thought he should have had a mild rebound in his strikeout rate last year rather than a continued decline.”
We all know that the future of the Washington Nationals pitching staff is going to be bright, it is nice to see the projection models also agree. “Few of the other starting pitchers project well, and of the remaining lumpenpitchetariat, only Josiah Gray projects as having very much upside at all.”
What do you think Nationals Fans?