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At least if you go by the Vegas over/unders, which have the Nats winning 68.5 games. I’ll take the over on that, as will PECOTA, which has them a surprisingly robust (if still mediocre) 80-82.

The Nationals definitely have a couple things going for them, including a field manager who actually knows what he’s doing. Washington has so many moving parts, and so much excess at certain positions, that having someone like Manny Acta to sort it all out is a major plus.

They also have some very talented players, most of whom were either injured, slumping, or playing elsewhere in 2008. That includes Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn, Lastings Milledge, Nick Johnson, and Elijah Dukes. PECOTA assumes full seasons from the first three, all well above last year’s levels (assuming Dunn replaces Willie Harris, Aaron Boone, Dmitri Young, etc.). As for the latter two… well, your guess is as good as mine. PECOTA has Johnson and Dukes combining for 500 plate appearances, with EqAs of .302 and .312 respectively. If those two are healthy (and out of trouble), the Nats will be much better on both sides of the ball.

But even without them, Washington should be able to put runs on the board; it’s preventing runs that will be the problem. This depth chart isn’t pretty; the top four are pretty much set, and all are projects. If they all hit, it’s a damn good rotation; maybe Daniel Cabrera has his Oliver-Perez-2004, and Scott Olsen gets his head on straight. But they’re all just as likely (if not more likely) to be sub-replacement level. And in that case, it won’t matter how many runs they score.

But even so, 70 wins shouldn’t be a problem. None of Washington’s regulars, aside from Christian Guzman, produced significantly more than expected last year. So in other words, there weren’t a lot of breaks, which helps explain their 59-102 record. They might not be able to compete just yet, but crazier things have happened. And if the breaks go their way, I wouldn’t rule out a winning season in Washington.

Feedback? Write a comment, or e-mail the author at shawn(AT)squawkingbaseball.com

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  1. on February 25th at 10:27 am
    Scott said:

    There’s a lot to like about this team. Now I have to seriously consider keeping Elijah Dukes in a fantasy league. Did I really just type that?

  2. on February 25th at 03:54 pm
    James Holzhauer said:

    Those win over/under lines didn’t come from Vegas, and they were never actually open for betting. That makes them basically worthless for any analysis.

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