2017 ZiPS Projections – Los Angeles Dodgers

Washington Nationals set the franchise record for runs scored last season. (Michael Ares/AP Photo)

It wouldn’t be spring training without rosy predictions for how teams will fare in the season ahead.

That includes Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell, who makes a case why this Washington Nationals squad should be the franchise’s highest-scoring in years, citing a roster full of “high-on-base-percentage players.”

It’s a bold claim. The Nationals set the franchise record last season (763 runs) but figure to improve after adding two left-handed hitters to the roster: center fielder Adam Eaton, via trade, and signing first baseman/left fielder Adam Lind on the free agent market.

[Boswell: Why this Nats’ lineup could be the best in years]

Summing up the Nats’ individual player projections, adjusted for playing time, predicts the 2017 Nationals will score 723 runs, which would rank as the fourth-most all-time since the club relocated from Montreal in 2005 and on par with the NL average from 2016 (718 runs). Projections like these are typically conservative, so seeing Washington fall short of last year’s production isn’t surprising. However, the prognosticators at FanGraphs are bullish and see the team’s run-scoring dipping only slightly from 4.71 per game in 2016 to 4.68 per game for the upcoming season, perhaps due to the projections backing up Boswell’s claim the Nationals should be on base more often.

Both Eaton and Lind are expected to have an above-average on-base percentage (.357 and .335, respectively; league average is .322). The team, as a whole, is projected to have a .342 OBP, which would be a huge improvement over last year’s squad (.325) and a franchise high, eclipsing the .338 OBP set in 2006. Reaching that mark would also put them in elite company. Since 2006, there have been 16 NL teams that produced an OBP in excess of .340, all but two (2001 St. Louis Cardinals and 2008 Atlanta Braves) scored at least 772 runs during the regular season. The World Series-winning Chicago Cubs are the only NL club to reach the mark in the last five years (. 343 OBP, 808 runs scored).

[Nationals to sign Matt Wieters to a one-year deal, with 2018 option]

It’s worth noting that just because the Nationals might score the most runs in franchise history it doesn’t make them the best run-producing team. After adjusting for league and park effects, the 2012 Nationals are the only squad in franchise history to produce runs at an above-average rate (101 wRC+). Last year’s iteration was three percent below average (97 wRC+), mostly because the average team is scoring more runs than at any point since 2009. That’s thanks in large part to a surge in home runs, which are at the highest level since the peak of the Steroid Era in 2000.

The Nationals might not score as many runs as they have in years’ past, but they are still the favorite to win the NL East. FanGraphs projects Washington to win 90 games this season, five more than the New York Mets and the third-most in the NL after the Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers. The betting markets give the Nationals an eight percent chance at winning the World Series, the fourth-highest probability in the majors.

Source : https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fancy-stats/wp/2017/02/21/projections-show-nationals-bats-may-catch-fire-in-2017-but-theres-a-catch/

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