FanGraphs ZiPS Projections Don’t Bode Well For Washington
By Max Rayman
FanGraphs ZiPS projections are out and they aren’t high on the Nationals entering 2022.
From 2012-2019, the Nationals went 730-566, reaching the playoffs five times, winning four NL East titles, and a World Series title. But after blowing up the roster in July, gone are the days of Washington dominating the NL. Instead, they have entered a rebuild, with Juan Soto as the centerpiece.
They are fresh off of a 65-97 season, their worst record since going 69-93 in 2010. Despiting finishing last in the NL East, they have plenty of intriguing pieces in place including Keibert Ruiz, Josiah Gray, Riley Adams, Lane Thomas, Mason Thompson, Luis Garcia, Carter Kieboom, and Victor Robles. However, none of them have proven themselves yet and FanGraphs latest ZiPS 2022 season projections show that.
What exactly are the ZiPS projections? FanGraphs broke that down, stating:
"So how does ZiPS calculate the season? Stored within ZiPS is the first through 99th percentile projections for each player it projects. I start by making a generalized depth chart, using our Depth Charts as an initial starting point. Since these are my curated projections, I then make changes based on my personal feelings about who will receive playing time, as filtered by arbitrary whimsy my logic and reasoning. ZiPS then generates a million versions of each team in Monte Carlo fashion. The computational algorithms, that is — no one is dressing up in a tuxedo and playing baccarat like James Bond.After that is done, ZiPS applies another set of algorithms with a generalized distribution of injury risk, which change the baseline PAs/IPs selected for each player. Of note is that higher-percentile projections already have more playing time than lower-percentile projections before this step. ZiPS then automatically “fills in” playing time from the next players on the list (proportionally) to get to a full slate of plate appearances and innings."
FanGraphs predicts the Nationals will finish 75-87, good for last in the NL East, and tied with the Twins for the 7th worst record in the league. Keep in mind, these standings will be updated once the lockout ends and free-agency resumes.
In their projections of the Nationals, FanGraphs stated:
"The Nationals basically project as an awful team that has the benefit of the services of Juan Soto, who can make nearly any team watchable. And in this case, he puts Washington just on the cusp of playoff relevance if a lot goes right, rather than being a near-lost cause."
Washington is given a 0.1% chance to win the division, a 0.2% chance to clinch a Wild Card spot, and a 0.3% chance to reach the playoffs. Never say never, but these predictions sound spot on. The starting rotation and bullpen are still a mess and outside of Soto and Josh Bell, the offense is unproven.
Granted, it is very unlikely Washington is done making moves and could always shock the world and splurge on a bat.
75 wins would be a step in the right direction after only winning 65 games in 2021. With the Nationals eyeing 2024 as the year they return to contention, fans will be happy with a last-place finish if the young players show improvements.