Expectations Illustrated

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There will be plenty of predictions coming out this week about the 2013 season from the outlets that cover Major League Baseball. And while many of us have known ever since last October – and even more so as the team has added to its strong roster throughout the winter – that the Nationals would be getting plenty of attention, the first major prediction has been levied: Tuesday morning, Sports Illustrated officially picked the Nationals as their World Series favorites.

14COVv27_EGV_PromoAs a Nationals fan, such a prediction should be greeted with equal parts pride and pause. Yes, it is exciting that one of the preeminent publications in all of sports backs our team to be the last one standing. But considering the inaccuracy of such exercises, it’s good to take any such honor with a grain of salt.

First, let’s acknowledge that SI’s last correct prediction came back in 1999, when the publication tabbed the New York Yankees to win it all. In the 13 years since, only the ’01 Yankees even made the World Series, while six of the other 12 missed the playoffs entirely.

Now, for the good news. That ’99 Yankee squad epitomized balance. Nobody on the roster hit more than 28 home runs, but seven players hit 17 or more. Last year’s Nats had six players slug at least 17 round trippers, in spite of long-term injuries to Wilson Ramos and Jayson Werth, each capable of such production in their own right.

That Yankees team also featured a deep starting rotation that saw each of its five mainstays win at least 11 games. The staff finished with the most wins, second-best ERA and third-highest strikeout total in the American League. If that sounds familiar, the Nationals staff led the NL in both wins and ERA in 2012, also finishing third in strikeouts.

We say all that to say this: if the Nationals, graced with good health, can put together a 2013 season similar to last year’s magical ride, they look every bit as formidable as those ’99 Yankees.

Here’s to hoping for – but not putting too much stock into – the power of predictions.

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