WASHINGTON — What’s the recipe for the most disappointing team in baseball? Start with high expectations, mix in a heap of injuries, add a full-blown bullpen implosion, and top it off with a good-old-fashioned dugout choking, and you’re left with the Washington Nationals.
The team’s disaster of a season came to a fittingly unceremonious end on Sunday with a 1-0 loss to the National League East Champions, the New York Mets.
Though the Nationals won three of their final four games, including Max Scherzer’s second no-hitter of the season, the team finished with an overall win-loss record of just 83-79, barely two games above .500, in what many predicted to be their World Series season.
With 2015 manager Matt Williams now looking for work – even as 22-year-old stud outfielder Bryce Harper is expected to run away with the NL’s Most Valuable Player award – the only question that remains is this: just how crushingly bad was the Nationals’ season?
At the beginning of the season, the Las Vegas odds-makers set the Nationals’ expected wins number at 92.5 wins, the highest predicted win total in all of baseball.
The Nationals failed to live up to lofty expectations: Washington was the only team predicted to win 90-plus games that did not qualify for the playoffs this season. The last team to not make the playoffs after Las Vegas predictions called for a 90-plus win season? The 2013 Washington Nationals.
But were the Nationals the MOST disappointing team in baseball?
While the Nationals finished the season with 9.5 fewer wins than their expected total, D.C. fans can sleep easily knowing that seven other teams fared worse than Washington, all finishing at least 10 games below their expected win totals.
The Cincinnati Reds “led” all of baseball, finishing a whopping 13.5 games under their predicted win total. The Oakland Athletics (-12.5), San Diego Padres (-11.5), Milwaukee Brewers (-10.5), Miami Marlins (-10.5), Seattle Mariners (-10.5), and Detroit Tigers (-10) all underperformed more than the Nationals.
Just before the start of the 2015 season, ESPN polled 88 of its baseball experts asking for their predictions for division and World Series winners.
Eighty five of 88 experts, or 97 percent, picked the Nationals to win the NL East, and 37 of the same 88 experts (42 percent) picked Washington to win the World Series. The experts’ next most common choice to win the World Series was the Los Angeles Dodgers, who received 17 of 88 votes (21 percent), less than half of what the Nationals received.
Although the raw win-discrepancy numbers don’t show it, the added wrinkle of high postseason expectations is what separates the Nationals from the long list of baseball’s underachievers.
Washington fans will have to wait YET another season for their team to make a run at an elusive World Series title, something the D.C. faithful haven’t experienced since 1924.