Nationals Baseball: Pobrecito Bravos

Friday, August 17, 2012

Pobrecito Bravos

I have a simple goal for the Nats in this Mets series.  Hold your ground.  Do not lose a game in the standings to the Braves.  If you gain a game, that's great (and I would bet the Nats do - I like them to sweep the Mets and the Braves to only take 2 of 3 vs the Dodgers) but don't lose a game. You want to go into that Braves series in a place where if they worst case scenario happens and the Nats get swept, they are still in the lead in the NL East.  Right after that series the Nats head to Philly, while the Braves travel to SF for 4. There's an immediate chance to rebuild a couple game cushion. So come out ahead and likely stay ahead. Come out tied and who knows?

Why do I like the Nats to sweep the Mets? Nats are a better team at home. Pretty simple.  If you look at the pitching matchups, first one is Johan vs Detwiler. That sounds scary but Johan has not been the same since coming back from his season lost to injury. He might throw a gem, but you can't expect it. You have to give the game to Ross.  If the Nats are going to be favored to lose a game it's #2 where an effective John Neise takes on a slumping EJax. The Mets offense, which was once surprisingly ok with guys outperforming expectations, has been below average after the break. Edwin should be able to handle them in a close one. The last game is Hefner vs Gio, and even though Hefner has been good recently, you're not picking against Gio, especially after a strong last start.

Since I said I'd do this every Friday, let's go over where the Nats stand right now.  No more guessing, this is using exact games left to 162.

The Nats are 73-45.   If they were to go .500 (and why would they - they are 73-45) to miss out on the playoffs the following things would have to happen.

(1) The Braves would have to go 26-18 in their final 44 games.  That's a .591 Winning Percentage or a 95 win pace.


(2) Two of the following three things must happen.
  • The Pirates must go 30-14.  .682 winning percentage - 110 win pace. 
  • The Cardinals must go 31-13.  .705 winning percentage - 114 win pace. 
  • The NL West 2nd place finisher, Giants or Dodgers must go 31-13.
I've been having a kindly back and forth in the comments with commenter "blovy8" and he's forced me to clarify why I'm so bullish right now on the Nats making the playoffs. So a couple things.

The Nats situation is very different than the Red Sox or Braves.  They both were WC teams with one team chasing them.  That meant only two things were necessary for these teams to miss the playoffs.  They had to collapse and the other team had to play well.  The Nats though are division leaders and have an extra WC spot to deal with. That means four things have to happen.  The Nats have to collapse and the Braves have to do well (knocking the Nats into the WC) and then two of the WC teams have to also play well enough to pass the Nats.  That's just that more unlikely. You also have to consider when you are talking this many teams you run into the situation where they are playing each other. The Cards and Pirates play 6 more times, the Dodgers and Giants 9.  If they split they don't make up ground in these games vs a .500 Nats team, if one team dominates the other team loses a bunch of ground. 

Also what non-believers are suffering from is a proximity to two of the greatest chokes in the history of baseball. Last year the Red Sox and Braves both had epic collapses. The Red Sox's collapse is arguably the worst ever - like in history in 100+ years of baseball. No team had played so well to start the season and finished so poorly. Because it happened means it can happen but it doesn't make it more likely to happen.  It is still a super-rare event. Your chances of winning the lottery don't go up just because your friend won last week.

Also this is all contingent on the Nats playing .500 ball.  If they do better (as they should) the impossible becomes that much more impossibler. Since July 24th the Atlanta Braves have been red hot. They have gone 17-5.  That's the type of run you fear at this point in the year. They have gained a half-game on the Nats. The Nats are playoff bound.  Pennant? We'll talk about that next Thursday.


ff said...

"Nats are a better team at home. "

I'm interested in why you think that? The Nats have the best road record in baseball at 41-23. The Braves are 2nd FWIW. The Nats are 6th in home record at 32-22. Especially when you consider the Nats started out 9-9 on the road and have been 32-14 (113 win pace) since. I don't think the Nats are that better on the road, but it does bode good things for the Nats that they are balanced enough to win at home and the road.

Jeff Hayes said...

Good post. But I believe at this point anyone who argues against the Nats making the playoffs is only arguing from a supersititious belief that it will jinx us. No amount of facts or analysis will overcome that.

I believe we are more likely to come out of the next two weeks with a larger lead over the Braves then to lose the lead altogether. I see this as our chance to drive a nail in their NL East coffin.

Maybe then people will stop worrying about supersitions.

Harper said...

ff - Ah. I see how you could read it like that. It is not : "The Nats play better at home than on the road". It is : "The Nats are a better team than the Mets and they are playing the series at home"

calindc said...

Mid-August and we're talking about a playoff bound team. Just 4 months ago and we'd be accused of drinking the strong Kool-Aid.

This must be the feeling the Yankees had when Mattingly finally retired. (woot, one more Yankee zinger before the end of the week, I'm good for awhile :-) ).

Harper said...

Jeff - The worst thing ever has to happen to somebody so why not us? I don't know if it's superstition as much as preparing for the worst so you don't get disappointed if it happens.
Yes, hopefully this will be cleared up one way or another - sweep the Braves, Pirates and Giants collapse something - by end of next week.

calindc - I'll have you know they made the playoffs with Donnie Baseball and he was AWESOME in them. If the umpire wasn't Randy Johnson's BFF the game would have been different

calindc said...

Nice, I had to look it up, since I thought he retired before the strike season (Harper's right, of course).

calindc said...

On a side note, I also had to look up FWIW....

Section 222 said...

Making the playoff is a done deal. But the WC game is such a crapshoot that I don't think any fan can take much comfort in that. We need to win the division. This series is a chance to put some distance btw us and the Braves, but they are a good team and aren't going to go away quietly I'd be interested in some analysis of our respective schedules, but maybe you've done that already.

Still wondering why you do this great blog if you're not a Nats fan. And what's your twitter handle?

calindc said...

@Section 222

Outside the division:

St. Louis 4 games at home
Cubs 4 games at home
Dodgers 3 games at home
Milwaukee 4 games at home
St. Louis 3 games on the road

Dodgers 3 games at home
San Fran 4 games on the road
San Diego 3 games on the road
Colorado 4 games at home
Milwaukee 3 games on the road
Pittsburgh 3 games on the road

Gut reaction to this schedule says the Nats have a better schedule because they have so many home games left, but they are playing St. Louis (a notorious late season bloomer) 7 more times. I'll personally give the advantage to the Nats, but it's really the 6 head-to-heads with Atl that will determine the Division crown. A split or better and the Nats can shut down Stras and save him for the opening game of the division series.

Anonymous said...

Nats have a clear advantage in remaining schedule, both in games at home and current winning percentage of opponents. I know you're not a Boswell lover, but today's column ended with good points (somebody other than me noticed the Nats exceptional defense this year and defense shows up every day). Their range is terrific at every position, outside wherever Morse is playing that day and it's not like he's Dunn or Willingham.
No, it's time to expect the playoffs and start counting down to the division. The magic number stands at 40.

Chaos....I'll be there Monday night to watch the number drop 2 more

JE34 said...

222: ain't it the truth? This is easily and consistently the most interesting/entertaining Nats read I can find on the web.

Well done once again, Harper. I know you have long standing allegiances with the pinstripes (as I do with the Dodgers), but there's no denying true baseball love. I went to a Nats/Dodgers game that first year back in DC, and they sucked me in. Perhaps it was finally having a local pro team (I grew up in a minor league town), perhaps it was the plucky overachievers wearing those awful block lettered unis that year, and perhaps it was the general unlikeableness of the post-O'Malley Dodgers. Or all of the above.

I think the time has come to turn your back on the Yankees once and for all. At first I felt cheap -- a man doesn't just grab a new favorite team! I would never dream of such a move of NFL allegiances -- but I can speak from experience... it'll be OK. These things happen. You'll feel better dissociating yourself from all those things the world hates about the NYY. You'll sleep better.

Become a "casual Yankees observer" and nothing more. You'll be glad you did.

Kenny B. said...

As a converted fan myself (and really, what Nats fan over the age of 14 isn't?) I would second JE34, but I'm worried Harper becoming a Nats fan would bias his analysis, which is otherwise much more down-to-earth than the WaPo folks, or anyone else for that matter. His lack of fan-ness is what allows the soulless automaton to clinically analyze the team.

JE34 said...

Kenny B: an excellent point. I should be careful what I wish for.

Harper: do your Yankee fan buddies give you crap about this blog? My Yankee fan friends barely acknowledge life outside the AL East.

IMFreeman said...

I think you meant:

"FWIW, I had to look up FWIW"

IMFreeman said...

I think you meant:

"FWIW, I had to look up FWIW"

blovy8 said...

Harper, I couldn't believe the Yankees kept pitching to Edgar Martinez in that 1995 series.

Yes, it's preposterous to believe the Nats will not make the playoffs. But lots of goofy things happen, and yes, being a baseball fan, I am slightly superstitious about any form of speech that could be considered gloating. I attended the game last year where the Nats blew an eight-run lead to the Cubs and thought that would be about as bad a game as I could see. In fact, I said something to the effect of, well, if any team can lose this after a comeback like that, it'll be the Cubs. Nope. Little did I realize that I would have to witness a much better Nationals club lose a NINE-run lead to their rival Braves in the rain this year. I'm over it, but really not sure that I should be. It rains a lot in the fall too.

WiredHK said...

My main issue is even calling the WC game "making the playoffs" -- not that I'm against it (I kinda like it), but calling that making the playoffs is as thin as calling teams that make the college men's NCAA tourney's "play-in" game (you know, the one on Tuesday played in Dayton) "part of the big dance" -- when the reality is nobody cares much about what happens in that game, or to the loser of that game. If we play 162 games, end up in the WC game, and lose it, I doubt many here will feel too happy (no matter what you rationally hoped may happen to this team 5 months ago).

The only thing that matters is keeping that 4 game lead against a very red hot Braves team. And...4 game leads in August have evaporated like crazy in baseball's rich history. Can we keep the frantic pace the Braves are forcing us to keep? I don't know....but I'm dying to find out.

Jeff Hayes said...

WiredHK - Braves fans are asking the exactly same question, only about us. They are just as nervous and frustrated with our unwillingness to lose. And, knock on wood, they are the ones in more danger of having to face another team in a one-game "play off".

Section 222 said...

Blovy -- I was at that Cubs game too. (Livo, how could you??). So painful. The great thing about the Braves fiasco this year is it seemed to have jumpstarted the team. They are 20-7 since then.

On the schedule, the Braves play S.D. and Colo. while we play the Cubs. They play San Fran and Pgh, while we play the Cards. Not sure I'd say our schedule gives us much of an advantage but hopefully all the home games do. calindc is right though, the two head to head series are huge and if we go 3-3, or even 2-4, I'm not sure how they catch us.

JE, I had a similar experience in 2005 when I showed up at the first Nats series at RFK in June with the Pirates, my hometown team, fully expecting to root for the Bucs. I just couldn't do it.

WiredHK said...

Jeff - I don't disagree with you, I definitely get that aspect of it as well. And, one could argue perhaps being "pushed" by them has forced our Nats to absolutely not get complacent at any stage of the season -- especially during these dog days of summer after the ASB when it's easy for a team to slip some. At any rate, before we get to Mon-Wed, let's take care of business this weekend. Very excited!

calindc said...

I'm a transplant myself, grew up rooting for the Angels. Prior to 2002, our greatest claim to fame was when Enrico Palazzo stopped Reggie Jackson from shooting the Queen of England.

It really wasn't that hard becoming a Nats fan. Come on Harper, you know you want to do it. One of us, one of us....

Anonymous said...

Wow. I was at that Cubs game, too. Sat next to a lifetime Cubs fan who bemoaned how lousy his team was for the first 4 innings. Ugly game.


JE34 said...

calindc: thanks for providing a mighty belly laugh on a dreary Friday afternoon. The Angels franchise has a noble history indeed.

Froggy said...

Beast and the kid go Boom!

You a believer yet Harper?

12 pack would be a fine bet for Stausburg.

donwolfe said...

1942 Dodgers up by 10 games on August 5 over the Cards who won the NL pennant w/ 106 wins; Brooklyn won 104. Stranger things have happened. I hate statistical projections while the team's mantra is "one game at a time."

Nattydread said...

The analysis is great. But its best to take it a game at a time. The wild card isn't what anyone wants after a 162 game season.

We need to out-last any September kick that that the Braves try to pull. First place is the real prize. This isn't a team that will collapse.