Nationals Baseball: What to watch - Home Field and 100 games

Thursday, September 13, 2012

What to watch - Home Field and 100 games

See I tell you it's over, the Braves climb within 5.5 (5.5!) and panic starts to bubble up again. What happens then? Nats sweep and Braves get swept and now it's 8.5 games!  Basically if the Nats play ~.500 ball the Braves have to win every single game. It's not going to happen. (Even though the Nats are now done playing bad teams)

Again though, that leaves Nats fans with the odd situation of having a boring (but way more fun) end of September. With no pennant race what else can Nats fans keep an eye on?  Last week I mentioned the award races (quick update - Gio's gained ground but still not likely the leader, Bryce has gained ground but still not likely the leader, though Dusty being an idiot and benching Frazier for Rolen will help, Pirates are fading making Davey the clear leader)This week? Home field advantage and 100 wins.

Home Field Advantage / #1 Seed 

It'll be interesting to see how the #1 seed advantage plays out over the next few playoffs.  If you look at the history of the Wild Card era playoffs, the #1 seed has not been all that advantageous. About a third of the time the #1 seed has found themselves playing a team with a better record than the #2 seed because of a combination of the Wild Card not always being worse than the #3 division winner and the whole "can't play a WC from your own division".  Starting this year the second factor is no longer relevant, and while the first fact will continue to be the case, the Wild Card the #1 will face will now have a distinct disadvantage of having used its #1 pitcher on a 1-game playoff with the other Wild Card. This year though the WC team will host the first two games of the division series so that may mitigate this advantage*

*In 2013 they'll go to 2-2-1.  You think this year is bad? Back before 1998 the division winners with home field were pre-determined.  Therefore a division winner may find themselves playing the 2nd best team in the league just because.  It happened in 1995 in the AL. Cleveland won 100 games, 14 more than the #2 seed  Red Sox, but had to play them because the AL East and AL West had home field. Since the Red Sox couldn't play the WC Yankees, the Mariners had to and thus The #1 seed Cleveland Indians had to play as the away team to the #2 seed Red Sox.  It wasn't a huge issue only because the Indians were so awesome they made the WS anyway

Beyond that the #1 seed only comes into play if the Reds and Nats both meet in the NLCS.  The Nats hold a 2 .5 game lead right now but let's look at the remaining schedule.

Nats : @ATL, LAD, MIL, @PHI, @STL, PHI
Reds : @MIA, @CHC, LAD, MIL, @PIT, @STL

That's a tough road to hoe for the Nats.  Not a below .500 team in there. You could note the Dodgers and Cards are kind of cold. but the Phillies and Brewers are red hot of course those games are a bit off in the future. Really though you can't deny the Reds have a much easier go.Can the Reds play 3 games better than the Nats though? (Nats hold tie-breaker since they are 5-2 vs the Reds, catching them early in the year when they were playing blah baseball)  That's alot ot ask of them too.  We'll see if the Reds can make up any games during this Miami, Chicago swing while the Nats go to Atlanta and host the Dodgers. If they can close a game or so, we'll re-evaluate.  If not then I think the Nats will hold on.

100 wins

The Nats stand at 89-54 at 143 games into the season.  With 19 left the Nats only need to go 11-8 to hit that exclusive 100 win plateau.  Meaningless? Sure. But it doesn't mean you don't want to get there.

The Nats schedule though features nothing but good teams, teams that you'd expect would hold ground at home and not get swept away on the road. Let's play it out in this fashion, not what I think, just what convention tells us.

1-2 in ATL, 2-1 vs LA, 3-1 vs MIL, 1-2 vs PHI, 1-2 vs STL, 2-1 vs PHI

What does that give the Nats? A 10-9 record and 99 wins. They are RIGHT there though if everything goes as expected a simple bad bounce in once game could be enough.  If the Nats were to get to 100 easily I think it starts with winning the Braves series.  They've beaten up on the Braves all year long.  The Braves play worse at home.If the Nats are to fall a few games short I think it's that first home series that does it. 5-2 at home vs two pretty competent teams with some good starting pitching might be a bit optimistic. If they do lose that series to the Braves and go 3-4 or 4-3 at home then you need a killer finish.

What do I see... Hmm I'd say

2-1 in ATL, 2-1 vs LA, 2-2 vs MIL, 1-2 vs PHI, 2-1 vs STL, 2-1 vs PHI
Extra wins in ATL and STL, an extra loss at home v MIL.  11-8 and 100 wins on the nose. It'll almost certainly come down to that last Phillies series too. So if this matters to you you'll have soemthing to keep an eye on all the way to the end.


Bryan said...

As unlikely as it seems, and as even more unlikely than it seemed just two weeks ago, the Phils will be playing for something that first series, and might be playing for their playoff lives in that last series.

Or they might be completely dead.

Shane said...

so, the season is almost complete. We are no longer talking about small sample sizes. The Nats have the best record in baseball, they have the largest run differential, they have the second largest division lead, they have a chance at 100 wins. When do we say this team is good enough to get to the WS? When does the data support that statement? I think it is. At this point, less than the WS is a bit disappointing. 143 games is enough games to shift expectations.

blovy8 said...

Tough to predict, it's really looking like a log jam at 83-79 or 84-78. I think a tie may be more likely than a clear second club unless St. Louis can turn things around. The one thing that might the Nats is that the Braves would probably use Medlen in that wildcard game, and it's hard to see how the 2nd WC could set up their rotation given how close things are. As well as the Nats have played on the road, they could be ok starting that first series wherever, but as fan you end up rooting for only one home game, WTF?

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7 said...

No way will this season be disappointing regardless what happens in the the playoffs. Playoffs are a crapshoot (See Brave and the 1990's). Is it reasonal to "expect" the NATS to make the playoffs, yes. But, it will require the rotation not to have a day off and the lineup not to go on a cold spell (See 8-0 Marlins game.) So, after 6 seasons of hell, this year will be remembered as a gem, regardless of playoff performance.

Nick said...

8.5 game f***ing lead. That is all.

Jeff Hayes said...

I agree with Sec 204. This is a memorable season regardless of what happens from here.


Now that we have that in the bank, I want - expect - more. This rest of this regular season has a lot to offer. 1st, I can't wait for the celebration after we clinch the Division. I'm betting Teddy will finally win as well. 2nd, meaningful games against the Phillies, with a chance to deny them a play-off spot, will be overwhelming. This is especially true if we've already clinched the Division. I want to see the Phillies deflate so much. 3rd, the race to 100 adds more drama. And that isn't even considering how great the playoffs will be for fans. A World Series in DC? I don't even want to think about it.

amcm said...

Am I reading the playoff format correctly as you have it here...if the Nats are #1 seed, they will NOT host Game 1 or 2 of the NLDS?

If so, that is the biggest bunch of crap I have ever seen. That means we could have the first ever Nationals playoff game in DC as a win or go home game?!?!?

amcm said...

Am I reading the playoff format correctly as you have it here...if the Nats are #1 seed, they will NOT host Game 1 or 2 of the NLDS?

If so, that is the biggest bunch of crap I have ever seen. That means we could have the first ever Nationals playoff game in DC as a win or go home game?!?!?

Harper said...

Bryan - Yeah - and even if they are not they are a much better team now with Utley and Howard healthy and hitting then they were before. 3-3 split against them is no given

Shane - Oh you could have said that a month ago probably. I think any team that doesn't sneak into the playoffs is good enough. I still wouldn't put the WS as my disappointment level, though. One bad start and one hot player can change a series. I'd put it at NLCS. A series win.

blogy8 - yeah it's a bad go around for fans this year. Hopefully no #1 seed flames out.

sec 204 - that's one view, I wish the majority view but the majority will probably move into WS or bust mode if they finish with 100 wins and games ahead of the Reds.

Jeff - gotta be careful your "expect" doesn't get carried by your "want" to places it shouldn't be.

amcm - that is correct. Supposedly because of scheduling they need only one travel day in the DSs. That means either a 3-2 or 2-3 series and the latter is seen as more traditional and fair to the better team (all deciding games at home). The end result that for 2012 (and 2012 only) the Wild Card and Div Winner #3 will host games 1&2. (so tanking to get the #2 seed wouldn't help)

Zimmerman11 said...

Wow... a shot at 100 wins. Crazy talk! Our team has not exactly been the picture of health this year, except for the starting pitching. To have a shot at 100 wins is kind of mind-blowing.

I agree with the season ticket holder... even a wildcard game this year would have exceeded my expectations. This will be looked back on as a great year, regardless of the postseason outcome.

I hope SOMEDAY I can be as jaded as a lot of Yankee fans who consider anything short of a WS win a disappointment!

Donald said...

I'm not sure the 100 win mark is important to Davey. Once the Nats clinch the division, they may start resting guys to keep them fresh, which might alter the expectations a bit. On the flip side, it's not likely that the Phillies will be mathematically eliminated before the end of the season, so they may be playing for a reason.

What will be interesting is if the Nats decide, (1) that they want the #1 seed vs. #2 based on most likely opponent and (2) that they care who makes the wildcard, or more specifically that they don't want it to be the Phillies because they don't want to meet them in the playoffs.

Davey has publicly stated that they want to play the best, yada yada, yada, but I'm not so sure. I'd much rather face either Atlanta or St. Louis than Philadelphia.

Anonymous said...

I dont want the #1 seed, you have to open up on the road.

Froggy said...

Well, I DID say a month ago that the Phillies were the scariest team going forward for the Nats, and then they went and got swept. Looking at our remaining schedule, I think the Phillies will approach those last 6 games with a playoff attitude.

blovy8 said...

The Phillies also could get cold though, and the Nats pithcers are pretty good.

Harper said...

Z11 - At the very least jaded Yankee fan does make for interesting sports talk call-in shows.

Donald - If the Nats don't want to play the Phillies they should just beat them 6 times.

Anon - so does the #2 seed.

Froggy - I think they will even if they are out. They want to prove to themselves they can win the East next year.

blovy8 - yeah that's why I didn't want to get too into the Reds or Nats sched, beyond the next 2 series any current hot/cold are meaningless (and it doesn't have big meaning for that 2nd series)

ff said...

Harper, maybe its me but am I the only one not worried about the Phillies this year, but more concerned about next season? The division could be a 3 way dogfight so there are no guarantees we win the division next year.

Bryan said...

To make the playoffs, the Phils need to go 15-5 over the last 20 games, while hoping St. Louis goes 10-10. Neither is impossible. Unlikely, yes, but not impossible

Consider 15-5 has been their record over the last 20 games or so.

As Harper would point out, that is like a 120 win pace that they would have to sustain over 40 games. Again, not impossible, but unlikely.

Given that they have to leapfrog 4 teams, they might be eliminated by that last week.

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