Since getting swept by ATL the Nats have gone 5-1. That's good. Unfortunately the Reds, the team the Nats need to catch to make the 2nd Wild Card, have gone 6-1. That's better. And the out of the realm of possibility Braves have gone 4-2. That's not to shabby either. A week of hard work and the Nats have LOST half a game in the WC standings and cut the NL East lead all the way down to 14.5 games. THIS IS THE HOLE THEY DUG. We're about at last call. The Nats could go 30-12 to finish the year the Reds can go 21-20 and beat them out. The Nats need to be world beaters and even then the Reds only have to be a .500 team to take that last spot.
In fact I might have wrote off the Nats if it wasn't for the slumping Cardinals (only a half-game better than the Reds). Since the Nats have a 3-game series with the Cards at the end of the year (right before the season ending D-backs one) it's worth keeping one eye half-open drowsily looking in their direction before drifting off to the big sleep. Anything you can do right? Anyway in 3 weeks we should know for sure. The Reds play the D-backs series after next. They play the Cards seven times before the first week of September is over. If there is any hope we'll know by then. (assuming the Nats don't crash and burn themselves, but I don't see it)
(I know, I know I said I wouldn't talk about the playoffs but what else is there really? We could talk about the playoffs for two more weeks and still have ALL of September and the post-season to talk about the off-season. Gotta fill the blog.)
Why are the Nats winning? They are scoring more. Like any sport, at a very base level, the game is simple to understand. Score more than you give up and you win. Here's a fun little rolling 10 game graph of the difference between runs scored and runs allowed (blue line) and the Nats winning percentage (red line). Don't worry that it has super small numbers to read. The actual numbers aren't important as noticing the fact these lines pretty much follow each other. This isn't anything new. It's the whole basis for that Pythagorean thing. But it's nice to see the base assumptions confirmed so obviously. It's that simple. Score more than you give up = win.
The Nats haven't scored. In only 28 of 110 rolling 10 game averages has their scoring
been over the current league average of 4.03. They haven't pitched
super great either. Only 56 of 110 has their runs allowed been less than
average. So they lose. And since they don't usually succeed together (10 times) or fail together (36 times) you've seen a lot more middling play than crazy swings of winning and losing.
Anyway, you'll read a lot of claptrap about the type of team the Nats are and experience and proving themselves. Comparisons to other teams that made runs or didn't make runs but came back in another year and won. All that really matters to the 2014 Nats are the 2013 Nats and the changes made in the offseason. The lessons learned shouldn't be about struggles and heart. It should be about putting together a good bench and starter depth because things never go exactly as planned. It should be about the fact a strength can become a weakness overnight (bullpen, Espy) and your ability to damage control will be tested.
The Nats, when healthy, are a pretty decent club. Good rotation now that Haren has evened out. Solid lineup with only one hole, Span, who provides them with excellent defense. Workable pen. They will win more than they lose. In the next 42 games, given the schedule, they'll probably go something like say... 23-19? 25-17? Something like that. End up 84-76 or so. Good, not good enough. But that 25-17 shows the base talents you're dealing with, a 90 win type club. That's the starting point, in my mind. Not 98. Not 84. When healthy. Work on minimizing variance when injuries do happen and you'll have a playoff team again.
And please don't get your butts kicked by the Braves again.