The Nats CAN make the playoffs.
That's just a statement of fact. There are a number of scenarios we can play out where the Nats sneak into the playoffs by a game or two. But the Nats aren't likely to do it. How unlikely? I've tried to spell it out before but let's look at some other numbers.
Some sites actually give you playoff odds. These sites run hundreds (thousands?) of simulated seasons from the current point on and basically count up the number of times teams make the playoffs. They factor in as many stats as they can and let the computers figure it out. The exact opposite of "they don't play the game on paper", but it's generally been found to be pretty accurate.
Baseball Prospects - 2.1%
Cool Standings - 4.5%
All of this is based on the WC2. Divisional chances are nil. The big advantage of these systems is it doesn't allow your games to be played in a vacuum. Meaning, if the Reds are losing big, someone else must be winning big. The whole picture changes all the time, not just team A catching team B. For the Nats it's almost cut and dried, but there remains the Diamondback in the room that could potentially throw a monkey wrench into the plans of passing a dying Reds team.
I said yesterday to ignore the D-backs and you should, but that's only because the Nats winning scenario is so preposterous that for the D-backs to play as well at the same time would be like Jim Bowden actually catching lightning in a bottle. Take a look at any Nats in the playoff scenario and you'll see a Nats team that needs to play as well as anyone has played all year. 24-8? 4 teams have done that. What if we make it a more reasoable 22-10? Well 10 teams have done that, but note that they are all playoff teams or contenders. That's where I feel we're missing the big picture. Not "can the Reds go 13-17" or "can the Nats go 23-9" but what that is exactly asking of these teams.
The Reds are a team that's 16 games above .500 at 74-58. You want that team to suddenly play baseball like the Cubs for over a month.
The Nats are a .500 ball club. You want that team to suddenly have one of the best months anyone in baseball has had this year.
There are reasons why the Reds are where they are and the Nats are where they are. It's not just injuries either as the Nats have been basically a .500 team since everyone has been healthy. You aren't asking for things to simply break the Nats way. You're asking for fundamental changes in the identity of these teams that has been forged over the first 130 games of the season, with no particular reason for such a change. There have been no massive injuries, no major player acquisitions. One team needs to just turn it on and the other turn it off basically because it's necessary for the scenario.
It's fun though, right? That's more important. The Nats aren't really in the pennant race. They are, but they aren't, not when there's as good a chance for Milwaukee to catch the Nats as there is for the Nats to catch the Reds. But it's fun to pretend that they are. The season has given fans so much disappointment that creating a race out of moonbeams is all they have left. So give it to them Nats. Don't go 2-4 here and kill the even the dream. Do it. WIN DAMMIT.