Nationals Baseball: Monday Super Quickie - A sacred calling

Monday, August 25, 2014

Monday Super Quickie - A sacred calling

People who get into accidents on major roads during rush hour should have their licenses revoked.

Just saying.

It's funny but there was a sense of uneasiness when the Nats lost on Friday and the Braves won.  Only 6 games out? A tough stretch for the Nats ahead? Here's where things get interesting! Nope.  Two Nats wins and two Braves losses later and we're back tubing down easy street... or easy river I suppose if I want to carry that analogy to a more logical place.

As for calling the race - there are four times you can call a race. In order of decreasing certainty :

The first is when it's officially over, say 11 games out with 10 to play. It is impossible. This is the cowards call.

The second is when it isn't officially over but the circumstances needed to make it happen are two unlikely performances.  Say 6 games out with 10 to play. If the following team goes 8-2 (great!) and the leading team goes 2-8 (terrible!) that would tie them up.  It isn't likely that the following team does that though, and even less likely that the leading team does that, so calling it makes sense. It's the realist call.

The third is when only one unlikely performance is needed. Say 3 games out with 10 to play.  If the following team goes 8-2 then the leading team only has to go 5-5 to reach a tie.  8-2 is unlikely (the Nats have only hit that kind of stretch 3 times this year and they would presumably be the better team in this scenario).  Or vice versa 6-4 and 3-7 would work, but 3-7 isn't likely for a team that has done well enough to lead a division. (Nats have had two of these time periods). It's a gutsy call.

The fourth is when there's no reason to call it. Say 1 game out with 10 to play. What kind of call this is depends on the person making it. It could be a fun call, for those who don't take it seriously. It could be a fool's call, for those that don't understand. It could be a "Jeane Dixon" call for those in public who like to say a bunch of things and then pick out the couple that end up working out to be true. Anyway - not a call I'd ever seriously make.

Where do the Nats stand with just over 30 games left (Nats 33, Braves 31)? Somewhere between the second and the third.  The good thing is these don't extrapolate linearly.  It's would be one thing to say the Nats need to go 2-8 and the Braves 8-2. It's a whole 'nother thing to bump that up to 4-16 and 16-4. If the first is unlikey for each then the latter is crazy unlikely because you're stretching out something rare for 10 games into something rare for two sets of ten games. If you think there's a 20% chance the Nats can go 2-8 and then same chance the Braves go 8-2 (just work with me here) then you'd being saying there's a 4% chance the Braves can catch up 6 in 10 games. That's tiny. Catching up 12 in 20 games? The chance would be 0.16%, assuming you didn't change the odds. That's impossible.

In other words the Nats don't need to be 12 games up with 20 to play to have the "realist call". 8-10 would do it. At 30 games out... maybe 10-12? It all depends on what you think of the teams. We're getting close though.  Right now the Nats going 16-17 would force the Braves to go 23-8.  The Braves going 23-8 is unlikely. The Nats going 16-17 is getting close to unlikely. A couple more games ahead for the Nats and we might get there.

*What does the H2H games do? They increase the magic number because they add certainty to the chance of one team rising and one team falling at the same time. Normally I'd call it 8 games up with 21 to play (when they next meet) but the H2H will give me pause. I probably wouldn't call it unless the Nats were up at least 10. 

You can see how this works though - if the Nats get up 12 games before then I might call it because to say the Braves have a chance you'd be saying (1) The Braves close that gap by 3 games in ~5 games, which is hard, and then (2) catch up 9 games - basically winning all the head to heads- before the season ends. That's two unlikely things.  


Carl said...

I like to look at it like this: at this point, the Nats plus the Barves' opponents need to play at a .391 clip for the Nats to win the division.

The Rockies, the worst team in the NL, are currently at .403.

Harper said...

That's true but 30 games isn't 130. 32 games into the year ARI (.314), CHC (.367), PIT (.375) all had bad enough winning percentages to hit your number. And PIT is a decent squad. So... still could happen. could.

Kenny B. said...

And, of course, a call might be easier if the Nats didn't have such bad results against Atlanta this year. That alters the head to head calculation.

But, oh, how it would silence the critics if the Nats win or sweep those Braves series. That would be a serious head of steam going into the fall.

And of course, we can start playfully thinking about teams with playoff potential. Looking at those teams, there are a few non-hateable teams in the AL race this year: KC, OAK, SEA, maybe BAL if you can get over Angelos and realize that they have had a recent history of losing baseball, and that they play in a division in which they are totally overshadowed by the only two teams ESPN seems to acknowledge on the east coast.

NL is mostly the usual suspects, with the possible exception of MIL and PIT (and of course the Nats!). My biggest hope is for STL and ATL to fail to make the playoffs. I will break my TV if I hear that the Nats lost a playoff series to one of those teams because of a lack of "playoff experience" or "gritty veteran determination" or whatever. And I may need to be placed in an asylum if I have to deal with the St. Louis sanctimonious, condescending "nice effort kid" "best fans in baseball" claptrap.

Kenny B. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Donald said...

Fangraphs has the Nats odds of winning the division at 99%. I'm not sure you need that to go up before calling the race. We're already in epic run + epic collapse territory. Still, there's a difference between saying that 'in all likelihood the Nats win' versus 'it's over. period'.

I think the absolute best case scenario for the Braves would be to finish 22-9. That's almost cretainly not going to happen, but they are streaky and could pull offf a 9 or 10 game winning streak, coupled with solid play the rest of the time. That would get them to 90 wins. The Nats just need to finish 16-17 to get to 91. So the time to call it is getting close. I think I'll wait until the first Braves series. If the Nats are still up by 8 going in, it's probably over. If the lead is down to 6, then the Nats just have to avoid the sweep.

Super Homer said...

Whateva, whateva. Magic number is at 25. I'm counting down.

Zimmerman11 said...

Gotta keep the Nats motivated... 2.5 games up on LAD for homefield...

But LA has this joke of a finish:

San Diego (6)
Colorado (6)
Cubbies (4)
Arizona (5)

So the head to head starting Labor Day is a big big series.

Anonymous said...

Off Topic

Isn't the ball girl supposed to pick up their chair when a fair ball is coming their way?

On Sunday when Blanco hit it down the first base line, the ball girl got out of the way but left her chair. Instead of ricocheting off the wall towards Werth, the ball hit the chair. The ball died, allowing Blanco to get a triple instead of a double. It ended up costing us a run on a Sac Fly.

Obviously, it didn't matter thanks to the Rally Pigeon but irked me at the time.

cass said...

I still think we're in deciding on what to wear to the NLDS territory. The Braves are probably going to be more focused on the Wild Card and so they're probably secretly happy we beat the Giants.

I fear we're gonna have the best record again just like in 2012 and that we'll face the winner of the Braves and Cardinals in the Wild Card game again.

Harper said...

All - I'm not going to say you're wrong calling it - like I said it's between gutsy and realist right now inching toward realist each day that passes without a Nats lose/Braves win combo. But I will say these things can change pretty quickly. DET was 94.8% on Aug 1, 64% today. O's were 94.8% two days ago, now 87.1% (fangraphs playoff odds) There's vagaries but basically each loss/win combo right now costs the leader 2-3%, so it wouldn't take that much craziness to go from lock to question. Strongly favorable question, but question nonetheless.

But if you want to get crazy - I'll note that Fangraphs has the Nats with the best chance to win the World Series

Anonymous said...

Actually CNN has already made the call. Let's see if they are right.

Nick said...

Too many head to head games for me to make the call, but it certainly feels a lot better this year than this time last year!

Mitch said...

The Nats are almost certainly going to make the playoffs. I've stopped worrying about that (and the batting order for that matter). What we do need to worry about is whether they can manage the Stras/Gio meltdowns, Bryce getting thrown out on the basepaths, and the all-or-nothing offense well enough to actually win in the playoffs.

Anonymous said...

Hey Harper, do the Yankees make the playoffs? I am pulling for them for Jeter to get in and shine in the playoffs.

Anonymous said...

can someone find me a similar blog post for NY Mets fans from approximately Sept. 12, 2007?

Harper said...

Anon #1 - the next 7 games, KC (1) DET (3) TOR (3) on the road, will tell. I'm hoping. THey are a lot better with this offense made up of guys that are overpaid but fair major leaguers than what they had before.

Anon #2 - sure. I can also find similar posts for 4-5 division winners a year from 2008-2014 that ended up ok.

WiredHK said...

I feel great about this team, yet I dread us facing the Braves and Cards in the post-season. Anyone else is preferable, anyone. Even Kershaw and Greinke twice in a series. That's crazy talk, but that's how I feel.

Someone talk me off the ledge! I have recurring loop nightmares of J Upton/Freeman or Matt Adams/Molina (just back in time for the NLDS!) taking Clip or Soriano deep in multiple late game scenarios to bounce us from the playoffs.

Make it stop....