- The Nats are better than the Braves (or anyone else in the NL East)
- The Nats have an easier schedule than the Braves
- The Nats have a 5 games lead on the Braves with 42-44 games to go.
- The Nats playoff odds are 97.8% here, and 95.1% here, better than everyone but the A's and Dodgers (and maybe Angels)
- Their division winning odds are 95.2% and 92.1%, better than everyone.
So what are we doing? Watching to see if the Nats somehow blow it? Hit those 1 in 25 or so odds that a team set up in this situation somehow crashes and burns so completely that their very flawed competitor can catch up and pass? I suppose that you can think of the next few weeks that way, if you like. Not me. I'm watching to see how the Nats handle games, how they prepare themselves for the playoffs.
Can Williams use Drew Storen in a big spot before the 7th? (Yet to happen this year) Or Clippard in a big spot before the 8th? (Never has happened - used once in 7th when Nats were down 11) Can he quickly move on from a Soriano who doesn't have it?
Can he understand that bunting is generally a trade off that slightly increases your chances to score a single run at the cost of decreasing your chances to score multiple ones, thus needs to be used judiciously? Who's the first man off the bench as a PH? Who's the first man in line for an emergency injury start?
How healthy are the Nats? Is Werth ok? Will Zimm be back? Can Stras/Gio settle themselves?
That's what I'm watching these games for, with only a half-glance at the standings. Cocky? Not really. See above.
The first point won't change unless the Nats injuries become permanent (and maybe they get one more). The Braves had too many season long injuries and too many bats fail to be considered on equal ground for 2014.
The second point will briefly favor the Braves once we get to the end of August but then bounce back the Nats way for most of September. The Nats should be able to use that for a game or two in their favor.
As long as the third point remains mostly true there is no reason to worry. 4 games w/ 38 to go. 6 with 35. Something like that. When you get past 6 the situation becomes dire for the Braves. Not only would they have to sweep the Nats in the mutual games versus eachother, but they would have to play better in the rest of their games as well. That's a tall order for a team struggling to maintain .500 for much of ths season. And for each game they don't take versus the Nats the mission gets that much impossbler.
I won't go as far as to say the division race is over... not yet. With 6 head to head left, and that little SEA/LAD schedule bump for the Nats still to overcome you can't do that unless things get out of hand. I'd say Sept 3rd is the first date I'm likely to call the race. Let's see where we are then.