The Nats are going to be NL East champions. Celebrate!
For those of you who can't buy in to this yet. Sorry. But the facts have reached the overwhelming point for me. The Nats currently lead the Marlins by 8.5 games and the Mets by 10.5. They face an easy schedule for the rest of the month. They are more likely to see the lead expand over the next 15 days, than contract. It's over.
The idea that the Marlins may be able to overtake the Nats was always built on the idea that they could slug their way to victory. The starting pitching is too mediocre for another path to be viable. Stanton is now out for the year. That closes that path. The idea that the Mets could come back was based on the idea that they'd get healthy and get a surge in play much like last year. They aren't getting healthy fast enough as Cespedes might be back Friday. The Mets arguably began their run on July 31st last season going 19-6 to turn a 3 game deficit into a 6.5 game lead. In the same time frame this year they've gone 6-8 and lost 4 games of ground. This path is closed.
We can talk about paces now as well. Despite being 22 games OVER .500 right now let's say Nats go .500? (23-23). That's a 92-70 team. To match that the Marlins would have to go 31-14. Their season so far, with Stanton, suggests 24-21 being most likely. The Mets would have to go 33-12. Their season so far would suggest 23-22. The Mets' incredible run last year got to 37-17 at one point. Either of these paces needed to catch a .500 Nats team is better than that. Flip it. Let's say the Marlins go 24-21. That's an 85-77 win team. The Nats would have to go 16-30 to match that. That's a 96 win team through 70% of the season, playing like a 56 win team for the last 30%. It's done. Nats have all but won.
That's not to say the Mets or Marlins won't come back to bite the Nats in another way. Either could win the 2nd Wild Card because the NL Wild Card race, for the 2nd spot, is wide open. Get in the WC and you're in the playoffs and anything can happen. But that's for later. For now it's about the division and the division is set.
Even though it's an easy schedule, the next couple weeks will be hard. Why do I say that? It'll be hard because the Nats competition is bad enough that they'll probably go on a run and you'll be tempted to say "This team is coming together!" It may be. It may not be. Colorado, Atlanta, and Philly don't allow for a fair judgment on that.
They get Colorado in Denver and in DC. They get the Braves, a bad pitching team, again in Atlanta. They get the Phillies, a bad pitching team. They will very likely score a bunch of runs. Don't take this to mean the offense is fine. They should do well, very well in fact. If they hit - it's just par for course. If they DON'T hit, it's a problem. Hopefully they do score a bunch. Hopefully this run of bad arms and good hitting parks will get guys like Bryce and Revere and Espy back on track. But it'll be mid-September before we can judge that. Remember that when you start reading "Don't overlook the Nats" stories the weekend before Labor Day.
Though I'm getting to analytical on a day that should be about celebration. Pop those corks! Ask "Where's my pennant?" Say "NL East Champs or Bust". This is done. The Washington Nationals are going to win the NL East.