Nationals Baseball: Shaking the WC contenders

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Shaking the WC contenders

The Nats swept the Reds and look every bit the team they have looked like for what is now the majority of the season. Not good enough to challenge for the best teams in baseball, but in that second tier. Beating up the bad teams, playing .500 ish ball against the good ones. Unfortunately for the Nats the Braves are also in that 2nd tier and by virtue of not having a terrible first 50 games, have a lead that they are not likely to give up.

As was noted before the Nats have an easier stretch and the goal now is to hit those bad teams hard, strike up a good lead, and then survive a September where they are likely to play close to .500. But we're to the part of the season where we can stop with the "keep your head down" talk and pick our heads up to look at the scoreboard. In order to build that lead the Nats need to do their job, but the other teams need to cooperate as well.

Let's say the Nats do what I want with the remaining schedule. We'll adjust for the sweep and say 10-5 the rest of the way. That's dominant play over the Marlins, Pirates and Orioles, and splitting the Cubs and Brewers serieses. 75-60 going into Labor Day.*  What do these other teams face? Would we expect the Nats to have that lead we want to see? I think it's reasonable to think a couple, maybe even three of these teams can make up 3+ games on the Nats in that last month. But will the Nats have too big a lead? Will it be the "right" teams?

Cardinals (1GB Nats - in NL Central lead). Remember when I said a couple of posts back the Cardinals will hit a easy stretch? Well they are in it and it seems now we are getting real separation from the haves and have nots. Teams with easy schedules are going on runs and the Cardinals are the latest example. They swept PIT and KC.  They'll take on Cincy next then MIL, COL, MIL, and CIN going into Labor Day.  I see... 11-7 (Yes they play 18 games) and 73-62. Much like the Nats two series against contenders.

Cubs (1GB - perc pts out of NL Central lead). Finish with PHI tonight then @PIT, SFG, NATS!, @NYM, MIL.  I got them at 9-7 (I have them beating the Nats at home and the Nats beating MIL at home FWIW). So 73-63

MIL (2.5 GB) - a death march @Nats, @ STL, ARI, STL, @ CHC. Optimistically 7-8. 70-66.

PHI (3 GB) - we can argue if Philly is any good or not (maybe tomorrow), but we can't argue that they are not in it. They are.  Finish with Cubs then an easy stretch for them which actually will extend through a Labor Day series with their spiritual opposite the "good" Reds who just keep losing. But for now through Labor Day- SDP @ BOS (2), @MIA, PIT, NYM. If you take the Phillies at face value (again we will argue tomorrow) that's an 11-4 type run.  72-62

NYM (4GB) - finish with ATL then a mixed bag @KC, CLE, ATL, CHC, @PHI.  Hard but mostly at home with an easy start. Still I'll say 6-9. 67-68.

ARI (4.5 GB) if they are better than San Fran now's the time to prove it. SFG, COL, @MIL, @SFG, LAD. Most likely they make a mini-run but 4 game against the Dodgers knocks them back down. 8-8. 69-68.

That would put the standings like this going into Labor Day

WSN 75-60 
STL 73-62    2 GB Nats
CHC 73-63   2.5 GB
PHI 72-62   2.5 GB
MIL 70-66  5.5 GB
ARI 69-68   7 GB
NYM 67-68  8 GB

Hmmm not quite where the Nats want to be. BUT now we have to look at the remaining schedules. We know the Nats have a hard Sept but how many of these teams, if any, have an EASY one that is a good bet to make up 3+ games on Nats...

NYM - mixed bag, tough start, easy finish
ARI - super easy 9 Padres games, a Marlins set at home, 6 Cincy
MIL - reverse of Mets, easy start, tough finish
PHI - just a touch less harder than Nats, certainly not easy
CHC - on the easier side, but I'd hesitate to say easy
STL - similar to Milwaukee, if one of Cubs/Cards dominates other they'll have an easy sched

I'd say it's probable one of CHC or STL outplays the Nats by 3+ games down the stretch, as well as ARI. but ARI will be too far out and the CHC/STL team that does that will win the division. So that means the Nats look pretty good for that WC vs either PHI, the CHC/STL survivor, or a not dead ARI. 

Team by team - here's what I'd say

NYM - very likely to fade out of the picture over next month but if somehow, on the off chance they don't they could be dangerous at the end. But again - most likely to fade. Nats could really finish them off Labor Day if things go like I think.

ARI - If they can put together two good weeks here and stay in the 4 games out range, they can make a serious run. They'll likely drop too far and fall a couple games short but I wouldn't necessarily dismiss them right now.

MIL - Probably will agonizingly slowly fall further and further out of the picutre, with a brief reprieve at the start of September that gives them false hope. 

PHI - They will continue to be a thorn in the Nats side. They have the easiest schedule in front of them for the next couple weeks which means they are unlikely to fade away regardless of what you think of them. Then if they start to slip they have that 5 game set versus the Nats at the end of the year. The good news/bad news is that this will likely come down to how the Nats and Phillies play each other.

CHC - They'll likely be neck and neck with the Cards the rest of the way and eek out a small lead by the time we get to the final 10 games when they play each other 7 times. If they can keep it 3-4 or better they probably make it

STL - basically same as Cubs but probably a game behind entering that last 10 games.

We're in unprecedented territory here. Unless the Nats just tank - and I'm talking like a 1-9, 0-10 type swing, we're getting important games throughout September.** Stretching the definition you had important games in early September in 2014 and 2015 but they were of the "keep a season alive" type. The Nats killed the Braves in 2014 and died themselves in 2015 both before Sept 10th.  It's hard to see the Nats being in that position again this year.

This is fun! And because the Nats are leading and not chasing, a little less anxiety causing for you guys I bet so you can enjoy it a little more. At least I hope.***

*the NL East? The Braves are currently 71-50 so for the Nats to get within a series of the Braves you are looking for them to go 7-8 or so. Not impossible but with 9 games vs MIA, COL, TOR, and CHW in there... I don't see it. It's most likely the Nats remain around 4-6 games out the rest of the year. But H2Hs are there to change that. 

**And if they go 9-1 or 10-0? Then they have important games against the Braves. You can work out a scenario here where the Nats have a boring Sept. Basically they and the Braves both go like 16-4 in the next 20 games. Nats have a big lead in the WC but can't catch the Braves for the East. But who expects that?

***and remember - I'm very likely to be completely wrong on at least one team here - possibly two. Which ones and in which directions? Go ahead and guess


Treaples69 said...

A couple of things. I think reds are tougher out than what we just did to them. If you catch bauer castillo and gray in a series (cardinals about to have two of them in a row) then they can easily take games from cards and cubs or other teams down the stretch. Going off that I think the team you are overestimating here is the Cardinals. There offense stinks and other than flaherty have not gotten much production from other starters since a dream start to the season. However, would love for them to be 2nd wild card rather than have to deal with degrom in a one game playoff

Anonymous said...

"we can argue if Philly is any good or not (maybe tomorrow), but we can't argue that they are not in it. They are."

This is true, but projecting their record going forward based on matchups requires comparing them to other teams, which requires assessing whether they are any good, at least relative to those teams. And you continue to ignore the evidence (I'm looking forward to the post tomorrow where you either change your mind or twist the evidence to show something it doesn't). You have the Phillies going 11-4 against CHC, SDP, @BOS, @MIA, PIT, NYM. This is, quite frankly, batshit insane.

The Phillies run differential is -21 and their BaseRuns is -59. Here are the same numbers for the other teams they play: CHC (+65, +68); SDP (-37, -17); BOS (+64, -5); MIA (-141, -135); PIT (-92, -81); NYM (8, 0). They are evenly matched with SDP, clearly worse than CHC, BOS and NYM, and clearly better than MIA and PIT. So you'd expect them to split SDP, lose the series with BOS and NYM, and win the series with MIA and PIT. Using the following rules - no sweeps, if a three-game series is to be split it goes to the home team - you'd expect them to go: 0-1 vs. CHC; 2-1 vs. SDP; 1-1 vs BOS; 2-1 vs. MIA; 2-1 vs. PIT; and 1-2 vs. NYM. This is 8-7, not 11-4. You need them to sweep PIT and/or MIA and not get swept (very possible!) by BOS, not lose the series (very possible!) to SDP to get those extra three wins. Why on earth do you think that will happen?

Sailor Peg said...

I might be getting ahead of tomorrow's conversation, but I too think 11-4 for the Phils is a wee bit optimistic. I'm hoping they ship up to Boston and lose their legs. That ship sinks in Miami.

Mr. T said...

Yeah I'm having a hard time seeing the Phillies going 11-4 on that stretch. I guess if they split with Boston, and take 2 of 3 from SD, PIT, and NYM and sweep the Marlins they'd get there, but ...I dunno, man. I guess we'll see.

G Cracka X said...

In an otherwise excellent and very useful post, I fully admit to being swayed by the commenters. I'm supportive of the opinion that 11-4 for PHI is unlikely (say, less than 25% chance). For example, per 538, the Cubs are a slight favorite today. The Phillies are favored in the SDP series, but that is likely a 2-1 to PHI. And then Philly is at 41% and 40% odds in their two games against the Sox. Probably a split, but more like that BOS wins both than PHI wins both.

Anonymous said...

It's certainly possible for the Phillies to go 11-4 during this stretch, but there's absolutely no reason whatsoever to EXPECT them to do it. 9-6 or 8-7 seem much more likely. I also think 7-8 or 6-9 is each more likely than 11-4.

PotomacFan said...

I don't think the Nats will go 10 - 5. They could easily lose the series to Milwaukee, or more likely at the Cubs. Both MIL and CHC are fighting for the division title, so they'll be going full tilt. The Marlins are not terrible. The Pirates are not terrible. The Orioles are terrible -- but they split with the Nats the last time they played (during the Nats hot streak). So, I see 8 - 7, or even 7 -8. That's not the end of the world, but it will make September that much tougher. Part of my concern is that I don't see both Fedde and Ross continuing at All-Star levels, Max will take a while to ramp up, and Stras has not been good in August (although, of course, he was amazing in July).

PotomacFan said...

One more thought: Fedde and Ross at 5 - 0 in their last 5 starts is obviously not sustainable. But they were 5 - 0, and so, in effect, the Nats did not lose any games that Max would have ordinarily started.

Johnny Callison said...

Add me to those that think Philly is likely to go somewhere between 7-8 and 9-6 and not much better. I know they have some good players, but they just lost Arrieta and their BP is just okay. Maybe they find some luck to replace Arrieta, but I doubt it. Harper seems hot right now, so there's that. I like the Nats chances, and it's not surprising that the Mets were hot but have now may be regressing (what's impressive about the Nats is they didn't regress that much after their run AND their run was longer). STL, MIL, and CHC are the three I think bear watching. Wasn't Yelich hurt during MIL's recent downturn? But he's back, and they can score, and our BP still seems vulnerable to a team like them. We shall see.

It's more fun than it has been in a while, and I think this is the first team in the Nats' contending years that I would say "found itself" in-season, developed character, and resliency, and heaven forbid, became fun for the fans and amazingly themselves. If Max is back to regular Max, I think the Nats will take one of the WCs.

DezoPenguin said...

Add me to the list of people who don't see an 11-4 Phillies run (their last two wins against the Cubs notwithstanding) coming.

@PotomacFan: You kind of lost me at "the Marlins aren't terrible." They're the worst team in the entire National League. They have a .370 winning percentage and a -141 run differential and no offense to speak of. Yeah, they're not borders-on-historically-bad like the Tigers and Orioles, but they're pretty darned awful, at best the 27th out of 30 teams in all of baseball. In a year where there's been parity throughout the non-Dodgers NL, the Marlins have been bad from wire to wire. The Pirates have been equally awful these past two months, though yeah, on a true-talent basis I'd only call them "bad" instead of "horrid." The risk's there, but I see something like 9-6: three losses against the Brewers+Cubs, one to the Mets, one to the Pirates, one to the Orioles and Marlins combined. Something worse than that looks like a really outlier scenario fueled by heavy failure by Ross and Fedde and/or the injury bug coming to call.

Cautiously Pessimistic said...

I'd say 9-6 is the best the Nats will do without the bullpen getting hot. The offense is hitting about as well as it can, but late the in the game the Nats continuously allow 3-4 runs. Even with the Nats averaging over 5 runs/game the last couple weeks, that means your starter needs to be impeccable every game.

SM said...

Merely peccable is enough.

Anonymous said...

So... do I root for the Braves to run through the Mets and Phillies, or do I want them to knock them off so we have a shot at the division? I'm very confused.

Sammy Kent said...

No confusion here. I'm rooting for the Nationals and everybody that plays the Braves, including the Mets and Phillies. I want the division title. Despite the ineptitude of the manager and batting coach I have more hope in the Nationals catching the Braves and taking the East than I do in the Nationals actually winning a one game wild card playoff. But we have to win two out of the three remaining against the Mets and six of the seven remaining against Atlanta. It's that simple. Whatever wiggle room there ever was is gone.

Sammy Kent said...

Oh, and is there any way we can give Front Row Amy the same front row seats she has in Milwaukee for the Brewers series????? Lerners???????

Harper said...

Seems almost unanimous you guys think I way overshot on Philly. But 10-4 now! And really 9-5 and I’m not feeling like I messed up.

Early leader in clubhouse is Treaples given the Cards loss.

Johnny Callison said...

Bryce Harper is hot right now, so that could potentially change the calculations for the next two weeks if this is one of his carry-the-team kind of streaks. We'll see. Still think the Phils are not that good, but if he's on fire, that may change things for a while. But I still don't think they have enough to make it to the finish line.

And since they don't have enough...just read an article speculating the Phillies might get Rendon to improve their team for 2020. Losing Rendon to Philly would hurt me more than losing Harper ever did. But that's next year's problem.

Still thinking WC and feeling good about the Nats' chances.

G Cracka X said...

Phillies start with a walk off......can they get 10 more in the next 14?

JWLumley said...

Nats are only 4 back of the Braves in the loss column, so I think it's doable, but still a tall task. I'd say something like a 1 in 4 or 1 in 5 chance they catch the Braves.

coolsny said...

Nats catching the Braves is a 1 in 10 chance.

BTW Phillies sweeping Chicago Cubs...I rest my case they are in no way a "gimme series." I ain't even mad at Bryce. When he's good he's good:

.917 OPS over past month
.1063 OPS past two weeks
.1464 OPS past 6 games!!!

He is hitting the ball hard when he makes contact but man does Bryce strike out a LOT.

Also you know who else is contributing big time to the Phils right now? Roman Quinn lol. Meanwhile Rhys Hoskins has disappeared. Gone. Poof.

Anonymous said...

@coolsny the Cubs have a similar win / loss record on the road as the Marlins and the Orioles... which makes it really depressing they beat us in DC. But still, I think you're crediting the wrong team.

BxJaycobb said...

Bryce is going on one of his crazy hot streaks where he hits 12 bombs in 3 weeks. Let’s just hope it ends sooner rather than later.

Sammy Kent said...

We ought to just walk his arse every time he comes up like Davey's old boss did. Worked then. Got under his skin like a mess of chiggers.

PotomacFan said...

Sure, but (1) this WAS against Davey's old boss and (2) the bases were loaded, CHC had a two-run lead, so a walk would have reduced the lead to one run and put the tying run on third and the winning run on second. Even Joe Maddon wasn't going to walk Bryce in that situation.

ssln said...

I have to love you Harper as well as all the posters on this board. It is why I keep coming back for more. About 10 days ago I congratulated you on losing four games in a row. Everyone came to your defense and said Harper didn't actually predicted the outcome of those games. If you had been predicting the outcome of those games, then you would have gotten the next two correct. I noted that in a post but said, fortunately, I didn't have to note that you had broken your losing streak because the board was in agreement that you hadn't made any prediction. It was great that I got to note your failure but didn't have to note your success, courtesy of the assembled masses who came to your rescue at the exact wrong moment. Great timing, folks.
Before the Mets series you said you can't predict baseball. Then you went on to say you thought. the Nats would win the series 2-1.
Now you have done a thought piece, since no one thinks you are predicting any thing unless you get it right. Anyway, I operate under the theory if it walks like a duck, and quack likes a duck, then it is probably a duck. Looks like a prediction to me, so it is only fair to tell you I think you have made a prediction. Everyone else in the community can treat the way they wish. It will be interesting to see how your non prediction turns out.

ssln said...

Now I have had time to read the comments and am really mystified by the assembled masses. You all told me that Harper doesn't actually predict any thing but all of you are reacting like this article is predicting something. Folks, remember Harper isn't predicting any thing according to you guys. He suckered you into all that discussion on the Phanatics because he really isn't predicting an 11-4 record BECAUSE HE DOESN'T MAKE PREDICTIONS. I repeat those were NOT PREDICTIONS ON HIS PART. If you want I can go back and quote all of you who said Harper doesn't make predictions.
That is the problem in the community--trying to keep a common theme from week to week, or maybe even day to day.

Anonymous said...


Harper said...

ssln - I think you are misreading the room. We're having a barroom discussion and you are looking for a vegas insider newsletter. What is the difference between a guess and a prediction? I'd say conviction and stakes. I have no conviction. I hope that's obvious by admitting I'm going to be wrong on something I said here. There are no stakes. If I'm right, great! If I'm wrong, too bad! This site goes no further than "Here's what I think - what do you think?" You can get on board with that. Or don't! Keep complaining in the comments. Whatever makes you happy.

PotomacFan said...

@Harper: excellent response. You make "predictions" to initiate a discussion. That's what this message board is all about.

@ssln: you criticized Harper's "predictions," but did you provide your own predictions?

Anonymous said...

Well, we stole one last night. I'll take it.

ssln said...

Hey Harper

Quite frankly I knew that. If you read my first post, "I said, "now you have done a thought piece". Here is a thought. Maybe everyone should just lighten up here when I do a post. When you lost four in a row in the AZ & SF series, I was just giving you a little friendly ribbing. Everyone came to your defense like I was accusing you of a crime.
So, in effect, the community established the no prediction policy, not me. I know exactly what I'm writing but when I utilize sarcasm and hyperbole, it is lost on the crowd.
You want an example of a guy who missed hyperbole. You did some piece on something. Everyone was sell off everything mode. Everyone ignored your topic and talked about firing Davey,firing Rizzo, trading Rendon, Stras and Max. I made the comment that everyone had ignored your post and gone off on some other topic. I then suggested that maybe it was time to fire the moderator also while we were getting rid of everyone.
There were 20 some odd response to your post at that moment. Old PBN responded to my post by telling me there were actually two responses that did respond to your topic. He missed the whole point that I was engaging in hyperbole to kind of make fun of the group that was in full catatonic melt down at the time.
I suggest to Old PBN that he stop responding to my posts because he didn't get what I was writing about.
Bro, thanks for the taking the time to respond to my post. It shows the brotherly love you always had when we were young and growing up together. I remember those days well.

ssln said...

To the community

If you want a good laugh, go back and read the posts THAT YOU WROTE in late May. They are classics. It is never too late to take ownership of what you wrote back then. Someone once said, he thought Rizzo read this blog. Interesting thought.

ssln said...

Potomac Fan

Thanks for responding to my post. You seem to have misinterpreted my post. I didn't criticize Harper's "predictions." On the contrary, I think his original predictions/opinions in the post were spot on. I fully endorse them. It should be interesting to check back in a couple of weeks to see how his predictions, which are not predictions, even though they look like predictions, turn out.

Anonymous said...

@ ssln: This is likely a fool's errand, but let me try to clarify for you what everyone else on this board seems to understand already.

When Harper previews a series game by game and says, "Edge to team X", he isn't necessarily saying "I predict Team X will win this game." He's saying "There's a slightly higher probability that team X wins this game than team Y".

This post IS predicting records team by team through Labor Day. That's pretty clear. If you want to come back in a couple weeks and give him some "friendly ribbing" by nitpicking every deviation between his predictions and the actual results (while offering no predictions of your own), have at it.

No one perceives anything you write as "friendly" or humorous, because you've established a reputation as a d-bag with literally every piece of drivel you've ever posted on here. Maybe you should take a different approach and post a unique thought of your own about the team rather than critiquing whatever was written months ago (news alert: no one cares).

Mr. T said...

Does Dave Martinez not know that Matt Grace sucks? Does he think that the fact that Grace cannot get major league hitters out and that they DESTROY THE BALL every time is just bad luck? I do not understand.

Ole PBN said...

What do we all think about Rodney, Hudson or Strickland closing games out from now on? Nothing against Doolittle personally, but his 90-mph predictable fastball is getting parked in bleachers all over the field. Maybe a mythical DL stint (or a long nap) will do him some good. The guy is burnt out. He helped us when the pen was imploding, now he’s doing the imploding by himself.

Anonymous said...

This game 8/17-18/2019 is annoying to watch. I HATE this manager and almost want the Nats to lose every game so he gets fired...

Chaos56 said...

Nope, this one is not on the manager or the bullpen.

Nor is it on Sanchez.

C'mon, bases loaded and NOBODY OUT in the bottom of the 9th with your #1, #2, and #3 hitters up? I don't care how good Hader is, you have to get a hit, or get hit, or hit a fly ball or SOMETHING. Jeez. Okay, I guess that makes up for stealing game 1 with only 3 hits. Today should be an interesting game........

PotomacFan said...

@Chaos56: I see your point, but Hader is an All-Star for a reason: he has nasty stuff. I blame the manager. Hudson was warmed up and should have pitched the 8th (or 9th). Rodney could handle whatever inning Hudson didn't pitch. But was totally inexcusable was leaving in Doo when it was CLEAR that he had nothing. Okay, so Yelich hits an opposite field homerun. But then a line drive into the gap. Then another home run. Doo is throwing 92 to start, then 90, and throwing the ball down the middle. And he's a fly ball pitcher on a very warm night when everything is flying out of the park. Davey has got to take him out no later than when the game was tied. So now Davey has to use Hudson and everyone else in the bullpen. Doo needs a long rest, and shouldn't pitch in back to back games unless absolutely necessary. The guy is gassed. He was terrific for us in the first half of the year when the rest of the bullpen was a disaster. Now that we have multiple guys who can close a game, let's use them.

Sammy Kent said...

Doo needs some reverse voo-doo.

@Anonymous, thank you for speaking clearly and truthfully to ssln.

@Chaos56 and Potomac Fan, you are both right. There's plenty of blame to go around. Davey is a lightweight manager at best, but the top of the lineup ought to be able to put a ball in the outfield when there's nobody out and bases loaded in a tie game in the bottom of the ninth. I mean, if you can't do it then, why the heck are you batting in the top three spots? This is why you're at those spots in the order to start with. Instead of being heroes in the ultimate spot, Turner, Eaton, and Rendon went full bore A-Rod. Pitiful.

What still puzzles me is if you're down to using pitchers as pinch-hitters, why not Stras? The man has been killing it lately.

DezoPenguin said...

Doolittle to the 10-day IL with knee tendinitis, McGowin up. So we're definitely getting a new closer for a while. Given his genuine problems later, I wonder if there's a legitimate problem he's been pitching through instead of just a bad case of complete exhaustion.

Damn, that game was painful, though.

Ole PBN said...

Called it! There’s your mythical IL stint for Doolittle. Ready 5 different articles and nothing about how they diagnosed his knee to be tendinitis, how or when he felt the discomfort, and what X-rays revealed on his knee. I know it happens all the time, but why do they have to make it so blatantly obvious that nothing is wrong with him? His knee is completely fine, he just sucks right now.

Fine with the move. Get someone in here who can close out a game. Doo.... we’ll see you when you “knee feels better.”

Anonymous said...

If a couple people didn't get your humor, maybe its their fault. If the whole blog community didn't get your humor, maybe that's on you? Which person are you ssln?

ssln said...

Who was talking about humor? Maybe you don't get it. Read my post again until you do.

Anagramsci said...

I have to hand it to you, SSLN - it's not easy to make hundreds of posts without ever coming close to sounding like a normal person.

ssln said...

To be honest, I have to work at not sounding like a normal person. It doesn't come naturally.

G Cracka X said...

Nats go 5-1 this week, Doo now gets some much needed rest, Scherzer probable for Thursday. Sure they coulda won Saturday's game, but they certainly could have lost Friday. All-in-all, they're in a decent spot. Bummed a bit that the Dodgers couldn't win at least 2 vs. ATL, but nothing you can do about that.

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