Nationals Baseball: A quick Cubs/Cardinals primer

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

A quick Cubs/Cardinals primer

The Cubs and Cardinals play eachother 7 times down the stretch. Normally that would only matter if you get annoyed by second-rate rivalries touted as something more important because people in the Midwest feel left out. But this year the Nats are going to be profoundly affected by how these games turn.

Let's take 3 scenarios:

The Cubs run rampant (6-1/7-0). This would give the Cubs 88-89 wins to start before contemplating the other 4 in their schedule remaining.  A good guess would put the Cubs then at about 91 wins for the season. The Nats, assuming a mere 6-6 to finish the year, would fall in at 89 wins, behind the Cubs here. But the Cardinals would have only 84-85 wins as their base here, and would only be able to match the Nats with a great run outside the Cubs game. 

The Cardinals run rampant. This would give the Cardinals 90-91 wins as a base. A good guess would put them at about 93 wins for the season. The Nats still fall in at 89 wins, now well behind the Cardinals. But the Cubs would have only 82-83 wins and the Nats would be virtually ensured of having a better playoff position than the Cubs.

The Cubs / Cardinals games break to maximize both teams wins. Let's say they keep their distance of two games apart after today.  That means 4-3 or 5-2 Cubs would be the splits that would keep them closest (either +1 Cards or +1 Cubs).  That puts both around 86-87 wins and likely around 89 wins, right about where the Nats would be expected to finish.

Now we haven't mentioned the Wild Card which is the Brewers, which is important because without them this doesn't matter too much. The team that comes out on top of Cubs Cardinals wins the division and does nothing to keep the Nats out of the Wild Card. The Nats only miss the WC if all three finish ahead of the Nats*. So while these H2H games make it hard for the Nats to end up ahead of both teams - that doesn't matter. They only need to outpace one.

So what should the Nats want.Let's say the Brewers end up at 89 wins here - a 7-4 finish against a weak schedule.

Scenario three is the worst for the Nats putting three central teams around 89 wins. While there's an outside chance that it works for the Nats if they can manage to get to 90 wins there's real potential for all three to squeak by the Nats. (Four way tie consideration is fun but confusing so let's leave that out for right now. In general it probably means two playoff games to get into WC game for Nats though)

(See the scnearios here)

Scenario one is the next worse. The Cubs take the Central and the Cardinals have to chase down the Nats with their remaining games. If the Nats get to 89 wins they can't really be passed by the Cardinals but this sets up a three way tie for the Nats - again confusing but is more likely NOT to work out for the Nats than the four way tie above since the Nats only beat the Cubs in the regular season. (Cards hold a 4-2 lead currently)

Scenario two is probably best for the Nats. The Cubs can't catch a Nats team doing what they should and the Nats simply line-up to play the Brewers in the Wild Card game.

Still what's best for the Nats is they win tonight (makes it harder for the Cards to tie in either scenario one or three) and keep winning enough that it doesn't matter. But for now, since it won't be clear if the Nats are doing that until next week - root for the Cardinals over the Cubs.

*Phillies/Mets fans - come at me if you still matter come Monday. 


Treaples69 said...

Zuck wrote today that the magic number is 90 wins. We will be favored in every remaining game (depending on whether scherzer nola matchup on tuesday) so a 55% winning percentage should be expected for remainder of year. Hopefully the last weekend doesnt matter and we can choose between scherzer and stras

Sammy Kent said...

Just win, Baby. What the Nats need to do is quit fiddledicking around and win these last four series starting tonight and let the Cubs, Cards, and Brewers fight it out for the other two spots. Better yet, win every game left. If we do that, we cannot be caught no matter what. It's simple, really. Just win your next game. All you gotta do.

cass said...

Guessing the Nats won't win tonight since they're game starts at 1pm! Freak rainstorms have happened before, though!

(I only say this so you don't miss it - I've done that before.)

Johnny Callison said...

I was also thinking that the scenario that best helps the Nats is Cards taking at least 5 out of 7 from Cubs, so I'm on board with rooting for the Cards (AFTER tonight). A seven game sweep by the Cards would be awesome. The Cubs are pretty good at home, so that's in their favor this weekend. They are not great on the road, so if the Nats need help on the last weekend, there's your help.

If the bats wake up, the Nats probably go at least 7-5. The return of some bad BP work has coincided with an offensive downturn (but did we really expect them to keep up their 7 runs per game pace from August? That was fun to watch, though.). It's crazy that they are averaging 5 runs per game in September but are under .500 for the month. Nats are 7-9 this month with exactly 79 runs scored and 79 given up.

Nats are 4-4 since the first ATL series, and 4-3 last seven improving...I think.

Max David said...

They did what they had to at least 1 game in St. Louis, and the win gave us a buffer for a game in Miami. As long as they don't lose 2+ in Miami this week was a success and just go no worse than 4-4 next week, and I think the only team that has a chance at surpassing 89 wins is the Brewers. I see the Cubs/Cards results something like 2-2 in Chicago and than 2-1 Cards in St. Louis, so let's say "worst case scenario" the Cards and Cubs win every other game, including the Cards Wednesday game against the Nats, that leaves the Cards at 92 wins, the Cubs at 89 wins, and let's say the Brewers finish 7-4 to get to 89 wins. 89 wins should be a cutoff for no worse than a tiebreaker game under the worst case scenario, 90 should get them a Wildcard, so get that 2nd win in St. Louis, sweep the Marlins, go 5-3 against the Phillies and Indians, etc.

Harper said...

cass - when everyone on Twitter starts talking about the game, dumb me would catch on.

All - If the Nats can win tonight and sweep the Marlins and the Cards sweep the Cubs. The Nats go into Monday with like a magic playoff number of 2. Basically as long as the Nats win more than one or the Cubs lose more than one the Nats are in. Sure a 4 game Cards sweep is a lot to ask for but the Cubs have come up empty in big series before (see their last series against the Nats)

Max said...

Do we think we need 91 for HFA in the WC game? Or does 90 get it done. Brewers scare me as far as that goes. They are on a tear and have a really weak schedule.

G Cracka X said...

I agree with Max D. They avoided the sweep in STL, so today is not MUST WIN OR ELSE!!!!

Go win at least 2 in MIA, and then do no worse than 4-4 in the last week. Not a guarantee, but that probably at least gets 'em to G163, if not better.

JWLumley said...

What really matters is whether or not Scherzer can get right. If Scherzer's not right, playoff(s) don't really matter. The bullpen is terrible, so the Nats will need great starting pitching to advance at all. Throw in some DM strategory (I really like the term fiddledicking) and the Nats offense and starting pitching better be at peak efficiency for them to go anywhere.

As a long suffering Nats fan, I'd almost rather they miss the playoffs then watch them choke in the playoffs once again.

Mr. T said...

Sammy, if you want to blame a coach for the Nats failures, may I formally nominate Bob Sendley? How many runners has he gotten thrown out at the plate since 2014? The fact that he even still has a job after he sent Werth in that play in Game 5 of the 2018 NLDS boggles the mind. But here he is again in a crucial game in September, sending a runner who gets thrown out by 20 feet with the top of the order due up.

Max David said...

I'm not sure if it's something someone mentioned on here or another place, but just winning the Wildcard game would be a huge burdon off their backs, and who knows maybe it starts something bigger. Of course, they could easily lose and the narrative continues to be "DC chokes in the playoffs again" but I'd prefer to not look at that way. Really, the only TWO teams I DO NOT want to face in the Wildcard game (and it's looking more and more likely we won't have to see them) are the Cardinals and the Mets. I will take my chances on any other team.
Cubs: They are horrendous on the road. Won the season series and swept them at Wrigley.
Brewers: They are hot, but they are playing the worst teams in the National League. Their best player won't be playing, their starting pitchers won't go very far in the game, Josh Hader is allowing home runs like they are going out of style, and the bullpen isn't as lock down, lights out as it was at this time last year.
Phillies: Gabe Kapler is probably a worse in game manager than Martinez is, and their bullpen isn't much than the Nats.

The only thing I worry about is the Cards/Cubs cannibalizing each other to a virtual 4-3 split which allows the Brewers to sneak in the back door against a High school JV schedule and win the division and THAN we'll be matched up against the Cards and to me that is definitely no Bueno :(

Ric said...

Wait! We are now arguing our chances in a wild card game against the Mets or Phillies?

JWLumley said...

Playoffs don't matter, this team isn't going anywhere. They wilt against good teams. Scherzer isn't really back. I hope they move on from Rizzo and do a mini-rebuild this year.

JWLumley said...

I never thought I'd be this happy for football and hockey to get started. Rizzo for Dombrowski? I'd trade Rizzo for a bag of balls. He has thoroughly wasted the talent he's been gifted by totally refusing to build anything resembling a good bullpen over the last decade. He has completely failed at the US draft and has mostly failed in Free Agency. The Nats best free agent signing was done by the Lerners. In baseball teams with top 5 payrolls should be better than this.

PotomacFan said...

Matt Wieters? I think that may have been the worst pitch I've ever seen Max throw.

JWLumley said...

@PotomacFan Scherzer was only still in there because their bullpen is so bad. 105 pitches while working your way back from injury? Come'on, any other team without the worst bullpen in baseball is going to the pen right there.

Sammy Kent said...

@Mr T. Sure, fire Henley too. His first couple of years out there he was appropriately much more aggressive than Trent Jewett, who seemed to never send anybody unless they could have crawled home. Lately, though, he's made way too many decisions to send guys that had no chance to score.

Can't point too many fingers today, though, except for the Robles at the plate thing. Today was one of those **** happens games. When a 3rd out fly ball gets lost in the sun and then Matt Friggin Weiters of all people jacks one, you know it ain't your day/week/month/season. Fowler robbed Cabrera of a three run dinger that might have been a HUGE difference maker. Just gotta tip your hat on that one.

TobiasCatsup said...

Well, there goes my productivity the rest of the day.

Any word on Kurt? Team has gone 5-5 without him, wondering if getting him back sometime during that Phillies series will spark this dead lineup. I mean sheesh, averaging less than 3 runs a game in the last six. Yeah, Max hasn't been MAX, but I don't care who you have on the mound, you aren't winning the WC game with 2 runs!

Off day tomorrow. Probably good for my health.

Max David said...

......……...And just like that, the Cubs and Brewers both lose, so despite losing 2 of 3 to the Cards they only lost a game to the Brewers and didn't lose any games to the Cubs. It's OK to step back from the ledge! Win the damn series in Florida!!!!!!!!!!!!!

blovy8 said...

Thanks Max. I am really having a problem enjoying this stretch of games. Last game I went to, they put up the “make noise” sign and I said, “do they want louder groans?”

SuburbanSteve said...

Thank you Cincinnati and San Diego...we owe you one.

G Cracka X said...

Itttttttss alright, 'cause they're saved by the Reds! (and Padres!)

On the WC game, know that if the Nats make it, anything can happen. Its the playoffs, where small sample sizes reign. Scherz can pitch a complete game shutout. Or he can give up 4 runs in one inning where a batter accidentally hits the catcher in the back of the head, but the umps miss the call..... The bullpen can be lights out....or not! Same with the bats. Remember MAT hitting a grand slam in CHI off Wade Davis, then hitting a HR in G5?

Nats just need to get there in one piece, and then hope to get hot in the playoffs.

G Cracka X said...

Interesting nugget from Boz:

"Since the All-Star Game, Daniel Hudson, Fernando Rodney, Wander Suero, Tanner Rainey and Hunter Strickland have a 3.62 ERA in 112 innings for the Nationals. Only Cleveland (3.58) has a lower bullpen ERA for the year. And 4.49 is now MLB average."