WHAT IF!?!?…. The Nats *Couldn’t* Beat the Braves?

With a week left of baseball, here are the standings in the NL East (and number of games each team has left)

WAS  91-64 (7)
ATL    76-79 (7)
NYM   76-80 (6)
MIA     74-81 (7)
PHL    71-85 (6)

Now look: This is a post that I’m writing and posting now. But really its for next May when, inevitably, someone will panic. When, in defense of the National League East crown (and hopefully other trophies and awards) the Washington Nationals lose a series to…some other team…and then people freak out. But please read it now if you like.

At some point in May of 2014 (and every other May) someone (read: a lot of people) remarked on how the Nats “couldn’t beat the Braves” because they were 1-5 in their first six games. No amount of “there are 13 games left against the Braves” or ” there are 100ish games left in the season” would calm these people, or stop them from yelling at me because I didn’t see it their way. Every trope just short of “Games are more important in September” was thrown at me, the biggest of course is that “There was no way the Nats could win the NL East unless they beat the Braves.” As an aside, apparently this was a two team division. in May.

Many of these things, as expected, resolved themselves. The Nats could and did beat the Braves. The Braves were not the only team in the division as they are dangerously close to slipping to third and below .500 for the season. (This, of course, casts into doubt whether the Braves were ever the “team to beat.”)

Anyway, with the complete implosion of Atlanta down the stretch, I decided to put that last unanswered question to the test. Did the Nationals have to beat the Braves (or any individual team) in order to win the NL East?

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Talking Points: Different Weekend, Same Story


Look gang, this week’s talking points…I”m not in a super chipper mood. I know normally I’ve taken on the tone of “hey it’ll all be okay” but I’ve got to admit, this has got me spooked. As such the talking points I’m giving you this week may be a bit more dour than you are used to.

It’s not that they got swept by the Braves, it’s that they got themselves hurt doing it.

  • It’s true. Friday I was engaged in several twitter chains talking about the relative “worth” of a game against the Braves. In my mind, the games are not much more important than against any other NL East team. So with only 6 games done, and 13 to go I wouldn’t say I’m happy about the Nats being 1-5 against the Braves, but I’m not ready to panic yet.
  • Although, I guess while we are on the topic the only reason I have to not panic is the larger, grander scheme of baseball. Things tend to even out, and good teams tend to go in peaks and valleys. So I’m really just sort of betting black here because it keeps coming up red and it just has to come up black sooner or later, right? right? (Translation: The Nats have certainly given me very little reason to believe they can beat Atlanta…but I felt that way about the Nats/Phillies series for years, so it could happen!)
  • No, the real problem is that the Nats added to their walking (or not walking) wounded. Doug Fister has yet to make a start, Scott Hairston pulled a lat and Wilson Ramos is also out a month before the series started.
  • By the start of the game on Sunday Denard Span was put on the 7 day DL as an overly cautious move to protect against concussion, Jayson Werth (who is still playing) pulled his groin, and Ryan Zimmerman broke his thumb getting tagged out on a slide back to second base.
  • The only way I saw the Nats losing was through extensive injury. Go ahead, look through our 2014 player previews. This is how it starts.

There is no good time to miss players, but April is better than September for sure.  Plus, the Nats are in much better shape than last year to deal with injuries.

  • As Citizens of Natstown tweeted above, and most reasonable baseball people agree, the Nats bench this year is much better suited to deal with a month long injuries.
  • The infield depth is much better than the outfield depth, so having to shift guys around there is a little easier. Nate McLouth profiles very well to replace Denard Span in CF (particularly given Denard’s slowish start…again) for the short term.  
  • And yeah, all the games count equally, so missing Zim, Ramos, Span, Fister, etc. is never a good thing. But if you could choose to to get them back in a month and still have most of the season to go, or lose them to injury near the end of the year during a playoff push…well I’ll take this version. The 2012 Nats were successful in large part because they managed to tread water for about 2-3 months while starters recovered from injury. The post-all-star-break Nats were in good shape down the stretch because the team got more talented without having to trade for it.
  • Unfortunately, my mindset is changed. I don’t expect the Nats to go out there and own it for the next month (though I’m happy to be surprised). I’m now in full “tread water” mode. I expect they’ll be keeping pace, rather than setting it, and hopefully pouring it on starting in June or so.
  • Yeah I don’t know what Mike Rizzo is thinking here. I mean you’re the GM, you have to stick up for your guys…but maybe not say it like that.
  • Not that I think the Braves are scouring for bulletin board martial, nor do I believe that is really a “thing,” but I think you can say “we have full confidence in our team” and “We know we can win these games.” Without having to posit you are both “not scared” and are better than the team that has handed your team’s ass to it over the last going on two years.

Nationals101 has it all wrong. James O’Hara was the only voice of reason all weekend during that series. 

  • James is another wonderful writer over at CitsofNatstown. He wrote this on Saturday and you should read it. here are his tweets from when I was indulging in full on panic mode:

  • All of these things are completely true and ought to give Nats fans smarting from an ass-kicking in Atlanta. Take solace in the young man’s wisdom, and follow him on twitter.

The Panic Button: Slumps, Sweeps and Ten Game Stretches (@SCviaDC)


Resident Amateur Mathematician Jared Kobe (@SCviaDC) drops in again to write up another math centric post.  As last time, I’ll be doing some interpreting for you as I see fit in a slightly different color.  This week we’re looking at just how likely really good teams are to lose, even get swept!, during a season.  Nats fans might want to read this. Without further ado…

How likely is it that a team that 60% of the time will be swept in a three game series?

How likely is it that a team that wins 75% of their games will go 4-6 in a 10 game stretch?

How likely is it that a .400 hitter has a 6 for 30 or worse stretch in a season?

These are all the same question. You want to know how likely it is that, given a probability of success, like a team’s winning percentage, how likely is it that you will have a certain number of successes (wins) in a certain number of trials (games).

How Does The Math Work?

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Cliff Notes: Matty Morphin’ Bahn-Mi Meatball Rangers Edition


Cliff Notes is a Weekly-ish post featuring links to some of our favorite stories from other parts of Natstown over the past couple of days.  We want to make sure you’re reading the best of what Natstown has to offer!

The Nats have a new Clint…and it’s a laaaaddy! In all serious though, Lindsey Covert will be taking over the In-Game host duties from Mr. Khoury as his role is reduced.  She was pretty nice to a friend who got on the jumbotron the other day, so she’s cool in my book (via the Sports Bog).

Matt’s Bats makes the list twice today.  First, Matt is making a weekly-ish appearance on Fox 5 it seems, so be sure to be on the look out for him there. Also, he took a page out of our book to explain “What is a Balk.” 

The Nats Archive has finished their Nats Morph Contest using their epic Photoshop skills to combine the faces of some placers to make hybrid mutant players capable of… playing baseball, probably.  Worth gawking at, for sure. (Good work guys!)

This Bahn-Mi Meatball Sub was the best part of the game for Doghouse on Federal Baseball on Sunday.  It’s sad to look at the Atlanta ass kicking again, but a good reminder that even bad baseball should be fun on some level-even if it’s just a sandwich at the park.  (via Federal Baseball)

DC Sports Nexus has a great list of #Rally items from this year and last, including the latest: The Rally Runway!

Review-Preview: Tomahawk Assault and Goin’ Fishin’ Edition

Probably The Best Part Of The Weekend

Probably The Best Part Of The Weekend

Tip your cap fans because there is no two ways about it:  The Nats met the woodshed this weekend courtesy of a very good, very hot, Atlanta Braves team.  There is no dobut which was the better team this weekend, so Nats fans ought to be thankful a season hasn’t come down to a weekend in April.  With any luck, the Braves are playing their best baseball of the year right now and will start to come back down to Earth fairly soon.

The Nats were out hit, out pitched, made errors and were also very seriously out-lucked.  The Braves might have won anyway, but the baseball seemed to have a Braves magnet in it whenever the Nats hit the ball hard.  All of that added up to blowing a 4-1 lead to lose 6-4 in 10 innings, a tough Saturday 3-1 loss and a blowout 9-0 stinker on Sunday.

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Nationals 101 Podcast S2E5: Opening Day Double Switcheroo Holy Cow What Was That?


Season 2 Episode 5

It’s our first podcast of the actual, for reals, 2013 Season!  Opening Day and sweeping the Marlins, putting the Reds series into perspective, what’s a double switch (and why do it?) and what to expect from the White Sox/Braves series.  All that and much, much more with Frank and Susan as we get this party started right!

Sweater Vest Night is coming up!  Get gussied up and come on out!