Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Nats at the Halfway point: amazingly, they’re at .500


Can Zimmerman be effective upon his return? Photo team official

Can Zimmerman be effective upon his return? Photo team official

Two arbitrary (well, not really arbitrary) endpoints for the Nats season so far:

  • Nats from opening day to the end of the 4-game sweep in NY on 5/23/19: 19-31
  • Nats from that series  until Friday 6/28/19 (the halfway point exactly on the season: 22-9

I wrote the team off in this space at the end of May.  I’m honestly amazed the same team that went 19-31 suddenly was capable of going 22-9.  Did I speak too soon?  Maybe.  Fangraphs has drastically improved their playoff oddsprojections for this team, from the 20% range back then to nearly 60% now.  Primarily this seems to be due to their simultaneously being bearish on the primary wild card competitors Philly, Colorado and Milwaukee.

Cynic’s view: they’ve gotten healthy thanks to lots of games against awful teams (Miami, Detroit) and mediocre-to-bad teams (Chicago WS, Cincinnati).  They also swept a divisional rival in a funk (Philly) and treaded water against  San Diego and Arizona.  Their toughest games in this entire stretch were 5 against Atlanta (going 3-2), so you have to acknowledge that.

They also get 6 straight games this week against the dregs of the league, and may very well go 5-1 or 6-0 in those games.   Which will really  make their first half suddenly look amazing.

The question is this: even if this team goes 6-0 and gets to the all star break at 48-41 … likely in the lead for or close to the WC lead … we need to remember to withhold judgement until the end of July.  Why?  Because this Nats season is hinging on the brutal 3-city post-all star trip they will be playing:

  • 3 in Philly
  • 2 in Baltimore
  • 4 in Atlanta.
  • 4 home to Colorado
  • 3 home to LA
  • 3 home to Atlanta

Those are some difficult series.   Yes Philly has been struggling but they’re still a division rival that just swept 4 games from the Mets.   Yes the Orioles are in last place, but they’re still an AL team that we’ve historically struggled to beat in interleague play year over year.  And then the big one: 4 straight in Atlanta.  That series takes us to basically the trade deadline.   After that the team returns home … for three of the toughest opponents they’ll face all year, and 10 games that they’ll be lucky to go .500 in.

Here’s my concern; I am skeptical the team can keep this pace up, for obvious reasons.  I’m also worried about them getting shellacked once they play good teams.  What happens if this team gets waxed in early August and is suddenly back below .500, after the trade deadline has passed?  An opportunity will be lost to flip our trade-able assets for prospects, with little chance of getting to the post season.

Of course … its worth saying that even if the team “only” gets a Wild Card … i like our odds throwing Max Scherzer in a winner-take-all game, even if it makes it that much harder to win the divisional series.

So what does the group think?  Are you back on the bandwagon now?  We’ve never seen this team go through so much turmoil in a season.

Written by Todd Boss

July 2nd, 2019 at 12:54 pm

Posted in Nats in General

2 Responses to 'Nats at the Halfway point: amazingly, they’re at .500'

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  1. Boz has written many times over the last several summers that the Nats have never really been in a real pennant race. They’ve either won going away or crumbled and not put up much of a fight in the end. Time will tell whether they can make it a real fight this year.

    No, the Nats won’t be able to maintain their recent winning percentage, but they had better continue to make hay up to the AS break. I believe in the rotation and I believe in the production of the everyday lineup. The bullpen . . . seems to be put together with duct tape, but it generally has been better. I can’t see them making a dramatic trade to improve it, though, as I think they’re committed to staying under the tax line.

    Frankly, I haven’t a clue which direction they’ll go. If they stay hot, I don’t think the Braves are uncatchable, as I don’t particularly believe in their rotation or their ‘pen. I think the Phils are in real trouble (haha, good riddance), and Mets are about to implode.

    There are a ton of teams in the NL wild card race, and of course the wild card game is a crap-shoot, even with Max on the mound. That’s obviously the more likely scenario for the Nats at this point, though. They’d just have to hope that the brittle Dodger rotation isn’t at full strength by that time.

    But who knows? Maybe this is finally a tougher team, one that will relish the pennant fight and would rise to the underdog occasion in the NLDS.


    2 Jul 19 at 3:00 pm

  2. After Tuesday’s win, the Nats are only six games behind the Braves — only five in the loss column — and only a single game out of a wild-card spot.


    3 Jul 19 at 7:24 am

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