Since Frank kicked off “feel good about the Nationals week,” I figured I would keep the good times rolling. While he talked about how the Nationals are in prime position to lock up the NL East and a playoff spot, I’m just here to make to tell you the Nationals are a good team. Period.
Nationals’ fans seem geared to worry even though the team is 64-44 at the moment, so let’s toss the actual records out the window. Studies have shown that current record isn’t the most accurate predictor of future record anyways. One tool available to measure performance that is a better predictor of future performance is the so called Pythagorean Record. Bill James created the formula based on the simple idea that it is better to score more runs than your opponents. He was really smart, if you didn’t know.
The math resembles the Pythagorean formula you have probably forgotten from high school, but the output is the win-loss record a team has “earned” based on the total runs allowed versus total runs scored on the year. By this calculation, the Nationals are actually 5 games under their expected record and are in fact more of a 69-39 caliber team. That’s the third “unluckiest” record in baseball behind the Cubs and Rays who both have records 6 games worse than calculated. On the other end of the spectrum is another World Series hopeful team, the Rangers, who are a whopping 8 games ahead of their Pythagorean record. Fans in Texas may have a reason to worry about their first place team, but people in DC don’t.
For those of you not convinced, FanGraphs takes this concept a step further. Perhaps, the skeptics amongst you might say, the Nationals have a large positive run differential because they got lucky with a few well timed hits with the bases loaded. Well, FanGraphs developed the concept of BaseRuns to test this theory. BaseRuns takes into account a team’s core statistics to calculate the runs a team “should have” allowed and “should have” scored instead of actual runs scored and allowed. Ideally, this strips the luck or timing out of a team’s offense and defense to come up with a true talent level of a team. By this measurement, the Nationals are again an unlucky team, four wins below expectations. No matter how you break it down, the Nationals have not been a lucky team. In fact, they have probably been unlucky.
That’s all well and good, but I know a section of Nats Twitter is not impressed. DC has seen good regular season teams crater come playoff time where the competition kicks up a notch, and they fully expect it to happen again this year. These people stay up at night sweating over the Nationals’ 1-5 record against the Dodgers with visions of early playoff exits dancing in their heads.
But the Nationals have winning records this year against a host of possible playoff teams: 5-2 versus the Cardinals, 2-2 against the Giants coming into this weekend’s home series, 9-4 (9-4!) versus the Mets, 7-6 versus the Marlins. Sure, the Nats are only 2-5 versus everyone’s World Series pick Cubs, but the Cubs outscored the Nationals by only six runs over those seven games. Seven games in the midst of the Cubs’ hot streak to end all hot streaks, by the way.
Oh, speaking of the Cubs. Guess what their records this season are against some playoff competition: 1-2 versus the Rockies, 2-5 versus the Mets (Mets!), 1-2 versus the Giants, 4-5 versus the Cardinals. In fact, the Cubs have sucked against some pretty mediocre competition: 1-2 versus the Padres, only 3-3 versus the Braves. Winning in baseball isn’t easy, but the Nats have done a good job of it this season.
So yes, the Nationals will lose some games they probably shouldn’t down the stretch. The regular season is a long ways from over and the playoffs are a crap shoot for even the best teams in baseball history. But the Nationals are one of the best teams in baseball this season and that gives them one of the best chance to win it all. So as Frank said, the baseball season moves pretty fast. If you spend too much time worrying about the little things, you just might miss the fun in it. Or something like that.Tags: Nationals, Nats, Washington Nationals
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