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Posted at 07:56 AM ET, 06/09/2011

Could the Nationals be .500 through 62 games?


The Nationals stand 27-35 with exactly 100 games to go this season, which gives them the sixth-worst record in the majors. Watching them day after day, even considering their obvious blemishes, it does not feel like they have been the sixth-worst team. They play sound defense and get good starting pitching most every day – the Nationals’ rotation has a 3.84 ERA this year and a .3.65 ERA over the past month. That’s been offset by a sometimes-flammable bullpen and a constantly flailing offense.

But they probably have actually played better than their record indicates. The Nationals have scored 236 runs and given up 247, and their Pythagorean winning percentage would give them a 30-32 record. The difference between that and their actual record lies in their woeful (or maybe unlucky, depending on your perspective) performance in close games – the Nationals are 7-13 in one-run games and 4-7 in two-run games.

The Nationals’ worst luck this season, it seems fair to say, has been the loss of Ryan Zimmerman. Last season, per FanGraphs.com, Zimmerman accounted for 7.2 wins above replacement. If Zimmerman had kept that performance consistent this season, it would have been worth 2.6 wins over 62 games. Nationals’ third basemen this year have posted 0.2 wins above performance. Zimmerman did post 0.6 WAR during his eight games, so in real terms it seems like a good estimate that Zimmerman’s absence has cost the Nationals two actual wins over the 54 games he has missed.

So, getting to what I mean by the title of this (admittedly meandering) blog post: What if the Nationals had Ryan Zimmerman all season and played to the winning percentage their run differential suggests they should? Start with their 30-32 Pythagorean record and add Zimmerman’s two wins, and you get 32-30.

Maybe operating in the hypothetical like this is not all that compelling and/or meaningful. But it does provide some promise to the rest of the Nationals’ season. That imaginary 32-30 record works out to a .516 winning percentage. If they play .516 ball the rest of the season, they’d finish with 79 wins. That makes a run at .500 appear conceivable.

Now, this is a pretty rosy outlook for the Nationals. Other injuries will occur and take the starch out of that expected winning percentage, because that’s what happens during four months of baseball. And there is a solid chance I botched some of the math, or logic, in the figuring – please, fire away in the comments section. But I don’t know, I guess it’s something to think about.

FROM THE POST

Boz gives his take on Bryce Harper’s kiss and Anthony Rendon.

Yunesky Maya pitched great, but the Nationals still lost 3-1 to the Giants after their offense stalled and Sean Burnett got touched for two runs.

NATS MINOR LEAGUES

Syracuse 2, Louisville 1: Jesus Flores went 1 for 3 with a home run. J.D. Martin allowed no runs in six innings on two hits and two walks, striking out four.

Binghamton 4, Harrisburg 1: Tyler Moore went 2 for 3 with a home run and a walk. Erik Davis allowed two runs in six innings on four hits and three walks, striking out eight.

Frederick 6, Potomac 4: The actual box score does not seem to be showing up. But there’s the link in case it gets fixed.

Hagerstown was off.

By  |  07:56 AM ET, 06/09/2011

 
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