Nats likely headed for NL East crown, even if they can’t beat the Braves


(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

All is good in Natsland. Bryce Harper is hitting home runs and Stephen Strasburg is showing all the naysayers why he should have always been considered the ace of this pitching staff. Denard Span is scorching hot since the all-star break and Anthony Rendon is playing at an MVP-caliber level.

According to Fangraphs, the Nationals are projected to win 91 games and should be considered the favorite to win the World Series with an 18.3 percent chance at a championship season.

But until they show they can beat the second-place Braves — Washington is 4-9 against Atlanta this season — fans and pundits alike will still be skeptical they are as good as their record says they are.

Based on the Log5 method, we would expect today’s Nats to win 55 percent of the time when facing the Braves. Over a 13-game stretch, that would be seven wins. Instead, Washington has four wins over Atlanta this season. Granted, there is reason to think Washington simply “can’t beat the Braves,” but the truth is in a small sample size fluky things like this happen. Heck, we could see the Nats sweep the Braves in the final two series and get themselves back on track with their expected win percentage — winning 55 percent of 19 games is 10 wins.

However, their futility against Atlanta may not even matter.

Washington is projected to go 25-18 over its remaining 43 games, and that likely includes a split with Atlanta in the coming series based on their projected win percentage. If we back those three wins out and put them in the loss column, that would drop Washington’s projected record to 22-21, making the final standings of the NL East look like this:

prjNLEast

So even if the Nats went 0-6 against Atlanta in September, they probably still end up with the NL East title and not have to worry about the Braves again until the playoffs, where they would only square off in the NLCS if Atlanta beats the Dodgers (the projected NL West champion) and Washington beats its first opponent, which looks like it will be either the Milwaukee Brewers or St. Louis Cardinals.

Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced sports statistics for the Fancy Stats blog and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.
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