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August 22, 2015 / Nat Anacostia

How many games do the Nats need to win?

With 41 games remaining, how many games do the Nats need to win? With the Nats trailing the Mets by 5 games, the correct answer is 6 more games than the Mets win.

But we don’t know how many the Mets will win, so what’s our best guess of how many they’ll win? Projections are available from both FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus, and they’re actually pretty consistent. Both sites tell us that that the Mets are expected to end the season about 88–74 (rounding to the nearest win. So, if the Mets play as expected the Nats need to end the season 89–73, which means they need to go 29–12 the rest of the way.

Of course, going 29–12 doesn’t guarantee them anything. If the Mets remain hot and finish their last 41 games at a 29–12 clip, giving them 94 wins, the Nats would need to go 35–6, which isn’t going to happen. On the other hand, if the Mets go into a slump, the Nats might win with considerably fewer than 29 wins. But let’s assume the Mets play as expected and look at what the Nats need to do to win 29 of their last 41 games.

This season the Nats haven’t had a winning spell last that long, but from April 28 to May 27 they did go 21–6. How did they do it? Both the hitting and the pitching had to improve—over the 27 game span, the team scored 5.6 runs per game (with an OPS of .821) and allowed 3.8 runs per game (with an ERA of 3.44). Most of the players contributed: Bryce Harper, of course, with an OPS of 1.417, but also Denard Span (1.023), Danny Espinosa (.841), Yunel Escobar (.752), Wilson Ramos (.747), and Ian Desmond (.730). The team’s top pitchers also contributed: Max Scherzer, with an ERA of 1.67, and Jordan Zimmermann (2.25), and Gio Gonzalez managed to go 5–0 despite an ERA of 4.15. There were, of course some exceptions—players who didn’t contribute. Ryan Zimmerman‘s OPS, for example, was only .679, and Michael A. Taylor, playing about half-time, had an OPS of just .466, while Stephen Strasburg went 2–3 with an 8.41 ERA. But the defining feature of this winning spell was that the majority of the players played better than their underlying ability.

Luck was also a factor. Their 21–6 win-loss record was better than their “Pythagorean” expected record of 18–9. They were 7–2 in one-run games.

So to go 29–12, the Nats basically need to:

  • hit, pitch, and field well,
  • win almost all of their remaining series,
  • sweep at least two or three of them,
  • win their two remaining series against the Mets (which is the only direct way they can keep down the Mets win total), and
  • have some good luck.

 

 

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