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Are Marlins the bigger threat?

Aug 15, 2014, 11:28 AM EDT

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

Though the Atlanta Braves have somehow figured out the formula to dominate the Nats in head-to-head matchups, lately they’ve had much bigger things to worry about.

Since beginning the season 17-7, Atlanta is 44-53 in the time since. As Mark Zuckerman noted on Thursday, only the Phillies and Rockies have been worse among NL teams.

Lately the bottom has completely fallen out. With their 6-4 loss to the Dodgers on Thursday, Atlanta’s lost 12 of their last 15.

Take out their weekend series win against the Nats on Aug. 8-10 and the Braves have one win against a team not named the Nationals since July 28. That’s a span of 17 days, more than half of a month. Throughout this season, the Braves are just 52-56 against teams other than the Nats. [Update: Friday is 'Zombie Night' at Turner Field, you can't make this stuff up]

The Braves now sit six games back of the Nationals in the NL East, the biggest lead Washington has enjoyed since Sept. 15, 2012. Yes, even when they finished that season with an MLB-best 98 wins, they still weren’t up this much.

The Braves’ collapse has another NL East team preparing to take advantage. The Miami Marlins are seven games back of Washington and one game behind Atlanta in third place. The Marlins have won five of their last seven and hold a significant scheduling advantage up ahead.

The Braves enter this weekend with a three-game series against the best team in baseball, the Oakland Athletics. The A’s are 73-48 and completely demolished the Nationals when they met in mid-May. The Braves host Oakland before then going on the road to face 64-57 Pittsburgh, another tough matchup.

The Marlins, conversely, have a relatively easy stretch coming up. They play 52-69 Arizona this weekend before facing the two worst teams in baseball: the Texas Rangers and the Colorado Rockies, both tied for last in the majors at 47-74.

Miami could very well pass the Braves and take over second place as soon as this weekend. With all the injuries to their pitching staff, however, do they have enough to make a push? There is a lot of ground to make up, but the Nats and Marlins do finish their season with four games against each other in a three-day span.

The Nationals themselves are no juggernaut. Right now they’re playing at an 89 to 90-win pace, nowhere near what they were two years ago. At 66-53 through 119 games, they would be no better than second place in most years. Each of the last six seasons in the NL East had at least one better record at this point. If it were 2011, they’d be in third place.

The 2014 Nats may not be the best team we have seen around here, but they are clearly the class of their division at the moment. Until October begins, that’s all that matters.

  1. Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:52 AM

    “Ghost of Steve M. on August 15, 2014 at 11:17 am
    jd, how’s about right now. The Marlins should be in 2nd place by the end of Sunday night.

    Cosart was another great pickup.

    I’ve been predicting a shakeup in the NL East ever since the emergence of José Fernández. He is that good and a true Ace and they have Henderson Alvarez.

    The Mets have Harvey, deGrom, Wheeler, Noah S. And Montero. They still have Niese who could be like Gio as a #5 who pitches some nights like an Ace.

    Both the Marlins and Mets have holes in position players. I’m concerned if either team dips into the FA market this off-season.”

    • rayvil01 - Aug 15, 2014 at 12:12 PM

      Agreed. The Marlins are on the way up. Atlanta is just the opposite.

  2. veejh - Aug 15, 2014 at 12:25 PM

    Anyone think Stanton fetches more money than Kershaw once he’s a free agent? I think he will.

  3. natszee - Aug 15, 2014 at 12:36 PM

    The fish have improved but they need to paly at least .500 ball with something that approaches a positive run differential before I start to worry.

    Not saying that our work is done but perspective is everything:

    On this day in:
    Year W L GB Division Lead
    2011 57 62 21 —–
    2012 72 45 — 4.5
    2013 59 60 14 —–
    2014 66 53 — 6

    Hard to believe that we are actually 1.5 games ahead in the standings of where we were in the “dominate” 2012 season. BTW, we won the division being 3 games up over Atlanta in 2012.

    Lets keep it up and extend our lead over the Braves to 10 games … the number Atlanta bested us by last year!! Don’t get mad at the chop … get even.

    • natszee - Aug 15, 2014 at 12:37 PM

      play … sorry for the typo

    • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 15, 2014 at 12:50 PM
      
      On this day in:
      Year  W   L   GB  GA
      2011  57  62  21  —–
      2012  72  45  —-  4.5
      2013  59  60  14  —–
      2014  66  53  -—  6
      

      There, I fixed it for you!

  4. karlkolchak - Aug 15, 2014 at 12:40 PM

    Pyogothan shows the Nats’ record SHOULD be 70-49. That would have given them a 10-game lead and a 95-win pace. They’ve been unlucky to date, but luck evens out over time.

    • natszee - Aug 15, 2014 at 1:00 PM

      Sorry, excuse my ignorance but what is Pyogothan? I google it and get push2check.org which seems to be a domain checker of some sort.

      • NatsLady - Aug 15, 2014 at 1:10 PM

        Pythagorean is a formula which uses run differential to calcuate what a team’s record “should” be, barring luck. The Nats are 22-15 in blowouts (games won by 6 or more runs) but only 14-18 in one-run games.

        (Runs Scored)^1.83
        ---------------------------------------------------------
         (Runs Scored)^1.83 +  (Runs Allowed)^1.83 
        
      • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 15, 2014 at 1:16 PM

        Nats Lady, thank you for that pre-correction. ; )
        That’s the Log(5) version, isn’t it?

      • NatsLady - Aug 15, 2014 at 1:16 PM

        The number of blowouts skews the Pythagorean because all those runs are “unnecessary” to win games. The one-run games “should” even out, as they actually have, the Nats’ record was worse earlier in the season. The Nats are 5-8 in extra inning games. They’ve only won two extra inning home games. That also is unusual, as it is statistically slightly “easier” to win extra inning games at home than on the road.

        Sometimes Pythagorean is used to rate the manager–that is, why is the team not playing up to its talent level (or, below it)?

        I’m never sure if this is fair. The Nats lose extra inning games at home because Matty has a deliberate strategy of trying to win the games in 9 innings (as he says, we have the hammer at home). If you don’t win in nine innings you are then at a disadvantage because you’ve used your best relievers (possibly for matchups) and don’t have them available.

      • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 15, 2014 at 1:17 PM

        http://www.fangraphs.com/library/principles/expected-wins-and-losses/

        Fangraph’s explanation of Bill James’s Pythagorean Theorem

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 15, 2014 at 1:17 PM

        It’s those extra innings games and some hard luck games which are slowly swinging back to the Nats.

      • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 15, 2014 at 1:25 PM

        That said, SOME CAUTIONARY NOTES about “what it means“, from Graham MacAree at StatCorner, via the linked Fangraphs article:

        Teams whose real winning percentages exceed their expected winning percentages are often referred to as ‘lucky’, and teams who do the opposite are ‘unlucky’. This is a crutch, and it’s far from statistically rigorous. We should not pretend to be able to extract true talent level from two variables alone, and it’s clear that ‘luck’ strikes far more deeply than in simple runs scored and runs allowed in a season. A team with an expected winning percentage of .500 and an actual record of 77-85 is not ‘really’ an 81-win team…. The idea of pythagorean ‘luck’ is a quick rule of thumb and nothing more.

        Another commonly held belief about pythagorean expectation is that its function is to predict wins and losses given the runs scored/runs allowed data. This is not true: it is merely a statement of a relationship, and it’s very important not to forget that.

      • natszee - Aug 15, 2014 at 2:07 PM

        OH … the misspelling got me .. Pythagorean vs Pyogothan. I understand the Pythagorean Theorem but the relationship between triangles containing a right angle applied to baseball is a new one on me. I need to break out the math books and read the referenced material to understand.

        Thanks everyone for the helpful explanations and links!

    • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 15, 2014 at 1:12 PM

      KK, I’ve got 71 wins, and a 97-win pace.

      Pythagorean win percentage expectancy = Runs Scored-squared, over Runs Scored-squared plus Runs Allowed-squared
      RS^2/(RS^2 + RA^2) = percentage expected

      Nats now have 499 runs scored and 410 runs allowed

      =~ .597 * 119 games =~ 71 wins, and over 162 games =96.7 wins

      • NatsLady - Aug 15, 2014 at 1:17 PM

        According to Baseball Reference, 1.83 has proved more accurate than 2 as an exponent. I went from B-R.

      • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 15, 2014 at 1:29 PM

        Thank you, NL. I know that there’s other versions, mainly because of the “blowout” effect you describe, that change the exponent based on various factors, in different ways. The “Log(5)” version is something James, among other people, came up with to address that. I don’t have the math or stats background to do more than follow the discussion, but it’s interesting if you’re into that sort of thing.

  5. natszee - Aug 15, 2014 at 12:40 PM

    Try this reformatting:

    Year…. W… L… GB… Division Lead
    2011… 57.. 62 ..21 ………..—–
    2012… 72 ..45.. — …………4.5
    2013… 59.. 60.. 14……….. —–
    2014… 66.. 53.. — …………..6

    • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 15, 2014 at 12:51 PM

      natszee, use the “pre” tag for a fixed-width font.
      You’re welcome!

      • natszee - Aug 15, 2014 at 12:55 PM

        My machine re-booted before I could say thanks … so … Thanks for the tip!

    • natsfan1a - Aug 15, 2014 at 12:55 PM

      hehe, so I’m not the only one. This season I’ve had a guilty little pleasure of looking at baseballreference.com and comparing the Nats current record and standing to those of prior years. Just for fun, I throw in 2010 as well – talk about perspective. ;-)

  6. 6ID20 - Aug 15, 2014 at 12:56 PM

    Well, the living aren’t coming out to games at Turner Field. Maybe the undead will step up and fill the void.

    • natsfan1a - Aug 15, 2014 at 12:57 PM

      And while they’re at it, they could vote as well. What?

      • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 15, 2014 at 1:31 PM

        What do you think that is, Chicago??

  7. Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 15, 2014 at 1:15 PM

    Some great posts. Really enjoyed the charts.

    • rayvil01 - Aug 15, 2014 at 1:25 PM

      While we are on charts and standings…one thing about this years team is fascinating. They haven’t had the big heater. Longest win streak is 5 if I remember correctly. But the longest losing streak is 3? 4?. That’s unusual. They are very even-keeled. Compare to the Braves who had a big heater to start the year and another 9-spot heater. ..and a couple of big loser streaks.

      Nata take grief for not running away with it
      But not of crrdit for being steady.

      • rayvil01 - Aug 15, 2014 at 1:26 PM

        Sorry for typos. Phone.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 15, 2014 at 1:26 PM

        Slow and steady wins the race.

      • NatsLady - Aug 15, 2014 at 1:26 PM

        Longest losing streak is 4. A function of the rotation, I think. Soon or later somebody’s going to pitch a good game.

  8. pchuck69 - Aug 15, 2014 at 1:24 PM

    The Marlins are better than the Braves but I think it’s a stretch to call them a “threat”. Right now, during this stretch of games, the Nationals just need to keep them at least 7 games back because the Marlins have 8 (9 counting last night) of the easiest games, imaginable. I don’t think a team could have planned an easier stretch if they’d created their own schedule.

    • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 15, 2014 at 1:33 PM

      That’s Chase. He likes to post something breathless every day or so.

    • therealjohnc - Aug 15, 2014 at 3:43 PM

      The Marlins are pikers at schedule construction compared to the Braves. The mediocrity of the Braves was disguised in June and July because they went six weeks without facing a good team. 29 straight games against sub-.500 teams, mostly against the dregs of MLB. The best team they faced was the Marlins – and the Braves went 1-3 in those four games.

      As many in here noted, once the Braves emerged from that creampuff run while only managing to knock one game off the Nats’ lead (they pared it from 2.5 games to 1.5 games in that stretch) they were in deep trouble. How deep that trouble was I don’t think any of us saw. Although I’m OK with that :-)

  9. NatsLady - Aug 15, 2014 at 1:25 PM

    Speaking of charts, here are mine for the Nats and Pirates: Injury Daze and Pirates Series Preview

  10. rayvil01 - Aug 15, 2014 at 1:26 PM

    Sorry for typos. Phone.

  11. NatsLady - Aug 15, 2014 at 1:50 PM

    DSpan on the radio.

    http://player.radio.com/listen/station/1067-the-fan

  12. NatsLady - Aug 15, 2014 at 2:20 PM

    Hmmmm. Apparently Bryce isn’t the only one.

    • therealjohnc - Aug 15, 2014 at 3:45 PM

      Bryce isn’t the only what? That link wouldn’t open on my browser.

  13. coop202 - Aug 15, 2014 at 2:58 PM

    Saw a post recently on how really it’s been 4 seasons for the brave, two playing like a 95 win team (the start and a streak early summer) and two playing like one of the worst teams in baseball. The braves still have he pieces offensively and pitching to go on a hot streak and despite the schedule splits I wouldn’t count them out completely, while the marlins kind of have been who they are all season.

    Certainly hoping for healthy recovery for all the pitchers who are recovering this season, but they’re return makes next year’s prospects more daunting (though Philly at least will keep at it at seems). By the mojo.

    • therealjohnc - Aug 15, 2014 at 3:53 PM

      The Braves’ summer streak was built on a run of truly terrible teams. No, really, go back and look at their schedule from June 22 to July 28. Not one .500 team on the list, and mostly against teams like the Cubs, Diamondbacks, Phillies and Padres. Fortunately for the Nationals that run also encompassed the only time all year the Nats’ lineup was all present and accounted for, so the Nats were able to hold the Braves off until the schedule turned.

      The problem the Braves have isn’t pitching – they’ve had adequate replacements for the injured pitchers. The problem they have is scoring runs (13th of 15 NL teams) and playing defense (27th (!) of 30 MLB teams at defensive efficiency – converting balls in play into outs). In Bull Durham terms, they are only good at one of the three elements of the simple game – they can throw the ball, but they have trouble hitting the ball and catching the ball.

      • coop202 - Aug 15, 2014 at 4:32 PM

        That’s what confuses me though – they’re largely the same team that ran away with the East last year with a better defense (supposedly) and offense (supposedly) sans Uggla. Clearly CJ was due to regress, but I didn’t see Gattis being as bad as he is this year and I thought BJ would at least get himself to league average. The pitching is what was due to regress most with their injuries…

        This is their season split: 17-7 / 1-8 / 40-33 / 3-12. The late June-Early July schedule definitely inflates those numbers in the third split, but still…

  14. NatsLady - Aug 15, 2014 at 3:06 PM

    So, I went to that panda parking site. They are charging $23 to park in the lot I usually park in for $20. The $8.00 parking is in Crystal City. So they sent me a $10 coupon in my email, which I’ll use, and then that’s probably it for me.

  15. NatsLady - Aug 15, 2014 at 3:36 PM

    Jayson Werth still out.

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