The Nats in August

 

Entering the month of August the Nats were 52-56 and looked to be dead in the water. Many of us had started to make October plans and were gearing up for the off-season. We were putting off talking about it because it would be too early, but then something strange happened. August happened. Jayson Werth continued to hit like a maniac. Look at this slash line .412/.505/.671. Those are some absurd numbers, and Werth isn't the only Nat to find his offensive rhythm. August has been far and away the Nats best offensive month with the team averaging nearly five runs a game. It is a bit insane when you think about it, and the reason for the offensive outburst can be credited to many factors. Some more deserving than others.  

If you ask me I say the biggest factor is that the Nats are all healthy and have had time to play together. Think about the normal rhythm of a season. A team goes to Spring Training and then comes into April and April is the overall lowest scoring month of the season. That could be partly the weather but it also has to do with players working themselves into the rhythm of the season. That is where the Nationals are now. Everyone got healthy at the beginning of July and then had a month to get into the flow and now that they are they are putting up big numbers. This is the Nats line-up that we were supposed to see for most of the season with Espinosa instead of Rendon, but Rendon has a .713 OPS which isn't much different than the .717 OPS Espinosa had in 2012.  

In other words the Nationals are finally who we thought they would be. The real question is if it is too late. It is kind of hard to fathom a scenario in which the Nationals are able to overtake the Reds for the final Wild Card spot, but it is rare that all the teams that lead in September make the playoffs and late season collapses have become more common in recent seasons. Last year the A's went into the final series against the Rangers needing a sweep to win the division and they did it. If the Nats and Diamondbacks pass the Reds that could be how the Nats final series of the season goes. The Nats have to keep playing this way in order to do it though.  

They have a schedule that is conducive to a run. The majority of their final 29 games are against the Marlins, Mets, and Phillies, but what should the Nats record be at the end of the season and will it be enough. Let's assume that the Nationals play in September exactly as they have in August. The Nats have a 16-9 record with two games left in August. Let's figure they split those last two games to go 17-10 for the month. That is a .630 winning percentage and gives the Nats an overall record of 69-66 heading into the final month, and if they go the same 17-10 in the 27 games in September then they will finish the season with a 86-76 record meaning that the Reds would have to go 10-18 to lose the last Wild Card spot to the Nationals. 

It is a daunting task but it is the position the Nats put themselves in. Let's look at another scenario. One that involves a bit of craziness and some insanely good play. In other words, the best case scenario. This one involves the big three of Strasburg, Gio, and Zimmermann all pitching lights out, Werth staying hot, Harper getting April hot, and Zimmerman and LaRoche going on a tear. This is if the Nats don't lose another game all season to the Mets, Marlins, and Phillies. That is 20 wins right there and would push their current three game winning streak to a 19 game winning streak. Remember I said this was crazy. If the Nats do that and go 4-5 in their remaining games that would give them a 92-70 record for the 2013 season. It is crazy. It is nothing something that should be predicted or expected and on the probability scale it has less than a 1% chance to happen.  

The Nats hole is likely too big for them to crawl out or, but stranger things have happened in baseball history. The best thing to do is to watch it all unfold and hope that the Nats we saw in August are the same ones we see in September and if that is the case then maybe, just maybe, the Reds will fall to them.  

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