It’s a small data sample, and the playoffs now include more wild cards. The MIT math faculty might say the true odds of a World Series visit for a team in the Nats’ position is 1 in 3 and maybe 1 in 5 to win. But that’s the ballpark.
The Nationals now have a 98.6 percent probability of making the playoffs, according to coolstandings.com. Feel free to round off to 99. If they go 22-22 the rest of the way, they’ll finish the regular season with 95 wins. If they go 15-29, they’d probably still snag the last wild-card spot. There are times to be sensible and, once every few generations, times to yell until you pop a vocal cord. Frankly, this is the latter.
So if you want to get excited, at least until a losing streak or injuries change the mood, I can’t stop you. A pennant race is about to come to D.C. for the first time since World War II. And the team with the best record in baseball has “Washington” on its uniforms for the first time since 1933. The Atlanta Braves, fourgames behind the Nats in the NL East, come to town for their final visit next Monday through Wednesday. The last time there was a series that important, Nats owner Ted Lerner, 86, was 7 years old.
One key person knows exactly how realistic the Nats’ chances are right now. Asked how Stephen Strasburg’s shutdown would impact the Nats’ year, Manager Davey Johnson said: “A lot of our guys have been shut down this year, through injury. We’ll overcome it.” Period. The manager’s been ahead of the curve in Nats analysis all along. He’ll brook no low-expectation excuses now.
After the Nats beat the Giants in San Francisco on Wednesday, finishing an 8-2 road trip, Johnson was asked if his team had gained confidence through its recent success. That is like asking Houdini if he thinks his same old tricks will still fool people. Johnson’s teams always have confidence and if they don’t, he gets new players who possess it. It’s an old trick, but one with a long record of success back to Davey vs. Goliath.
“They’ve been confident all year. The hard part was early in the season — for two months we had nothing but nail-biters. We were banged up,” Johnson said. “We’re getting healthy. We’re getting in the fun part of the year. Everything is magnified in a pennant race. And these guys are primed for it.”
Primed for it. Does he write this stuff out and memorize it, then pretend he’s just riffing and drawling? Or is 50 years of proper baseball breeding just so deep in him that he hits the right notes and avoids wrong ones by nature?