If you listen to my friend who is a Yankee fan and recently moved from DC to NY (what’s that all about?), the Washington Nationals are playing above themselves, in a weak league, and once they meet some really good opposition, they’ll be found wanting.
If you read and listen to my columnist guru Thomas Boswell, “they are already an exceptional team.”
Could both of these views be correct?*
We may have to wait for DP (Yunkee friend) to enlighten us more fully on why he thinks the Nats are weaker than they appear. I am hoping he will explain himself, etc. in an extended comment below.
In the meantime, a few points that might support his thinking: All three teams leading their Divisions in the National League currently have better won-less records, percentages than the three leading teams in the American League. Specifically, Nats – 611, Reds – .607, Giants – .580 versus Yankees – .577, White Sox – .544, Rangers – .505.
If my friend is correct, then the Nats and other NL teams may have the better records because the competition is not as stiff as in the AL. Or, maybe they have better records because they are simply better than the AL teams?
Looking a bit further, in overall batting, whether judged by BA, OPS, HRs, R, the AL out performs the NL in all those categories. Is that because they hit better or perhaps because they have the Designated Hitter as their ninth batter.
In pitching, the NL pitchers seem to have a clear lead in ERA, but in most other categories, Saves, WHIP, etc., the two leagues seem more even.
In fielding, the NL performs better (Fielding Per Centage, Fewest Errors, etc.).
Bottom line: I don’t know if it is true or not that the Nats face easier teams, and thus how good they really are has not been tested. DP, explain yourself.
If you read Boswell this morning, he makes the argument that the Nats are better than almost anyone realizes (except perhaps for manager Davey Johnson and others closely associated with the team), and this “town has almost no sense, yet, of how exceptional that team already is.”
Boswell writes, “objectively, the Nats are so excellent that 13 big-league franchises have seen only one team as superior as they are, or none at all, in the last 50 years.” On pace for 99 wins, if they reach that, he writes, they will have won more than 60 per cent of their games, and “in baseball, it is a landmark.”
Specifically, he adds,
*The Nats have allowed the fewest runs in baseball.
*They have the lowest ERA (3.28).
*Their starting pitchers, AFTER subtracting Strasburg’s stats, still have the games best ERA.
*Their hitting has progressed to the point where they are fourth in the NL in runs and second in HRs.
*They are 8th in the Majors in Fielding % and 7th in fewest errors.
So who is right?
Will the Nats team that Boswell describes as excellent and consistent for six months, continue along these lines? Will they finish the season over .600.? Will they make their way to the top of the NL in the playoffs? Could they beat the AL in the WS?
Or will they come down to earth in the playoffs?
“No one knows,” as Boswell concludes.
But we’re about to find out.
(*Disclosure: I have a number of interests, including financial, in the outcome of this ‘debate.’ In another post, I will fully disclose these ‘conflicts of interest.’)