It doesn’t matter if a team wins its division to make the postseason or if it sneaks in via the Wild Card, a fraud will always be exposed as such during the postseason. OK, fraud is a strong word, but sometimes a team makes the playoffs when it isn’t necessarily as good as its record advertises. We’ve seen this already with several teams this postseason, but none has been more evident than the National League Division Series between the Washington Nationals and Chicago Cubs.
Game 3 between the Nats and Cubs on Monday was the ugliest sort of playoff game. The teams combined for five errors, four from the Cubs, then Chicago eventually came out on top 2-1.
The Nats nearly won 100 games this season. They should be well-rounded and a force to be reckoned with. Despite Washington’s 97-65 record, this team doesn’t feel like what its record projects.
With a 47-29 record in the National League East, division wins accounted for a shade under half of the Nats’ win total for the season. Forty-seven wins come pretty easily when the team that was second in the division finished the season eight games under .500. There’s bound to be some inflation in the win column when just under half of a team’s games come from a sample where the best opponent loses more games than it wins.
The Cubs didn’t start consistently flying the W until July. The Milwaukee Brewers held the NL Central lead until the end of July, but the Cubs had finally found their groove and took command of the division. It helped that the Brewers started to taper off from their early-season run. The Cubs appear to have benefitted from some win inflation as well, especially in September when more than half of their games came against sub-.500 teams.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d still rather watch this series than most games we get during the season. These teams want to win and they can hit the ball. With the quality of bats in both dugouts, no lead is insurmountable. But after one of these teams does eventually move onto the National League Championship Series, there’s a good chance that’s the end of the road.
Photo by Brigham Berthold