At the beginning of the season, my colleagues and I made some bold predictions about the 2020 Washington Nationals, with many of us predicting the team to make it into the playoffs, certainly, but even getting as far as the NLCS. Now we’re over halfway to 60 this season and things are looking bleak in DC.
As I write this, the Nationals are 12-21, which is eight games back of the Braves in the East and places them dead last in the division. If you look at the Nationals in relation to the rest of the National League, those numbers don’t get any better. Washington is 14th in the NL, ahead of only the Pirates.
As it stands, the club is five games out of the final playoff spot. Their run differential keeps sliding back, now registering at -13 — that means x/W-L is 15-18, which is better certainly, but not great.
We’ve done some breakdowns of what’s going wrong in the nation’s capital, but it seems the Nationals aren’t going to get it into gear in the way we expected, so I’m going to look over the schedule and try determine where the Nationals end up by season’s end.
Unsurprisingly, the Nationals haven’t played a ton of games against the teams remaining on the schedule, but things look average to bleak. They’ll see the Phillies six more times (including the two remaining games of the current series as of this writing), who they apparently can’t beat. They haven’t met with Tampa this year, so we’ll see how that shakes out, but Washington’s interleague record is 6-10.
Games remaining against teams above .500: 23
This is obviously going to create problems. The Nationals have a heavy helping of the Braves for the remainder of the season — they’ll meet each other eight times. Among the remaining American League East opponents is the Tampa Bay Rays, who happen to be one of the best — if not the best — team in all of baseball. Almost half of the Nats’ remaining schedule comes against teams in first place.
Remaining home games versus road games: 14 to 13
The Nats have about a split of home versus away games, but based on the team’s record for home versus road splits, it might benefit Washington more to be on the road. At home, they’ve been 6-13, while 6-8 on the road. It’s hard to say if there’s some actual psychological hindrance for playing at home in front of no fans, but the team has struggled at Nationals Park, being outscored by 20 runs.
The schedule doesn’t bode well for the Nats and I find it hard that they could chart a path where they’re winning as many games necessary to make the playoffs. FanGraphs currently gives the Nationals a 7.1 percent chance to make the playoffs.
I expect the Nats to go 12-15 over this final stretch of games, which will make them 24-36 on the season. That likely won’t be close to good enough to sneak into the playoffs, so I’m predicting the Nationals to finish last in the East and 12th in the National League.