It’s easy to see why Natitude ignition is all the rage these days. After seven years of futility, especially the rock bottom years of 2006-10, the first-place Nats have the NL’s best record, 4.5 games ahead of Atlanta in the division.
It’s only July 24th, but my favorite Nats blog is writing things like, “Likely scenarios are all pointing to the Nats as NL East Champs.” That’s probably true, but here’s a recent history lesson as to why things may not work out that way.
Over the past five years, seven teams with three-games-or-more division leads on July 24th blew it by season’s end. They are:
— The ’11 Giants held a four-game lead, lost the NL West by eight.
— The ’11 Red Sox held a three-game lead, lost AL East by seven.
— The ’10 Yankees held a three-game lead, lost the AL East by one.
— The ’10 Braves held a six-game lead, lost the NL East by six.
— The ’10 Padres held a three-game lead, lost the NL West by two.
— The ’07 Mets held a three-game lead, lost the NL East by three.
— The ’07 Brewers held a three-game lead, lost the NL Central by two.
You may be thinking, “Five years is a long time; seven ain’t bad.” Well, maybe, but during that same time span only eight teams were able to protect divisional leads of three games or more (the ’11 Rangers and Phillies, the ’10 Rangers, the ’09 Angels, Dodgers and Phillies, the ’08 Angels and the ’07 Red Sox). Meaning, by this convoluted metric, Washington is almost as likely to lose the NL East as it is to win it.
So, yeah, hopefully you’re scared straight for these final two-plus months of the season. Buckle up, Nats fans.
Update: I should add Baseball Prospectus’ odds here. They have the Nats at a 71-percent chance of winning the NL East and 17-percent chance at the Wild Card. That’s a combined 88-percent chance of making the playoffs. Pray for the division, though.