Friday, July 27, 2012

Boots on their Throats

I was looking up a little more info about how the Wild Card works this year.  Everyone's focused on how much a disadvantage the Wild Card teams are this year... but there's a flip side to that.  Because they're so disadvantaged, there's an EXTRA advantage to having the best record in the league.

First, as you know, there are two Wild Card teams.  The season ends on a Wednesday.  Those two teams play each other on a Friday.  If the season ended tonight, the Pirates would host the Braves. The winner of that game would take on the Nats.  Yes, even if the Braves won, they'd face the Nats in the first round.

Say Pittsburgh wins.  Game 1 of the NLDS would be the very next day IN Pittsburgh.  Because they came to the WC agreement so late, they didn't build a travel day into the schedule.  They've gone back to the 2-3 WC format they used early on, instead of the 2-2-1 of the last few years.  So the Nats would play 2 games on the road before coming home.

But, let's say Atlanta pulls it out behind Tim Hudson.  All of a sudden Atlanta's traveling back home with the Nats rested (having been off since Wednesday night) and able to throw Strasburg (I'm holding out hope!) or Z'mm'nn in Game 1.  The Braves, having already used their ace, would have to throw Tommy Hanson, or some other bum.

So the team with the best record gets to face a team whose ace will only pitch once in a 5-game series.  Whereas, if the Nats fell to second best in the NL, they'd host the third-best team, and aces would square off against aces -- both'd go twice.

That's a pretty big advantage for the number one seed.  And another reason why Mike Rizzo -- despite there not being any clear holes that need upgrading -- needs to make moves to strengthen anything he can.

Sure, we all are hoping on having a window over the next three seasons to win.  But that window's wide open.  We better jump while we have a chance.

If the Nats do hold on, the first playoff game would be Tuesday, October 9.  Games 4 and 5, if necessary, the next two days (as it appears they're not really bending for TV this year to unnecessarily lengthen these series).