When the Nationals hit their low point back on May 24, more than a few publications wrote off their chances of winning in 2019. Why, a certain longtime beat writer declared it would be “nearly impossible to turn the entire season around.”
Ha ha ha. What a moron.
Guess what the Nationals proceeded to do. They turned their entire season around.
There’s still a long way to go, and they haven’t clinched anything yet. But what the Nats have done just to this point to get back into the thick of the pennant race qualifies as historic in its own right. And here’s the proof ...
The Nationals, as surely you know by now, opened the season 19-31. They had the second-worst record in the National League at the time. And as noted in that previously linked article spelling out their imminent demise, only one other team in the last 14 years had come back from a comparable or worse 50-game start to a season to make the playoffs: the 2005 Astros, who went from 18-32 to 89-73 and eventually the NL pennant.
But even that Astros club didn’t turn things around quite as fast as these Nationals have. That team was 53-47 at the 100-game mark. The 2019 Nationals reached the 100-game mark after Wednesday’s doubleheader opener at 54-46.
How remarkable is it for a team to start a season as poorly as the Nationals did but still get to 54-46 at the 100-game mark? Extremely remarkable. So much so that only one other team has done it in the last 100 years.
Yes, the Nats are now in the company of only the 2005 Athletics, who after an 18-32 start got to 54-46 after 100 games. Those A’s finished with 88 wins, missing the playoffs. But they salvaged what looked like a lost season in impressive fashion.
Nobody else even comes close to matching this feat.
Only four other teams in the last 100 years have opened a season 19-31 or worse and even surpassed the 80-win mark by season’s end: the 1988 Padres (18-32 to 83-78), the 1974 Pirates (18-32 to 88-74 and the NL East title), the 1962 Phillies (19-31 to 81-80) and the 1961 White Sox (19-31 to 86-76).
None of those teams got to 54-46 by the 100-game mark. Only the 1974 Pirates made the playoffs.
So give the 2019 Nationals tons of credit for what they’ve done. They went 19-31 in their first 50 games, then went 35-15 in their next 50 games.
“A lot of people wrote us off and said we need to make moves already, or we need to do this, we need to do that,” Anthony Rendon said. “But you don’t win the division, you don’t win the pennant or whatever you want to call it, in the first 50 games of the season. Or the first 100 games of the season.”
No, you don’t. But by going on their 50-game tear to get themselves to this point, the Nationals have now given themselves a chance to do something really special over the final 62 games of this most remarkable season.