The record will forever be ingrained in our minds from the 2019 season. At least in the minds of Nationals fans and those of us who extensively covered their postseason run. You know it. Let's say it together: 19-31!
The 2019 Nationals started the season 19-31, but then got things together and made a run to win the World Series. Now, let's be clear. If a team starts 19-31 in this 60-game sprint, the chances of them making the playoffs are incredibly slim. They'd probably have to win out and even then, 29-31 might not be good enough to make it. There's only one team in a playoff spot as of Friday with a losing record and it's the 22-23 Astros, who are in second in the AL West.
Still, there are several teams not in playoff position with the capability of putting things together and making a run. Let's take a look with just a touch over two weeks to go.
1. Colorado Rockies: 20-23 (4th in NL West)
They enter play Friday two games back of the Giants for the eight seed in the NL (for more, check our daily playoff picture). It's a bit concerning that they've gone 9-20 since a scorching 11-3 start, but that they went 11-3 in a stretch should provide confidence that they are capable of getting hot. An upcoming stretch of six against the A's and Dodgers is rough, but their final eight games of the season come with four against the Giants -- where they can take care of business head-to-head -- and with four against the 16-29 Diamondbacks. Their three-man first-round rotation with road ERAs:
2. Milwaukee Brewers: 19-22 (3rd in NL Central)
The Brewers are two out of both second place in the NL Central and the eight seed. They have three against the Cubs at home this weekend and they generally bring their A-game against the North Siders. Then it's a five-game series with the Cardinals, who currently occupy second in the NL Central, which is a guaranteed playoff spot. They also close with five against the Cardinals. In between? Three against the hapless Royals and three against the underachieving Reds. It really is a favorable schedule, if getting the chance to take care of business on their own against the Cardinals works in their favor.
In a three-game series in the first round, lots of teams would want to avoid the Brewers. There's Corbin Burnes morphing into an ace (as we noted two days ago) and Brandon Woodruff as a quality number two. There are quality bullpen arms and we've seen how adept Craig Counsell can be managing a bullpen with his back against wall.
3. New York Mets: 20-24 (4th in NL East)
I know, I know: "lolMets." They are only 2 1/2 out of the eight seed. The offense could scare people. They lead the NL in average and on-base percentage and they have sluggers like Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto and Dom Smith that could seriously scare people. Oh, and they get Jacob deGrom to start one of the three games in the first round.
4. Cincinnati Reds: 19-25 (4th in NL Central)
While Missouri is the Show Me State, the Reds are now MLB's "Show Me" team. We keep thinking they are going to break out and contend and they continually disappoint. They gotta Show us they are ready to actually contend at some point. It hasn't happened yet, but there's still time. They are 3 1/2 games behind the Cardinals for second and the same 3 1/2 out from the eight seed.
Good news, Reds fans! They start a three-game series against the Cardinals this weekend. It's a good opportunity. Then there are four against the Pirates. They later have three against the Brewers. It's a tough road, but they really control their own destiny for second in the Central.
If the Reds somehow start putting it together and make the playoffs, the first round pitching might favor the Reds. Trevor Bauer seems like a sure thing. Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo aren't, but good versions of those two would mean the opposing team facing what looks like three aces.
5. Washington Nationals: 16-26 (5th in NL East)
I'm not seeing it. They are 5 1/2 games out of both second place and the eight seed. Without Stephen Strasburg and with a mediocre offense and totally vulnerable bullpen, it just isn't happening.
If I'm wrong and they get ridiculously hot, however, a high seed would have to deal with Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin in a three-game series. They do have five against the Marlins, four against the Phillies and four against the Mets remaining. If they win all or nearly all of those, I suppose another Cinderella run is possible.
6. Los Angeles Angels: 18-27 (4th in AL West)
If there is any team that might put any sort of a scare into any of the upper seeds in the AL, it would be the Angels, if they get hot enough. No one wants to deal with Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon in a three-game playoff series. Dylan Bundy is on his way to getting down-ballot Cy Young votes while Andrew Heaney and Griffin Canning are capable starters. Some of the bats who have mostly been snoozing this year, like Justin Upton or Shohei Ohtani, could still do damage in a short series.
The Angels are four games back of the Astros and need to leapfrog the Mariners. They don't have any games left against the Astros. They do have three against the Rockies, three against the Diamondbacks and four against the Rangers coming up, though, so now is the time to get hot. They kind of already are. They've won six of their last eight. They also just lost two of three to the Rangers, though, and that probably sealed their fate as a non-playoff team.