The Washington Nationals head to Chavez Ravine on Monday night to face the Los Angeles Dodgers, the first time these two teams have met since their 2016 National League Division Series. That five-game series, won by the Dodgers, was one of the highlights of the 2016 postseason, full of bullpen duels and big moments, from the Nats blowing a close Game 3 wide open in the ninth against Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen, to Jansen avenging that inning in Game 5, to the pièce de résistance, Clayton Kershaw triumphantly returning (on one day of rest after a 110-pitch start) to close out the game and the series.
As exciting as that series was, the 2016 season finished much as expected. It will be remembered as the year of the Cubs, a North Side fairy tale in which the Dodgers beat the Nats for the honor of being the latest antagonist. But it's 2017 now, and we know one thing for sure: 2017 ain't 2016.
With the Chicago Cubs reeling, struggling their way to a .500 start and a merely mortal performance, the Nationals and Dodgers have been fighting for the best record in the National League, with a couple of other upstarts, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies, in the wings.
On a projection basis, have the Dodgers and Nats done enough to dethrone the Cubs as the strongest teams of 2017? In calculating playoff odds, the ZiPS projection system calculates a team's roster strength for the rest of the season, based on various assumptions such as updated in-season projections and estimates of how many plate appearances each player will get for the rest of the season.