What we know about the NLDS start times

For everyone with kids, jobs, and religious holidays to observe, we are trying to figure out when the Nationals will play on Friday and Saturday. Here’s what we know and don’t know.

– Last season, the four NLDS/ALDS games played on the same day were played at 1pm, 3pm, 6pm, and 9:30pm EST. There’s no guarantee that’ll happen again because baseball has a new TV contract this season.

– The 2 ALDS games on Friday will be played on TBS. The 2 NLDS games will be played on Fox Sports1 or the MLB Network. The TBS website lists game start times at 6pm EST and 9:30 EST, with regular programming before then. The Fox Sports1 website lists “To Be Announced” under the time blocks of 2:30-4pm, 4-7pm, and 8-11 EST. The 2:30-4pm time block certainly isn’t long enough for a game, but it’s long enough for a pregame show. The 4-7pm and 8-11pm blocks are long enough for a game, however.

– Despite staggering the times last season, the above TV schedules make it appear there will be games at 4pm, 6pm, 8pm, and 9:30pm. Staggering the start times may have been the strategy for MLB is seasons past, but maybe MLB is now looking to air the games later in the day, closer together, giving their NLDS/ALDS coverage more of a March Madness feel with multiple games going on at the same time.

– There were Twitter rumors today that Nationals Park ushers were warned the Friday game could be as early as 1pm and also the Lerners asked for a 1pm start to ensure the game was over before Yom Kippur. These are just rumors, but I thought they were worth sharing.

– Using the above times on the Fox Sports1 website, it appears the Nats will play at either 4pm or 8pm, which wouldn’t help those observing Yom Kippur, but that difference is huge for those with jobs.

– The Dodgers will play the Cardinals on Friday, while the Nationals will play either the Pirates or the Giants, depending on who wins the Wild Card game on Wednesday night. Under either scenario, one would imagine the Dodgers-Cardinals matchup drawing a bigger nationwide audience. Perhaps MLB and Fox are waiting to see if the Giants or Pirates advance, since Nationals-Pirates is probably the worst matchup for ratings. But in either scenario, the Dodgers and Cardinals are the bigger draw and most likely to get a prime time slot.

– Using all of this incomplete information, our best guess is that you’ll still have to take off work on Friday to see the Nats game, which will probably be a 4pm start. Saturday’s game will probably also be a late afternoon/early start as well (there are only 2 games on Saturday).

– Finally, a source with the Nationals told me today we probably won’t know the times until Wednesday night after the NL Wild Card game. I certainly hope my source is wrong, but with MLB, nothing would surprise me. They always, excuse me, ALWAYS, put the preference of their TV partners over the convenience of their fans.

Projecting the Nationals NLDS Game 1 & 2 start times

Last season, MLB announced the start times for the ALDS and NLDS Games 1 and 2 in the late afternoon on September 30, the day after the regular season ended. That means we can expect to learn sometime today when the Nats will take the field for their first two playoff games at Nats Park.

However, if you can’t wait, or MLB drops the ball and doesn’t make the announcement today, here’s our best projection.

On Friday, October 3, there are 4 MLB playoff games. The 4 playoff games will be hosted by the Nationals, Dodgers, Angels, and Orioles.

MLB will of course stagger the start times of the 4 games on October 3 to maximize viewership. Last season, the start times for the 4 LDS games played on the same day were 12pm, 3pm, 6pm, and 9:30pm EST. It seems unlikely the schedule would change this year.

This year, the Dodgers or Angels would be given the late slot since they are West Coast teams. If the Dodgers are given the late night slot, there’s no chance the Nationals game will be a night game, since MLB will not put both National League games in prime time (they didn’t last year). If the Angels are given the late night slot, the Nationals will also likely be bumped to the daytime, the Dodgers cannot be given a time slot before noon Pacific Standard Time (last year, the games alternated between American and National League games).

So, here are the likely schedules:

Scenario One:

9:30 EST — Cardinals at Dodgers

6pm — Wild Card (Royals/A’s) at Angels

3pm — Wild Card (Giants/Pirates) at Nationals

12pm — Tigers at Orioles

Scenario Two:

9:30 EST — Wild Card (Royals/A’s) at Angels

6pm — Cardinals at Dodgers

3pm — Tigers at Orioles

12pm — Wild Card (Giants/Pirates) at Nationals

There are only two games, both National League games, scheduled for Saturday, October 4. Based on last year, they will likely be played at 5:30pm and 9pm EST. The Nationals will almost surely have the earlier game. The Dodgers playing on the West Coast are much more likely to have the later game, and the Dodgers/Cardinals matchup is far more likely to command a bigger prime time audience (particularly if the Pirates win the Wild Card game). If you observe Yom Kippur, your best case scenario is a noon game on Friday for Game 1. Yom Kippur ends around 6:30pm on Saturday, which means you should start getting in the Ben’s Chili Bowl line around the beginning of the third inning of Game 2.

Will you have to take off work to attend NLDS Game 1? Probably

For those of us with jobs–and kids–and need to plan ahead, the playoffs pose quite a dilemma. In Major League Baseball’s eternal quest to maximize profits and TV ratings at the expense of their fans’ convenience, the league does not publish the start times for playoff games until after the participants are decided. Gotta put the Dodgers primetime, right?

Setting aside my cynicism for moment, I wanted to make an honest attempt to figure out what time the Nationals will play their first home playoff game, which is scheduled for Friday, October 3.

On Friday, October 3, there are 4 MLB playoff games. This will be a bonanza for baseball fans, but it’s also a disaster for those of us who to need to make arrangements with our bosses and babysitters more than a week ahead of time. The playoff teams may change between now and then (and we won’t know the Wild Card teams until the Wild Card games are played), but it’s likely the 4 playoff games will be hosted by the Nationals, Dodgers, Angels, and Orioles. There’s a chance the Cardinals, with 84 wins, could surpass the Dodgers or Nationals who have 86 and 87 wins, respectively. But until the standings change, let’s assume these 4 teams will be hosting Game 1.

MLB will of course stagger the start times of the 4 games on October 3 to maximize viewership. Last season, the start times for the 4 LDS games played on the same day were 12pm, 3pm, 6pm, and 9:30pm EST. It seems unlikely the schedule would change this year.

This year, the Dodgers or Angels would be given the late slot since they are West Coast teams. If the Dodgers are given the late night slot, there’s no chance the Nationals game will be a night game, since MLB will not put both National League games in prime time (they didn’t last year). If the Angels are given the late night slot, the Nationals will also likely be bumped to the daytime, the Dodgers cannot be given a time slot before noon Pacific Standard Time (last year, the games alternated between American and National League games).

So, here are the likely schedules:

Scenario One:

9:30 EST — Cardinals at Dodgers

6pm — Wild Card (Royals/Tigers/A’s) at Angels

3pm — Wild Card (Giants/Pirates) at Nationals

12pm — Tigers/Royals at Orioles

Scenario Two:

9:30 EST — Wild Card (Royals/Tigers/A’s) at Angels

6pm — Cardinals at Dodgers

3pm — Tigers/Royals at Orioles

12pm — Wild Card (Giants/Pirates) at Nationals

Now, if the Cardinals surpass the Dodgers for second best record in the NL and gain the right to host Game 1, the Nationals are also unlikely to play a night game since a Dodgers at Cardinals matchup would be far more enticing in primetime than a Giants/Pirates at Nationals matchup. Unless there’s a huge shake-up in the standings, the smart money here says you’re probably taking off work on Friday, October 3.

Unless the Nationals fall all the way to the third seed in the National League, at which point everything I just wrote is pointless.

Is there something I’m missing? If so, hit us up at @halfstreetheart.

UPDATE: There are only two games, both National League games, scheduled for Saturday, October 4. Based on last year, they will likely be played at 5:30pm and 9pm EST. If the Nationals and Dodgers are hosting, the Nationals will almost surely have the earlier game. If you observe Yom Kippur, your best case scenario is a noon game on Friday for Game 1. Yom Kippur ends around 6:30pm on Saturday, which means you should start getting in the Ben’s Chili Bowl line around the beginning of the third inning of Game 2–fourth inning, if Doug Fister is pitching that day.

Nats Contract Recoup Tracker

With the Nats clinching the NL East Title I would not expect these numbers to change much for the rest of the year.

Only players not to recoup their contracts Zim (injury) LaRoche (mild surprise) Soriano (no chance from the start) and Fister (Although Baseball Reference has him at 3.8 WAR)

Value based on the 2014 free agent value per WAR $6 Million

Player Salary WAR Value % Recoup
Rendon $2,700,000 6.6 $39,600,000 1467%
Zimmermann $7,500,000 5.2 $31,200,000 416%
Werth $20,571,429 4.8 $28,800,000 140%
Strasburg $3,975,000 3.9 $25,800,000 649%
Span $6,500,000 3.9 $23,400,000 360%
Desmond $6,500,000 3.9 $23,400,000 360%
Roark $506,100 3.0 $18,000,000 3557%
Gonzalez $8,600,000 3.1 $18,600,000 174%
Ramos $2,095,000 2.0 $12,000,000 573%
Clippard $5,875,000 1.5 $9,000,000 153%
LaRoche $12,000,000 1.6 $9,600,000 80%
Zimmerman $14,000,000 1.2 $7,200,000 51%
Harper $2,150,000 1.4 $8,400,000 391%
Fister $7,200,000 1.3 $7,800,000 108%
Storen $3,450,000 0.9 $5,400,000 157%
Stammen $1,375,000 0.6 $3,600,000 262%
Soriano $14,000,000 0.7 $4,200,000 30%
Barrett $500,000 0.6 $3,600,000 720%
Espinosa $540,850 0.6 $3,600,000 666%
Cabrera 0 0.5 $3,000,000 Infinity
Blevins $1,675,000 0.7 $4,200,000 179%
Lobaton $950,000 0.6 $3,600,000 316%
Treinen $500,000 0.6 $3,600,000 480%
Moore $507,900 0.3 $1,800,000 354%
Leon $501,000 0.1 $600,000 120%
Frandsen $900,000 -0.1 $-600,000 0%
Detwiler $3,000,000 -0.2 -$1,200,000 -40%
Hairston $2,500,000 -0.5 -$3,000,000 -120%
McLouth $5,000,000 -0.6 -$3,600,000 -72%

The Best Images of a National League East Championship

Some cities go an entire generation without a division title. Some cities go entire generation without a baseball team altogether. So, when a night like last night comes around, it’s fitting and appropriate to enjoy it.  Here are some lasting images from a celebration of a 2014 National League East Championship.

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Seriously, if the above image of Adam LaRoche hugging his son Drake doesn’t make you at least a little misty, you’re probably a robot. If you only remember one image from last night, remember this one.

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Always the team leader, Ian Desmond was the first National to put on the Championship t-shirt and hat. If anything, I’m surprised he wasn’t wearing it under his uniform.

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Not a bad time to make the trip to Atlanta to see the hometown Nats.

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Take your shoes off Bryce.

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For some reason, the Nationals clubhouse resembled a creepy European disco you wouldn’t want your daughter to go to while studying abroad. After the game, Hollywood producers probably used the Nats locker room as a set for “Taken 3”.

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Lost in the celebration was this unfortunate man (in the background in a Braves shirt), presumably a Braves/Turner Field employee who not only had to watch the Nationals destroy the clubhouse for which he’s responsible, he probably also had to help with the cleanup. Poor guy.

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Matt Williams appears to have brought his own beer to the Miller Lite party. Say what you want about Matt Williams, but the man didn’t settle for crappy watered down domestic beer. He also quoted Robert Frost in his victory toast. That’s way too much culture for a city like Atlanta.

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Poor Dan Kolko.

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This speaks for itself.

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The reason the Nats won the NL East. And the reason they’ll probably win it again next year.

Congrats boys. Bring on the Cardinals.