Nationals Baseball: NLDS Preview

Thursday, October 02, 2014

NLDS Preview

So it's the Giants.

And since Bumgarner won't pitch twice in the series (well at least won't start twice - who know what crazy things might happen in a Game 5) this is what you wanted as a Nats fan. Of course that means the Nats expected chance of winning the series went from say 65% against the Pirates to 68% for the Giants or something like that but it's something.

The other thing to note from last night is that hotness doesn't matter. No one was playing better than the Nationals down the stretch but the Pirates were close going 17-6 to end the season. All that got 'em was the ticket in. The Nationals should beat the Giants because they are better, not because they had a great finish to September.

You guys know the Nats.  As a team they don't have any big weaknesses.  The biggest one is offensively they don't have a star batter. This is usually countered with an "everyone is good though" but I'm not 100% that applies at this point> Wilson Ramos has slipped below average and you always worry about catcher "freshness" going into the post-season. Ramos has the added issue of being injured all the time. Adrubal Cabrera is also nothing special at the plate. Better than Espinosa, yes, but not as good as Zimmerman and not... well good. So there is that break at the end of the line-up you hope to avoid. 1-6 though is strong and offers no easy out if Desmond is truly warming back up.

Another weakness we've noted is defense down the RF line as LaRoche and Werth are statuesque but everywhere else the defense is solid or better. So to exploit this weakness you can't just pull the ball you have to pull it enough that Cabrera or Span aren't a factor. And let's not forget the Nats pitchers are good enough to make sure you don't hit the balls there. So it exists but it's difficult for an opponent to expressly go after.

Anything else? Ummm they could use a better LHB on the bench?

What's up with the Giants then?

Offensively they do well. Led by Buster Posey, who is flat out the best hitter on the team and a step above anyone on the Nats, they don't have holes. Morse, Belt, Pence and Sandoval all have good pop (and Crawford can put one out). Panik, Blanco, and Ishikawa do well enough to get on base. Posey was scorching in Sept (.393 / .436 / .607), and Crawford was hot as well. Pence, Sandoval and Ishikawa were cold.  As a team they don't walk so that means the Nats tendency for great control won't throw them off their game. They don't strike out much as a team but you can get a big K from Crawford, Morse or Pence.

They are a station to station team stealing only 56 bases during the season. Four guys (Posey, Panik, Sandoval, and Morse) didn't even attempt one.

Overall it's an offense I'd expect to score a couple runs off the Nats, and could pounce on an ineffective starter (see last night). This season's results versus the Nats agree as they scored 1,2,2,2,6,7, and 10 runs in games. When the Nats are on, they can't shut the Giants out but can hold them down. When the Nats are off things get dicey.

Pitching wise the Giants are good but not great. Bumgarner is great and we saw last night he could hold the Nats in check. That's bad news... for one game. The other starters are less reliable.

Hudson is a 38 and had a errible September. His best outing was 6 innings, 3 runs.  But he's had a better year overall than Vogelsong and it's not like Vogelsong forced the issue. His Sept was bad too. Hudson is a control guy now. Doesn't K, keeps the ball in play. Nats always seemed to hit him eventually in the past, but never really killed him. I don't expect anything different now.

Peavy has had a little re-birth in San Fran after mostly floundering since '09 (2012 was good). He's concentrated on control with San Fran which is good but has been helped out by a ridiculously low HR rate. The Giants are really counting on Peavy thinking he could be that #2 ace In Nats park they could get to him I imagine.

They could hold him for SF then but their 3rd or 4th guy out there is almost certainly Petit and he is night and day depending on location. 2.74 ERA in SF, 5.06 elsewhere. Oddly it's not a HR thing  Instead the walks go up and power across the board is more pronounced. It is a little bit of a mirage though. He should be doing better away than what we see. Of course the biggest thing is that he's a converted reliever who only spot-started this year before the end of August so he doesn't go deep into games. 93 pitches max.  How's he done while starting is the bigger deal and he's been... ok. He has good stuff. He can strike out guys and he doesn't walk guys, but he gets hit and as a starter has shown a tendency to give up the long ball. I like the Nats against him

The Giants pen hasn't had a great year but did finish strong, with five guys posting a 2.57 ERA or under. It's a competent group who don't give up a lot of hits or walks but outside of Romo and Cordier the arms the Nats are likely to see aren't special. It's a gettable group if you can get to them outside of say the last 5 outs or so.

What do I see? Well it's not going to be a sweep. Giants are too good. Travel is too far. Things just happen. But I see a 3-1 series win.  If you want to go crazy and go game by game AND score for games... well it's nonsense but here :

Game 1 : 6-4 Nats (Stras gives up an early HR, but Nats get to Hudson, minor scare late)
Game 2 : 2-1 Nats (Peavy is good, but ZNN is better)
Game 3 : 5-0 Giants (Bumgarner shuts Nats down, Fister gets nickeled and dimed)
Game 4 : 8-1 Nats (Petit is off, bullpen not good either, Gio cruises)


Donald said...

This is the match-up that I was hoping for. I sure hope your predictions are correct. It gets dicey if the Giants manage to win one of these first two games in DC. Game 3 will be really tough, so if we fly out to SF even, the Nats could be looking at trailing 1-2 and needing to win the last two games to advance.

Carl said...

Someone on Twitter asked the other day, "If you could take a player from Nats history and put them on this playoff team, who would it be?" My answer was 2005 Nick Johnson as a lefty off the bench. (Assuming he didn't break his leg in the first game.)

Jimmy said...

@Carl- 2010 Ryan Zimmerman?

Jimmy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mythical Monkey said...


Shadows and the Sun Monster play a huge role in game one. Span pulls a ball in the bottom of the seventh, Pence loses it in the sun, the ball rattles around in the corner, Span rounds third, Bob Sendley does what he does, Span stumbles a bit on a loose pebble but slides in feet first and touches home plate just ahead of the throw. Stadium goes nuts. Nats win, 2-1.

Game two: my wife goes out to refill her soda in the bottom of the fourth, and while she's arguing with the concessionaire because the cup doesn't have the appropriate sticker on it, LaRoche pulls one into the bullpen with two men on. We decide she has to watch the rest of the playoffs from the bottom of the stairs. Nats win 6-2.

As an elaborate avant garde joke, Doug Fister and Bumgarner replay World Series, Giants win 2-0.

Gio Gonzalez keeps arm in proper slot, mows down Giants before subdued crowd. Harper splashes one in McCovery Cove. Nats win going away, 7-1.

Mythical Monkey said...

By the way, we were at the no-hitter Sunday. Watching from the stands, there's no way that ball doesn't split Souza and Taylor. It was like winning the lottery.

Carl said...

Jimmy--you're on to something, if we get the 2010 defensive version rather than the 2014 one.

Bote Man said...

Nats in 3. COUNT IT!

Bryan said...

@Carl- I loved NJ too, but he would get hurt in the process of teleporting him to 2014.

Seriously, had that guy stayed healthy he might have been an all-time great.

Now... 2010 Zimmerman I could get on board with.

Harper said...

Donald - Yeah a loss in the first two wouldn't seem like much - until you realize Bumgarner is lurking in Game 3 in SF. Still it won't kill the Nats. Now 0-2...

Carl - f that. 2006 Nick and he starts. '06 Johnson on this team is an MVP candidate. If not that 2009 Dunn as the power lefty bat off the bench / DH in AL.

MM - W-W-L-W? That's crazy. I can't get behind that.

Might be best play to save a no-hitter though I might be partial to the Vizquel bare-hand. If it looks like it was hard for that guy...

Bote - counting.

Bryan That's it we've decided Nick Johnson first pitch.

Jimmy said...

@Harper 2010 Zimmerman had a WRC of 142
over 2014 Cabrera(who he would be replacing) at WRC 97 while 2006 Nick Johnson would be WRC 147(wow) over Laroche WRC of 127, although his surprisingly Johnson was twice the fielder of Laroche that year. Idk I still like Zimmerman circa 2009-2010.

WiredHK said...

I'm going to say Nats in 5 and it won't be easy at all. I think we'll split these first two at home and lose to Bum on the road. Gio will come up solid in game 4, but it won't be a great performance -- he'll get plenty of run support. Game 5 will be tight and low scoring, with Stras going 7 strong and Storen saving it late.

Game 1: Nats 5 SF 2
Game 2: Nats 1 SF 4
Game 3: Nats 0 SF 6 (some unearned and on bullpen)
Game 4: Nats 8 SF 3
Game 5: Nats 3 SF 2

JWLumley said...

That's it, I've had it with this crap. Where's my statistical breakdown of a certain craigslist post? What's a guy gotta do? Huh Harper, huh?

My prediction, the Nats in 5. During the series I predict fistacuffs between my old man and me. Sure he's in his 60's and has had a couple of heart attacks, but if I have to hear one more time about how Bryce Harper is no Willie Mays, it's on. Here's a hint Dad: NO ONE IS WILLIE MAYS.

So yeah, in game 5 Storen blows the save, but in an odd twist of fate, he's forced to bat in the bottom of the inning and goes all Gio swings from his heels, closes his eyes and hits one down the left field line that bounces in and out of Michael "They Sing Take On Me Better in San Francisco" Morse's glove. Ballgame, bang zoom.

Donald said...

For all of our fear of Bumgarner in game 3, it should be noted that Fister out pitched him in SF on June 10th to get a 2-1 win. I'd still assume the Giants would be heavy favorites in that game, but there's some degree of hope.

cass said...

No one's going to mention Soriano 2006? We can even let him stay at 2nd!

JWLumley said...

Well, I will be in section 142 tomorrow, since those were the closest seats I could get to Denard Span. Hopefully, we're all talking about a 2-0 lead come Monday.

Richard Parker said...

I was surprised they let Bum pitch the whole game with a big lead like that. Why not give him a bit of a rest and give your relievers some work? It's just going to make him that less fresh for Game 3.

Zimmerman11 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zimmerman11 said...

THey tried to take him out but he said "no way" and the mgr backed off... hopefully that means we only see him once... Bumgarner outta the pen in game 5... just got chills...

Nattydread said...

Good Fangraphs article about Williams use of the bullpen.

Froggy said...

Has anyone seen the Nats NLDS roster? I mean it is game day and all...

Hope the players don't find out by having to look at the clubhouse roster card!

Jimmy said...

@Froggy no and it's kind of irritating.

Donald said...

I thought I heard they were due by 10:00am today. Looks like Williams is waiting for the last minute to submit.

Strasburger said...

Uh Harp... can you adjust your prediction based on Peavy pitching second...Might change things. I for one, think Stras will cruise. I see this series being 3 or 4 games, and really hope it doesn't span to 5 because I really can't handle that pressure.

I'll be there this afternoon. I work in Navy Yard so the atmosphere is already electric down here. Hopefully the fans stay loud the entire game.

Playoff baseball...literally nothing better.

Jimmy said...


LHP Jerry Blevins
LHP Gio Gonzalez
LHP Matt Thornton

RHP Aaron Barrett
RHP Tyler Clippard
RHP Doug Fister
RHP Tanner Roark
RHP Rafael Soriano
RHP Craig Stammen
RHP Drew Storen
RHP Stephen Strasburg
RHP Jordan Zimmermann


C Jose Lobaton
C Wilson Ramos


INF Asdrubal Cabrera (S)
SS Ian Desmond
INF Danny Espinosa (S)
INF Kevin Frandsen
1B Adam LaRoche (L)
INF Anthony Rendon
INF Ryan Zimmerman


OF Bryce Harper (L)
OF Nate Schierholtz (L)
OF Denard Span (L)
OF Jayson Werth

just announced.

Super Homer said...

Grumbles as he reads Schierholtz instead of Souza.

Kenny B. said...

Strasburg pitching in a postseason game 1. We've been waiting so long for this. Hopefully it lives up to the hype as well as he did in his MLB debut.

I'm going to predict Strasburg cruises, racks up at least 8 Ks, Harper knocks one out, and the crowd absolutely loses its mind when Storen closes out the 9th by striking out the side.

*cringes at jinx created by own comment*

Jimmy said...

Only real head-scratcher is Soriano instead of Detwiler, although it's pretty defensible. Pretty much what we expected.

Froggy said...

Geezus...Sorryano over anyone is beyond me.

slantedi said...

Ummmm.....WRONG! October is a different/new season and it is one that the Giants obviously have mastered. Amateur move making predictions based on regular season inclings. Nats are a great regular season squad and have a great future. Giants are battle tested and got the hardware to back it up. I take chemistry and experience over talent any October day. Onto SF...

slantedi said...

Obviously I am a Giants fan, but we were in the same situation in 2012 vs the reds. Down 2-0 heading to cincy and a few weeks later we were popping bottles in Detroit. Series aint over yet. Its been a close/terrific series so far. I have tons of respect for the Nats. I miss FP Santangelo in the booth with Kruk and Kuip. Hell I even still have my Matt Wiliiams baseball cards. Not trying to troll...but reading this post made me appreciate what the Giants do even more. We defy logic and straight up perform. Here is to a great series this season..and may more to come. #orangeoctober