Nationals Baseball: Who'd you rather face?

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Who'd you rather face?

As we continue on the "Nats are going to win the NL East" path that only the insane fear to tread on now*, there is no harm in looking toward the next destination which in an NLDS date with either the Dodgers or the Giants. As nice as it would be to catch the WC winner the Nats are 9 back of the Cubs.  That's not going to happen. So the East and the West will face off with the Nats likely to have home field advantage. Who'd you rather get?

The Dodgers

Offense -  Solid up and down the lineup a team that's more power and patience than scrappy run manufacturers. Station to station types of offense. They are no threat to steal. Seager (.316 / .377 / .535 24 HR) is the team leader with Grandal, Gonzalez, and Pederson all above average bats. All four of those guys hit LH (Grandal is switch but is better from left side) making them vulnerable to LHP. They are 17-19 versus southpaws this year. Weak bench, consisting of one lefty bat (Andrew Toles) and nothing else)

Starting Pitching - Kershaw is the best pitcher in the majors right now. Well not right now, because right now he's injured. but you know what I mean. He's back on Friday and if healthy is the most formidable pitcher to face. There's an opinion that he has playoff issues but that's overblown, especially innings 1-6. Kenta Maeda is a more than solid #2 and if Rich Hill is healthy, he just came back in past two weeks, he's an excellent #3. If health turns though Kershaw-Meada-Hill could become Meada-Kazmir-Stripling or something like thtat.

Relief Pitching - Jansen is a shutdown closer and Joe Blanton of all people, has become an above average set-up man. Before that they go by match up. Liberatore and Dayton can do a number on lefties. RH relief before that is more spotty and up to Baez likely. A tough crew though taken as a whole.

Etc - Fairly steady team - after slow start haven't had a losing month. Good in August but primarily taking advantage of Giants failure. Rookie manager. Two straight NLDS losses (though an NL Championship appearance before that). Vin Scully!


The Giants

Offense - Mediocre line-up that relies on above-average patience and some average. Will steal a base if necessary. Do not strike out. No true home run threat. Belt, Posey, Crawford all 15-20 guys. Posey having an off year but still good. Belt is best hitter and he may not even qualify as very good. Pence return should help, if healthy. Pence helps to balance line-up too, otherwise lefty heavy (though not as effected by LHP as LA). Solid bench.

Starting Pitching - Likely Bumgarner, Cueto and Samardzjia. First two are very good. MadBum carried SF to 2014 title. Cueto probably pitching best right now. Jeff more of a filler arm. No good number four

Relief Pitching - Not as dominant as Dodgers back end but good. Casilla, Romo, Strickland, Kontos all above average arms. Lefties like Osich, Okert, good at getting lefties out but pur LOOGYs that get crushed by RHB.  Because fo this a balanced line-up could cause issues late in games.

Etc - Recent playoff success with veteran playoff tested manager. If you believe in such stuff - every other year champions and this is every other year.  Beat Nationals two years ago. Have played pretty miserably for much of second half (16-31) with little sign of improvement.


My feelings have been thus : If Kershaw is healthy - give me the Giants. Yes, playoff success, beat Nats, etc. But I don't want to have to face Clayton twice in 5 games, especially if the manager is ready/willing to give a quick hook to a very good pen. However, I say this but if the Giants end up getting super hot and taking the West then they would be, well, super hot. And who wants to face a supre hot team in the playoffs? So really what I want is the Dodgers to collapse and the Giants to sneak in and grab the division title.

*Since called by me the Nats have gone a middling 11-10 and their lead over 2nd place has shrunk from 8.5 games all the way to... 8.5 games

38 comments:

Carl said...

Lots more bitching on Nats Twitter on Saturday and Sunday. "This team will not win a single playoff game." "Opportunity to finish off a division opponent and they failed." "The Mets will go farther in the playoffs that the Nats." (Yes, someone really tweeted that last one.) These from people who are supposedly Nationals fans.

If you had pointed to this series on the calendar on Opening Day, I'd have said "They probably lose two of three." Not that it's a result worth celebrating, but it's to be expected and sure as hell not catastrophic, especially considering the 8.5 game lead. Some of our fellow fans just don't understand how baseball works, apparently. Not to say that the Nats won't lose in the first round; maybe they will. But if they do get past the NL West winner, I want those tweeters above to admit they don't know shit. (Not gonna hold my breath, though.)

Combined forward winning percentage for the Nats + the Mets' opponents, in order for the Nats to win the division: .347. That's worst than the current worst team in baseball.

Sammy Kent said...

Sorry, Harper, but this is a wholly misguided discussion. IMHO if the Nationals could hit decent pitching worth a dang and have a bullpen that, while much improved, didn't still cause most of us to break out in hives when Dusty comes to the mound, the discussion of who we would be facing in the playoffs would be moot. We'd feel confident against anybody--even the Cubs. Since we can't hit decent pitching worth a dang and have a bullpen that, while much improved, still causes most of us to break out in hives when Dusty comes to the mound, the discussion of who we might be facing in the playoffs is moot.

It's the play of the Nationals, not this or that potential opponent that occupies my thinking. If the Nats could actually fire on all cylinders at the same time for an extended period (like they did most of May and June), it might make sense to play mental matchups. If the Nationals don't get their shirt together against quality opponents in a super big hurry, the matchup, mental or otherwise, won't matter. The trouble is we don't have that many quality opponents left to hone ourselves against (the Mets and Pirates, and maybe the rapidly fading Marlins).

I will say this team is at least marginally better than the 2012 and 2014 Nationals. They were both built for a 162 game marathon playing mostly inferior teams, and woefully ill-equipped for a five game series against an equally talented foe. This team SHOULD be able to go further in the playoffs. It does have higher POTENTIAL ceiling than those two teams had...better speed, better rotation (if Stras and Ross come back healthy), more players having good seasons at the plate. But until I see some serious lumber getting wielded against guys like Fernandez and Syndergaard (about the only really good ones we have left to face) I won't get my hopes up. I'll say it over and over because it bears repeating: you can't win a 0-0 game no matter how many innings you play.

Bjd1207 said...

Can we take a second to bask in Max Scherzer? If he holds pace this season, he's on track to be worth $96M (fangraphs) over the last 2 seasons. That means he's nearly half-way to the $210 million total that seemed so astronomical at the time. Now, I wouldn't be a proper Harper reader if I didn't slide in here that we expect him to exceed AAV in the first few seasons of a contract, because we also expect him to underperform AAV on the tail end.

However, with 5 years left he's got to work off $114M which is about 13.5 WAR (is $8.5M/WAR still the ballpark value?). Factoring in standard regression losing about 1 WAR/year, that sets him up for 4.5 in 2017, 3.5 in 2018, 2.5 in 2019, 1.5 in 2020, .5 in 2021 for a total of 12.5. There's still a real possibility that he ends up achieving his contract value.

Bjd1207 said...

@Sammy Kent - I really can't tell if you're trolling or not. We literally JUST beat Syndergaard, and he was matched up against Cole. He's about as tough a pitcher as we'll face in the post-season barring Kershaw. You know the reason they're elite pitchers is because they're tough to score runs on right? If teams were able to regularly post 4 or 5 runs on them then they wouldn't be elite pitchers.

Are you expecting to hang 4 runs on these pitchers each time? I feel like that's a ludicrous expectation for any team.

Carl said...

The offense that's fourth in the NL in runs scored? That's the one you're worried about?
The bullpen that leads the NL in ERA and runs against?

JE34 said...

Syndergaard is 1-3 vs the Nats this year, with a 4.15 ERA in those games...

Gimme the Giants. I don't want to rely on Gio against a lefty-heavy lineup like the Dodgers.

Zach said...

Carl: I've also noticed a lot of whining by Nats fans over the past couple weeks. While the Nats are certainly not playing their best ball at the moment, the complaining is extremely overblown. Every single team goes through a decently long stretch where they are hovering around .500 (as you noted Harper, 11-10 in the past 21 games). At the end of the day, this is very likely a mid to high 90s win team who've played like it the vast majority of the season. With Stras and hopefully Ross returning soon, we should be fully healthy (in terms of big pieces) as well.

While Gio may get a playoff start anyways, he will almost certainly get one if we face the Dodgers in the NLDS. Very lefty-heavy lineup as you noted Harper. That worries me, as he has not pitched particularly well in the must-win playoff games (small sample size, I know). A Game 4 start has a high chance of being one. That being said, I don't know if we'll have much choice, the rookies aren't ready, and it's looking like they are prepping Ross for the bullpen. I'd probably rather the face the Dodgers, because if the Giants end up winning the West, they will likely be pretty hot going into the postseason.

Bjd1207 said...

@JE34 - But that can't possibly be right. Sammy Kent says that we're the worst baseball team to ever win a division because we "can't get our shit together against quality opponents"

JE34 said...

@BJD - YES dude. Save some sunlight for Trea Turner while you're at it. No more handwringing about the leadoff spot. Fastest man in baseball! Talk about making baseball fun again...

Bjd1207 said...

@JE34 - Yea every time I start to think he's cooling down or his K/BB ratio will start to eat into his production, he rips off another 3/4 night. And then I read stuff like the WaPo piece the other day where he scoffs at the grounder-heavy speedster profile and says he spends him time studying Daniel Murphy and Bryce cuz he wants to be that caliber of hitter

Fries said...

I'm not quite as doom and gloom as Sammy, but I really was a bit annoyed that a) Scherzer got the Barves instead of the Mets and b) we couldn't do jack against a rookie pitcher on Sunday. This is the same team we've had for years, either scoring 10 runs or 0 (a bit hyperbolic, but you get the point). I'd much rather have a team that consistently scored 3-4 runs each game, because come playoff time that's what will matter. The Nats could easily continue averaging 4.7 runs/game in a 4 game series in which they score 12, 3, 2, and 2 and lose the series 3-1...

JE34 said...

I do feel where Sammy is coming from, to some extent. It is in part because of the old baseball tautology in which good pitching is good pitching, and therefore teams don't hit well against good pitching, otherwise it wouldn't be good pitching.

BUT - sometimes it *feels* like their bats fold up and die in critical RISP moments. Earlier this year, they had a stretch of games where they did a lot of 2-out scoring... confidence was soaring then. They've had a spate of high-stranded-runner counts lately, and thus confidence swoons.

Werth and Murphy, get your rest! They in particular will need to work the counts of the opposing aces in the postseason. They will show the team that it's cool to foul off pitches in the postseason, and maybe it'll catch on.

Finally - I hope Trea goes off in the playoffs. Especially on the road. That way, the headlines will write themselves:

"Trea Makes AT&T Park Into Turner Field"

Bjd1207 said...

I guess I just don't know what standard we're comparing ourselves too when we say that we "suck" in these positions (RISP, against good pitching, whatever split you wanna choose)

Like, for RISP according to fangraphs we're 14th. So solidly average, and looking at the teams above us about half of them aren't playoff teams so we're probably about average among the playoff bound teams as well.

I feel like we've dissected the "bad against good pitching" one before on here, but I think the results would be similar.

Of course we'd all like to be better. But there's literally NO teams that hit 1.000 w/ RISP or hang 4 runs regularly on aces. If that's the standard we're comparing ourselves against then we're gonna fail quite often. We need to be looking at whether we're "better than the rest of them"

Carl said...

I sure wish there was a free stats site that allowed for multiple splits. (Is there a paid one, even?) Like, I expect the response to the Nats' bullpen leading the NL in ERA to be "Yeah but they face the Phillies and Braves so much." So the next step would be to compare bullpen ERAs vs. the other divisions, but I don't see how to do that easily.

Sammy Kent said...

@BJD, of course I am not trolling. We literally got three hits off Syndergaard. We won that game because A.J. Cole and the bullpen were phenomenal that night, not because we hammered Syndergaard. In our last ten games against .500 teams we are 3-7. In our last 15 games we have scored three or fewer runs eight times....and that's against the likes of the Phillies, not just the Os and Mets.

Don't be an ass just because I can see the shortcomings of our team as well as the strengths (which I also enumerated and which you apparently choose to ignore.) And please don't misquote me. I never said we're the worst team blah blah blah. I never said "we can't get our **** together...." I said "IF WE DON'T GET our shirt (notice the r. I don't use that four letter word you used) together......." That's a big difference, and you know it. "We can't" means something very different from "We need to." The potential is certainly there for this team to go far, but if you can't see that there are still serious red flags flying, don't get pissed at me for pointing them out. Come join me at the game tonight. Section 319.

Froggy said...

...and there is the oh so critical home field advantage that we DON'T have if we play the Dodgers. So the Nats would have to win one or both in LA. On the other hand, the Nats won the season series with the Giants.

Since a road trip is inevitable, I would rather face the Gigantes.

Carl said...

"and there is the oh so critical home field advantage that we DON'T have if we play the Dodgers"
....if the Nats finish tied with or behind the Dodgers. Got a three game lead for that right now though.

Bjd1207 said...

@Sammy Kent - So then let's hear your standard. What WOULD be acceptable (or encouraging) in terms of RISP or hitting against quality pitching? Not just after-the-fact bitching and moaning. So far as I can tell neither of those are explicit weaknesses of this team except in anecdotal or small sample size examples, usually with a heavy dose of recency bias as well.

And apologies, I don't mean anything I say on here to be personal attacks so I apologize if you took them that way. My statements are 100% intended as responses to your posts, not to you personally. I may (will) still be an ass at some points, but its toward "Sammy Kent the knowledgable Nats thread reader/sparring partner" not toward "Sammy Kent fine upstanding citizen"

Josh Higham said...

The great thing is that the Sammy Kents of the world are almost always right, because this is a game of failure and attrition. Then come the playoffs, and it doesn't matter who was best before, because now it's a game of chance, and being the best and most consistent doesn't mean anything if the other team is lucky enough, so year in and year out, irrational doom and gloomers look like prophets.

Ole PBN said...

I think we rag on this team so much, especially about their inconsistency, because we watch them with a microscope nearly every game, and for each win/loss trying to temper our emotions. We don't watch LA or SF with nearly the same focus, so we just assume that the Nats have these terrible flaws that no other winning team has. I can't tell you what the Nats issue is, because every time I think its a missing cleanup hitter, someone hits a couple grand slams and the Nats win 14-3 on 7 home runs. Every time I think its the bullpen, I remember countless games of seeing the box score showing for the 'pen: 3 innings, no hits, no walks, a strikeout for each guy, a save for our closer, and we won 4-2.

Alas, without this hyper-intensive focus, why would we comment and visit this page everyday? Because we love it, and we're silly old fans. And to Sammy's venting... it is possible that the Nats don't always lose the game, sometimes, maybe even more times than you might think, the other team wins the game. That pessimistic view of the Nats only lose because it was their fault, never giving the opponent any credit to actually being better that day, gets old and sounds quite ridiculous.

Rob Evans said...

I know that I'm a victim of the recently bias problem, but I do feel like the Nats offense is going to let us down. No stats or examples to back that up. Just a nervous Nats fan I guess lol

Sammy Kent said...

@BJD, we are cool. I certainly do not ever mean to be combative with a fellow Nats fan. My apologies as well.

I admit I have a high passion for the game, but dang, when I was kid I played, when I was older I umpired, when I had kids I coached, and when I was still young enough and fast enough I played many softball seasons on championship teams (and some bad ones too. Granted, softball ain't baseball, but it's still batting, fielding, throwing, and catching and it's still competing.) I can't be satisfied if we're hitting .300 with RISP if we just stranded someone on third or failed to plate more than one run with the bases loaded and one out. To me those are things that should just never happen. Period. You just can't squander scoring opportunities. It will bite you. So that's my standard, unrealistic as it may be. I admit it's unattainable.

Perhaps I'm more guilty than most of the "what have you done for me lately" syndrome. Lord knows I love rooting for the Washington Nationals and wish in every way they could go 162-0 with complete game shutouts every time....and am sorely disappointed when they don't. Maybe if they did I'd get bored with baseball. But I'd like to find out. Just once. (And throw in the Orioles going 0-162. Double fun.)

Anonymous said...

Not exactly the level of the Thomas Huxley-Matthew Arnold debate, but I'm glad you guys made up.

Froggy said...

Carl, you are correct. I was erroneously thinking that regular season H2H series had any bearing. But only if we are tied record wise.

Still, I like a Nats / Giants series over one with LA.

Rob Evans said...

I admit it, I had to google the Thomas Huxley-Matthew Arnold debate. I feel smarter now :-)

PotomacFan said...

OldPBN: well said. As Nats fans, we know all the faults of our team. Other fans know all the faults of their own team, and with the exception of the Cubs, all the other MLB teams have as many, if not far more, faults than the Nationals. My 19-year old son is a die-hard Orioles fan. Whenever I moan about the Nats, he kindly tells me to shut-up and enjoy what the Nats are doing because the Orioles are a "mess" (his words). BTW: the Orioles would LOVE to have Gio in their pitching rotation.

W. Patterson said...

I agree. With just about everybody.

Bias when we strand 14 in a game. Or when the bullpen blows, or comes to close blowing, a save. Or the "meat of our lineup" can't buy a hit. And that we don't watch the NL west teams as close as we do the Nats so (maybe) don't notice their shortcomings.

Since I grew up a Dodger fan, I do not want the Giants anywhere close to the playoffs. That makes the Dodgers my choice for our first foes in the playoffs. After that, we watch the Cubs collapse.

Bjd1207 said...

@Sammy Kent - I feel like you'd make a good manager. That's definitely the attitude I want in the dugout

cass said...

The "Nats Suck!" vs. "What?! Have you seen our record?" debate seems to be raging here as much as it is with fans I talk to irl. Drives me nuts to hear the complaints but I'm in the "Have you seen our record?" camp. The bullpen is good - I think maybe the juiced ball and increased offense this year combined with our stellar rotation might make it seem worse than it is? Pitchers give up runs. All pitchers*. All bullpens blow games. Ours is still pretty good. A little less clutch than you'd want, but that's not predictive.

Anyway, I get sick and tired of hearing people whine about the bullpen and the bats when we have a really great lineup and a good bullpen. I even went through each member of the lineup with a doom-and-gloomer and he was happy with them all individually (cept Zimm). So... I donno what it is but this seems like a real divide. Yeah, the Phillies and Braves suck, but so do the Brewers and Reds and Diamondbacks and Padres. Every NL division has terrible teams to feast on.

I would rather face the Giants, I guess, cause of the Dodgers lefty bats, but I think the Dodgers have almost locked this down. Four games is a lot. This could be over in a few days. Pretty sure it'll be Nats-Dodgers. I guess Scherzer-Strasburg-Gio for the Dodgers? Ross to the bullpen? Not sure what to do with Roark. He's been fantastic but given the lefties, no idea what to do. Injury backup longman, I guess?

Turner-Werth-Murphy-Harper-Rendon-Ramos + Scherzer & Strasburg(fingers-crossed) - this is going to be fun! I admit that part of the reason I am so positive is because Turner is so insanely *fun* to watch, but this is a good team with great hitters, great fielders, a great rotation, and a good bullpen. Playoffs are a crapshoot but this is a good team.

Carl said...

Josh is onto something that I've been belaboring for a while. The American, media-driven notion that only championships matter, and championships are determined via playoffs, means you are setting yourself up for disappointment every year based on sheer probability. Only 10% of the teams that make the MLB playoffs win the title! Why does anyone even bother?!?

I know a lot of people will disagree with me, but I think a division title is something to celebate, and certainly 3 division crowns in 5 years, even if there's no parade at the end.

Mythra said...

I'm in the glass half full side. I'd rather be playing .500+ ball like the Nats than be a Giants fan right now. SF crisis centers must be talking lots of people off ledges these days.

Also, yesterday our bench and AAA team beat the Braves. There should be 1 or 2 more games like that one where Dusty gives guys some days off and lets the bench and 20-somethings play like kids unsupervised in a toy store. Remember when we all praised Dusty for resting his starters and giving his bench guys starts to keep their timing? Remember it again when the kids get to play.

This team has held it's lead with our #1/#2 starter (Stras) and our #4 starter (Ross) being out for weeks/months. That's pretty impressive. Yes, the bullpen made things interesting at times, but if you asked me 100 times, 100 times I'd say I'd want this season's BP vs last season's BP.

October usually brings a return of BRYCE. I'm excited. I'm also excited to see Turner flying around the bases this Fall. That speed is really special. I haven't see so many stolen 3rd bases since Ricky Henderson was running around.

Ole PBN said...

To echo what Carl said, I would so much rather win the division every year and be invited to the "Playoff Party." It really sucks when you're not invited (see 2015, 2013, and the over half century before that). To think that you have a chance every year in October is an awesome feeling. When your team's not in the fight, it sucks the fun out of it.

I'd take LA in a heartbeat. If SF pulls this off, they'd be a hot team heading into the DS. No thanks. Add that to no real terrible hitters in the lineup made up of guys who don't strike out and put the ball in play facing our flyball strikeout pitchers. No thanks. Though LA has some formidable hitters, I think the likes of Scherzer, Stras, and our pen will be well-suited for them. Plus, not afraid of Kershaw when the calendar flips to October. Until he proves he's an ace when it matters, that is - just hopefully not against us!

BxJaycobb said...

One thing to watch with Turner. (Note: this is the most nit picky thing EVER since he's been so remarkable and I am such a fan of him it's not even funny and he's gonna be great.) BUT the degree to which he is not walking is pretty wild. I think he has a 2% walk rate. Maybe he has 2 or 3 since he came up. This could* be that pitchers are challenging him a ton since he doesn't look like he has much pop---particularly since he did walk close to an average amount in the minors. BUT if he doesn't eventually show some more patience, pitchers will definitely adjust and start throwing a lot of balls a bit outside the zone and breaking stuff in dirt etc to see if he will routinely expand, and even if his hitting doesn't suffer much, he will have to hit like .330 to have an above average OBP from leadoff spot. So please note: this is not a criticism. It's just something I'm watching, because rookies who literally walk zero in majors have a ceiling on their potential. So these days I almost get more excited to see a BB in the box score for Turner than a triple. (I know that seems nuts, but if we're looking to his future, I don't know if it's THAT nuts!)

Anonymous said...

A couple things on Turner's success:

He hasn't been up long enough for the league to have much of any scouting on him. That takes a while. Because he's a stealing threat, pitchers won't nibble and risk a walk to start off the game or inning. He's sitting dead-red fastball and should be, that what he's getting. I think he's not walking because he's getting great pitches to hit (fastballs), not that he would rather get a hit and is impatient at the plate. This will cool off as the league adjusts and his patience will need to reciprocate that adjustment. I just hope he keeps this up through the playoffs. If he doesn't, Nats lineup is nowhere near as fearsome. So goes Tuner, so go the Nats IMO

Ric said...

Turner's OBP is .362. That's third on the team, only behind Bryce and Murphy. It is higher than Rendon and Werth (IMO, the best "eye" at the plate).

I don't think we need to work about Turner not walking. Hard to get walks when you are hitting everything.

Next someone will be complaining that Turner isn't getting enough doubles. Because those damn triples keep getting in the way.

Kevin Rusch said...

It's hard to get to ball 4 when you're hitting a single (and stealing 2 more bases) on strike 1.

Kevin Rusch said...

If the Nats face the Dodgers, I think I'd go with Scherzer/Strasburg/Roark and have Gio, Zepchinsky (I'm not gonna try the real spelling) and, if he's healthy, Solis available in the bullpen. That gives you the 3 most reliable starters, 3 lefties, and then you can throw Ross, Treinen, Glover, Kelley, and Melancon at them as well.

Josh Higham said...

Speaking of the bullpen, Koda Glover has been a wonderful surprise. And I agree with Kevin about the playoff pitching.