Yes, I realize the Nats have more wins - this isn't about some quirky pattern that showed up. This is about the idea that the best team wins in the playoffs. We've talked about this before but imagine you said the Dodgers have a 55% chance of winning a game against the Nats. This is crazy because it means if the Nats and Dodgers played 162 games you'd expect the Dodgers to win 89 of them and the Nats to win only 73, but whatever, this is a thought exercise. Any way - purely mathematically - what are the chances the Dodgers win a 5 game series? 75%? 80%?
A little over 59%.
I reality the Nats and Dodgers are much closer and that 59% is too high.Yes, yes match-ups, starters, etc. but hopefully you get the point I've been trying to make. It is FAR FAR FAR from impossible for the Nats to win this series. It may not be the most likely outcome but if it isn't it's just a smidge away from it. So you can pick the Dodgers to win, but no gloom and doom ok.
The Nats have to figure out who's on their roster for the playoffs. Easy choices include - Lobaton, Severino, Zimmerman, Murphy, Espinosa, Rendon, Werth, Turner, Bryce, Scherzer, Roark, Gio, Kelley, Treinen, Melancon. There are your starters and best bullpen arms. That's 15 out of 25.
Drew is a given, considering Murphy's condition and his own production. Based on performance and recent usage it would be hard to see them leaving off Belisle. They may be looking at going with a 3-man rotation, but you can't not take someone who can give you multiple innings. Ross is the obviously choice here, as neither Lopez or Cole have staked any strong claimes to the spot. 18.
So this is the "base". The Nats need at least one more OF and another bat on the bench, two more is more likely. They need some LH relievers.
The Nats have a plethora of OF choices right now. Heisey, the year long bench player. Goodwin, recently called up and doing allright. Revere, the struggling veteran. Taylor the former heir apparent. Robinson, the versatile back-up first-baseman. I bet even Difo could play OF. You figure Heisey won't lose his bench role given he's performed well in it over the course of the season. 19. From here I could see it going a lot of ways.
You probably take Robinson, to give the option of sitting the struggling Zimmerman at times. But it's not like Robinson has lit the world on fire this year. You could leave him behind. Problem is that it doesn't leave a "true" back-up first baseman on the team. Though Murphy can do it, has done it in the past, but hasn't played there much this year. You'd probably rather take a hot Revere, but he has continued his unimpressive singles hitting. A cold Goodwin or Difo would be an easy leave, but both are hitting pretty well and give you a touch of speed on the bench that the other bench guys don't. (Taylor is cold - hasn't played - It would be a huge surprise if he was taken.)
If you go hot hands you take Goodwin/Difo. If you go veterans you take Robinson/Revere. If you go handedness Difo has to make it as the other three are all lefties. I think leaving off Robinson would be surprising. He hasn't been good but there's a need for someone behind the struggling Zimm, and leaving him off for a decent month of part-time playing by one of these young guys would be a huge leap of faith. That means that Difo gets the nod as the last guy on the bench to balance out lefty righty. This leaves the Nats with a defensively suspect outfield bench - Heisey is fair, Robinson is a first baseman who can not embarrass himself. But I don't think the alternative - leaving Robinson off for Revere or Goodwin will happen. I think it's more likely we see Robinson, Revere than that. 21.
We're in the pen now and we need three lefties because we have none and the Dodgers are bad against lefties. Everything leans to taking Rep. Pitched in September a fair amount, pitched well, handles lefties, veteran. He's in. 22. Solis would be an obvious next choice as he was the most successful lefty all year for the Nats. However, he's barely pitched in September (faced 11 batters in 3 games) given he's come back from injury. Still used 3 times in 6 days once back tells us they want him ready to go. He was fine so he's in. 23. Sean Burnett or Oliver Perez or even Matt Grace? Burnett and Grace have been very good against lefties all year while Perez has struggled. But Perez, under the radar, has had a very good September. (4.1 IP in 9 games, 2 H, 1 BB, 6K, 0.00 ERA). It's a tough call. I think the Nats end up going with Perez. 24.
That leaves one spot and you have to believe it will be in the pen, especially the way Dusty tries to get favorable match-ups. Your choices are AJ Cole, Reynaldo Lopez, Sean Burnett, Matt Grace, Trevor Gott, Rafael Martin, Yusmeiro Petit or Koda Glover. Petit's awful. Out. There's some talk Glover isn't 100% and hasn't pitched since the 25th. Out. Grace hasn't pitched since the same game. Out. Cole or Lopez would both fill a longer relief role, which could be needed if you were sure you were going with 4 men starting. Neither has been all that good. Burnett, Gott, or Martin would be the last pen arm, Burnett giving you another lefty arm.
I'm going to say Lopez for two reasons. I think (1) they want to go with a four man rotation if possible and that means Ross isn't the long man anymore. With Petit gone because of terribleness that means they need Lopez or Cole. Lopez has been slightly better. (2) Lopez pitched a short outing the last time he was out. That suggests to me setting him up for some short outings if possible, as opposed to Cole who has only ever started.
So there you go my roster guess:
C: Lobaton, Severino
1B : Zimmerman, Robinson
2B: Murphy, Difo
SS: Espinosa, Drew
OF : Werth, Turner, Bryce, Heisey,
SP : Scherzer, Roark, Gio, Ross
RHRP: Melancon, Treinen, Kelley, Belisle, Lopez
LHRP: Rzepczynski, Solis, Perez