Nationals Baseball: NLDS Preview Part 2

Friday, October 06, 2017

NLDS Preview Part 2

Let's keep going

ROSTER UPDATE :  It's out. What you expect, especially after the noises yesterday. I missed on the fringes. Romero instead of Blanton, Goodwin instead of de Aza. It's not a big different but I worry about two things (1) Dusty using Enny to get out lefties when Enny has shown no proclivity for doing that. (2) Needing a big hit from Goodwin and him not facing live major league pitching in two months. I do love Robles being on the roster for PR purposes.

Do the Cubs have any particular weakness like the Dodgers did last year? No, not really. If you want to stretch things in a way, they don't like power pitchers in comparison to others and like RH starters a little less so does seem like a positive for the Nats who have two of the better power RH starters in baseball. Of course no one does well against power pitchers really - the Nats have much worse splits in this regard. So I doubt it's telling. Same with the pitching a pretty even keel.

The Cubs don't run much. Anthony Rizzo, who's not a bad baserunner but would never be confused with the fastest guy on the Cubs, is tied for the team lead in steals. They strikeout a lot but it's the tradeoff any of us who've watched baseball in the past few years is familiar with.  They can be prone to the long ball and give up a walk or two.  The only one of those that really play into the Nats though is the strikeouts. Max or Stras or Gio might dominate through missing bats alone.

Are they bad at fielding then? Nope. They are way worse than last year's defense as a commenter pointed out in yesterday's post. But that says more about last year's team than this years. Last year's team was a defensive powerhouse, head and shoulders above the league in some stats. This year's team is simply above average. It's not bad, it's not average, it's still good. It's just a long way from "super great".

Is there anything particularly bad about the Cubs then? I mean maybe bullpen depth? Like the 5th/6th arms tend to be pretty bad so get them in war of bullpens where you are switching out a ton, or hit up the starter real early, or wear out the normal pen in a couple games and maybe you got something? But really the Cubs are a great team playing great with no particular weakness to exploit. You just have to beat them

Can the Nats do that?

We've talked all the time about the Nats but a quick refresher because sometimes things get away from you. They've been super consistent all year with their records in 5 out of 6 months ranging from a high of 17-8 to a low of 16-12. There have been no amazing runs, but the "low" point was a month of .500 baseball. They were once the most dominant offensive team in the league but injuries have taken their toll and the team is scrambling a bit in that regard late in the season. They were once the worst team in baseball on the mound in late innings, but a total bullpen overhaul has turned that into a model of consistency and by domino effect shored up the middle innings. They have arguably the best 1-2 in baseball and Gio has pitched all year in a way in the way that Roark did in years before him, making it more of a 1-2-3. The rotation depth has been an issue but that is mostly a moot point in the playoffs.  What isn't a moot point is how Scherzer is feeling.

The Nats, when healthy, are the most complete offensive team in the game. The thing they do the least is hit homers* and still have 5 guys with 19+ and Adam Lind hitting 14 from the bench. Turner and Taylor steal bases. Werth, Rendon, and Bryce work their way on base. Taylor is the only starter terribly prone to strikeouts. There are no telling splits on the pitching side either. Like the Cubs - no real split issues (other than that power pitcher thing I mentioned).

If I wanted to press like I did with the Cubs, they do have a little trouble getting lefties out in comparison to righties. This is mostly because they only have one lefty starter and a little bit because their two most used bullpen lefties, Doolittle and Romero, don't have the usual dominant lefty/right splits. But it's not like lefties kill the Nats. They do better than most against lefties. A great team with no particular weakness to exploit you are just going to have to beat.**

What it comes down to then for me is the unknown. It comes down to Werth and Bryce and Max. If these guys are healthy then I think the Nats offense is just a touch better than the Cubs. I think the Nats 1-2-3 punch is more than a touch better than the Cubs. But I can't KNOW this. The last we saw Max he walked off the mound and hasn't thrown a bullpen yet. The last we saw Bryce he was struggling to get any sort of rhythm and power back after coming back from an injury that just missed being season-ending. The last we saw Werth we were looking at a seven game run of .222 / .300 / .407 with 11 Ks and saying "good enough to start!". As long as this remains unknown I have to say the Cubs have the advantage at the plate and the Cubs have the advantage on the mound. And well if you have the advantage at the plate and on the mound then you win the series. Cubs in 5.

I will say that this will be proven right or wrong probably very quickly. We'll see how Bryce and Werth look tonight and if they look fine then the Nats get a huge boost. I'd probably switch to Nats in 5 at that point (as long as Max wasn't out for the series for some reason). But that's not really fair to pick a series after a game has been played. I have to go with what I know today right now. That's kind of why picking these things is stupid. But we do it anyway.

Speaking of stupid let's play the whole thing out then

ALCS : Indians over Houston
NLCS : Dodgers over Cubs

WS : Indians over Dodgers

Man, that's original.

Oh yeah - for those on Twitter I am also. Just my name harpergordek, if you want to follow along.

*It's true - this year has been crazy and if the Nats were really good at hitting homers they would have hit more. Again I know we've seen plenty. It's a crazy year. 

** OH WAIT! I forgot. The Nats defense is not good. Or more accurately it's got some exploitable weaknesses. The right side of the infield has no range and Werth in LF has been declining for years.  All these guys are competent fielders but they don't have the ranges in comparison to most guys in baseball. 


Fries said...

I agree with you Harper. Right now, I say Cubs in 4.

I think Stras is lights out tonight and the Nats go up 1-0.
From there, Gio's been really erratic lately, so I think the Cubs win the next one.
Then it's Max with the hammy thing. I see a solid performance that only lasts 4 innings, then out comes the long relief. 2-1 Cubs.
Then it's Roark because there's no way the Nats pitch Stras on short rest. 3-1 Cubs.

Now that's all completely based on the fact that every pitcher but Stras has been iffy lately, and the offense has slowed quite a bit. Maybe with these 4 days the team resets a bit and comes out swinging, but no way to know. Maybe Roark channels that Illinois pride and is lights out in Game 4. Maybe Lester, Arrieta and Quintana all walk a ton of people and the Nats are able to drive up their pitch counts and get to the relief. Who knows. All I know is that I really don't like the Nats chances in this series given how the Cubs played the 2nd half. Honestly I think the Cubs are the NL favorite for the WS. But I hope I'm wrong

Josh Higham said...

I am feeling incredible anxiety about this series. I really don't need a championship to feel good about the 2012-whenever window, but I need a DS win at least. So of course Max and Bryce are both question marks when the team is better than it's ever been. Why wouldn't they be?

Robot said...

To me, it all comes down to Max. When will he pitch? How long will he go?

Last I heard, he's slated for Game 3. Given the team's history of unreliable, overly optimistic injury-reporting, I'm worried "Ready by NLDS G3" actually means Max is unconscious in a ditch somewhere with his pitching arm lopped off.

Ole PBN said...

Any confidence I had going into this series was based in knowing we had a healthy Max. It seems like we don't. To echo what Fries said, Stras is the only guy with some steady success. And even then he could pitch a gem and we lose G1 2-0 - as we've seen our bats go cold in the playoffs. This could even be a sweep... I cannot suppress my DC Fan pessimism :/

Anonymous said...

Bryce and Max are the two best players participating in this series (Bryant, Rendon, and, to a lesser extent, Strasburg, are competing for third) and they both have injury issues. It's impossible for that not to matter. If it turns out they're both healthy, that matters in the opposite direction.

Bjd1207 said...

I'm dying guys...I'm not gonna make it...I can't focus on anything. I'm literally going through the game logs of the cubs relievers

KW said...

Nats in three or four. They've got better starting pitching and a stronger, deeper lineup. Closer is about equal, maybe slight edge to Davis, but he's no Jansen. Cubbie bullpen is vulnerable getting to Davis, though. The Nats have killed Carl Edwards in particular.

I expect to see the Stras we've always hoped he would be tonight. Nats win big in the opener, pick up some swagger that they've missed in other playoff years, and don't look back.

Jay said...

I think it goes one way or the other. I have a feeling that either the Nats get rolling in game 1 behind Stras throwing really well and then may be get lucky with Gio and then you have to love Max in game 3 for the sweep. Or Stras throws ok. There are a few dumb mistakes and such. The offense doesn't hit. We get to listen to how great Hendricks is all night. Nats lose game 1. Gio falls apart and doesn't make it 5 innings in game 2 and it is too little too late after that. The Nats keep wondering when is it our turn and the Cubs roll. I don't see a game 5 at all either way.

You know what I'm hoping for. We'll see. Hope the crowd is loud for the Nats - though Mark Z put something on twitter that there seemed to be a lot of Cubs fans around town.

Also, I think Max throws in game 3 no matter what. I think he is a maniac and there is no way he doesn't throw.

Jay said...

I forgot to add. I don't like Romero in the pen. He has a tendency to walk people, which is really problematic in October. Are the Cubs that much worse against lefties?? I almost feel like they think they're playing the Dodgers carrying so many lefty relievers...

Harper said...

Jay - no. but on the flipside Romero isn't particularly good against lefties either. He's there for a "need a K - walk ok" situation. Problem is - he's also hittable. Usually those types you carry are not

cass said...

I don't understand what you mean about Robles being on the roster for PR purposes?

PotomacFan said...

I don't like Romero either. I would have added AJ Cole. What if Max cannot pitch or has to leave early. Robles will be exciting as a pinch runner, so long as he remembers to stay on the base after sliding. Will he be a defensive replacement for Werth in late innings? Probably not.

And here's another thought for the pessimists: It's going to be warm and humid tonight. You know what that means. Strasburg will have leg cramps.

But here's something positive: on paper, the Cubs pitchers look terrific. We remember 3 of them from the height of their careers last year. But Arrieta and Lester are both hurt, and they are definitely hittable. Cubs are going to need as much long relief help as the Nats will need.

cass said...

Oh, PR = pitch running, not public relations. Okay. I get it now.

KW said...

If you look at his his splits, Romero should be there to face RHB, and only RHB. He's got pretty extreme reverse splits.

Harper said...

cass- yeah sorry about that.

Alan Wiecking said...

Ya gotta believe! I agree 100% with Harper that the Nat's offense is the best in the majors when healthy. I think they're healthy enough. I'm a Z fan. Always been a Z fan through thick and thin and this will be his series to shine. Svrluga's article in today's Post is spot on (other than it's spelled "grisly" not "grizzly") with Ryan's history against the Cubs and that they will attack him as the automatic out. But Barry takes Z's word that he doesn't remember how he hits the Cubs? He doesn't remember watching Harper walked over and over in front of him last year? Bullhockey. I doubt there's a team that he, personally, wants to beat more than Joe's Cubs. As deep as the Nat's lineup is 1-8, the Cubs do not match up.
Pitching? It's not close. If you want to talk about Lester's experience in the post-season, you have to talk about Quintana's lack thereof. Let's look at the tale of the tape:
ERA? Nat's are #2, #3, and #5 in the NL; worst is 2.96. Cubs best? Arieta @ 3.53
WHIP? #1, 3, & 7; worst is Gio at 1.18 (really? Wow.) Again, Arieta the best at 1.22 for the Cubs
BB/9? Quintana's the best (as a Cub) at 2.25, but it's pretty much even
OPS against? 1, 2, 4 Nats (Strasburg is the league best at not allowing HR's? Wow.) with the worst at .642 Best Cub? Arieta again but it's a gap to his .716

C'mon man. We're not playing this in 2012, 2014, or 2016. That's the past. This team is the best team we have ever put on the field. Period.

This is our year.

<*> Chaos

Josh Higham said...

I think the lack of a long reliever might be evidence that Dusty and Stras are willing to let Stras go on short rest if needed. Tanner is available as long man in games 1-3, and if he pitches in any of those, Stras starts G4. If the Nats are down 1-2, Stras pitches G4. Tanner only starts if they're up 2-1 and all three other starters go at least 5+ innings.

BxJaycobb said...

This is the closest toss up series going the Nats have played in the postseason IMO.
In 2012 I was sure we would beat the Cards
In 2014 I was so sure we would beat the Giants it was like a joke.
In 2016 I was sure the Dodgers would beat us.
Of course what this shows is that what you think going in rarely matters.

Fries said...


I like your assessment, that's actually probably what's going on. I just need a good game from Stras tonight, otherwise pessimism for the series will take me over

BxJaycobb said...

Harper. How do you feel about Boz writing that column being like "you cannot ask for a better chance than this! The stars are all aligning!" I found it not just wrong but legitimately bizarre following his "what an AMAZING end to the regular season were having (in most boring final week ever).'s how we could ask for a better chance Boz.
1. Our best pitcher wouldn't be hurt.
2. Our best player wouldn't be hurt.
3. We wouldn't be playing the most red hot team in the league out of the gate followed by a 103 win team followed by the best team in baseball?

Robot said...

Alan Wiecking - I'm pretty sure Svrluga meant that Zim is secretly a bear. Ol' Barry spends a lot of time around the Nats, so I'd trust him on this one.

Jay said...

I also find it interesting that most of the playoff games so far haven't really been all that close. Of course I just saw the Yankees are leading Cleveland 2-0 in the first. I'm hoping come Monday the Nats are in good shape.

Mr. T said...

Well, that was fun. Good thing we're saving Max for game 3.

Froggy said...

I was right about Romero over Blanton. Enny earned it.

BxJaycobb said...

I don't really have anything to say, besides this. When the Nats reach the playoffs, I honestly believe that at this point they play with a sense of dread. Otherwise it's hard for me to understand how the team (except Strasburg) goes out there and puts up less of a fight than the San Diego Padres might. Like....Anthony Rendon has never dropped a ball or lost a transfer like that IN HIS BIG LEAGUE CAREER. Why does it happen when it matters most? I don't know. I can't answer. All I can tell you is I have followed this team religiously for like a decade. And I thought perhaps this was a year to break through. But after going to tonight's game, I am as certain of them losing this series as anything. Intellectually I get it. They can easily come back and win. But deep down, it's not happening. And I really don't think the team believes it's happening.

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