Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Nats projected Starting lineup versus Kershaw: not half bad


Kershaw is a daunting match-up. Photo via wiki.

Kershaw is a daunting match-up. Photo via wiki.

I was emailing with infrequent commenter “Old Man” (aka, my Dad) about the upcoming game one match-up and I said something along the lines of, “Well the Nats are in trouble because their two most important hitters are both hurt and lefty.”

Well, why go by biased observations when you can go to the stats?  Here’s the career stat lines for each of our projected game 1 starters against Clayton Kershaw:

  • Harper: 1 for 15; ok, that’s not good.
  • Murphy: 6 for 19 with 2 homers; not bad, .316 avg, .947 OPS
  • Werth: 10 for 35 for a .286/.359/.457 line.  not bad again
  • Rendon: 5 for 16; .313 but they are all singles; no power.
  • Espinosa: 1 for 17; no surprise there
  • Zimmerman: 7 for 22 but with no power for .318
  • Lobaton; 0 for 8; again, no surprise.
  • Turner: never faced Kershaw but his career lefty split shows consistent average versus his Righty split but significantly less power; 13 of his 14 career homers have come against righties.
So honestly; those aren’t half bad numbers against Kershaw all in all.  Murphy, Werth, Rendon and Zimmerman all about .300 against him.  Maybe you work your lineup differently as a result; maybe drop Harper down a bit and stack the top of the order with those who have had success:
  • Turner, Werth, Rendon, Murphy, Zimmerman, Harper, Espinosa, Lobaton, Scherzer.
Also keep in mind: Kershaw has a 4.59 post season ERA.  Its the playoffs: anything can happen.  Last year for example he gave up 3 runs in 6 2/3rds in game one of the NLDS to take the loss then completely shut down the Mets in Game 4 on three days rest for the win … but the Mets did enough against the Dodger’s big two to take the series and move on.
Yeah its a tough match-up for the Nats, or anyone.  Kershaw shut them down in LA in June, giving up 1 run in 7.  Scherzer somehow missed the Dodgers in both their season series this year; funny how nobody points that fact out when they talk about how the Dodgers beat the Nats 5 of 6 this year.  The Nats used these 6 pitchers against the Dodgers: Petit, Roark, Ross in LA in June, then Lopez, Gonzalez and Strasburg in DC.   The one win?  Surprise; it was with lefty Gonzalez on the mound.  I won’t make too much of this, since the Dodgers used 15 different starters this year and its frankly amazing they still won 91 games.  That and the fact that the Nats missed their #3 Kenta Maeda in both series.
Still, I like our chances with those career match-up stats.

29 Responses to 'Nats projected Starting lineup versus Kershaw: not half bad'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'Nats projected Starting lineup versus Kershaw: not half bad'.

  1. Kershaw, Kershaw, Kershaw, all the Nats blogs have is Kershaw. Look folks: the game the Nats HAVE to win is Game 2. If they go to LA 1-1, they’re fine. As for Game 1, it’s gravy. If you happen to beat da Big Claw, then you’re seriously in the driver’s seat, and the noose tightens on a team that has failed even more miserably in the recent postseason than the Nats.

    The monkey is on the back of the Dodgers this time, and it’s a big one. The biggest chimp of all is on Kershaw. And remember, it’s the Dodgers who have to beat the likely Cy Young favorite; we’re not exactly trotting chopped liver out there.

    The two other times the Nats were in the playoffs, they faced recent World Series winners, teams that knew every trick in the book for winning in the playoffs. The Dodgers know every trick in the book for losing in the playoffs. And they don’t have Greinke following Kershaw anymore.

    I take the Dodgers seriously, as it’s a pretty even matchup, but they have no mojo to fear like we did with the Cards and Giants. We’re the one with the recent playoff stud this time, Babe Murphy. Bryce and Rendon have embraced the playoff spotlight as well. And oh yeah, we’re coming with a real closer this time.


    6 Oct 16 at 11:52 am

  2. I can’t really include Zimmerman’s career numbers against Kershaw, because Ryan’s just not himself anymore. He was the face of the franchise through all the rough years, and I’ll always wear my Z’man jersey proudly, but he’s just a shell of his old self. Breaks my heart.

    For me, the real “unstoppable force vs. immovable object” of this series will be Kershaw’s playoff demons against the Nationals inevitable postseason hitting collapse. I love Max and Tanner in Games 1 and 2, but nervous Gio in Game 3 and [insert name here] in 4 on the road doesn’t inspire confidence. If the Nats are lucky, this comes down to Max vs. Kershaw again in Game 5.


    6 Oct 16 at 12:14 pm

  3. Clark; yes fair point about Zimmerman. I was going to do a second round of more recent numbers… but kind of ran out of time.

    I will say this: I don’t think its a coincidence that even the mediocre 2016 Gonzalez easily handled the Dodgers and he’s a great game 3 hurler.

    Todd Boss

    6 Oct 16 at 12:27 pm

  4. If the Nats win Game 1, if I were Dusty, I’d be tempted to push Gio up to Game 2. That way, he would be pitching at home and also sort of playing with house money with a win already in the bank. If they lose Game 1, though, it’s got to be Roark in Game 2. Can’t go down 0-2. And if the Nats can’t beat Rich Hill, they don’t deserve to win the series.


    6 Oct 16 at 12:38 pm

  5. A couple of notes: SSS alert! And Harper’s one hit was a HR, FWIW. Anyway, moving a batting order around based on these numbers would be silly – if batting order didn’t matter so little in the first place.

    Also, I would hesitate to write off Turner’s power against LHP. In AAA his SLG was considerably higher vs. LHP (.543, 94 ABs) than RHP (.443, 237 ABs). In 2015, with SSS, it was even more stark. At AAA his SLG vs. LHP (.714!, 63 ABs) was MUCH better than against RHP (.288, 125 ABs). His AA splits in Harrisburg in 2015 were virtually identical, but that was only ten games.

    I am also pretty sure that Severino is going to start against Kershaw and Hill.

    John C.

    6 Oct 16 at 12:44 pm

  6. Pushing Gio to game 2: I guess the problem there is this: if he decides to go 3-man rotation so as to avoid the whole 4th starter Joe Ross/Lopez for a few/bullpen game, he needs whoever is his game 2 starter to also be his game 5 starter. That’d mean he’s implicitly pushing Roark and his 4th best WAR on the year behind Gio.

    Would you rather gamble with Gio twice or Roark twice in a short series? On the one hand, yes the Dodgers suck against lefties. On the other hand, Roark is absolutely better than Gio right now.

    Tough choice.

    Todd Boss

    6 Oct 16 at 12:45 pm

  7. FWIW, here are Kershaw’s pitch counts since coming back in Sept.: 66, 64, 88, 91, 82. He hasn’t gone beyond seven innings.


    6 Oct 16 at 12:46 pm

  8. KW: “if the Nats can’t beat Rich Hill, they don’t deserve to win the series.”

    Rich Hill is really, really good as long as his blister issue lets him pitch. There is a nonzero chance that the Nats beat Kershaw and can’t solve Hill. It’s not like the Dodgers are running out a substandard starting pitcher on whom the Nats ought to be able to tee off.

    John C.

    6 Oct 16 at 12:48 pm

  9. I don’t think anyone but Scherzer is starting twice, and only for the second time in Game 5 (if necessary). Max historically isn’t good on short rest.

    If Roark is only starting once in the series, I wouldn’t rule out him coming out of the ‘pen in Game 4 or 5, though.


    6 Oct 16 at 12:52 pm

  10. Rich Hill is a 36-year-old journeyman with a career 4.10 ERA. Yes, he’s been very good this year. But if Tanner Roark can’t beat Rich Hill, we don’t deserve to win the series.


    6 Oct 16 at 12:55 pm

  11. The reason Kershaw is a big deal is because there is only one pitcher on planet earth that is demonstrably better than Max Scherzer* and that is Clayton Kershaw, who will be pitching for the other team against Max Scherzer on Friday.

    Even though Kershaw is the best – and there’s no sane argument to be made otherwise – he’s not that much better than Max. If they pitched against each other 100 times, you’d probably expect Max to pitch better 45 times or so. And, as KW points out, we’re not facing a 100% Kershaw who can throw 120 pitches. I’d like to see the Nats work some counts and try to get Kershaw’s pitch count up.

    * I have Scherzer among guys like Sale, Syndergaard, Bumgarner, Price, etc., as having a solid case for “2nd best pitcher in baseball.”


    6 Oct 16 at 1:05 pm

  12. Rich Hill, aka 2015 Nats MLFA signing 🙂 He should be sending us a thank you card for enabling him to revive his career, not throwing against us in game two of the NLDS.

    Here’s the weird thing about Kershaw; he’s easily the best in the game but his post-season ERA blows. Now, i’ve heard good analysis of that number and people have pointed out that he’s been sent out on huge pitch counts and sent out because there was no middle relief options worth throwing, and he’s gone out on 3-days rest, all helping to contribute to that inflated ERA. But in the end, Its all about short sample sizes.

    Todd Boss

    6 Oct 16 at 1:57 pm

  13. Oh, btw, yes Rich Hill worries me. He’s been fantastic this year irrespective of his career numbers. I could absolutely see the team beating Kershaw and capitulating to Hill. Which means they’ll need one of two in LA for sure … hello Gio!

    Todd Boss

    6 Oct 16 at 1:58 pm

  14. Two of the three Nats’ postseason wins were in games started by Bumgarner and Wainwright. And they clobbered Wainwright in his second start in Game 5. Anyway, my point is that it’s the lesser lights who have given them fits.

    But this is a new year . . .


    6 Oct 16 at 2:11 pm

  15. Todd, consider me totally unmoved by the argument that there is a “bad” Kershaw that shows up in the playoffs because it’s the playoffs (and its corollary: that Bumgarner is the “real” best pitcher in baseball because of his playoff performance).

    You made the point about small samples, but I want to break it out. Kershaw has thrown a grand total of 64 playoff innings and has an ERA/FIP of 4.59/3.44 (compared to career numbers of 2.37/2.55). He’s had a few ~70 inning stretches in his career with an ERA approaching 4 (one at the beginning of the 2015 season well after he became the undeniable best pitcher in baseball). I firmly believe there is no magic playoff juju that Kershaw doesn’t have. Rather, he’s had a bad 60 inning stretch in the playoffs that compares with other bad 60 inning stretches he’s had in his career. And, given that Kershaw’s playoff starts weren’t all back to back, comparing his playoff starts to bad stretches in his career isn’t really apples to apples. In my view, if he gets to 200 playoff innings, you’ll see numbers that jibe with his career numbers. A good example is Andy Pettite, who in 3,000+ regular season innings has a 3.71 ERA and in 275 playoff innings has a 3.75 ERA (3.74/4.09 FIP).

    Perhaps a better comp for Kershaw is Greg Maddux, who was indisputably the best pitcher in baseball for a ~4 year period and (in my view) is not generally considered a good playoff performer. His career ERA/FIP is 3.16/3.25 and his playoff ERA/FIP in 200 innings is 3.27/3.66. His teammate, John Smoltz, has a sterling playoff reputation because he went 9-0 or whatever to start his playoff career. In 209 playoff innings his ERA is 2.67, which is quite a bit better than his career 3.33. But the FIPs are almost identical, 3.18 in the playoffs to 3.24 in the regular season.

    We should expect the Clayton Kershaw of the regular season to show up tomorrow against the Max Scherzer of the regular season. One or both may not pitch up to their standards, or one or both may be better than what we normally see, because things don’t always revert to the mean over 9 inning samples.


    6 Oct 16 at 3:15 pm

  16. And there’s this: if I told you that the Mets in the WC game got this start out of Snydergaard: 7ip, 2hits, 3 walks, 10Ks … you’d probably presume that they won easily. Nope.

    Kershaw could strike out 14 guys in 7 innings and his bullpen could blow it.

    Todd Boss

    6 Oct 16 at 4:43 pm

  17. Since coming back, Kershaw hasn’t had big K games. He’s had 27 Ks in 28 IP. Make contact. Put the ball in play. Get Trea on and put some pressure on them. In a 1-0 or 2-1 type game, any bobble Trea can cause may be the difference.


    6 Oct 16 at 8:08 pm

  18. Predictions? I’ll say Nats in four. I don’t think anyone wants to face Kershaw again in a fifth game. FWIW, though, he came back last postseason on short rest and won their game 4 against the Mets. So don’t overlook that possibility, particularly if the Dodgers are down. Also FWIW, Murphy homered off Kershaw in both of his starts in that series. Once is an accident, two’s a trend . . .


    7 Oct 16 at 7:43 am

  19. wow;

    No Belisle. Only 11 pitchers. Weird; why would you carry an extra bench infielder in lieu of a good reliever? I kinda can’t believe he kept Taylor versus Belisle. I also can’t believe he kept Taylor over Ben Revere.

    Todd Boss

    7 Oct 16 at 10:28 am

  20. Taylor vs. Revere: Taylor hits better, and it’s not close. Not that Taylor hits well, mind you (.231/.278/.376/.654, 72 OPS+), but Revere has been awful (.217/.260/.300/.560, 49 OPS+). I think the choice may well have been Goodwin vs. Taylor.

    Huh. Goodwin is older than Taylor (by five months). Interesting.

    You carry the extra bench guy because of the travel days and the advantage of being able to pinch run in a crucial spot. I floated the idea of an extra bench player a few days ago for this very reason, but I thought it would be Goodwin, not Taylor. This also signals to me that Gio is more likely the preferred Game 2 starter.

    John C.

    7 Oct 16 at 10:53 am

  21. I assume they took Taylor because they felt they needed another RH bat. If the Dodgers use four starters, three likely will be LH. It doesn’t hurt that Taylor is 3-for-9 vs. Kershaw, with two doubles. I’m not a Taylor fan, but I understand their thinking.

    The Difo pick also surprises me a bit. He gives some INF flexibility, but so does Drew. Drew might get a start against Maeda, over Zim (with Murph at 1B) or Danny, depending on who is struggling.

    They’ve got a lot riding on Lopez as the only real long man if any of the starters struggle, or if they end up going 18 innings or something. (It’s been known to happen.) I guess Solis or Treinen could go a couple of innings apiece if necessary.


    7 Oct 16 at 1:27 pm

  22. My prized Nats possession is the home run ball that Ryan Zimmerman hit off of one Rich Hill in this game way back in 2007:

    Hoping that generates some bad juju for the Dodgers in game 2!


    7 Oct 16 at 2:04 pm

  23. Taylor vs. Revere: both provide excellent speed as pinch runners in the late innings. What I gather it comes down to is Taylor has a better OF arm if used as a 9th inning defensive replacement and has the potential power to end a long extra inning game in one swing if it were to come to that. I agree with John C., in that Goodwin (also a better hitter with more power and a better OF arm) was probably the next choice with Revere bringing up the rear.

    According to b/WAR, Revere was the least valuable player on the team at -1.2 overall.

    Karl Kolchack

    7 Oct 16 at 3:58 pm

  24. RISP: 1-for-10. Coulda woulda shoulda. Got three runs off Kershaw and got him out of the game after the 5th. Couldn’t have asked for anything more . . . except for Max to keep the ball in the park.

    I am so tired of seeing Danny flail and fail. I hope he proves me wrong at some point, but that was ugly. Good to see most of the big guys check in with a hit or two. No hits for Trea, but he got a big sac fly RBI and drew a walk.

    Oh well, we weren’t exactly counting on winning this one. Shake it off and make things happen tomorrow. Jansen shouldn’t be available after a five-out save.


    7 Oct 16 at 9:38 pm

  25. Two entirely predictable things killed the Nats in Game 1: 1). Scherzer’s recent propensity to give up HRs, and 2). Ramos’s injury (yes, Severino got a hit, but a healthy Ramos would have been batting 6th with Zim 7th during that failed 5th inning rally).

    Best bit of second guessing I saw over at TalkNats: that Scherzer was allowed to put his own desire to win 20 games ahead of the team’s need to have him better rested going into the playoffs. As much fun as last Sunday’s game was, it is hard not to argue, especially since he also had a terrible outing in the 2014 ALDS for Detroit after his first season of pitching 220+ innings. The supposed advantage of having the Nats clinch the division so early was so they could rest their best pitchers a bit, but instead Scherzer led the NL in IPs and Roark also threw a career high 210 innings.

    Karl Kolchack

    7 Oct 16 at 11:43 pm

  26. Oops: I meant: “hard to argue,” obviously.

    Karl Kolchack

    7 Oct 16 at 11:45 pm

  27. Batting Espinosa 7th was the big mistake. He had the worst batting average of any MLB regular this season. That makes Severino no matter how inexperienced a better option to hit 7th. That was classic rally killing on swinging K’s in three straight ab’s for 7 LOB. Not surprised.

    Good to see Zimmerman smashing the ball though.

    Marty C

    8 Oct 16 at 12:50 am

  28. I saw the Max-was-overworked argument on Nats Talk but don’t buy it. The two HRs were the result of bad pitch location, not reduced velocity. Once he settled down, he retired eight in a row. He was in a lot fewer “high stress” situations than Kershaw was. He gave up fewer hits than Kershaw and threw fewer pitches over one more inning. He was quite effective, and much better overall than he was in his last couple of starts. He just hung two fat pitches that went a long way.

    The Nats lost because of all of those stranded runners, not because Max pitched too much this season.

    Marty, I wonder if we might see Drew starting over Espinosa today, even against a lefty. Dusty gave Danny a pretty quick hook last night.


    8 Oct 16 at 8:04 am

  29. Exciting game to watch. When they got it to 4-3 I thought they were going to pull it out.

    No huge mistakes made that I saw. Danny sucked at the plate, for sure, but he does that for long stretches. I think I would leave him in against Hill, since I think that’s a hard matchup for Drew, but it’s close and I wouldn’t argue if they switch them. As for next year, worry about that later.

    Need to win today, if they get it in.


    8 Oct 16 at 8:13 am

Leave a Reply