Nationals Arm Race

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

So what did we learn from the LA series?


Strasburg is the man. Photo

Strasburg is the man.

When you squinted at the possible pitching matchups for the big weekend series, I thought perhaps we’d at least get two decent match-ups.  Instead, We got the following thanks to the Nats “6-man rotation:”

  • Edwin Jackson vs Alex Wood
  • A.J. Cole vs Rich Hill
  • Stephen Strasburg vs Hyun-Jin Ryu

So, that’s certainly not LA’s best (we missed both Kershaw and Darvish, who you’d have to say are their #1/#2 right now), but we didn’t exactly throw our best either.  Jackson is a MLFA signing/substitute #5 starter and Cole had a nifty 5.88 ERA in AAA and is our notional “6th starter” right now.

Jackson got bombed, Cole leaked a couple of runs but the Nats could do nothing with Hill (one hit over five, a solo HR).  To their credit, there were no spring training split squad lineups this weekend, so maybe there’s a slight concern about “fatigue” in the offense as we wind down the season.

What the Dodgers did get was a lovely tour of our bullpen, thanks  in no small part to Jackson’s 2 1/3 inning outing friday.  So there’s that.  And to their credit the bullpen pitched amazingly.  6 2/3rds innings on friday giving up just 3 hits and 0 runs, 4-hitless innings on saturday,  Plus our standard 7/8/9 guys throwing three more shutout innings in the finale when our bats finally got going.

So, here’s what I think we learned this weekend:

  • Roark will be the 4th starter in the playoffs: I think Jackson’s outing clearly took him out of any 4th starter conversation that might have remained.  I still think he’s a threat for the last bullpen arm, unless they decide to go with one extra lefty who can throw lots of innings in the form of Matt Grace.  In the end it might just be matchup driven as we’ve discussed.
  • We need Harper back; we didn’t even face LA’s best and in a long series we get Kershaw twice plus whatever other shenanigans he does on short rest.  We scored 9 runs in 3 games … 7 of them against LA’s flailing bullpen.
  • Our offense struggles against good lefties: which is not good news, since we didn’t even face LA’s *best* lefty starter this past weekend.
  • Our bullpen is … solid: for all the angst it caused us in the first half of the year, this bullpen just *completely* shut down a stellar offense.  That’s great news for our chances in October.
  • Strasburg is better than Scherzer right now: great start last night; 3 hits and 1 run in 6 innings … and one of those “hits” was a ball that Taylor absolutely should have caught.  Not sure why that was not an E-8.  Nonetheless, you have to like the chances of a series where someone has to go against Scherzer/Strasburg 4 times out of 7 games.
  • A LA-DC series will be epic, if we can get there.  We took 2 of 3 in their house and they returned the favor, with both sides not really getting their optimal lineups or rotations going for either series.  No such excuses if both teams can get to the NLCS (which, I might say, is no given … LA has a losing record against both its potential WC opponents and the Nats have never won a post-season series and are set to face the Cubs).

What are your thoughts?



63 Responses to 'So what did we learn from the LA series?'

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  1. Darvish sports a 4.34 ERA as a Dodger. Despite all the talk of Wood moving to the ‘pen for the playoffs, just based on his numbers, he’s far and away LA’s #2 right now. Their other RHP starter, Maeda, is at 4.21. The D-Backs are very RHB-heavy, so you would figure that LA will want to throw righties at them. We’ll see. I’ve been saying for months that AZ is a bad match-up for LA.

    Other random thoughts:

    — The LA bullpen looks better on paper than it does in person. They’re going to be walking a tightrope to get to Jansen. Expect a bunch of 4-hour playoff games with a billion pitching changes.

    — Werth should never, ever play RF again. At the plate, he went 0 for the series with a walk. Not a good look.

    — If the Dodgers thought that they were achieving something of note, #34 reminded them in BP on Sunday that the Nats will have a different gear in October.

    — Despite the Nats looking feeble for much of Friday and Saturday, the Dodgers wouldn’t have won on Sat. without the diving Puig catch in the 8th. (See LA bullpen comment.) A Nat 2-1 series win without Bryce or Max would present a different narrative.

    — Stras is as good as he’s ever been, at the right time.

    — Zim looks to be rounding back into form.

    — EJax is pitching himself right out of the postseason. Cole might even be ahead of him in the pecking order right now, and Blanton is looking safer to make the squad.


    18 Sep 17 at 10:46 am

  2. Justin Turner is the key to the Dodgers’ lineup. Seager and Bellinger are both good hitters with power who can crush mistakes, but both can be pitched to, especially Bellinger. Strasburg made him look foolish the second time through the order, and he was overmatched against Max during the series in LA. Turner, on the other hand, is really hard to get out. He doesn’t have the same power that Bellinger has, but he’s really tough to strike out. Turner is the guy in their lineup I circle and pitch really carefully to. I didn’t see the world-beating monster version of Chris Taylor this weekend. I think he’s probably morphed back into real-life Chris Taylor. Their lineup is deep in that it doesn’t have Wieters/MAT-like holes, but I like Nats’ heart of the order better. The Dodgers would be much easier to pitch to without Turner. Taking away Bryce – who is a better hitter than Turner – has a similar effect on the Nats’ lineup.


    18 Sep 17 at 11:02 am

  3. I thought the series was fine. I agree with much of KW’s observations. Some differences:
    I disagree about Wood. He looked good, but he has dropped quite a bit of velocity this year and I would be worried about his health and effectiveness. I think its clearly Kershaw, Yu, Hill. Maybe they don’t even go with a 4th starter.
    The Dodgers pen wasn’t effective, but most of our runs came off guys that may not even be there. Ryu, Wood, McCarthy (if healthy) will likely be there instead of most of the guys that we saw.

    Werth looks bad. he does this from time to time, even when he was younger, but it doesn’t make you feel good about him while its happening. He has to start but I don’t think Dusty’s leash should be long.

    I don’t believe that EJax is a serious playoff roster candidate, even before the last few starts. They don’t need long men in the playoffs. They need stuff and effectiveness. I see it as K-M-D, Albers, Perez, Blanton, and Solis and/or Romero. I was at the game on Saturday, and man did Perez look good. grace too, but Perez really pitched well.

    I like our chances this year. Don’t want to jinx them, but I think they are the strongest in the league right now, and its their strongest team ever. Playoffs are still a crapshoot, as always, but I’m optimistic.


    18 Sep 17 at 11:13 am

  4. Derek: I agree completely about J. Turner. He’s the heart and soul of everything. He killed the Nats in the playoffs last year as well. (Don’t you wonder what the Mets think when they see Turner and Murphy in the hearts of the order of two of the best teams in baseball?)

    Both Werth and Wieters are going to present some tough decisions for Dusty. Wieters has one hit in September. It’s really hard to see Werth staying at #2 in the order for the playoffs unless he starts hitting, although a 6/7/8 of Werth, Wieters, and Taylor would look a lot like the black hole the Nats had at the bottom of their playoff order last year.

    I don’t fear the Cubs. The Nats owe them a little payback. I’ll worry about the Dodgers when and if they actually make it to the second round. Frankly right now, I might fear the D-Backs there more than the Dodgers.


    18 Sep 17 at 11:31 am

  5. I have Chris Taylor in fantasy and yes, I can attest, he has sucked for a month. Bellinger has holes in his swing and is streaky, but still sports some serious numbers on the year. Its a tough lineup to get through. Justin Turner is their glue guy for sure, and not surprisingly he’s the only guy in that line up with the 300/400/500 line.

    If Dusty gets everyone back, maybe he swallows hard and puts Kendrik in LF instead of Werth. I’m sure that’s what the sportswriters and fans would like, but the team executives who are looking at his 7 years of contributions may not like that. Someone has to bat 2nd though; it can’t be Werth.

    Todd Boss

    18 Sep 17 at 11:45 am

  6. I see a different Werth than you guys. He’s hit a bunch of lasers that ultimately became outs (just foul, robbed by a great catch, etc.). Eventually some of those fall in, right? I’d keep playing him 4/5 days and see how he looks in two weeks.


    18 Sep 17 at 12:08 pm

  7. A few of my own takeaways:

    1) Zimmerman swinging the bat well on a big stage is something we’d all like to see. Great to see him bop two after a long year in which he is about the only starter, not to miss meaningful time or to burn out.

    2) Robles is going to be a significant presence in the playoffs. The Dodgers got no looks at all at Robles, and that spoke loudly to me. I can hear the footsteps and so can the players.

    3) I can’t see Edwin Jackson on the playoff roster. What has taped him together is coming undone.

    4) Difo gets three pinch hit AB, but the team has a certain edge when he is in the lineup. When Trea gets unleashed on the bases, the Nats will be a different team.

    5) More Seve please. Wieters looks like old man winter.

    6) I hope we see more of Austin Adams, Solis, and Grace before the roster is set for the post.

    The Nats are a damn good championship team. They were vanilla this weekend.


    18 Sep 17 at 12:12 pm

  8. Oh, I think Werth plays in the playoffs, in LF, with a defensive replacement late if the Nats are leading. (Would Dusty trust Robles in that role?) And Derek is right that Werth was hitting some shots, particularly earlier in the week. Unless he really falls apart in the first couple of playoff games, he’s going to be playing.

    Yes, somewhat quietly, Zim seems to be locking in again, just at the right time.

    And you know Trea just wants to embarrass the Cubs.


    18 Sep 17 at 12:32 pm

  9. What did we learn from the LA series? Damned little. It’s one series.

    “Our offense struggles against ‘good lefties.'” Huh? The team’s OPS vs. RHP (.786) and LHP (.777) are virtually identical. Good pitchers will always be harder to hit, because they’re good. It’s a definitional thing. There’s nothing in the stats that indicates the Nats are unusually vulnerable to “good” LHP.

    Concur that Roark is the #4 starter for the playoffs, but as Todd implied in his post, that issue was largely settled before Jackson stubbornly continued to be Jackson.

    The Nats threw their “B” pitching against the Dodgers. Except for the ball that MAT misplayed into a “double” last night, the Dodgers scored zero (-0-) runs off of any pitcher that will get a sniff of the postseason (I doubt that EJax makes the roster). I wonder whether Dodgers’ fans are obsessing over that fact. Answer: probably. Because stressing is what we fans do best.

    Very good news that Bryce is taking BP and running in the OF. That (and the fact that no one else seems to have gotten hurt) is the biggest news of the weekend.

    John C.

    18 Sep 17 at 1:01 pm

  10. One more thing I just learned: JohnC doesn’t like small sample sizes. Or flimsy premises on which to write a blog post about and then have a random discussion on a monday when we have nothing else to talk about. 🙂

    Todd Boss

    18 Sep 17 at 1:18 pm

  11. John C not into opinions… ever.

    Marty C

    18 Sep 17 at 1:45 pm

  12. Actually, Marty, I have an opinion about that …

    John C.

    18 Sep 17 at 1:48 pm

  13. Marty usually only chimes in if I include some baiting words. Schrock, Skole, Giolito.

    Todd Boss

    18 Sep 17 at 2:33 pm

  14. . . . none of whom will be appearing for the Nats in the playoffs, thank goodness.


    18 Sep 17 at 3:05 pm

  15. KW… I’d have any of those guys pinch hit for Weiters.

    Marty C

    18 Sep 17 at 11:03 pm

  16. Weiters’s career playoff BA: .107. But our friend John C would point out that it’s a small sample size . . .


    19 Sep 17 at 8:22 am

  17. Marty, you’d have Giolito pinch hit for Weiters? :0

    John C.

    19 Sep 17 at 9:27 am

  18. Yes… that’s how bad Weiters has been with the bat. He and Lobaton just sad. Hope the Nat’s eat his contract next year and move on. When he does scratch out a single, he moves like a sloth on the bases.

    He seems to be doing well for the pitchers, but I’m not sure his defensive stats. In any case, that bat doesn’t play. Anyone would be a better choice. Even our A ball catchers. Much like replacing Espinosa’s vaunted irreplaceable defense was sure to spell disaster.

    Marty C

    19 Sep 17 at 10:24 am

  19. That was a very Trump tweet reply. “Wieters batting average? SAD!”

    Todd Boss

    19 Sep 17 at 1:35 pm

  20. Fangraphs prospect guy on Romero:

    Paul: Conditioning and makeup were concerns for WAS pick of Seth Romero. If he can overcome those risks how does his stuff compare to other top LHP in the minors?

    Eric A Longenhagen: Yeah, I don’t think his stuff is out of place among most of the top LHP prospects in baseball


    19 Sep 17 at 2:35 pm

  21. The bar for hitting by Nat catchers in the playoffs is pretty darn low:

    2012 — Suzuki .235 BA
    2014 — Ramos .118 BA
    2016 — Lobaton .222 BA (but one huge HR)
    2016 — Severino .100 BA
    (Loby & Seve combined to hit .158)

    Maybe if the Nats make it to the WS, they can DH for the catchers and let the pitchers hit!


    19 Sep 17 at 2:48 pm

  22. Not directly related to the Nats, but indirectly so since it’s in the same division: is it nuts to start thinking that the Mets may non-tender Matt Harvey? His ERA in four starts since coming off the DL is 13.19. (And if he does get non-tendered, keep in mind that he’s a Boras client . . . and that the Nats will be looking for a fifth starter.)


    19 Sep 17 at 3:01 pm

  23. For the record, I think Harvey is a dumbass, but then so is Seth Romero . . . another Boras client.


    19 Sep 17 at 3:04 pm

  24. The fork in Matt Harvey’s back is visible from outer space. He has the same number of Ks as ER this year. Let that sink in. I’d take a flyer on him at a nominal salary in the hope that the high-upside guy is still lurking in there somewhere, but: (1) he’s simply not worth what he will get in arbitration ($5.1 million or above) and (2) can’t be counted on as an innings eater, which is what the Nats really need in a 5th starter.

    Anyone who criticizes the Strasburg shutdown needs to grapple with what has happened to Harvey. We certainly can’t say that the shutdown THE REASON for Strasburg’s ok health since 2012, nor can we say Harvey’s blowing past 200 IP in 2015 is why he’s now toast. But both decisions sure seem like contributing factors to each pitcher’s current state.


    19 Sep 17 at 3:12 pm

  25. Better parallel for “other scenarios” in the Strasburg shutdown is Kris Medlen. Yikes.

    Although Loby batted .222 in the 2016 playoffs, his OPS (thanks to that crucial HR) was actually 4th on the Nats. Better than Bryce’s, FWIW.

    Which is just the sort of random crap that happens in a short series.

    John C.

    19 Sep 17 at 3:42 pm

  26. Derek & John, I fundamentally believe that both the Braves and then the Mets sank their chances to be perennially competitive with the Nats by destroying their best young arms in the pursuit of immediate glory. What the Mets did to Harvey was criminal. I wonder if Boras will take any of his other clients there under the present regime.

    And yes, we sure did have to listen to a lot of crap about how the Braves had a “better plan” with Medlen than what the Nats had done with Stras.

    Meanwhile, Stras is a well-oiled machine half a decade after the shutdown. Any questions?


    19 Sep 17 at 3:48 pm

  27. Harvey’s downfall is a troubling tale to teams who attempt to kill their golden gooses pursuing the almighty pennant. Harvey didn’t help himself along the way, nor did his agent, and certainly not his manager (who almost seems like he’s purposely trying to hurt the guy).

    Also worth noting: Jordan Zimmermann is still humming along, injury free, after he went through a similar regiment that Strasburg did post surgery. The only time he’s even been on the D/L since was last year when he missed time due to a strained Lat. Yes I know his performance has bottomed out … but that’s never been tied to an arm injury.

    I love btw bringing up the Medlen thing when talking about Strasburg. It still makes my blood boil that the “narrative” of the 2012 NLDS loss was because Strasburg didn’t pitch, with people conveniently forgetting that our closer blew a 3 run lead in the 9th.

    speaking of Storen … did you guys see that he has to have TJ? That’s a blow for him … he’s out of contract this off-season and will now miss basically all of 2018 without a support staff to depend on.

    Todd Boss

    19 Sep 17 at 3:59 pm

  28. Let’s put some numbers on this. Let’s say, for very rough comparison sake, that peak Harvey was around equal to peak Stras, and that peak Medlen was around equal to peak JZim. You can argue the fine details of the talent, but my point is that Stras and JZim are fair comparisons of the earning-potential classes of those guys.

    Here are the raw numbers: Harvey has earned $11M thus far, may be non-tendered, and will probably limp forward with a few make-good contracts much as Medlen has done. Medlen’s career total at age 31, the same as JZim is $18M. That’s not terrible for either guy. They should be set for life if they’ve been wise (not guaranteed in Harvey’s case).

    But . . . JZim is guaranteed $142M total, and Stras $210M total, with both in their mid-30s when those contracts end, so capable of more. That’s $352M between those two vs. $29M for Harvey and Medlen. As things stand now, the two Nats likely will earn eight to ten times more in their careers. Wow.


    19 Sep 17 at 8:37 pm


    I like it just fine being under the radar. Maybe it will actually give the Nats a chip on their shoulder. They’ll likely be listed as underdogs to the Cubs. They shouldn’t have any problem getting “up” for that series, though.

    I have no idea where we stand on the OF backup. Hardly any of the candidates are getting much playing time.


    21 Sep 17 at 8:55 am

  30. I’m ready for the playoffs to start. If Dusty isn’t going to play Robles and the other kids, I’m ready for the next stage to start. It’s nice to see some milestones for some of the guys, but kind of boring. Like spring training.

    No predictions for me, playoffs are too random and I’m old enough now to know that ‘should win’ means nothing. I like this team, though, quite a bit. I guess I’ll go this far: I’m surprised any pundit, if they are playing it straight up and honestly evaluating the different teams, don’t l have the Nats as the favorite, even a heavy favorite, to make the WS. Best lineup. Not close, imo. Strongest bench. Maybe a push for rotation with LAD (I’d give them Kershaw and Hill, we get Stras and Roark). And our bullpen isn’t the strongest but still pretty strong now. I don’t see any other team checking as many boxes.

    And what’s made this year especially enjoyable is that they aren’t only good, they’re fun to watch. Especially when trea plays.


    21 Sep 17 at 1:59 pm

  31. Is he trying to get home field? Is he trying to get players milestones or career highs? Seems like it. I mean, Scherzer needs every Win and every K to try to get the Cy Young narrative back in his favor, Zimmerman is pushing his career numbers right now, etc. I read somewhere that he promised Knitzler two more saves to get him to 30 for the year though I see almost no evidence of that with his usage (i’m not sure he’s had a single Save Opportunity since arriving).

    Otherwise, I see the rest of the regular season about just a handful of things:
    – Harper’s return
    – Getting the likes of Murphy and Werth back into shape for the playoffs
    – Getting Roark set for the playoffs
    – Edge of the roster competitions; 8th bullpen guy,last bench guy, etc.

    Todd Boss

    21 Sep 17 at 2:20 pm

  32. There was one time, against the Astros while Madsen was on the DL, that Baker went matchup, using Doolittle against a bunch of lefties in the 8th and Kintzler against a bunch of righties in the 9th. Doolittle gave up one run, then Kintzler gave up two to blow the save (the Nats won anyway, beating old pal Tyler Clippard in the 11th). Baker was roasted for his troubles, for varying from a successful formula to pursue meaningless goals (Kintzler’s save total). But it was an excellent chance to do it, the way that the Astros lineup stacked up.

    Of course we also regularly roast Baker and other managers for slavishly following a formula instead of considering matchups. Which returns us to the MLB manager’s bottom line: if it works, it’s genius. If it doesn’t, it’s blithering incompetence/stupidity.

    John C.

    22 Sep 17 at 8:57 am

  33. FWIW, Baker hasn’t done it since.

    John C.

    22 Sep 17 at 8:57 am

  34. I missed that one SVO; its kind of hard to find that stat.

    Managers are like politicians; take credit for what goes right and get blamed for what goes wrong irrespective of whether they had anything to do with it. I was starting to look at post season awards and Baker has to be Mgr of the year right? If you look at the teams that succeeded, who had more injuries to deal with than Baker?

    Todd Boss

    22 Sep 17 at 9:08 am

  35. Bullpen splits, 2017 only:

    BA vs. RHB BA vs. LHB

    Doolittle .195 .150
    Madson .168 .198
    Albers .167 .178
    Kintzler .278 .202
    Perez .259 .234
    Romero .225 .311
    Blanton .284 .339
    Kelley .306 .200
    Solis .255 .233
    Grace .287 .241
    Jackson .293 .273

    I’ve included EJax in case he gets some postseason consideration. Note that Kintzler, Romero, Kelley, and EJax all have “reverse splits,” some fairly dramatic. Who would have thought that Kelley dominates LH hitters, while Romero gets hammered by them?

    Doolittle, Madson, and Albers are really good against hitters from either side and should not need to worked in with matchups. Kintzler has a concerning vulnerability against RHB but is excellent against LHB. According to this chart, Blanton should never be allowed to face a LHB in the playoffs.


    22 Sep 17 at 10:07 am

  36. Sorry that everything compressed when uploaded. The first number next to each reliever is vs. RHB, the second is vs. LHB.


    22 Sep 17 at 10:08 am

  37. Beyond Doolittle, Madson, and Albers, there are some real concerns here if Dusty doesn’t look at the splits and goes with “traditional” matchups. Kintzler (.278), Kelley (.306), Blanton (.284), and Jackson (.293) aren’t great against RHB, while Romero (.311) isn’t good against lefties.

    If he looks at reverse splits, Kelley (.200) and Kintzler (.202) are actually better against LHB than are any of the LOOGYs: Solis (.233), Perez (.234), Grace (.241), Romero (.311).


    22 Sep 17 at 10:17 am

  38. KW, one season of numbers for a relief pitcher isn’t nearly enough to convince me he has reverse splits. In Kintzler’s case, you could be talking about a handful of bloop singles that fell in against righties but not against lefties. And the numbers are even more misleading in cases like Kelley and Blanton, who’ve been hurt and haven’t thrown that many innings. I’

    The prior – same-handed pitchers are tougher on same-handed batters – is a really strong one if one looks at all baseball history. There are exceptions (guys with real predictable reverse splits), but they are relatively few. It’s especially rare for a lefty pitcher to be better against righties than lefties. Romero’s potentially one of these guys – he’s been worse against lefties for his whole career and in each individual year (though, still, we’re talking 132 innings, or less than a full season for a starter). Anyway, my point is that in-season data on lefty-righty splits for relief pitchers is too noisy to be useful.


    22 Sep 17 at 11:05 am

  39. KW – are these reverse splits a one year effect or consistent with their career splits?


    22 Sep 17 at 11:06 am

  40. Welp I’ll just stand down and let Derek talk


    22 Sep 17 at 11:08 am

  41. Derek, I would agree that you’ve got SSS in some of these cases, and that you shouldn’t leap to immediate conclusions, such as bringing in Kelley to face Anthony Rizzo in the playoffs. However, you can’t totally dismiss the numbers, either. I haven’t taken the time to look up most of the career splits; it took some time just to pull these numbers.

    Some are more concerning than others, and in some cases, as you note with Romero, the career splits back it up. They do with Kintzler as well: .283 vs. RHB; .236 vs. LHB for his career. You can look at SLG to see if they were skewed by bloops. RHB have slugged .413 vs. Kintzler in his career, while LHB have only slugged .331. So RHB have not only gotten hits off him more regularly, but they’ve also hit him harder. The reverse split in SLG is true for just the 2017 numbers as well; in fact, LHB have only slugged .277 against Kintzler in 2017, so not hard contact at all. He’s faced 136 PAs by RHB vs. 130 LHB, so nearly the same number.

    As noted, one shouldn’t jump to extreme conclusions here, but these things should be taken into account, particularly with guys who might be used in matchup situations.


    22 Sep 17 at 11:25 am

  42. And considering how badly Kelley and Blanton have done against RHB, should they even be on the playoff roster at all?


    22 Sep 17 at 11:28 am

  43. Interesting observation about how poorly the Nats rate when on national TV:

    Todd Boss

    22 Sep 17 at 11:47 am

  44. If all of this leads to the world underrating the Nats, I’m good with that. Let everyone focus on the Cubs and Dodgers (who may not beat the D-Backs). Think TV execs might be jumping out windows if the LCSs are Nats-D-Backs and Indians-Astros?


    22 Sep 17 at 11:52 am

  45. Todd, what’s interesting to me is the ratings that aren’t included in that article: how did the Nats-Dodgers NLDS series do last year? I think it’s probably true that the Nats’ team quality outstrips its ability to draw national TV ratings, but I also think the relatively noncompetitive season has had an effect (and it’s not like the division race was especially competitive last year, either).

    In the playoffs, Bryce Harper, Max Scherzer, and Stephen Strasburg will draw eyeballs. I’m certain of it.

    KW, I’m a Bayesian. Use all the data, don’t ignore any of it. Update your priors if something changes. For me, though, the data-based case has to be pretty compelling (and based on multiple seasons worth of data) for me to change my prior that same-handed pitchers do better against same-handed batters. Kintzler’s split seems pretty minor, but it also seems consistent across time. That probably means don’t pull him for Ollie or Romero to face Anthony Rizzo, but Doolittle would probably better in a key spot.


    22 Sep 17 at 1:49 pm

  46. There are still a couple of significant bullpen questions pending. One is who gets the 7th inning? I know the Natosphere has grown enamored with The Firm, but if you look at the numbers, Albers has been better than Kintzler by almost every measure. By all rights, Albers should get the 7th.

    Kintzler would definitely be on the postseason roster, but if he’s pitching before the 7th, it more likely would be in a matchup situation, and as noted above, he’s not a particularly good matchup bet.

    The other big bullpen questions are the related “how many” and “who makes it”? The scuttlebutt seems to be that both Goodwin and Drew are trying to make it back. If so, it’s got to be a six-man bench, right? I can’t see Dusty leaving Difo at home. If so, then the bullpen shrinks to seven. Considering the consistency of the Nat starters, that’s not a bad bet. Doolittle, Madson, Albers, Kintzler, and Perez are in. That leaves just two spots. Based on recent performance, the next guy on the list is Solis. He’s only given up one hit in Sept. and no runs since Aug. 24. He’s also reasonably good against both lefties and righties.

    That would put us down to one slot, with Kelley, Blanton, Romero, Grace, Jackson, and Cole still on the board. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but if you want a RH pitcher to get out a RH batter, it’s Cole by a wide margin (.224 BA vs. RHB in 2017). If it’s not Cole, it’s Romero. It’s certainly not Kelley or Blanton. Kelley’s big calling card is supposed to be strikeouts, but he has only one K since Aug. 19. Blanton is striking guys out, but he’s giving up more hits than Kelley in the process. If I had to pick between the two right now, I’d take Blanton, but I wouldn’t be happy about it. I’d prefer Romero over either of them, but would they really take four lefties out of seven arms? Based on the options available, I think I might.


    22 Sep 17 at 1:52 pm

  47. To be clear, I’m not advocating for Cole, all the more so since he doesn’t have experience coming in cold from the ‘pen. But I sure don’t feel comfortable with Blanton or Kelley right now, either.


    22 Sep 17 at 1:55 pm

  48. TV rankings; probably a dog whistle to be honest; it was a sunday night game in September going up against the almighty NFL featuring one team that is only a decade old with practically zero national presence and another team that’s been on the (forgotten) west coast so long that all the old fans who knew of them in Brooklyn are dead. Media is an east-coast driven empire; what did they expect of a LA-Wash series? Yes they’re two of the best teams out there, but a NYY-Bos game will always out-draw.

    Todd Boss

    22 Sep 17 at 2:06 pm

  49. OK, a few playoff clarifications on Friday. Kelley left with numbness in his hand. No way they can risk that happening in the playoffs again. EJax looked pretty good early in the game, then turned into EJax. I think he’s pitched himself off the postseason roster as well.

    So what are we left with? Blanton had a messy inning and did well just to give up one run. Romero was better, and he may be ahead of Solis on Dusty’s pecking order for all we know, but I still have a hard time seeing them take four lefties. But if your best options for a RHP are Blanton, EJax, or Kelley, um, take the extra lefty.

    Chelsea’s game piece made it sound like Goodwin now isn’t expected back. That would seem to leave the last OF bench spot between De Aza and Robles, both of whom had good games. Dusty left Robles in to face Familia at the end of the game to see how he’d do. He worked the count pretty well but ultimately struck out. I sure hope they pick Robles over De Aza, who hasn’t hit well at all, but I fear they’ll lean more toward the veteran.


    23 Sep 17 at 11:37 am

  50. In the first series, the Nats may only need three starters. So that puts Roark in the bullpen and perhaps lets them take an extra bench player. As for the bench players, I can’t see them choosing anyone other than Robles. Three triples in 15 at bats, blinding speed, and he clearly looks like he’s ready for the big show.

    As for back end relievers, I’d order them Solis, Blanton, Romero.


    23 Sep 17 at 12:46 pm

  51. Solis pitched with the “A” bullpen on Saturday and was pretty dominant. When he’s right, he’s got some of the nastiest stuff of anyone.


    24 Sep 17 at 7:57 am

  52. I just think Solis has the best stuff amongst the rest of those guys. He can be wild, but when he’s on, he can strike out the side. That kind of stuff is key in the playoffs. Blanton, Grace, are pitch to contact guys. Romero can put up big Ks too, but Solis just feels sharper to me. That doesn’t play as well in the post season.

    Good Cy Young weekend for Max. Grienke gets bombed and he puts up a good 6 IP with excellent strike out numbers. Stras feels like his biggest competitor but Max just has too many innings on him. The only risk is that Stras poaches votes from him and Grienke slips in. But I don’t think so, I think he just cemented it.


    24 Sep 17 at 5:10 pm

  53. I think Solis cemented his playoff spot on Sunday as well. I’ve always thought he had “closer stuff,” and closer makeup. He must have been dinged early this season, or something. Now that he’s right, he’s nasty. He’s also capable of a Miller-like two-inning run if needed.

    Robles has two defensive gems but K’s twice. Of course he had a lot of company in the K department.

    Yes, Max made a strong Cy case, and in front of the NY voters.


    24 Sep 17 at 8:12 pm

  54. I agree with KW that it’s down to de Aza v. Robles for the last spot on the postseason roster (Stevenson and Bautista have effectively been eliminated; I suppose Goodwin could be in the mix but it would be really hard for him to prove he’s healthy in the remaining games).

    I would not count Robles’ ABs against Familia and deGrom against him. Familia is nasty; he’s struck Bryce out with the game on the line at least once before. Robles worked the count against him and K’d on a nasty sinker or splitter. deGrom got him looking twice with great fastballs on the outside corner. Those were borderline pitches, not bad takes. And in his first AB against deGrom, he whiffed at two sliders and then made contact with the third, so it seems like he can adjust.

    Robles is clearly a better player than de Aza – more power, speed, talent. Robles even has a better arm and de Aza’s arm is pretty good! The ONLY reason to take de Aza is if you’re worried Robles is going to make a bad mistake at the wrong time. Robles made two good plays in RF, but he took circuitous routes to both balls. And he hasn’t misplayed a ball in the sun yet, but he seems to be having trouble with it. I’d really like to see him get on 1B and try to steal in a late game situation. He’s had some problems with pickoffs in the minors.

    For me, I’d take the better talent, but I don’t think taking the veteran in this context is insane. I really would like to see more of Robles as a pinch runner/defensive replacement over the next week.


    25 Sep 17 at 11:47 am

  55. Here’s De Aza’s slash line as a Nat: .143/.180/.250. Why is he still even a part of the conversation? Yeah, Robles is young, but Andruw Jones was a year younger when the Braves started him in the postseason in ’96. He hit two WS homers and batted .400 for the series. Is it possible Robles makes a mistake or two? Sure. But if a ball is hit toward the gap late in the game, who do you want chasing it? I’ll go with the kid who face-planted on the wall to make a catch yesterday.

    Conflicting stories about Goodwin. The last I saw from Castillo is that Goodwin says he’s ready to ramp up but hasn’t been cleared by the club to do so. That doesn’t sound like he’s going to be ready for the NLDS in a week and a half.


    25 Sep 17 at 1:12 pm

  56. Robles delivered for the first time as a pinch hitter on Monday. He fouled off a couple of pitches to get to one he could hit, and he didn’t miss it. It was interesting that Dusty gave him the PH opportunity against a RH pitcher instead of calling De Aza or Stevenson. That sure looked like a move to have Robles audition for postseason situational use.

    I’m still not sure what to make of Cole, who has consistently been neither great nor terrible. Maybe he has possibilities as the long man/6th starter next year? Maybe he’s rebuilt a little trade value? I don’t know. I sure can’t see him as a regular rotation piece next year with so many chips on the table in what could be the last ride with Harper, Murphy, and Gio.


    26 Sep 17 at 8:44 am

  57. Robles looked good in the at bat. In addition to what you said, he laid off some close sliders. That was made even more noticeable when followed by MAT who waived at them.

    Yeah, I think he’s the guy for the last postseason slot.


    26 Sep 17 at 1:34 pm

  58. Shaky starts for Gio and Tanner. It will be interesting to see if Gio gets one more on Sunday, or whether they stick with the six-man rotation.

    Goodwin rehabbing in FLA, said to be on track to get back for the NLDS. If so, Robles is probably out of the equation unless an OF gets injured in the playoffs. Drew said not to be on track to make it back by NLDS, but maybe later rounds.

    So . . . the bench looks like Lind, Kendrick, Goodwin, Difo, and . . . there’s actually some speculation that they might take Severino over Loby. With them not having to take Drew in addition to Difo, they may go with a six-man bench that includes both Loby and Sevy. I wouldn’t be a fan of that arrangement, though, as neither catcher would offer much as a PH. Sevy can pinch run, but Difo is getting the first call there, followed by Goodwin. I’d probably argue for a five-man bench and an eight-man ‘pen so you can go to the ‘pen early if Gio or Tanner struggle.


    28 Sep 17 at 9:08 am

  59. Based on what I’ve seen, Robles will make the postseason. Even with Harper and Goodwin back, neither them or Werth is on all cylinders. All OF, and what if anyone really falters?

    Every time Robles enters a game there is a jolt. That instant *zets (Yiddish)* is great to have in a playoff game that you need to change momentum in, in a hurry.

    With a four man rotation, there is no need to have a small bench. Matchup wars happen more than 18 inning games.


    28 Sep 17 at 9:15 am

  60. Now it’s time for the Nats to take it to playoff gear. A few notes.

    1) Great to see Trea try to steal three times last night. He needs to be running wild the next few games, and put the pressure even before the playoff series starts.

    2) Solis is succeeding in leverage situations. Great to see and hope this is telling.

    3) Murphy, Zimm, and Rendon are ready. Taylor’s got to take his game defensively where it needs to be.

    4) He won’t be on the playoff roster, but AJ Cole has hung in there and is saving his ML career, be it here or somewhere else.

    5) Austin Adams has saved his 40 man spot as well. I hope we see him again before year’s end and have him build to spring training.

    6) I hate having to say I told you so, but I said long ago that the money given Wilson Ramos could have been easily risked by the Nats. Next year he will be a beast, and the Nats could have had him now. The Nats knew him and knew he had the heart of a lion. It would have been great to have him now, where he is now.


    28 Sep 17 at 10:34 am

  61. In her piece this morning, Chelsea Janes is listing Solis among the postseason bullpen locks and wondering whether Romero is now on the bubble.

    I’m not saying that I wouldn’t like to see Robles in the postseason, just that I don’t think he will be. He could be in the conversation if they take six for the bench, though, as they’d be short on RH bats.


    28 Sep 17 at 1:09 pm

  62. I think you take a healthy Goodwin over Robles given that Goodwin hits lefty and played well this year. I think it’s far too early to say Goodwin will be healthy. I have a hard time believing they’ll put him on the playoff roster without him having faced any MLB pitching in six weeks. If I had to bet, I’d bet on Robles being the 5th OF, though I think there’s still a lot of uncertainty.


    28 Sep 17 at 5:04 pm

  63. New Posting about the post-season roster given that we’re just a few days away. And since its all we’re talking about.

    Todd Boss

    29 Sep 17 at 9:44 am

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