Nationals Arm Race

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

Rotation Reviews of your 2015 Playoff Teams & WC Picks


Arrieta makes for a great WC matchup this week in Pittsburgh. Photo via

Arrieta makes for a great WC matchup this week in Pittsburgh. Photo via

Welcome to playoff baseball.  Lets look at the playoff rotations of the 8 playoff teams.

Reference links: MLB post-season schedule, Depth Charts for all teams, baseball-reference for stats.

NL Divisional Winners:

  • New York Mets: deGrom, Snydergaard, Harvey, Matz (Colon)
  • Los Angeles Dodgers: Kershaw, Greinke, Wood, Anderson (Bolsinger)
  • St. Louis Cardinals: Lynn, Wacha, Garcia, Lackey (Lyons)


  • NY Mets: Only the Mets so far  have announced their rotation order.  Matt Harvey has quelled shut-down-gate talks by finishing out the season and saying he’d take the ball in the NLDS: hard to see him getting beat in his home game 3 start against the Dodgers, especially given his last outing (6ip, 11Ks).  deGrom struggled somewhat down the stretch and Snydergaard is only 22; hard to see them beating the seasoned vets Kershaw/Greinke at home.  We still don’t know if Matz is going to be healthy for game 4, but the potential LA opponent isn’t exactly scaring anyone, so I could see this go to a game 5 back in LA with Kershaw getting a 2nd divisional start.
  • LA: We say this every year: Kershaw is the greatest … and he has a 5+ post-season ERA.  I’ll never bet against him in the playoffs, especially not after the September he had.  Greinke either wins the Cy Young or finishes a close second, and Wood is an effective 3rd starter.  This is a tough rotation to handle.  But they’re going against probably the 2nd best rotation in the post-season, meaning this could be a tight 5-game set.  Or not; watch every game will be 8-7.
  • StL: They don’t look tough … but this rotation led the Cardinals to a 100 win season in a division with two other 97+ game winners.  That’s pretty amazing.  Bet against them at your own peril.  They were 11-8 versus the Cubs, 10-9 (and got outscored) against the Pirates, so I’m guessing they’re rooting for a Pittsburgh win in the WC play-in game.

NL Wild Card

  • Chicago Cubs: Arrieta, Hendricks, Haren, Lester (Hammel)
  • Pittsburgh Pirates: Cole, Liriano, Happ, Burnett (Morton)

Discussion/Prediction: Arrieta has given up 3 runs in the last month … and two of them were in his road start in Pittsburgh on 9/16/15.  I could see a similar start from him again in the Wednesday WC game.  So what can the Cubs do with Cole?  They have also seen him twice in the last month, got shut down at home but got to him on 9/15/15 in Pittsburgh.   Tough one to predict but I’m going with your presumptive Cy Young winner to hold serve in Pittsburgh, sending home the 97 win Pirates for the 2nd straight year in the play-in game.   Prediction: Cubs win.

If the Cubs win, they’ll be at a huge disadvantage against the Cards.  If the Pirates win, Liriano and Happ have been pitching well enough to get them back to their ace quickly and make a series of it.

AL Divisional Winners

  • Toronto: Price, Estrada, Buehrle, Dickey/Stroman
  • Kansas City: Cueto, Ventura, Volquez, Young (Medlen)
  • Texas: Hamels, Gallardo, Holland, Perez/Lewis


  • Toronto is setup for the playoffs and will get Price twice.  The back-end of their rotation doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in a playoff series, but Toronto isn’t about top-notch pitching.  They hope to bash their way to the title and just may do it.  Would you roll the dice and sit Dickey for the 4th spot in favor of Stroman and his live arm?  Do you insult the veteran Buehrle and leave him off your playoff roster (probably not).
  • Kansas City: blew Cueto in an attempt to keep home field and were successful, so Ventura likely gets two NLDS starts.  Nationals re-tread Young suddenly looks like the #4 starter for a WS contender.  Who would have thought that?
  • Texas burned Hamels just to get to the playoffs; they’ll struggle to compete against two David Price home starts.  Who is their #4 in the playoffs?  Will Toronto average 6 runs a game against this staff?  Could be a short-post season run for the Rangers; no judgement here; they’ve done fantastically just to get into the playoffs given the number of rotation injuries and their poor start.

AL Wild Card

  • Houston: Keuchel, McHugh, McCullers, Kazmir/Fiers
  • New  York  Yankees: Tanaka, Severino, Pineda, Nova (Sabathia)

Discussion/Prediction: well, it doesn’t look good for the Yankees; Keuchel is scheduled to start and has thrown twice against New York this year: he threw a 6-hit shutout with 12 Ks against them in June and then threw 7 innings of 3-hit shutout ball in late August.  He’s your shoe-in Cy Young Winner and seems likely to pitch the Astros into the divisional series.   New York counters with Tanaka; in his sole appearance vs Houston he got lit up (5ip, 6runs) and the Yankees seem like they’re struggling just to field a lineup at season’s end.  They get the home game but likely go out a loser to end their season.  And if the Yankees somehow won, they’d have thrown their best pitcher … and one of the presumptive rotation members just checked himself into Alcohol RehabPrediction: Astros Win.


Interesting collection of guys with Washington ties featuring prominently in the 2015 playoffs.

  • Dan Haren was nearly released mid-season because he was so bad in Washington 2  years ago, now he’s the #3 starter on a 97 win team.
  • Marco Estrada was waived by the Nats after a long and uninspiring minor league career; now he’s the #2 starter for the AL favorite?
  • Chris Young played a whole season for Syracuse in 2013, working his way back from an injury.  When he didn’t make the 2014 roster he signed with Seattle and has been pretty effective since.
  • Marcus Stroman was an 18th round pick out of HS by the Nats; he was listed as a SS (he’s only 5’8″) but went to Duke, became a power arm and was a 1st round pick by the Blue Jays 3 years later.
  • Colby Lewis signed on with the Nats back in the bad years, failing to make the team out of Spring Training in 2007.  He hooked on with Oakland, playing most of the year in Sacramento before signing a 2-year gig in Japan.


22 Responses to 'Rotation Reviews of your 2015 Playoff Teams & WC Picks'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'Rotation Reviews of your 2015 Playoff Teams & WC Picks'.

  1. The NL WC really intrigues me because if the Pirates win, I think they become the NL favorites and a real contender to take it all. They’ve got a solid lineup and a deep rotation and have had a strong second half. But they’ll be the underdogs against Arrieta. (For similar reasons, I was pulling for the Giants in the ’14 WC game because I feared the Pirates more than the Giants.) I think the Pirates, at home, finally get over the hump.

    In the AL, I’m still trying to figure out how the Yanks got in the playoffs, so I think Houston looks very good in this one behind Keuchel.


    6 Oct 15 at 10:38 am

  2. KW: its a good point, and a concern frankly for the whole WC setup. Why should a team get axed when they run into a buzz saw of a pitcher? Its why some want 3 games in WC instead of one, where luck factors too much. But we can’t play baseball games all the way to thanksgiving so it is what it is.

    FWIW, Chicago took the season series against Pittsburg 11-8, outscoring them 81-71. So if Chicago won i wouldn’t be saying it wasn’t a “justified” win.

    Yankees into the playoffs; yeah pretty amazing. If it wasn’t for Texas’ amazing season i’d be looking at Girardi for MoY.

    Todd Boss

    6 Oct 15 at 11:32 am

  3. Interesting on the Cub-Pirate season series. I wonder how many of those games were in the first half, when the Pirates were really struggling. I still have the Cubs as a year or two (and a starter or two) away, but maybe I’m behind the curve.

    Speaking of which, we’ve all had the Cubs pegged as a potential suitor for JZim, but considering the issues that STL has had with its rotation, I wonder whether the Cards will get into play there.


    6 Oct 15 at 2:01 pm

  4. I have a novel idea. Why not shorten the season to 154 games, to allow best of 7 playoffs for all, thus finishing the same time.

    old man

    6 Oct 15 at 2:44 pm

  5. The problem with making the WC series a three game set is that you then force the division winners to sit around for a week or more. As it is they sit around four days after the regular season, equivalent to the ASB, and there have been rumblings that teams feel that it causes their players to lose their edge a bit. Especially when facing the WC game winner.

    John C.

    6 Oct 15 at 4:51 pm

  6. JohnC; completely agree on the delay.

    Old Man: yeah … good luck getting 30 greedy millionaires to give up 4 home dates and the revenue that comes with it 🙂

    Todd Boss

    6 Oct 15 at 5:08 pm

  7. I’m not a big fan of the second wildcard slot or the one-game play-in, although it’s hard to argue too much that the team with the third-best record in the NL (Cubs) shouldn’t be in the playoffs. If you’re going to have a play-in, it probably should be at least three games. As John said, though, that leaves the division winners sitting for at least five days. Also, the WC teams, which are already “punished” by having to burn their aces, would burn through three hurlers before starting the division series. And would it be a 2-1 format, or 1-1-1? You’d have the risk of having coast-to-coast travel as part of the deal.

    I guess you could start the WC series on Monday (unless there is a tie that has to be broken), with two games at the higher seed on Monday and Tuesday, a travel day on Wednesday, and the third game on Thursday, with the DS starting on Friday or Saturday. My guess is that we’ll get to something like that sooner or later.

    As for the season being too long, you could push the season up to the beginning of April, but you risk more games lost to weather in the northern locales. So there are no easy answers.


    6 Oct 15 at 8:33 pm

  8. I’ll go: Pirates > Cubs

    What is everyone’s thoughts on the new manager? No obvious guy. I also agree with Boz that Rizzo hasn’t really done this well before. And I don’t think they should just pick the opposite of Williams (seasoned, easy going tactical manager). That guy appears to be Bud Black. Maybe he’s the right call, but he also hasn’t distinguished himself too much.

    At this early stage, I think Dave Martinez might be my leading choice but there isn’t much info out there. It would be nice if Francona made himself available.


    7 Oct 15 at 9:45 am

  9. I’m constantly split on my opinion of the WC. On the one hand, i have “old school” tendencies that want to see divisional winners be rewarded, but I also kind of like the WC game keeping more teams in the race and keeping more teams competitive longer. You can’t have both. The whole tiebreaker nonesense needs to be fixed though; it will bite someone soon. Come up with tiebreaker rules based on divisional record or something.

    Todd Boss

    7 Oct 15 at 10:29 am

  10. Cubs > Pirates, then LAD>NYM, Stl>Chi and then hmmm no idea what I think about LAD-STL. Probably STL since they’ll have home field.

    Manager search: Gardenhire was intriguing. Experienced for sure. But i hadn’t really thought about it.

    Todd Boss

    7 Oct 15 at 10:31 am

  11. My primary interest in how the playoffs go down is to see whether there are teams that would feel compelled to sign Desmond and JZimmerman to the point that they would forfeit a high draft pick.

    Well, the Red Sox pick 12th and are known t flush money with the intensity of RotoRooter, only to be rivaled by the atomic commode that is the Dodgers budget and of course, the Yankees. Now that the yanks are toast, Desmond to the Bronx would be pick 22 (and the bonus slot money there that can help bring in another high schooler). Not much consolation, but we all said that once about Soriano.


    7 Oct 15 at 11:18 am

  12. Playoffs: I find a bit curious the rotation probables in the NYM-LAD series for both sides. If it were me, I’d have Harvey starting Gm 1 on the road and save rookie Snydergaard for home turf. (By the way, at least the Nats did screw the Mets by sending them on the road to start this series.) If I were Mattingly (perish the thought), I’d have Greinke for Gm 1. He’s been slightly better than Kershaw this season and significantly better in his career in the playoffs. That alignment would also take a little of the pressure off the Claw.

    By the way, I think this is a must-win series for Mattingly to keep his job. Perhaps that’s a little incentive for the Nats to get their managerial search done before they’re competing against Dodger bucks.

    Nats manager: I’ll concede that I was burned before by my enthusiasm for not having another recycled mediocre manager. Instead, we got a newbie mediocre manager! Still, I’m not excited about the scrap heap of Black, Gardenhire, Baker, Washington, et al. I’m more interested in guys like Ron Wotus (lots of MiLB managerial experience plus Giant rings), Phil Nevin (getting a lot of buzz for the SD job), Dave Martinez, and our own Randy Knorr.

    I’m not sure what to think of the Ripken talk. If we really want someone with the gravitas to put the vets in their place, who could bench Werth or bat him 8th, who could choke Pap right back, who could show Harper how to handle being a star, who could teach Turner how to play SS, that’s the guy. At the same time, he’s got no managerial or coaching experience (except through decades of watching his dad, who really suffered as a manager), and I’d question whether his heart is in it and if he would stick with it.

    If we want a manager who isn’t beholden to Rizzo, though, it’s Cal. Rizzo was always a larger figure for the organization than Williams, and in many ways even than Davy, despite Johnson’s HOF credentials. He wouldn’t overshadow Ripken and wouldn’t win any screaming matches with him. All of that makes me wonder whether Rizzo would be up for that bargain. At the same time, what better way to deflect all the negative attention that Rizzo is suddenly getting?


    7 Oct 15 at 12:40 pm

  13. Possible destinations for Desmond: you need a team that has a need at SS and is a FA player. Quick glance at:
    – Teams w/ a solid SS situation: Baltimore, Boston, Cleveland, Houston, KC, LAA, Texas, Toronto, Atlanta, Chicago Cubs, Colorado, LAD, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, SF, STL, Wash
    – Teams that Aren’t $100M FA buyers/in rebuilding mode: Detroit, Minnesota, oakland, Tampa, Arizona, Cincy, Miami, Philly

    – Options: Chi WS (Alexei Ramierez), NYY (Gregorius), Seattle (Marte?), NYMets (Wilmer Flores), San Diego (Amarista)

    Don’t see Boston shopping: Bogaerts hit above .300 and is controlled. Of course, never say never. The White Sox have a $10M option on Ramirez; they could cut him loose as his bat has declined. The Yankees gave up a bit to get Gregorius; would they replace him? Are the Mariners on the market? Is San diego? Best bet for me is the Mets.

    Todd Boss

    7 Oct 15 at 12:43 pm

  14. Mattingly’s job security; completely agree, he needs a run to the WS.

    Rotation ordering: I’m sure the Harvey decision was driven by rest, forcing their hand elsewhere.

    Manager: please not Cal ripken.

    Todd Boss

    7 Oct 15 at 12:56 pm

  15. Todd – I should have been clearer, I was thinking JZimm to the RSox, not Desi.


    7 Oct 15 at 1:40 pm

  16. My first reaction to mentions of Ripken was negative. I started seeing some pros as I thought through it, but I think overall, it would be a circus. Heck, it will be a circus even if he declares that he wants an interview.

    I have Desi pegged for one side of NYC or the other. I’d prefer him on the Yanks. With JZimm, it’s very hard to predict how the pitching FA dominos will fall. Both the Bosox and the Cubs inquired about him trade-wise, so you would think they would be interested. If up to him, you would think he wants to get back to the Midwest: Cubs, Chisox, maybe Cards. I don’t think the Brewers can afford him.


    7 Oct 15 at 2:40 pm

  17. I’d be disappointed if they choose Ripken. As KW said, the circus element is large. Plus no experience in this role.

    I’d guess Desi for NYM, CWS or SD. I don’t see NYY as players for him. I think they like Didi, plus they are saber heavy and Desi doesn’t shine there. There is some risk that he gets hung up, so I hope he strikes early. Would hate to see him twist in the wind like Drew. But here was my point about Espy – would you rather have Espy at SS for the next three years for $15m, or Desi for 4/$60m? I think Desi outperforms him over the next three years, but by $30m (4 WAR)?

    As for JZ, he’ll get paid although I no longer think it’s $150m. And I think it is a surprise team. ARI, maybe SEA or CWS.

    Sent from my iPhone


    7 Oct 15 at 8:19 pm

  18. And down go the Pirates, perhaps the best all-around team in baseball. To quote Billy Beane, the playoffs are a crapshoot, all the more so with Bud’s one-game play-in.

    Wally, per bWAR, there was only a 0.2 advantage for Desi over Espy in 2015 as it was, with Espy hardly playing any SS, where he would get a big WAR boost. If Danny was the regular SS over three years, with the Simmons-like defensive boost in WAR, I think he would outpace an aging Ian. I’ve loved the spirit and big hits that Ian has brought to the team, but I fear that he’s going to age like Rollins and Utley, with a steep drop in the early 30s. Buyer beware.

    I don’t know what the Nats think about Danny at SS going forward. Do they accept the his roller-coaster bat in exchange for plus defense? I think Turner will be starting at one of the middle INF positions by at least May/June, and I cringe at the thought of Escobar defensively at SS. So Turner would likely be at SS paired with Yuney, but at 2B with Danny, unless they’re insistent on giving Turner time at SS no matter what (in which case you lose any advantage Danny has to offer by playing him at 2B). Geez, I hope they hire a manager who understands that simple equation!


    8 Oct 15 at 5:27 am

  19. I think Desi would still get evaluated as the better player, at least for now. But is he $10m/yr better? No, I think not. So a team with a need at SS could look to sign Desi for the committed cash, or try to ‘pay’ for Espy’s surplus value with a player or two. To acquire players, everyone has to pay market value, but if they are under team control, they pay the surplus to the team.

    I was not trying to argue which one is better for the Nats, really just trying to amplify my point in an earlier thread that the Nats have multiple guys with trade value and positional flexibility.


    8 Oct 15 at 8:49 am

  20. On your position comments, I totally agree. Maybe my biggest hope is that they place a higher priority on defensive efficiency and optimize the team that way, instead of deference to vets. That goes for Rendon, Espy and the rest of the IFs. But Werth should also be subbed out much more late in games.


    8 Oct 15 at 8:52 am

  21. Interesting pieces on a couple of guys whose names pop up in the managerial search, DeMarlo Hale and Wally Bachman:

    I don’t know that much about either of them, but they sound like the type of guys who can develop good relations with the players while also being firm with them when needed, neither of which Matt Williams proved good at doing.


    8 Oct 15 at 10:52 am

  22. Backman is a loose cannon, I’d avoid him. He might be a talented manager, but it’s guaranteed to end in an embarrassment.


    8 Oct 15 at 2:06 pm

Leave a Reply