Nationals Lineup And Comments
With superstar third baseman Ryan Zimmerman on the disabled list, the Nationals have gone with a lineup that looks like
2B Danny Espinoza
CF Rick Ankiel
RF Jayson Werth
1B Adam LaRoche
LF Mike Morse
3B Jerry Hairston
SS Ian Desmond
Thus far, Espinoza has been a pretty good leadoff hitter, with an OBP of .364. After that, though, the Nationals simply don't have a good hitter. The one skill that this lineup does seem to have is an ability to work counts - they rank 7th in the league in walks, led by LaRoche's 11. Save Ian Desmond, this lineup is also fairly devoid of speed.
As far as defense goes, the Nats are pretty much bad all around the field. Particularly sorry are Ian Desmond, Mike Morse, and "center fielder" Rick Ankiel. The bright spots - although Adam LaRoche is graying around the beard a bit, he's still a pretty good fielder around the bag. Jayson Werth and Wilson Ramos figure to be decent as well.
Really, though, this lineup misses Ryan Zimmerman badly. As their only true offensive and defensive standout, Zimmerman was worth 7 wins last season. If Zimmerman misses any more time due to his oblique injury, the Nationals basically have no hope of contention. After the Mets pitching demolished the relatively strong-hitting Arizona Diamondbacks, the Washington Nationals lineup (which ranks 15th in OPS and features future managerial standout Alex Cora) should be fairly easy to deal with. Individual weaknesses of the Nationals hitters/pitchers will be discussed more in the game previews.
Tuesday, April 26
Chris Young vs. Jordan Zimmermann
Chris "Cy" Young comes into this game having beaten the tar out of the Nationals the last time he pitched on April 10. In that game, Young threw 7 innings and game up one hit, while walking two and striking out five. However, it's not all rosy for the giant righty. As detailed in this Eno Sarris post, Young simply doesn't have the fastball velocity to content. While never a true power pitcher, in Young's San Diego glory years he threw in the upper-80s and had the potential to hit 90+. Now, Young is throwing in the mid-80s.
The Nationals actually have pretty good wFB ratings. Young can still be a successful pitcher, but to do so he will need to set up his fastball with an average slider and his supposedly brand-new split-fingered changeup. Young's curve has been hammered in the past. With the changeup becoming a major part of Young's arsenal, the curveball should probably be scrapped all together or thrown out of the strike zone to set up the fastball or change.
Another note - not every park is Citi Field. This is good news for the bats in the Mets lineup but not for Young, who gives up a bunch of fly balls but somehow always manages to keep the ball in the park. Young can take solace in the fact that the Nats are not good at hitting.
Jordan Zimmermann, the projected starter for the Nationals, features 3 major pitches in his arsenal - a fastball and two breaking balls. He throws the fastball hard, topping out at around 94 or so while sitting in the low 90s comfortably. The fastball also tails a bit more than usual at the end, making Zimmermann's fastball a plus pitch. His breaking balls aren't terrific. Zimmerman's slider is fairly flat but has good velocity, resulting in some swings and misses. It's a much better pitch to right-handed batters, as he throws it down and away to get a lot of batters looking. This would be a problem for notorious strikeout artists Jason Bay and David Wright, but Zimmerman rarely throws the fastball away to righties, preferring instead to jam them inside. Bay and Wright are both much better hitters on fastballs in, so this works to the Mets advantage. Against left-handed batters, Zimmerman throws the slider down and in. As Keith Hernandez said on the broadcast yesterday: "that's a dangerous pitch to a lefty". If Zimmermann hangs the slider, left-handed bats like Ike Davis and Carlos Beltran could hammer that pitch. Overall, Zimmermann needs to work on location. That being said, Zimmerman's fastball velocity makes him dangerous.
Small sample sizes:
David Wright vs. Zimermannn (2-10, 5 K's)
Jose Reyes vs. Zimmermann (2-8, BB)
Ike Davis vs. Zimmerman (1-3, 2 BB, HR)
Wednesday, April 27
The Dickster has not been as good this year as he had been last year. As this post on Beyond The Box Score illustrates, he's simply been walking too many betters and using too much of the inferior slow knuckleball. However, I'm not putting too much stock into these "problems", as Dickey split a nail in the game in which he walked 5 batters (it should be noted that this game WAS against the Nationals). In a small sample size, Jayson Werth and bench-warmer Matt Stairs gave crushed him, but the rest of the Nationals have performed just okay against Dickey.
Nationals lefty Tom Gorzelanny has had a career of ups and downs. At one point, Tom was the ace of the Pirates. In 2007, he had 14 winzzz and put up a solid WAR of 2.9. The next year, his ERA was a devilish 6.66. In 2009, it was 5.55 (wow, that's interesting. 3 consecutive numbers for ERA twice in a row). Gorzelanny came back to respectability in 2010 with the Cubs. The oddest thing about Gorzelanny's career is that as his fastball velocity has dropped, he's actually been striking out more batters. He used to sit at 90 MPH or so but now he tops out at that and sits at 87.
Although Gorzelanny's ERA looks just mediocre, he's actually been even worse than that. His fastball is thrown almost exclusively upstairs in the strike zone, meaning a feast for Jason Bay. His new 2-seam fastball gets some swings and misses, but it's a pitch that once batters learn to recognize, they will take. It's also thrown up in the strike zone too much. Gorzelanny should be easy enough to deal with. He's somewhat gopher-prone as well.
Being patient with Gorzelanny and working the count also helps. His control is far from impeccable and he has little margin for error because his fastball isn't a plus.
Small Sample Sizes:
Reyes vs. Gorzelanny (2-12, 4 BB)
Wright vs. Gorzelanny (3-12, 3 BB, 3 2B)
Beltran vs. Gorzelanny (2-5, 2 HR, 2 BB)
Thursday, April 28
Caps pitched very well against Houston his last time out, scattering 6 hits over 7 innings. He induced 12 swinging strikes and helped get the Mets back on track. Again, though, Capuano is a soft tosser. In his start against Houston, his velocity was actually down according to PitchFX - he was topping out at 88 and averaging a tick above 85 MPH. This is bad. Luckily, Capuano's fastball isn't all that bad even when slow, because it has a good amount of vertical movement and it gets set up very nicely by a strong changeup. Capuano is mostly a two-pitch pitcher. As with all changeup pitchers, Capuano is actually more effective against right-handed batters due to the pitch. Among Nats regulars, only Rick Ankiel and Adam LaRoche are left-handed batters, and both are prone to all lefties in general.
Meanwhile, the 73-year-old Livan Hernandez (Actually, he's only 36. Hard to believe, isn't it?) gets the start for the Nationals. After a career resurgence (a 3 WAR campaign ranks as his best since 2004) last year in Washington, Hernandez has done his best to prove that 2010 wasn't a fluke. Despite a fastball that travels 83.9 miles an hour (the theme of this series is soft-tossers, as only Jordan Zimmerman figures to throw harder than 90 miles an hour), Livan has posted a FIP of 3.79. How does he do it? Well, you can start off with his slow curve. Most slow curves are just for show, but Hernandez's is truly a strong pitch. He doesn't strike many batters out with it, but it DOES induce weak contact, which is basically the only thing saving Hernandez from flipping burgers. Hernandez throws 5 distinct pitches, all with varying speeds - an 84 MPH fastball, a pretty terrible 79 MPH slider, an 82 MPH sinking fastball with some ground-ball action, a 77 MPH changeup which he uses pretty much only against lefties, and the 70 MPH curveball. Honestly, though, Livan Hernandez is not a scary pitcher. If his control is the tiniest bit off, he gets shelled badly. You can pretty much guarantee that he won't challenge any batter inside (just take a look at the below image)
Fig 1.1 - Pitching inside is Livan's worst enemy.
Even if Hernandez flashes some good control, he's quite hittable. He strands a ton of baserunners and somehow has limited his HR/FB. His xFIP last year, 4.57, probably describes his true talent level better than his ERA or FIP. I have no clue how the guy does it. I guess he's fairly effective at hitting the corners. That's the only thing I can think of, right now. Remember when Livan was on the Mets? Good bad times.
Not-So Small Sample Sizes:
Reyes vs. El Duque's Broski: (.264/.291/.415 in 53 ABs)
Wright vs. The Unbreakable Right Arm (.267/.327/.600 with 4 homers in 45 ABs)
Beltran vs. The Luckiest Man On The Face Of xFIP (.323/.371/.581 with 4 XBH in 31 ABs)
Other Notes On The Nationals
...but that bullpen! Despite a mediocre-at-best rotation, the Nats have compiled quite the collection of arms in their bullpen. Their top three of Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, and Sean Burnett all figure to be quite effective, and LOOGY Doug Slaten is pretty decent. The front end of that bullpen features Chad Gaudin and Brian Broderick, who are very bad. If the Mets can get to Jordan Zimmerman early or run his pitch count up (which wouldn't be too difficult), the Nats could exhaust their good bullpen options quickly.
Keys To The Series
- win the games
- pitch well
- score more runs than the other team
- David Wright is 5 runs scored away from Darryl Strawberry's team record. Jose Reyes is 7 away. Both have about the same number of plate appearances. Wouldn't you think Jose has like a zillion more?
- Other records that Wright could crack this season - total bases, RBIs, K's (with 136 more, so I certainly hope not), walks (with 85 more, I certainly hope so), extra base hits, times on base, sacrifies flies,
- carlos beltran... i like his swing... ike davis... i'm so impressed with the strides he's been making...