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Dodgers Postseason Matchups: Looking at the Washington Nationals

The National seem like the favorites to play the Dodgers in the NLDS heading into Tuesday.

Pitcher Stephen Strasburg throws for the Washington Nationals.

The Milwaukee Brewers (89-73) will play the Washington Nationals (93-69) in the NL Wild Card Game on Tuesday night with the Dodgers organization looking intensely with a preferred result. The general consensus from the Dodgers’ fan base and baseball logic both have the Milwaukee Brewers as the preferred NLDS opponent. We will find out tonight who the Dodgers will play, but the Nationals are the heavy favorite heading in.

Still, anything can happen in a one-game playoff. Anything goes in October.

The Nationals are an excellent baseball team, and simply put, one the Dodgers should have genuine fear in facing. Sure, the Dodgers are the best team in the National League, but underdogs win at a much higher rate in the Division Series than the League Championship Series due to the nature of it being a best-of-five. Add that in with the way the Nationals pitching staff is constructed — conducive to short-series success — it is far from a sure thing that the Dodgers take care of the Nationals with ease.

They lost Bryce Harper this off-season to the Phillies, but they still have MVP-candidate (and potential future Dodger) Anthony Rendon and sophomore sensation Juan Soto in tow. Adam Eaton, Trea Turner, Brian Dozier, Asdrubal Cabrera, Victor Robles, and Howie Kendrick are all formidable bats. Mixed in with the three-headed monster of ‘Mad’ Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin, they have a solid core.

Let’s take a deeper look at the Washington Nationals and how they could stack up against the Dodgers should they emerge victorious on Tuesday night.

Starting Pitching

On the season, the Nationals’ starting pitching corps has been one of the best in baseball, despite being dragged down somewhat by their fourth and fifth starters. Altogether, they have produced a 3.53 ERA, which is second in the majors behind the Dodgers’ 3.11 ERA mark.

They will be sending perennial Cy Young candidate Max Scherzer to the mound, but should the Nationals jump out to an early lead, he might get preserved for a potential Game 2 or 3 start.

In addition to Scherzer (2.48 DRA), Washington is expected to roll out Stephen Strasburg (2.13 DRA), Patrick Corbin (3.09 DRA), and Anibal Sanchez (4.39 DRA).

This is definitely a rotation to fear as it rivals the best in the game.

Bullpen

The Nationals’ bullpen put together a regular season of an NL-worst 5.68 ERA. For reference, the second-worst bullpen in the NL was the Rockies’, a team with Coors Field as their home ballpark. This could easily be the Nationals’ downfall in October considering how integral a reliable bullpen is to winning in the postseason. Their bullpen got marginally better in the second half, posting a 5.24 ERA. In September alone, their bullpen ERA was 4.62. Not great.

The Nationals’ best reliever is former Dodger Daniel Hudson, who has put up a 1.44 ERA since being traded to Washington from Toronto. Sean Doolittle has been elite in past seasons as the Nats’ closer, but he held a 5.08 xFIP on the season.

Offense

The Nationals have a pretty solid lineup. Their Wild Card lineup is typically the lineup they roll out against righties:

Speedster Trea Turner batted .298 this season and stole 35 bags in 122 games. Adam Eaton had his first healthy season in quite some time, posting a 108 wRC+ on the season. Anthony Rendon has been in MVP talks with his 154 wRC+, but went ice cold in September. Juan Soto said ‘screw the sophomore slump’ and put up a .949 OPS and 4.8 WAR.

Former Dodger Howie Kendrick has been amazing this season, batting a whopping .344 in 121 games played. To round out the lineup, waiver claim addition Asdrubal Cabrera has put up a 145 wRC+ with Washington, catcher Kurt Suzuki has some punch for a catcher with a 105 wRC+, and Victor Robles is a capable bat albeit with a 91 wRC+.

Overall

The Nationals could easily give the Dodgers trouble in the NLDS. It certainly would not be a slam dunk of a win and it could very easily be a series that goes five games if the Nationals’ bullpen and bats can hold their own. Until then, get to know the Milwaukee Brewers, the other potential opponent for Los Angeles.

Written by Daniel Preciado

My name is Daniel Preciado and I am 18 years old. I am a sophomore Sport Analytics major and Cognitive Science and Economics dual minor at Syracuse University. When I am not in New York, I live in Whittier, California --- not too far from Chavez Ravine. I am pretty old-school for being an analytics guy and I will always embrace debate. Also, Chase Utley did absolutely nothing wrong.

9 Comments

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  1. It should be a very simple game plan for the Nationals and that is to let Corbin , a LHP start a couple of those games should the series go to 5 games. and when Dodgers met Nats in the 2016 NLDS they loaded their BP with if I recall 4 LH relievers. During the final series in SF notice that Dodgers outscored the Giants by a 20 to 2 score in the 3 games. BUT whenever the Giants brought in a LH reliever the Dodgers couldn’t do a thing with them and all their hitting and scoring was done against RHP. Even Krukow suggested that the PS teams facing Dodgers should gather as many LHP as they can get their hands on which most likely nullifies most of the Dodger offense.

    • Paul, I think you make a great point about left-handed pitching giving the Dodgers problems in past seasons. This season, however, has been a different story for us. The Dodgers rank 4th in the National League against southpaws with a 103 wRC+. They also rank 2nd in the NL in ISO (isolated power) against left-handers, as well.

      • Paul complains about this every single year even when the stats don’t support his fears

        • Richard, we have lost the past two World Series. That tells me PaulDodgerFan1965 knows what he is talking about. Go Blue!!!

          • Thanks BLUE LOU! Obviously Richard may be watching a different game. Obviously , he is not aware of how Dodgers shuffle their lineup around when a lefty goes. Yes, other teams do some line up adjusting too, but I don’t recall the Astros or the Red Sox doing so in the past 2 WS.

      • Daniel, as I pointed out, I simply noticed a huge difference in what Dodgers did in those final 3 games with SF. Granted, I will give ya this much, they certainly were better against LHP (especially Bellinger) this year than they were in 2016 when they were dead last against them in about every offensive category.

    • AZUL, I cannot argue with anything you stated above – its factual and to the point. It also questions what the front office learned in our past two WS trips. The series with the Nats will not be easy, and we will be tested. It sounds silly to say, but we need to win these first two games, and then take it from there. My pet peeve of the week : right now, it appears some of the LA games (in LA) will start after 9PM EST. MLB would be wise to play these games earlier to that we can attract some younger fans. Good post, Paul!!!!

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