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2014 NLDS Preview & Predictions

By Andrew Perna

The San Francisco Giants topped the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday night, setting the National League playoff field by winning the Wild Card game. The division series kick off on Friday with the Giants facing the Washington Nationals on the East Coast and St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers playing on the West Coast.

Giants vs. Nationals

The Nationals are hosting this series as the top seed in the NL, but the Giants clearly believe they are the favorites. It's hard to count San Francisco out, especially since they have won the World Series in each of the last two even-number years, but Tim Hudson's comments about Washington's … uh ... intestinal fortitude are unfounded.

Washington was eight wins better than San Francisco in the regular season and the NL East champs took five of the seven head-to-head matchups in 2014. The Nationals bested the Giants in several offensive categories -- OPS (.714 to .699), home runs (152 to 132) and runs per game (4.2 to 4.1).

That advantage extended to the mound, where Matt Williams had one of the best staffs in the Major Leagues. The Nationals had the lowest ERA (3.03) in baseball, while the Giants (3.50) ranked tenth. Williams also got incredible length from his starters. Only the Atlanta Braves recorded more quality starts than the Nationals (106). Washington edged San Francisco in strikeouts-per-nine (7.88 to 7.52) and has the deeper staff.

San Francisco needed Madison Bumgarner to beat the Pirates, so we won't see him until Game 3. That tilts the early momentum towards the Nationals, who will trot out (in order) Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister. Strasburg has been incredible in the second half, Zimmermann is coming off a no-hitter and Fister posted the best season of his career (16-6, 2.41 ERA and 1.08 WHIP).

Bruce Bochy will counter with Jake Peavy, Tim Hudson and Bumgarner. The trio is more than capable of shutting down an offense in October, but they don't have the same firepower as Washington's trio of starters.

The two clubs have a combined seven players among the NL's top-40 in terms of WAR this season. Tops among those was Anthony Rendon (6.5), Washington's second baseman, who ranked second only to Jonathan Lucroy (6.7) among positional players.

San Francisco scored two or fewer runs in four of the seven games they played against Washington this season. They simply won't have the offensive firepower to win their third World Series title in five years.

Prediction: Nationals in 5

 

Cardinals vs. Dodgers

Clayton Kershaw really doesn't have anything to prove as he nears yet another Cy Young award, but his Game 1 matchup against Adam Wainwright and the Cardinals just might be the biggest start of his already storied career. The left-hander, who just completed one of the best statistical seasons ever for a pitcher, has a 4.23 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 1-3 record in 38.1 postseason innings.

Kershaw may be the central theme of the series, but in truth the Dodgers can advance to the NLCS even if they fall in one of his starts. That's because they have Zack Greinke coming in Game 2 (and potentially Game 5) and an offense that is significantly better than that of the Cardinals.

L.A's offense isn't just superior, it's also red-hot right now. The Dodgers edged the Cardinals in OPS (.738 to .689), home runs (134 to 105) and runs per game (4.4 to 3.8). Mike Matheny's troops will have to scrap more than a few runs against the likes of Kershaw and Greinke to win.

L.A.'s pitching staff is a bit top-heavy, but in a short series the cream of the crop will start four games. Kershaw (1.77) and Greinke (2.71) are tremendous, but overall the club had a 3.50 ERA. St. Louis wasn't far behind with a 3.40 ERA, but after Wainwright it'll be Lance Lynn, John Lackey and Shelby Miller. Only Lackey has a history of postseason success.

Most of us said the same thing less than a year ago, but it's hard to envision the Dodgers losing a series against this Cardinals team with Kershaw and Greinke fronting the rotation.

Prediction: Dodgers in 4


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MLB Rankings For End Of 2014 Regular Season

By RealGM Staff Report

The Opsera is a statistic RealGM Executive Editor Chris Reina created in order to objectively rank teams by how well they hit (OPS) and pitch (ERA). 

In order to determine the Opsera rating for each, we take their OPS, multiply that number by 10 to move the decimal point over one place to the right and then subtract their ERA from that number.  

All statistics are through the end of the 2014 regular season.

Rankings from last week are in parenthesizes.

(1) Washington Nationals – 4.11

(2) Los Angeles Dodgers – 3.98

(3) Baltimore Orioles – 3.91

(4) Pittsburgh Pirates – 3.87

(5) Oakland Athletics – 3.78

(6) Los Angeles Angels – 3.70

(7) Seattle Mariners – 3.59

(8) Detroit Tigers – 3.56

(9) Cleveland Indians – 3.50

(10) San Francisco Giants – 3.49

(11) Milwaukee Brewers – 3.41

(T12) St. Louis Cardinals – 3.39

-- Kansas City Royals – 3.39

(14) Toronto Blue Jays – 3.36

(15) Tampa Bay Rays – 3.28

(16) Atlanta Braves – 3.27

(17) New York Mets – 3.24

(18) Miami Marlins – 3.16

(19) New York Yankees – 3.12

(20) San Diego Padres – 3.07

(21) Cincinnati Reds – 3.02

(22) Chicago Cubs – 2.93

(23) Colorado Rockies – 2.88

(24) Philadelphia Phillies – 2.86

(25) Boston Red Sox – 2.83

(26) Houston Astros – 2.81

(27) Chicago White Sox – 2.79

(28) Minnesota Twins – 2.56

(29) Arizona Diamondbacks – 2.52

(30) Texas Rangers – 2.40

 

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MLB Rankings For The Week Beginning September 15

By RealGM Staff Report

The Opsera is a statistic RealGM Executive Editor Chris Reina created in order to objectively rank teams by how well they hit (OPS) and pitch (ERA). 

In order to determine the Opsera rating for each, we take their OPS, multiply that number by 10 to move the decimal point over one place to the right and then subtract their ERA from that number.  

All statistics are through Sunday, September 14.

Rankings from last week are in parenthesizes.

1. (1) Washington Nationals – 4.05

The Nationals are the team to beat in the National League thanks to their +118 run differential.

2. (2) Los Angeles Dodgers – 4.02

Washington may have a slightly better record, but who wants to face Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke in the first two games of a playoff series?

3. (5) Baltimore Orioles – 3.86

Nelson Cruz, who signed a one-year, $8 million deal after a controversial 2013 season, is having the best effort of his career. The 34-year-old is hitting .263/.331/.526 with 39 home runs and 102 RBI.

4. (6) Los Angeles Angels – 3.85

The Angels are red-hot and have left the once-infallible Athletics in the dust.

5. (3) Oakland Athletics – 3.83

Oakland must fight off a handful of teams for a Wild Card berth after cruising for a majority of the season.

6. (4) Seattle Mariners – 3.77

7. (7) Pittsburgh Pirates – 3.76

8. (10) Detroit Tigers – 3.60

9. (8) San Francisco Giants – 3.58

10. (9) Cleveland Indians – 3.49

11. (16) Toronto Blue Jays – 3.41

12. (14) Milwaukee Brewers – 3.40

T13. (11) Atlanta Braves – 3.39

-- (12) Tampa Bay Rays – 3.39

-- (15) St. Louis Cardinals – 3.39

16. (13) Kansas City Royals – 3.35

17. (17) Miami Marlins – 3.20

18. (18) New York Yankees – 3.14

19. (19) New York Mets – 3.13

20. (22) Cincinnati Reds – 3.08

21. (20) San Diego Padres – 3.02

22. (21) Chicago Cubs – 2.89

23. (23) Philadelphia Phillies – 2.86

24. (24) Boston Red Sox – 2.82

25. (26) Chicago White Sox – 2.79

26. (25) Colorado Rockies – 2.77

27. (27) Houston Astros – 2.72

28. (28) Arizona Diamondbacks – 2.59

29. (29) Minnesota Twins – 2.50

30. (30) Texas Rangers – 2.21

 

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