Series Preview

Washington Nationals

The Washington Nationals are 55-44 and in first place in the NL East with a one game lead over the Atlanta Braves. They are 4-2 since the All-Star break and coming off a 2-1 mile-high series win against the Rockies. The Cincinnati Reds are not these things.

The Reds did win the May series against the Nationals in the District. And that was actually during the time when both Joey Votto and Jay Bruce were on the disabled list. On the other hand, the Nationals were missing Bryce Harper, Adam LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman, three of their best hitters. And the Nats are fully operational this weekend.

The Nationals are bringing the Racing Presidents to Great American Ball Park this weekend. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt will participate in live mascot races each of the three games. Cincinnati-born William Howard Taft will join the four others.

25557056_BG1Of course I’ll be cheering for our native son (second from left). But the real question is whether any of these guys can play left field.

Run Production

The Nationals are fifth in the NL in runs, sixth in on-base-percentage, fifth in power (ISO) and they swing at the second fewest pitches out of the strike zone. Both teams offensive numbers are trending with the health of their lineups – the Nats up and the Reds down.

In the last week, the Reds are tied for last in runs scored (with the Cardinals). In on-base-percentage, the Reds are fifteenth out of fifteen (.229) trailing the fourteenth place team, the Cubs (.289) by a whopping 60 points. Plate discipline is not a particular strength of this group. The Reds have swung at the second-most pitches outside of the strike zone. This might not necessarily be terrible, except it is terrible because they also have the second-worst contact rate on pitches outside of the zone. The Reds have by far the highest percentage of swing-and-miss strikes.

Only six Reds have drawn walks in the past week, and one was Mat Latos. Among those who have not are: Billy Hamilton (23 AB), Todd Frazier (23 AB), Brayan Pena (19 AB), Zack Cozart (17 AB) and Devin Mesoraco (15 AB).

1. Denard Span (L) CF
2. Anthony Rendon (R) 2B
3. Jayson Werth (R) RF
4. Adam LaRoche (L) 1B
5. Ryan Zimmerman (R) 3B
6. Bryce Harper (L) LF
7. Ian Desmond (R) SS
8. Wilson Ramos (R) C
jjj

All eight starters for the Nationals have wRC+ over 100 (league average), ranging from Jayson Werth (134) to Denard Span (104). The Reds have four players over 100: Mesoraco (155), Frazier (131), Votto (127) and Hamilton (101). Check out the the last seven days: Hamilton (54), Frazier (38), Bruce (2) and Mesoraco (-51). Small sample sizes, and small, sad numbers. The Reds’ offensive leaders have been Pena (131) and Skip Schumaker (135).

Starting Pitchers

The Nationals have the second-best rotation in the NL after the Dodgers. Their starters are second in xFIP and SIERA and third in ERA. They have the lowest walk-rate in baseball and the second-best K-BB%.

Probable Pitching Match-ups

Me:  The Reds miss Strasburg this series.

Mike:  The way the Reds are hitting, does it matter?

Me:  Sigh. /changes subject/

Friday, 7:10 p.m.

Friday

This is a rematch of the rubber game of the May series. Alfredo Simon out-pitched Tanner Roark in a game the Reds won 2-1. It’s a fairly even match-up on paper. Both pitchers are below average on K% but better than average on BB%. Neither generates many swings-and-misses. Both have ERAs that are well ahead of their fielding-independent stats.

Saturday, 4:05 p.m.

Saturday

Johnny Cueto will be looking to avenge his worst start of the season, which came against the Nationals in May. He gave up eight runs (six earned) in 5.1 innings. Denard Span was his personal nemesis, going 5-for-5 in that game.

Gio Gonzalez (LH) spent a month on the disabled list with an inflammation of the left shoulder. He’s coming off his shortest start of the season, 3.1 IP against the Brewers. Gonzalez has mostly pitched well since returning to active roster, including a 22-inning scoreless streak. The Nationals acquired him from the Oakland A’s one week after the Reds acquired Mat Latos, in roughly the same kind of deal. Gonzalez’s last start against the Reds was April 2013 when he pitched a one-hitter over eight innings. The previous year, he pitched seven shutout innings against the Reds.

Sunday, 1:10 p.m.

Sunday

Doug Fister was the winning pitcher the Cueto implosion game back in May. He held the Reds to two earned runs in seven innings, five strikeouts, one walk. Fister pitched for the Detroit Tigers in the 2013 ALCS, dominating the soon-to-be World Series champion Boston Red Sox. The Tigers sent Fister to the Nationals last off-season. He doesn’t miss a lot of bats but he also hardly walks anyone. Fister twisted his ankle slightly in his last start, but didn’t miss a turn. For what it’s worth (small sample) he’s been a lot less effective on the road this season.’

Bullpen

The Nationals bullpen is one of the best in the NL. Closer Rafael Soriano, has converted 23 of 26 (88%) and his ERA is 1.15.  Soriano spends 90 minutes every day in an oxygen-rich hyperbaric chamber, which helps get the toxins out of his blood and body, he claims. I wonder if there’s room for a certain first baseman and second baseman in there.

SORIANO0031405968970-1

(Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)

Set-up relievers Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen join Soriano with ERAs below 2 and FIPs below 3.

Conclusion

Me:  This is a brutal series for the Reds coming off the road trip. They could use a confidence boost. Too bad they aren’t playing the Cubs instead of the best team in the National League.

Mike:  When isn’t it a good time to be playing the Cubs?

The one thing about great challenges is they present great opportunities. If the Reds could somehow win this series, it would go a long way to getting past the debacle of the last six games. The pitching match-ups are all close-to-favorable for the Reds. The issue is, obviously, whether they can score some runs. Jay Bruce, Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco have to start swinging the bats or this weekend will end up feeling a lot like the last week.

I’ll be there tonight, cheering them on.

15 thoughts on “Washington Nationals

    • Good catch. Zimmerman was placed on the 15-day DL over a hamstring issue. The Nats will go back to playing Anthony Rendon at third and Danny Espinoza at second.

  1. …and in further news, the Reds have made no moves to improve the offense during the off day. Now back to your regularly scheduled beat down.

    • Why even bother playing the games then? Why not just forfeit every night so the guys can rest up for three days?

      One bad week and suddenly the Reds are the 1962 Mets.

  2. I was curious what the Reds numbers looked like in the 6 games before the All-Star break (starting with the second game of the Cubs DH) when they won 5 of 6 compared to the 6 after the break when they lost all 6. Below is a comparison of the position players as a group. The numbers in the 6 games after the break are just ugly. But they are the same players in each group before and after and their plate appearances before and and after are very similiar. One thing that jumps out at you that has already been commented on is the much lower rate of walks after the break. However, if you are hitting that poorly and the opposing pitchers have leads to work with, it’s probable that they are going to go after hitters.

    I refuse to believe that they are as bad as they played during those 6 games. I don’t believe all of them suddenly became infected with a lack of mental toughness or some similiar malady all at the same time. I think the 6 games are an anomaly. I also don’t think they were as good as they played during the 7 games of the Cubs and Pirates series leading up to the break. Over their last 13 games they are 6 and 7, right near .500. If they had spread those wins and losses across the 4 series I don’t think any of us would be thrilled, but I don’t think too many people would be jumping off the ledge either.

    I won’t vouch for 100% accuracy on the numbers below, I did them manually, but they should be pretty close. I may have missed a HBP or two and the Plate Appearance (PA) numbers do not reflect Sacrifices (I forgot to check for them and didn’t want to go back) and I might have missed some SAC Flies, too.

    Slash Line for the 6 games since the All-Star Break

    Hamilton .217/.217/.391 (6 Games, 23 PA, 0 BB)
    Frazier .174/.174/.304 (6 Games, 23 PA, 0 BB)
    Bruce .111/.200/.167 (5 Games, 20 PA, 2 BB)
    Pena .263/.263/.579 (5 Games, 19 PA, 0 BB)
    Cozart .118/.167/.167 (5 Games, 18 PA, 0 BB, 1 HBP)
    Santiago .214/.353/.286 (5 Games, 17 PA, 2 BB, 1 HBP)
    Heisey .200/.200/.400 (5 Games, 16 PA, 0 BB including 1 PH for SF)
    Mesaroco .067/.125/.067(4 Games, 16 PA, 0 BB, 1 HBP)
    Ludwick .133/.188/.200 (4 Games, 16 PA, 1 BB)
    Schumaker .333/.375/.467 (4 Games, 16 PA, 1 BB)
    Lutz .250/.250/.500 (3 Games, 8 PA, 0 BB including 1 PH for 2B)
    Negron .200/.200/.800 (3 Games, 5 PA. 0 BB including 2 PH, 1-2, HR)
    Soto .000/.000/.000(0-1 PH)

    Slash Line for the 6 games leading up to the All-Star Break

    Hamilton .346/.414/.538 (6 Games, 29 PA, 3 BB, including 1 PH for 1-1)
    Frazier .304/.360/.609 (6 Games, 25 PA, 2 BB including Def Substitution 1-1)
    Bruce .190/.261/.238 (6 Games, 23 PA, 2 BB including 1 PH for 1-1)
    Pena .200/.238/.250 (5 Games, 21 PA, 1 BB including 2 PH for 2-2)
    Cozart .192/.323/.231 (6 Games, 31 PA, 4 BB, 1 HBP)
    Santiago .333/.429/.444 (4 Games, 21 PA, 3 BB)
    Heisey .312/.353/.438 (6 Games, 17 PA, 1 BB including 2 PH 2-2, HR)
    Mesaroco .190/.320/.381 (6 Games, 26 PA, 4 BB, 1 HBP including 2 PH 0-1, BB)
    Ludwick .400/.400/.650 (5 Games, 20 PA, 0 BB including 1 PH 0-1)
    Schumaker .091/.286/.091 (3 Games, 14 PA, 3 BB)
    Lutz .333/.333/.333 (3 Games, 3 PA, 0 BB including 3 PH for 1-3)
    Negron .250/.400/1.000 (2 Games, 4 PA, 0 BB including 1 PH 0-1)
    Soto .000/.000/.000 (0-1 PH)

    Here are individual comparisons of the numbers after the break vs. the 6 games leading into the break:

    Hamilton .217/.217/.391 (6 Games, 23 PA, 0 BB)
    Hamilton .346/.414/.538 (6 Games, 29 PA, 3 BB, including 1 PH for 1-1)

    Frazier .174/.174/.304 (6 Games, 23 PA, 0 BB)
    Frazier .304/.360/.609 (6 Games, 25 PA, 2 BB including Def Substitution 1-1)

    Bruce .111/.200/.167 (5 Games, 20 PA, 2 BB)
    Bruce .190/.261/.238 (6 Games, 23 PA, 2 BB including 1 PH for 1-1)

    Pena .263/.263/.579 (5 Games, 19 PA, 0 BB)
    Pena .200/.238/.250 (5 Games, 21 PA, 1 BB including 2 PH for 2-2)

    Cozart .118/.167/.167 (5 Games, 18 PA, 0 BB, 1 HBP)
    Cozart .192/.323/.231 (6 Games, 31 PA, 4 BB, 1 HBP)

    Santiago .214/.353/.286 (5 Games, 17 PA, 2 BB, 1 HBP)
    Santiago .333/.429/.444 (4 Games, 21 PA, 3 BB)

    Heisey .200/.200/.400 (5 Games, 16 PA, 0 BB including 1 PH for SF)
    Heisey .312/.353/.438 (6 Games, 17 PA, 1 BB including 2 PH 2-2, HR)

    Mesaroco .067/.125/.067 (4 Games, 16 PA, 0 BB, 1 HBP)
    Mesaroco .190/.320/.381 (6 Games, 26 PA, 4 BB, 1 HBP including 2 PH 0-1, BB)

    Ludwick .133/.188/.200 (4 Games, 16 PA, 1 BB)
    Ludwick .400/.400/.650 (5 Games, 20 PA, 0 BB including 1 PH 0-1)

    Schumaker .333/.375/.467 (4 Games, 16 PA, 1 BB)
    Schumaker .091/.286/.091 (3 Games, 14 PA, 3 BB)

    Lutz .250/.250/.500 (3 Games, 8 PA, 0 BB including 1 PH for 2B)
    Lutz .333/.333/.333 (3 Games, 3 PA, 0 BB including 3 PH for 1-3)

    Negron .200/.200/.800 (3 Games, 5 PA. 0 BB including 2 PH, 1-2, HR)
    Negron .250/.400/1.000 (2 Games, 4 PA, 0 BB including 1 PH 0-1)

    Soto .000/.000/.000 (0-1 PH)
    Soto .000/.000/.000 (0-1 PH)

    • Interesting how the Reds have either been very hot or ice cold. No consistency. And it wasn’t as if 1 or 2 guys went cold. Everyone went cold at the same time, except for Schumaker. Is this a reflection of the overall hitting philosophy of the organization or did everyone start pressing after the first couple of losses.

      I think guys need to relax and have fun. Make each at-bat the most important one of the game, regardless of the situation.

      • The Reds have been up and down all year. This is just the way baseball is. The last 6 games have been nothing but bad luck. No one is going to be able to explain it.
        I played in college and in the same season we set the school record for the most wins in a row (10) and loses in a row (9). I was part of it and there was no explanation: same players, same level of opponents, nothing traumatic good or bad happened. It was just a freak run of good luck and bad luck.

Comments are closed.