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October 6, 2014

Playoff Prospectus

PECOTA Odds and Monday Previews

by Mike Gianella and Zachary Levine

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Nationals/Giants

The Nationals were one out away from evening up the NLDS on Saturday night, but instead wound up on the wrong end of a historic, 18-inning affair, losing 2-1 to the Giants on a Brandon Belt home run. Now they try to become just the ninth team in postseason history to win a five0game series after losing the first two games. Here is a look at the PECOTA odds and projected lineups for Game Three of the NLDS.

Nationals (Doug Fister) at Giants (Madison Bumgarner).
PECOTA odds of winning: Giants 54.5%, Nationals 45.5%

Projected Starting Lineups

Nationals vs. Bumgarner (L)

Giants vs. Fister (R)

Denard Span (L) CF

Gregor Blanco (L) CF

Anthony Rendon (R) 3B

Joe Panik (L) 2B

Jayson Werth (R) RF

Buster Posey (R) C

Adam LaRoche (L) 1B

Pablo Sandoval (S) 3B

Ian Desmond (R) SS

Hunter Pence (R) RF

Bryce Harper (L) LF

Brandon Belt (L) 1B

Wilson Ramos (R) C

Brandon Crawford (L) SS

Asdrubal Cabrera (S) 2B

Travis Ishikawa (L) LF

Doug Fister (L) P

Madison Bumgarner (R) P

Injuries/Availability: Safe to say Yusmeiro Petit won't be pitching today. Ryan Zimmerman (hamstring), a pinch-hitter in the first two games of the series, is in consideration to start his first game.

After giving the Nationals a significant advantage in Game One and a moderate advantage in Game Two, PECOTA likes Bumgarner and the Giants' home-field advantage in Game Three and is predicting a series sweep for the Giants. Despite both teams’ collective offensive struggles in Game Two, it is likely that both managers keep the core of their lineups intact tonight.

After spending his first few seasons in the shadow of Tim Lincecum and then Matt Cain, Bumgarner emerged as the staff ace in 2014, winning a career-high 18 games and, more importantly, striking out over 200 batters for the first time in his career. However, despite having three key left-handers in the lineup, the Nationals won’t be an easy assignment for Bumgarner, in large part due to the fact that Werth and Rendon both had great success against southpaws.

Like Game Two Nationals’ starter Jordan Zimmermann, Bumgarner’s approach is to throw hard and harder and see if you can hit it. He throws five different types of pitches, but most of his repertoire comes in the form of a four-seam fastball and a cutter. Bumgarner threw the four-seamer 44 percent of the time and the cutter 35 percent of the time during the regular season. In the Giants' Wild Card win over the Pirates, he threw even more hard stuff, with 91 of his 106 offerings either four-seam fastballs or cutters.

Acquired from the Tigers in a blockbuster offseason deal, Fister didn’t disappoint after returning to the mound after missing a little over a month with a shoulder strain. Fister’s game is throwing strikes and seeing if you can hit it. Fister had the second lowest walk-per-nine rate in the National League in 2014, bested only by his teammate Zimmermann.

Fister’s second-half performance was among the best in the game. His 1.98 ERA in the second half was seventh best in the majors. However, despite the fact that Pac Bell Park is a very pitcher-friendly park, Fister thrived at home. He particularly struggled with the long ball away from Nationals Park, giving up 13 home runs in 85 2/3 innings on the road this year.

This will be the second time Fister and Bumgarner have squared off in 2014. The first meeting came on June 10th at San Francisco. Each pitcher finished with a similar line, but Bumgarner allowed four base hits and two runs in the fifth inning, which was all Fister needed to secure the victory. The Nationals are probably going to need a similar game from Fister if they hope to win their first playoff series since relocating to the nation’s capital. —Mike Gianella

Dodgers/Cardinals

The only series to reach 1-1 moves Eastward (or Centralward) for a late-night Game Three, where an injury will be the center of attention early.

Los Angeles Dodgers (Hyun-Jin Ryu) at St. Louis Cardinals (John Lackey), 9 or 9:30 p.m. Eastern
PECOTA odds of winning: 58% Dodgers, 42% Cardinals

Projected Starting Lineups

Dodgers vs. Lackey (R)

Cardinals vs. Ryu (L)

Dee Gordon (L) 2B

Matt Carpenter (L) 3B

Yasiel Puig (R) CF

Randal Grichuk (R) RF

Adrian Gonzalez (L) 1B

Matt Holliday (R) LF

Matt Kemp (R) RF

Jhonny Peralta (R) SS

Hanley Ramirez (R) SS

Yadier Molina (R) C

Carl Crawford (L) LF

Matt Adams (L) 1B

Juan Uribe (R) 3B

Pete Kozma (R) 2B

A.J. Ellis (R) C

Jon Jay (L) CF

Hyun-Jin Ryu (R) P

John Lackey (R) P

Injuries/Availability: Ryu left his last start on Sept. 12th with a shoulder injury, and returns like this don’t come along in the postseason that often. Assuming he goes, which is the assumption that determines a lot of things from here forward, this will be just the fifth time since 1950 that a pitcher will start a postseason game despite not playing in any of his team’s final 15 games.

The others:

  • Catfish Hunter – 1977 Yankees: 2.1 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 0 BB, 0 K in WS G2 loss
  • Kerry Wood – 1998 Cubs: 5 IP, 3 H, R, 4 BB, 5 K in NLDS G3 loss
  • Aaron Cook – 2007 Rockies: 6 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 2 K in WS G1 loss
  • Jason Hammel – 2012 Orioles: 5.2 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 4 BB, 5 K in ALDS G1 loss

While four losses does not an omen make, getting five innings out of Ryu would probably have to be considered a victory. Before Hunter’s start in 1977, necessitated by the Yankees blowing out their staff in the ALCS, he said it was like another spring training. The Dodgers can’t afford to have that sort of leash. Game Four starter Dan Haren will be ready for relief or for an emergency start, and the Dodgers would scramble from there, either with an injury replacement, a (yikes) bullpen game or fast-tracking their top two.

The Cardinals should be in good shape. If the above righty-heavy lineup, which they used against Kershaw, starts, they’ll have lefties Kolten Wong, Oscar Taveras and Daniel Descalso off the bench for the parade of righties later.

Outlook: Both teams are facing the type of pitchers they’ve liked to face—the Cardinals, who smoked Kershaw in Game 1, have an OPS 40 points better against lefties than righties, while the Dodgers get the righty and are 30 points better against righties. It projects to be the highest scoring of the games, but after Game One, why even try?

PECOTA likes the Dodgers, but the gamblers, perhaps sensing what could be a nightmare of a night on the bullpen phone, slightly favor the home team. —Zachary Levine

Mike Gianella is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Mike's other articles. You can contact Mike by clicking here
Zachary Levine is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Zachary's other articles. You can contact Zachary by clicking here

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