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The battle for coastal supremacy will pit the two best rookies in the National League against each other, not to mention two of the best pitchers in the game right now. It’s hard to fathom that so many storylines could fit in one series and not focus on Bryce Harper, and yet he was neither the most dynamic (Trea Turner) nor the best (Daniel Murphy) player on his team this year. The Dodgers needed every ounce of their depth to arrive in the playoffs, burning through [checks notes] 41 starting pitchers this season. Hey, it was plausible for a minute, right? Fine, whatever. Let’s be real, this is a contest to decide who can lose to the Best Team In Baseball Cubs or the Even Year Bullsh*t Giants, anyway, right?




CF-R Trea Turner (.342/.370/.567/.341, 4.05)

2B-L Chase Utley (.252/.319/.396/.273, 2.35)

LF-R Jayson Werth (.244/.335/.417/.271, 1.66)

SS-L Corey Seager (.308/.365/.512/.320, 6.67)

RF-L Bryce Harper (.243/.373/.441/.305, 4.6)

3B-R Justin Turner (.275/.339/.493/.309, 4.6)

2B/1B-L Daniel Murphy (.347/.390/.595/.352, 6.82)

1B-L Adrian Gonzalez (.285/.349/.435/.293, 2.75)

3B-R Anthony Rendon (.270/.348/.45/.296, 3.76)

C-S Yasmani Grandal (.228/.339/.477/.299, 6.76)

1B-R Ryan Zimmerman (.218/.272/.370/.240, -.29)

RF-L Josh Reddick (.281/.345/.405/.277, 2.11)

SS-S Danny Espinosa (.209/.306/.378/.258, 3.31)

CF-L Joc Pederson (.246/.352/.495/.310, 3.53)

C-R Pedro Severino (.321/.441/.607/.377, .65)

LF-L Andrew Toles (.314/.365/.505/.303, 1.25)

If you wanna go based on WARP, the Dodgers hold an advantage, but there are issues with that approach on multiple levels. Both of these lineups can change significantly based on which hand the starting pitch throws with. The Dodgers have been impotent against left-handed pitchers, despite the resurgent Yasiel Puig and a viable Howie Kendrick. Corey Seager and Justin Turner are what make the Dodgers go, but the depth and length of the lineup are what wear opposing pitchers out. Reddick got off to a brutal start, but he posted a .961 OPS in September. Toles came out of nowhere (except if you listen to Wilson Karaman) and in addition to another left-handed bat, he provides a big arm in the outfield and speed on the basepaths.

The Nationals top five hang with or exceed the Dodgers per TAv, thanks to transcendent rookie Trea Turner. Murphy is a question mark at this point, and his presence is exceedingly important to a lineup that is already sorely missing Wilson Ramos, and could turn into the butt of the Dodgers joke should it find itself without both (sorry). Given all the injuries that have struck the Nationals, it’s a miracle that Anthony Rendon is upright, much less healthy, and his excellent TAv might undersell how good he’s been in the second half, slashing .291/.357/.508. Harper is the wild card depending on how he's feeling. His seasonal line is great, albeit propped up by an insane walk rate. The Dodgers' left-handed starters probably won't put him on so frequently—to wit, the Cubs walked Harper more in one series than Kershaw has walked all season along.

While the Dodgers lack anyone quite as dynamic as Trea Turner, their depth wins the day, as the length of their lineup wears down opposing starters. It’s difficult to gauge any true advantage though, as the Nationals can field a lineup without Zimmerman who is a weak spot, with either Difo or Drew in his place, though it remains to be seen how and when they’ll deploy Murphy.




C-S Jose Lobaton (.232/.319/.374/.257, .49)

C-R Carlos Ruiz (.264/.365/.348/.278, .74)

2B-S Wilmer Difo (.276/.364/.379/.261, .39)

C/2B-R Austin Barnes (.156/.270/.188/.187, -.11)

MI-L Stephen Drew (.266/.339/.524/.318, 1.55)

SS-R Charlie Culberson (.284/.294/.373/.250, .16)

OF-R Chris Heisey (.216/.290/.446/.269, .54)

OF-R Howard Kendrick (.255/.326/.366/.255, 1.44)

CF-R Michael Taylor (.231/.278/.376/.243, .7)

OF-R Yasiel Puig (.263/.323/.416/.274, 2.01)

1B/OF-L Clint Robinson (.235/.305/.332/.254/-.2)

OF-L Andre Ethier (.208/.269/.375/.235, -.09)

Well then. The Dodgers made some interesting decisions, opting to go with Barnes and Culberson, but Barnes allows Ruiz to be used as a pinch hitter against lefties, who he’s been better against than his full-season line would tell you. Barnes can catch or play infield, which freed them up to take a true shortstop in Culberson rather than Enrique Hernandez, who struggled at the plate this season. Kendrick also provides positional flexibility, though he’s been almost solely an outfielder this year, and will start against southpaws. Puig is the most dynamic option here, and the case could be made that he should be starting over Toles anyway. He’ll likely be the first bat off the bench in any game he doesn’t start. Ethier…well, who knows? He didn’t hit upon returning but appeared close enough to healthy, and on true-talent absolutely deserves to be here. Still, the Dodgers didn’t need to become more left-handed and it’s hard to envision him being more than an emotional leader and pinch hitter.

The Nationals had a few ways to go here. Dusty’s love of speed and deference to veterans seemingly meant Ben Revere was a likely inclusion, but instead Michael Taylor gets that outfield spot and Clint Robinson also lands a bench role. Lobaton will start against righties, but isn’t going to represent much of, if any, upgrade at catcher. Drew is the best bat option here, which says something about the Nationals bench and the surprisingly good season the Nats got out of him. It’s not surprising but given the number of platoons the Dodgers employ, they hold the advantage.

Starting Pitchers (IP, ERA, DRA, WARP)



RHP Max Scherzer (228.3, 2.96, 3.01, 6.38)

LHP Clayton Kershaw (149,1.69, 2.03, 6.05)

LHP Gio Gonzalez (177.3, 4.57, 3.26, 4.49)

LHP Rich Hill (11.3, 2.12, 2.56, 3.47)

RHP Tanner Roark (210, 2.83, 4.45, 2.63)

RHP Kenta Maeda (175.7, 3.48, 3.41, 4.46)

RHP Joe Ross (105, 3.43, 4.5, 1.57)

LHP Julio Urias (77, 3.39, 3.97, 1.15)

That’s an okay pitching matchup in Game 1. Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball and I don’t wanna hear about it, but like Ty Blach most recently, Max Scherzer is uniquely suited in his ability to outduel him. The Dodgers have entered the playoffs each of the last four years boasting two of the best pitchers in the league and it’s yet to even get them to the World Series, but we’ll see if the swap of Greinke for Hill cures what ails them. Baker won’t announce who is starting Game 2 or beyond, but the smart money is on Gonzalez who would provide the best chance to hang with Hill, due to his being left-handed, and not without talent. It was obviously a tough year for Gonzalez, but as his DRA shows, he is better than the ERA would imply. Game 4 could provide the most interest, as either team could opt to return to their top starters or we could see a matchup of inconsistent but impressive young starters. We could also see the Nationals push Ross to air it out, and try and back him up with multiple lefty relievers, in an effort to catch the Dodgers off balance and empty their bench early. Urias is also unlikely to last deep into any game, as he’s kept on a strict pitch count, and well above his career-high in innings. The Dodgers could opt to piggyback him with fellow greenhorn Stripling, if so.

*Update: The Nationals recently announced that Roark would be throwing second, and Gonzalez would go for game 3. This doesn't change a substantial amount, though it is a curious decision given the Dodgers struggles versus lefties.

Relief Pitchers (IP, ERA, DRA, WARP)



RHP Mark Melancon (71.3, 1.64, 2.91, 1.69)

RHP Kenley Jansen (68.7, 1.83, 1.95, 2.38)

RHP Shawn Kelley (58, 2.64, 2.29, 1.72)

RHP Joe Blanton (80, 2.47, 4.36, .56)

RHP Blake Treinen (67, 2.28, 3.5, 1.13)

LHP Grant Dayton (26.3, 2.05, 2.79, .62)

LHP Oliver Perez (40, 4.95, 4.41, 0.52)

RHP Pedro Baez (74, 3.04, 3.65, 1.23)

LHP Marc Rzepczynski (47.7, 2.64, 4.08, 0.49)

RHP Josh Fields (35, 4.63, 4.34, .23)

LHP Sammy Solis (41, 2.41, 3.87, 0.46)

LHP Luis Avilan (19.7, 3.20, 2.84, .48)

RHP Reynaldo Lopez (44, 4.91, 4.58, 0.28)

RHP Ross Stripling (100, 3.96, 4.32, 1.59)

Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon are both really good, and their last names rhyme a little even though they shouldn’t. Both bullpens boast a solid top three (or back three, if you prefer), with Joe Blanton continuing his rebirth as a reliever and Grant Dayton emerging from the depths to become the top lefty reliever the Dodgers bullpen. Shawn Kelley has been nothing short of excellent for some time now, and Treinen features explosive stuff, if not the ability to rein it in when needed. Both clubs feature a pair of rookie long-men in Stripling and Lopez, though the latter has far nastier raw stuff. Solis could be the difference-maker in the pen as a left-handed reliever who can stretch over multiple innings. Between the extra arm and Solis, the Nationals hold a slight advantage here.


There’s likely to be a lot of bad storylines in this matchup, as Baker’s reputation is relatively at odds with his management this season; he’s shown little hesitancy to lean on a rookie in Turner, and hasn’t ground any of his pitchers into a fine dust (Strasburg’s a different beast altogether). Roberts is on the complete opposite end of the spectrum in near every way. He’s a rookie manager who felt compelled to remove pitchers in the following situations 1) a no-hitter in the pitcher’s MLB debut, and 2) a perfect game. Both are incredibly active with Roberts leading the league in calling for a pinch hitter and for a new pitcher, and Roberts and Dusty going 1-2 in intentional walks. They’re polar opposite in hit-and-run situations though, with Bakey checking in at second in the league, and Roberts at second-to-last. They occupy the same positions league-wide in stolen base attempts as well. Roberts is passive in calling for sacrifices as well, as he recorded the lowest non-pitcher sacrifice total in history this year, with only five on the season. While Baker has the benefit of experience on his side, Roberts has been through an incredible amount in such a short time, and the gap might not be as stark as one would imagine.


Turner has made a deft switch to center field but he’s still smoothing out some rough edges, which is understandable given the recent transition. His speed makes up for just about anything, and his arm wasn’t truly an issue at short, and won’t be a hindrance in center. He headlines a strong Nats defense, who ranked second to (but not close to) the Cubs in PADE, if that does anything for you. Espinosa has earned in the field anything he’s given away at the plate, and keeps the Nationals strong up the middle, especially when Murphy is shifted over to the cold corner and Drew or Difo can man the keystone.

The Dodgers defense depends a bit on what lineup they choose to go with. FRAA hated Pederson in center last year, but he was only slightly in the red this time around. He’s still their best center fielder, though Toles can man the position in a pinch. Any combination of Toles, Reddick, and Puig provide big arms and athleticism on the corners. Gonzalez is as smooth as ever at first, and while Utley has lost a step (or more) with age, he’s still got a flair for the dramatic. Seager is on the bigger (biggest?) end for a shortstop and he lacks the range of your Lindors or Escobars, but he’s steady and has a big arm to make the most of what he can get to. Grandal is one of the best in the business at framing, and could be a difference maker when it comes to defense in this series. If PADE is still your thing, the Dodgers ranked third in the league, just a touch behind the Nats there.


Look, it’s worth noting here that I have my biases, and no, living in/around DC doesn’t counteract any of that. While it’s not hard to see a way in which the Nationals win this series, it’s difficult to see how they could be favored. Scherzer is a top-end pitcher…but Kershaw is better. Rich Hill is the third-best pitcher in this series, and the Dodgers have a deeper lineup, both of which would be heavily challenged if either Stephen Strasburg or Wilson Ramos were healthy. The Nationals have an advantage, albeit a slight one, in the bullpen, but in a five-game series it is hard to imagine that making a significant enough impact, especially if Roberts decides to throw Kershaw in Game 4, and opens up Urias to bridge any gaps. Dodgers in 4.

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The real question will be:

Over/under: If Pedro Baez comes in to manage a high leverage situation for the Dodgers, what is the average time between pitches? #p >/= 45secs per pitch?

This is a pretty accurate write up for a series that looked like in mid August as "the one" of the Division Series. Now? It's the Strasburg thing. It all sucks too much.

Hahaha, Baez is readily assuming the mantle of The Human Rain Delay for sure. It is a shame for baseball fans in general that Strasburg isn't available, and Nats fans especially. A healthy Stras and Ramos would potentially flip this in the Nats favor.
Oliver Perez over Sean Burnett. That's probably the only selection I'd question on the Nats' side given the circumstances.
Very interesting to see that Dave Roberts called for the fewest sacrifice bunts in the game's history. Is someone finally recognizing that, of all the questionable things in "The Book" the sacrifice with a position player, even Derek Norris, is always the wrong play?