Posted on October 3, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
With a late comeback and a fortuitous error by the Brewers, the Washington Nationals advanced out of the Wild Card Game and will now meet their old nemesis, the NLDS. They’ll also be facing the Los Angeles Dodgers, winnings of the last two National League pennants. However, the Nationals have a bad history in the NLDS, losing at this stage in the postseason in all four of their appearances since 2012, including a loss to the Dodgers in 2016. Will this year be any different for Washington?
Offense – Advantage Dodgers
These were the two highest scoring teams in the National League this year, but the Dodgers were just a little better. The amount of depth in the Los Angeles lineup is almost too much to fathom. It starts with Cody Bellinger, who could be the MVP in the National League this year. However, the likes of Corey Seager, Max Muncy, Justin Turner, and Joc Pederson all had an OPS of .800 this year. The Dodgers also have the depth on their bench to throw different lineups based on pitching matchups and pick up clutch hits from pinch-hitters late in games, which is why they’ve slugged their way to the World Series the past two seasons.
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However, the Nationals can score plenty of runs as well. Anthony Rendon is also an MVP candidate and young Juan Soto isn’t far behind after his game-winning hit in the Wild Card Game. Trea Turner is the perfect table setter and a huge threat on the base paths. The Nationals are also loaded with versatile veterans who can play based on the matchups. The likes of Howie Kendrick Brian Dozier, Ryan Zimmerman, Matt Adams, Asdrubal Cabrera and others are all capable of big postseason hits.
Rotation – Advantage Dodgers
Oddly enough, these two teams were first and second in the National League in starter’s ERA this season. Again, it’s the Dodgers who have a slight edge. Hyun-Jin Ryu is one of the top Cy Young candidates this year after a brilliant year. Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler aren’t bad no. 2 and 3 options either. The Dodgers will also bring out Rich Hill in Game 4. The lefty owns a 3.04 ERA in 12 postseason experiences.
The presence of Hill gives Los Angeles a slight edge over Washington’s trio of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin. The Nationals also lose points because Scherzer didn’t look like himself down the stretch and put the team in a 3-0 hole early in the Wild Card Game. Strasburg was also used in the Wild Card Game, so he may not be available until later in the NLDS.
Bullpen – Advantage Dodgers
Washington’s bullpen was a mess all season. In fact, the Nationals had the highest bullpen ERA in the National League. Midseason additions like Daniel Hudson and Fernando Rodney will help, but unlike most teams, the Nationals are going to have to push their starters to go deep in games because of a lack of reliable options in their bullpen.
For what it’s worth, Los Angeles closer Kenley Jansen hasn’t been as automatic as he’s been in past years. But Pedro Baez and Yimi Garcia give the Dodgers reliable setup men in front of him. Plus, with starters like Kenta Maeda and Julio Urias able to pitch out of the bullpen, the Dodgers have guys they can go to for multiple innings to help get to Jansen in the 9th inning.
Prediction – Dodgers in 4
There should be little doubt that the Nationals are going to put up a fight and score a few runs against the Los Angeles pitching staff. But they won’t be able to overcome their bullpen. It also doesn’t help that Scherzer doesn’t look like himself. Washington will avoid the sweep, but their bullpen will ultimately give the series away. Los Angeles wins in four.
Note: This prediction is the opinion of the author and not necessarily the prediction of Jon Price or Sports Information Traders.