JinAZ's numbers will guide us through most season previews. But honestly, his numbers don't really tell us anything yet, and he'd probably cry if a fool like me SSS'd his way through them. So at least in the early-going, we're going to have words-based previews. As always, I'm making this up as I go along so let me know if there's anything you don't like.
This one is for, well, not all the marbles. Maybe only one or two marbles. But it's a nice weekend series with two day games against very tough competition. Last series was a lot of fun, watching three close games between two very good teams. This will probably look a lot similar. I am bad at writing previews.
Friday (19:10 ET) - Danny Haren vs. Homer Bailey
Saturday (13:10 ET) - Ross Detwiler vs. Mike Leake
Sunday (13:10 ET) - Stevie Strasburg vs. Johnny Cueto
These are three very evenly-pitched games. Haren had a rough year last year despite a 3.74 KK/B ratio. He really changed up his repertoire last year, throwing a ton more splitters (23% from 2011's 8%) and scrapping his change. All the same, he gave up a few less ground balls and was very hittable (9.7 H/9) with more hits going farther (a career high 1.4 HR/9). He's lost some velocity, and there's a chance all those innings as a young pup are coming back to bite him. Jocketty would just love this, because he traded Danny for Mark Mulder. Homer, of course, is hopefully Just Coming Into His Own.
Ross Detwiler is Lefty Mike Leake: hoping for weak contact, low strikeouts, low walks. He's apparently from Wentzville, MO, which is a terrible place.
You might have heard of the Stras and the Cuet. Cueto is much better in day games than night games for some reason. Strasburg faced the Reds once his rookie year, going 5.2 IP, 7H, 3ER, 1BB, 7K but getting the win over a knocked-around Bronson. Cairo went 2-2 against him with 2 RBI, so maybe he'll share some of his stories from the dugout.
Span (CF) - Werth (RF) - Harper (LF) - Zimmerman (3b) - LaRoche (1b) - Desmond (SS) - Espinosa (2b) - Ramos/Suzuki (C) - (P)
Choo (LF) - Heisey (LF) - Votto (1b) - Phillips (2b) - Bruce (LF) - Frazier (3b) - Cozart (SS) - Haniraco (C) - (P)
I really like putting Werth in the second spot. Thats two ~.360 OBP dudes to start off, which sounds pretty smart. I'm a bit skeptical of Desmond, who got most of his value from an elevated .332 BABIP last year, but his floor is Cozart which, well, you know. Everyone else is pretty much in the right point of the age curve, except for Harper, who is - if not a werewolf with a chainsaw for a dick - at least a wolverine with an exacto knife, but one who has saved up enough cash to go shopping at ACE Hardware. Wilson Ramos might be good?
The Reds may see the first start from Paul and Hannahan this series, and definitely expect Mesoraco to make a start or two. I'm bullish on Mez and expect Hannahan to pleasantly surprise. Cozart would also do well to get a hit this series.
Steve Lombardozzi, Chad Tracy, Roger Bernardina, Tyler Moore
Xavier Paul, Cesar Izturis, Jack Hannahan, Derrick Robinson
Geez, Tracy's still around? It's still early to say much. Tyler Moore had a great rookie season (.263/.327/.513) and is always a threat to run into one. The Reds have Derrick Robinson. I never thought I'd miss Jacob Cruz.
Rafael Soriano, Ty Clippard, Drew Storen, Ryan Mattheus, Zach Duke (LOOGY), Henry Rodriguez, Craig Stammen
Aroldis Chapman, Jon Broxton, Sean Marshall, Manny Parra (LOOGY), Sam LeCure, JJ Hoover, Al Simon
A lot of hay has been made of Soriano's contract as the Nationals gold-plating their bullpen. And while they do have a lot of good arms, they strangely enough only have Zach Duke's fastball/changeup combo to take down lefties. Remember when Zach Duke was going to save the Pirates? I bet Zach Duke does. Bruce is going to get a lot more late-and-close PAs and he'll have a great opportunity to convert on them.
So What Does It All Mean?
These are two very closely-matched teams yet again. The Reds are going to want a strong appearance from Bailey to give the bullpen a rest. The Nationals are coming off of a sweep of the Marlins. The Nats are a bit more OBP-heavy and the Reds a bit more SLG-heavy, and the Nats have one of the few defenses stronger than the Reds. But the Reds are a bit more strikeouty, especially in the bullpen. It'll be another interesting series, especially as teams are still figuring each other out so early in the season
Okay, so also. There'll be a lot of eyes on Haren and Bailey in the first game to see how indicative 2012 was for each of them. That's the game with the most variability on the pitching side of things. I'm also curious to see how Mez is going to play, and I'm sure you are too. This series is really going to come down to how the ball bounces though. Which is cool. That makes it more exciting to watch.