The Reds head to Nationals Park today. While it's not as annoying as it was when Jim Bowden lurked in their front office, I hate playing the Nationals. They're a team that the Reds should just kill every year (so my gut says), and yet they always seem to give the Reds a hard time. Plus, the "Curly W" thing their radio announcer does is the second-most annoying my-team-won-schtick in baseball (well behind John Sterling's incomparable "Thaaa Yankees Wiiinn!!," and a bit ahead of Greg Brown's "Raise the Jolly Roger!" thing).
Anyway, as a team, the Nationals are not as bad as previous editions, but they are not good either. Their offense, once a modest strength, has been disappointing this year. As a group, they've posted below-average power numbers and well below-average on-base ability. Just not an impressive group. And they don't make up for it with fielding either, as they are probably somewhere around an average fielding team.
Pitching-wise, they've posted almost identical xFIPs to the Reds. They have, however, gotten vastly better outcomes from those performances, with their overall starting pitching rating only a tad below average. I'm not sure that they're dramatically better than what the Reds have, but they're certainly no worse. And they have at least one top-drawer starter, who the Reds do face in this series, plus some others that are intriguing in their own way.
wOBA park factor (LHB/RHB): 103/97
HR park factor (LHB/RHB): 94/100
Interestingly, while the park tends to be a bit more kind to right-handers in terms of hitting home runs, all of the other hits--singles, doubles, triples--tend to be inflated for left-handed hitters and depressed for righties. As a result, the park overall favors left-handers slightly more than righties. Overall, it's a fairly neutral park.
Michael Morse got a chance to play this year and he has been everything he was advertised. He's a big power presence in the middle of this lineup. Also dangerous is Ryan Zimmerman, who has had an injury-filled off year...but is probably the best third baseman in the National League, if not all of baseball (though perhaps a tad behind Evan Longoria). Jayson Werth, the Nationals' big ticket free agent signing this past offseason, has been pretty dreadful given what they're paying him. I expect that he'll be better in the future, but he's no spring chicken and might be starting to decline. Not good when a 7-year contract is already looking disastrous less than a year after you sign a 32-year old....
Hi to Laynce Nix and Jonny Gomes!
Chien-Ming Wang has come back from the dead and had a few pretty good starts. Well, at least his ERA is good. He was never a strikeout pitcher, but Wang has THREE strikeouts in FIFTEEN innings across three starts. I don't care how many ground balls he gets. He won't continue to post a sub-4 ERA doing that, especially not without a top-drawer defense behind him. Watch: now he'll post 7 K's in today's game.
Ross Detwiler is a guy I don't know a lot about. He was a 1st-round selection in the 2007 draft, and is now 25 years old. He's posted good-not-spectacular numbers in the minors, and has shown the ability to get ground balls--and that's about it--as a major leaguer.
Jordan Zimmermann's the guy that everyone's excited about, though. Coming back from major injury, he's been everything anyone could have hoped for this year. He posts good strikeout rates and *amazing* walk rates, and has had a phenomenal season.
Needless to say, game three looks to be the toughest match-up for the Reds. I like the Reds in the first two games.
There was a time when Sean Burnett was this team's closer. You can argue about whether that had a beneficial psychological effect on Drew Storen or not, but regardless, Storen has turned out to be very good in the closer role this year. I certainly would rather have him than Cordero, and probably at least half of other teams' closers. The other guy I really, really like in this pen is Tyler Clippard. He has proven to be extremely durable and posts insane strikeout rates to go with very reasonable walk rates. He's a shut-down guy.
I have no idea why Tom Gorzelanny is in the bullpen. He's a solid major league starter and should be in this rotation. You'd think they would have at least moved him at the deadline.
Hello to Todd Coffey!
And go Reds!