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Series Preview #51: Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Washington Nationals

Tonight, on a very special season finale of Series Previews...

Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

So, as we're about to watch the last series of a season, I can say more conclusively than ever that the 2013 Diamondbacks season was something of a disappointment.

The D-Backs will have to win at least two out of three here to finish with a winning record, which as you've already figured out is the same thing they will have to do to exceed 2012's win total. Considering the overhaul they put the team through between then and now, this counts as a disappointment, at least to me.

But dang, at least we aren't the Nationals. The Nats won the most games in baseball last year, and they did it without starting their ace pitcher for the final month of the season. Also, they had just two returning members of the starting lineup over the age of 30 and no returning members of the projected rotation who would be older than 27

Also also, their two best, most iconic players would be 20 (Harper) and 24 (Strasburg). Otherwise smart people thought they would win 105 games and otherwise less-smart people picked them to win the World Series. What could go wrong?

What the Stats Say (Courtesy of Fangraphs):

Hitting (wRC+): 94 95 Washington
Pitching (ERA-/FIP-):
101/103 97/95
Fielding (UZR):
52.4 -9.4


For most of the season, Washington's offense was a Postmodern meditation on not living up to expectations. Only the Royals and Marlins hit for less power in the first half of the season, and the Nationals spent most of the season flitting around the bottom sixth of most offensive statistics.

And they did it with the same guys they won 98 games with, unless you're going to sit there and tell me that Kurt Suzuki makes that much of a difference.

Now, Washington went and had themselves a very good month and a half to end the season, which makes their final numbers look quite a bit more respectable. But on August 19, the Nats were 60-64 and 16 games behind the Braves in the division. Everything that has happened since then is garbage time dominance on a level that would make Terrelle Pryor proud.

Prospective Lineups:

Arizona Diamondbacks

1. Adam Eaton, CF
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
4. Martin Prado, LF
5. Miguel Montero, C
6. Matt Davidson, 3B
7. Gerardo Parra, RF
8. Didi Gregorius, SS

Washington Nationals

1. Denard Span, CF
2. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
3. Jayson Werth, RF
4. Bryce Harper, LF
5. Ian Desmond, SS
6. Adam LaRoche, 1B
7. Wilson Ramos, C
8. Anthony Rendon, 2B

Is anyone else vaguely disappointed with how not-unlikable Bryce Harper has been? I don't know, his personality was hyped as being Yasiel Puig without the good judgement, and then he shows up and all he does is play the game hard? Bo-ring. He hasn't even pissed off anyone other than the Braves, and the Braves are easier to annoy than the callers on a sports radio talk show.

Also, he has an .862 OPS, and the guys who have at least a .850 OPS during their age 20 season have a nasty tendency to wind up in the Hall of Fame.

It's so easy to make fun of Jayson Werth's contract that sometimes we can forget little details about it. Like the fact that he's actually having what might be the best offensive season of his career. His OPS is tied for a career high, and his fWAR is on par with what he did in his peak years in Philly.

And speaking of fWAR, Ian Desmond has 10 of them since the start of the 2012 season. And considering that there aren't many MLB regulars I've thought less about than Ian Desmond, it comes as something of a surprise to see him have more fWAR than Paul Goldschmidt. While I think that fWAR is wrong and gross on that particular point, Desmond is a middle infielder who fields like a Shortstop and hits like a (good) Second Baseman, and those guys are valuable.

Pitching Matchups:

Friday: Patrick Corbin (14-7, 3.28) vs. Stephen Strasburg (7-9, 3.02)

Insightful Commentary: While around a month ago Corbin hit the wall with enough velocity to injure Chris Young for 6-8 weeks, I prefer to remember him as he was, the timid rookie who morphed into an All-Star pitcher in half a season with a deadly slider. One of the prevailing images from this season I'll take into the offseason will be Corbin with a 1-2 count against a hitter who knows exactly what's coming but still can't lay off the slider in the dirt.

If 2013 wasn't quite as dominant as 2012 or 2010 for Strasburg, it was still plenty strong in its own right. The ERA is actually lower than last year's 3.16, but he's striking noticeably fewer batters out. Please note that "noticeably fewer" still means more than one per inning for Stephen Strasburg.

Saturday: Brandon McCarthy (5-10, 4.64) vs. Dan Haren (9-14, 4.87)

Insightful Commentary: The MLB capsule on this matchup contains the sentence "McCarthy's last outing may have looked far different numbers wise had the Padres' Nick Hundley's ball been one foot farther to the left." This is true, but then again this was at Petco Park and Nick Hundley had all of five home runs at Petco before that one, so I'm not feeling all that sympathetic.

Dan Haren's numbers were up in the early portion of 2010 in what was supposed to be the prime of his career. Given that most of his peripherals were perfectly fine, it was easy to ignore a noticeably high HR rate. But that HR rate has only gone up in the past couple of years, to the point where it has made Haren a shadow of what he used to be, so kudos to Jerry Dipoto for either noticing it or getting really lucky.

Sunday: Wade Miley (10-10, 3.63) vs. Gio Gonzalez (11-8, 3.36)

Insightful Commentary: In some ways, this season confirmed my worst fears about Wade Miley. His BB/9 jumped up without his strikeouts improving, and his home run rate was not as otherworldly as it needed to be to get him through his awesome 2012. Still, he should finish 2013 with an ERA+ over 100, thanks to a sharp uptick in ground balls, and more than a little grinding. I expect this to be more like the Wade Miley we see for the rest of his career than the version we saw in 2012, and I'm completely okay with that.

Along similar lines, Gonzalez hasn't been quite as good as he was in his breakout 2012, when he finished third in Cy Young voting. Like Miley, Gonzalez's home run rate jumped back into line with his career averages in 2013 after being well below them for a season. Unlike Miley, Gonzalez gets to make up for his issues with borderline-elite stuff and an above-average strikeout rate.

Nationals Blog: Federal Baseball

(All stats via Fangraphs or Baseball-Reference unless otherwise indicated.)