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Series Preview # 9: Arizona Diamondbacks @ Washington Nationals

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Two red hot teams square off in the nation’s capital for a good ol’ fashioned slug fest!

Which star do you want on your team?
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

After a 13 inning pitcher’s duel and a well-deserved day off, the Dbacks now take on the Nationals in the nation’s capital. In stark contrast, the Nationals are fresh off of a 23 run beat down of the Mets. This series sees two teams with electric offenses square off in a battle of the NL’s best in the early going. The Nationals are sitting at 17-8 and atop the NL East, while the Diamondbacks are 16-11 and a close second to the Rockies in the NL West. Let’s see what we can expect during this midweek showdown!

I am going to change things up a bit. For the first four series of the year that I wrote the preview for, I have done a first segment that detailed out the pitching matchups, followed by an offensive breakdown, followed by a conclusion, followed by a prediction. But this series is different, and deserves a different preview. So much has been going on with these two teams and there are a million parallels between the two clubs. This series also has a lot riding on it for the Dbacks. They have had a fairly tough schedule and have managed to make it to May with a winning record, and in the process they have raised the hopes of the fan base that this might be one of those special years.

Nationals

To say that the Nationals have been on fire lately is a monumental understatement. The Nats are batting a ridiculous .295 as a team which is a full 23 points higher than the second place Houston Astros. They have the reigning player of the week in Ryan Zimmerman who is hitting a cool .420/.458/.886 with 11 HR and 29 RBI. And he’s not even the most valuable player on his team, because of some guy named Bryce Harper. Now, I hate Harper more than the next guy, but the guy can hit and he is absolutely tearing the cover off the ball to start 2017

The Nationals are absolutely loaded at every position:

Book1.csv

Position Name R HR RBI AVG OBP SLG OPS
Position Name R HR RBI AVG OBP SLG OPS
C Matt Wieters 10 4 12 0.301 0.4 0.534 0.934
1B Ryan Zimmerman 22 11 29 0.42 0.458 0.886 1.345
2B Daniel Murphy* 17 5 26 0.343 0.378 0.59 0.969
SS Trea Turner 15 2 13 0.317 0.348 0.556 0.904
3B Anthony Rendon 10 3 15 0.278 0.356 0.411 0.768
LF Jayson Werth 13 3 7 0.282 0.378 0.437 0.815
CF Adam Eaton*�(10-day dl) 24 2 13 0.297 0.393 0.462 0.854
RF Bryce Harper* 32 9 26 0.391 0.509 0.772 1.281

And if the Dbacks pitching staff has been hot to start the year, then the Nationals starting staff has turned to plasma. Their top 4 starters have already been worth a combined 3.6 bWAR to start the year and they have only pitched in 20 total games. But Arizona’s top 4 have been worth a combined 3.3 bWAR over 22 games started, so not too shabby. The Diamondbacks did, however, lose Shelby Miller for the entire year to the dreaded Tommy John surgery. In a similarly unfortunate event, the Nationals recently lost Adam Eaton for the entire year to a gruesome ACL tear while running to first. So each team has lost a big player for all of 2017 in April.

Diamondbacks

While not lighting the world on fire in the same way that the Nationals have been recently, the Diamondbacks have been tearing it up in their own right. The starting staff has four solid starters who have all pitched very well in April, and have shown that their early success might not be just a desert mirage. Shelby Miller was on his way to doing the same before the tragic injury occurred. We knew that the offense would be able to score some runs, but what has been the biggest surprise has been this pitching staff.

Book2.csv

Name W L ERA IP K ERA+ FIP WHIP K/9
Name W L ERA IP K ERA+ FIP WHIP K/9
Zack Greinke 2 2 3.19 36.2 40 144 3.27 1.227 9.8
Patrick Corbin* 2 3 2.29 35.1 30 200 3.45 1.274 7.6
Robbie Ray* 2 1 3.56 30.1 39 129 3.85 1.352 11.6
Taijuan Walker 3 1 3.94 29.2 33 116 3.02 1.146 10

No pitching staff in all of baseball has as many strikeouts as the Diamondbacks, and to go with that they are also:

  • #8 in MLB in ERA at 3.91 (Even with Fernando Rodney)
  • #8 in MLB in K/BB at 2.96
  • #4 in MLB in ERA+ (And #1 in the NL!)
  • #4 in MLB in FIP

This pleasantly successful start to the season of the pitching staff has gone nicely with an offense that has scored the second most runs in the NL (behind only the Nationals – Also 1-2 in hits and RBI). The Diamondbacks also lead the league in stolen bases, and are top 5 in AVG, OPS, doubles, and triples. However, they have been subject to some pretty serious mood swings. Some games they score double digit runs, while in other games they can barely muster a couple of hits. A key to this series will be consistency, especially since they will be facing a very good pitching staff.

Pitching Match-ups

The Diamondbacks get to avoid seeing Stephen Strasburg this series, but they will have to face Max Scherzer. Not only will they have to confront their demons and face the reigning Cy Young award winner, but we’re not even sure who will be opposing him because of Shelby’s injury. Here’s how the games look:

  1. Taijuan Walker vs. Tanner Roark
  2. Robbie Ray vs. Gio Gonzalez
  3. TBD vs. Max Scherzer

Taijuan will look to build off of a very strong outing last time out in which he tied a career high with 11 K’s. Opposing him will be the 30 year old Roark, who had a stellar year last year, and looks to be on that same path in 2017. Game 2 will be a high quality lefty duel. Robbie Ray has been pitching well in April, but he will have his hands full with a tough Nationals lineup. Gio Gonzalez was part of the same Oakland A’s exodus that sent us Trevor Cahill. Boy, the Nats got the better pitcher there huh? And lastly, Game 3 will see us toss some poor soul to the fire to oppose one of the best pitchers in the game in Max Scherzer. In his first two season with Washington, Max has racked up a 34-19 record with an ERA under 3.00, across 457 innings with 560 strikeouts and a WHIP under 1.0. Sounds like an ace to me.

What’s Going to Happen?

I think that we are catching the Nationals at the worst time possible. Even with the injury to Adam Eaton, they have gone full Super Saiyan and their abilities are OVER 9000!!! Hopefully the Dbacks starting pitching continues to pitch well, and the offense has a good couple of games, because this will be the biggest test yet. I hate to not predict a series win, but I think the Dbacks will leave town having won 1 of 3 in DC. I just think that their team is too hot right now, and we are playing them on the road.

Tell me how many games you think Arizona will take in the comments, but this weeks poll will be of a different variety:

Poll

Who Will be Missed More by Their Team?

This poll is closed

  • 54%
    Shelby Miller - Diamondbacks
    (89 votes)
  • 45%
    Adam Eaton - Nationals
    (74 votes)
163 votes total Vote Now