National vs Dodgers Series Will Highlight Two of the Best Pitchers in Baseball

Joe Clark, Sports Writer

On Friday night in Washington DC, the Washington Nationals and the LA Dodgers will kick off the NLDS with a pitching matchup between two of the best pitchers in baseball in Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer. While the AL Playoffs feature big bats and high scoring games, the NL Playoffs will be dominated by pitching. This series will not be any different, as both teams feature pitching staffs with the capability of limiting their opposition to 1-2 runs a game. The team that will win this series will be because they squeezed a few runs across at key moments, like the Giants did in the NL Wild Card game win over the Mets with Conor Gillaspie’s three-run homer in the top of 9th, which gave the Giants a 3-0 win. With that, we’ll take a look at the pitching staffs for these two teams.



Both of these teams have formidable rotations, featuring one true ace. For the Nationals, they have Max Scherzer, whom the signed as a free agent last offseason. He’s been lights out in his time in DC, and this season he was 20-7 with a 2.96 ERA and 284 K in 228.1 IP. The Dodgers have the best pitcher in baseball with Clayton Kershaw, and despite missing almost two months with an injury, he still posted absolutely ridiculous numbers, going 12-4 with a 1.69 ERA and 174 K in 149 IP, which included a 10.4 K/9. Not to mention, he only walked 11 guys all season. His WHIP of 0.725 is the lowest of all time. These two teams aren’t just Scherzer and Kershaw, either. The Nationals have Stephen Strasburg, although he will miss the NLDS with an injury. They also have Tanner Roark (16-10, 2.83 ERA and 172 K) and rookie Joe Ross (7-5, 3.43 ERA in 105.0 IP), who might not pitch in the playoffs because the Nats want to limit his innings. Guess they didn’t learn from shutting down Strasburg in 2012. Gio Gonzalez can’t be forgotten either, as his 4.57 regular season ERA was more a product of poor defense, as he posted a 3.76 FIP. The Dodgers have struggled with injuries in their rotation all year, but give credit to new President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman (if that names sounds familiar it’s because he was GM who turned the Rays around) and GM Farhan Zaidi for stockpiling pitching depth, as the team has seen success from Japanese FA signing Kenta Maeda (16-11. 3.48 ERA). Trade Deadline acquisition Rich Hill (12-5, 2.12 ERA on the season) has been great for the Dodgers, going 3-2 with a 1.83 ERA in LA (Read more about how Hill turned his career around here). After Kershaw/Hill/Maeda, the Dodgers could go with young stud Julio Urias (5-2, 3.39 ERA with 84 K in 77.0 IP with 18 G, 15 GS), or Scott Kazmir (10-6, 4.56 ERA). I think the Dodgers should go with Urias, as he’s given you better production and is more of a power pitchers, who reign supreme in the playoffs. I understand wanting to limit his innings, but that’s why they moved him to the bullpen late in the regular season. The playoffs aren’t a time to shut a pitcher down. The 2012 Nationals shut down a young Stephen Strasburg for the playoffs (and they’re shutting down Joe Ross now) and lost in the NLDS, and still went down with an elbow injury the next season. If Urias is going to give them a better chance to win, they should pitch him. Regardless, this Dodgers rotation is still better than the Nats as they’re deeper, and the fact that they have Clayton Kershaw obviously helps their cause. Advantage: Los Angeles



Both of these teams feature shut down closers in Kenley Jansen (1.83 ERA, 104 K in 68.2 IP, 47 SV) for the Dodgers and Mark Melancon (1.64 ERA, 65 K in 71.1 IP w/47 SV between Pittsburgh and LA) for the Nationals. Beyond on those two, neither team has a standout reliever, but both have deep bullpens with multiple guys who can get the job done. The Nats have Blake Treinen (2.28 ERA in 73 G) and Shawn Kelley (2.64 ERA in 67 G) to close down the 7th and 8th innings, along with Matt Belisle (1.76 ERA in 40 G). In LA, the Dodgers have converted SP Joe Blanton (2.48 ERA in 75 G) and Pedro Baez (3.04 ERA in 73 G). They also have J.P. Howell (4.09 ERA in 64 G, 3.50 FIP) and Louis Coleman (4.69 ERA in 61 G). This one isn’t particularly close, as although Jansen and Melancon are even, with maybe a slight edge to Jansen due to his ability to strike more guys out, the Nationals are better elsewhere, so they have the edge her. Advantage: Washington



Both of these teams have lineups that are good, but not great. The key for both of these teams will be rookies: Soon to be NL Rookie of the Year and MVP Candidate Corey Seager (26 HR, 72 RBI, .308/.365/.512) has been the Dodgers’ best offensive player this season, and if he struggles to hit this postseason the Dodgers as a whole will struggle. Since getting called up mid season, Trea Turner has been a key cog in the Nationals lineup, hitting .342/.370/.567 with 13 HR, 40 RBI, and 33 SB. The Nationals were dealt a huge blow late in the season when starting C Wilson Ramos suffered a torn ACL, ending his season in the midst of a breakout year (22 HR, 80 RBI, .307/.354/.496). For the Nationals to succeed, they will need Bryce Harper to rebound from a poor regular season (for his standards), where he hit .243/.373/.441 with 24 HR and 86 RBI. Daniel Murphy was a playoff hero for the Mets last season, and after signing with the Nationals this offseason he picked up where he left off this season, hitting .347/.390/.595 with 25 HR and 104 RBI, good enough for a 157 (!!) OPS+. At 3B, Anthony Rendon has been really solid both o offensively (.270/.348/.450, 20 HR, 85 RBI,) and defensively (7 DRS, 14 UZR), and he’s a key cog in the Nationals lineup.While Jayson Werth and especially Ryan Zimmerman used to be really good, they’re struggling this season. For a guy like Zimmerman, it’s been tough to watch his decline as back when the Nats were a perennial 100 loss team, he always showed up, never complained, and was one of the best players in the game. His decline now when the Nationals are finally getting good is unfortunate and disappointing. For the Dodgers, outside of Seager they also have Adrian Gonzalez, whose power numbers have declined (18 HR) but he’s still hitting well (.285 BA). 3B Justin Turner has also had a good year (27 HR, 90 RBI, .275/.339/.493), and he’ll need to continue to hit in this thin Dodgers lineup. Josh Reddick, acquired alongside Hill at the deadline, came on toward the end of the year with the Dodgers, and while his Dodgers numbers (.258/.307/.335, 2 HR, 9 RBI) don’t look great, he struggled mightily in his first month with the team and dealt with injuries. When healthy, he’s an important piece in this lineup. Joc Pederson got on base and hit for power (.352 OBP, 25 HR) and he will need to continue that in this series. While both these lineups are good, I prefer the Nationals combo of Murphy/Rendon/Turner/Harper than the Dodgers’ of Seager/AGon/Turner/Pederson. That will give the Nats the edge. Advantage: Nationals



The Nationals have the better lineup and bullpen, but this series will go at least four games, and the Dodgers rotation depth will be key. That will be the difference in this series. Dodgers in 5.