Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, August 9, 2015 at 7:00 PM
For most of the 2015 Major League Baseball season, the Washington Nationals were seen as a LOCK to reach the playoffs. They were supposedly championship material…and they played in what was perceived as a very soft NL East division. Maybe bad luck would hit them in October. But, they were going to get to October!
Now a playoff berth is suddenly in doubt because:
*The Nationals aren’t playing anywhere near championship level
*The NY Mets have upgraded, caught fire, and are playing like champs!
*Wildcard contenders like the Cubs and Giants are also playing better than the Nats
It’s the St. Louis Cardinals who are playing championship caliber ball this year in the NL. They’d have a lead of more than 10 games over Washington if they were in the same division. The Mets lead the Nats in the East at the moment…with recent trends suggesting two ships passing in the night. If the playoffs started today, they would not include Washington.
Oh…wait…it gets worse…amidst this alarming set of circumstances, Washington has to visit the NL West leading Los Angeles Dodgers over the next three days…where Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw are scheduled to pitch! This is either going to be the week where Washington steps up and announces they’re still going to matter in the pennant race…or it’s the week where the players might have to accept that this isn’t going to be their year.
Let’s run the numbers to see if Washington can play championship caliber baseball when it matters most…
Washington: 4.17 runs per game, .316 on-base, .392 slugging
LA Dodgers: 4.19 runs per game, .330 on-base, .426 slugging
The Dodgers have underachieved their raw production a bit…so those obp and slugging numbers suggest they’ll have the better offense going forward. Slight edge to the hosts in this series with the bats. Note that both offenses are flying East to West without a day off for the Monday series opener.
Gio Gonzalez: 3.75 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 8.2 K-Rate, 5.8 IP-per-Start
Brett Anderson: 3.06 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 6.3 K-Rate, 5.9 IP-per-Start
Gonzalez hasn’t lasted more than five innings in any of his last three starts, and continues to be one of the anvils dragging the Nationals down from their championship expectations. Obviously those numbers aren’t horrible. But, in the new standards of the pitching era…they’re not good enough to beat quality opponents. Anderson’s thrown quality starts in seven of his last nine outings…improving his numbers from what had been fairly mediocre. Clearly Anderson’s in better form right now, and for the season. Edge to the Dodgers even in the game where neither Greinke nor Kershaw is scheduled to pitch!
Joe Ross: 2.80 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 9.4 K-Rate, 6.4 IP-per-Start
Zack Greinke: 1.71 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 8.0 K-Rate, 6.9 IP-per-Start
Ross has been a very pleasant surprise for the Nationals. Though, they’re only 3-4 in his seven starts because of poor run support in the losses. Stellar numbers out of the gate…which gives him a chance to compete as a dog in a potential pitcher’s duel. Amazingly, Greinke’s numbers are fantastic even though he just allowed 6 earned runs in 6 innings to the Phillies! His ERA had gone all the way down to a minuscule 1.41 prior to that. He was long overdue for an off-day. Will he bounce back, or is his arm tiring? Pay close attention to this one just in case fatigue is about to become an issue. If that was just a fluke night, clear edge for the Dodgers at home.
Jordan Zimmerman: 3.44 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 6.7 K-Rate, 6.1 IP-per-Start
Clayton Kershaw: 2.51 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 11.5 K-Rate, 7.0 IP-per-Start
Like the Nats as a whole…Zimmerman’s been dealing with choppy waters lately after a good start. Another pitcher who can at least hang tough with a stud like Kershaw. But, he has to be at his very best. You probably know that Kershaw was in God-mode for several games until running into Pittsburgh last week. He’s back at home where it’s very tough to see his pitches. Big edge in the full season stats…and better recent form justify a high market price on the home favorite. Washington will be justifiable underdogs in all three games.
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One more baseball series preview tomorrow as that HUGE showdown between the Pirates and Cardinals begins Tuesday. Then we’ll have a big-game Interleague preview Wednesday before resuming our NFL Divisional reports. Hopefully you already printed out the NFC North preview that ran this past weekend (plus all the college conference previews!). Here’s what’s ahead this week…
Tuesday: MLB Series Preview…Pittsburgh Pirates at St. Louis Cardinals
Wednesday: MLB Big Game Preview…probably Houston Astros at SF Giants.
Thursday: AFC East Preview to get you ready for New England hosting Green Bay
Friday: NFC West Preview to get you ready for Seattle hosting Denver
Saturday: AFC South preview to get you ready for Houston hosting S. Francisco
Sunday: NFC East preview to get you ready for Philadelphia hosting Indianapolis
Monday: MLB Series Preview…SF Giants at St. Louis Cardinals
Tuesday August 18: MLB Series Preview…NY Mets at Baltimore Orioles
This will be one of the most intense Augusts EVER because truly exciting pennant races are joining the much-anticipated NFL Preseason on the schedule. Keep reading the NOTEBOOK for handicapping guidance…and get those BIG, JUICY WINNERS from JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!
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