Nationals NLDS Review
The Nationals had arguably the most shocking and disappointing Division Series in history, blowing a 6-0 lead, the largest lead ever blown in a winner-take-all game, and finishing just a strike away from advancing. It was a learning experience for a young team with just a couple of players with postseason experience. Many will point the finger at Mike Rizzo for the Strasburg Shutdown (one man on WTOP actually accused Strasburg himself for blowing the series, but was quickly kicked off the air by the host), but this is not the case. Mike Rizzo, who has made almost every right decision one can make by trading for Gio Gonzalez, revamping the bench with the likes of Chad Tracy and the rest of the Goon Squad, drafting Strasburg and Bryce Harper, pulling the trigger for Kurt Suzuki, and so on, can't be blamed. Strasburg's health is No. 1, even if it means we are forced to pitch with the other four starters in our rotation who, in fact, are pretty great. Gio won 21 games, Jordan Zimmermann had a 2.94 ERA, Edwin Jackson won a World Series last year, and Ross Detwiler had a 3.40 ERA. Everything just kind of collapsed in the postseason, especially in Game 5. I was there, and the stadium was literally shaking as the fans went crazy after Ryan Zimmerman's home run put the Nats up 3-0 in the first, and after they went up 6-0, everybody knew there was no turning back. Even when the score was 7-5 with two outs and two strikes in the ninth, there was still no chance the Cardinals could climb back. But they did. Just as they stunned the Phillies and Rangers last year. We Washingtonians, as Nats Nation, will probably not heal from the wounds left by the Cardinals' rally until Spring Training begins in February. Mark my words, the Nationals will come back stronger. Before the season, I predicted 2013 as the year they won it all. I stand by it. I pick them, unbiasedly, as the 2013 World Series winners. But we have to make it through the long, cold winter and then the grueling, six-month, 162-game drive that is the regular season. But they can do it. The Strasburg shutdown will be a thing of the past, Bryce Harper will have a full year under his belt to build on, and the team as a whole will mature. The core will be intact, as only Adam LaRoche, Edwin Jackson, and the possibility of either Tyler Moore, Danny Espinosa or Michael Morse as trade bait, could realistically represent major players leaving. I know for many of you, as with me, looking at a Curly W at any point over the next few months will be painful because of what could have been, but look at it with pride. The Nationals had the best record in baseball last year, and are more ready than anybody for 2013.
The Tigers swept the Yankees behind Delmon Young's ALCS MVP-garnering performance, and will advance to the World Series to face either the Cardinals or Giants.
The Diamondbacks traded Chris Young (14 HR, 41 RBI, .231 AVG, 8 SB, 2013 age: 29) to the A's for Cliff Pennington (6 HR, 28 RBI, .215 AVG, 15 SB, 2013 age: 29) and minor leaguer Yordy Cabrera (3 HR, 21 RBI, .232 AVG, 2 SB at High Class A, 2013 age: 22).
The Diamondbacks then flipped Yordy Cabrera to the Marlins for Heath Bell (4-5, 5.09 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, 19 saves, 2013 age: 35).
In this three-team deal, all teams filled needs, which for the most part were just to get rid of somebody. Arizona sent the underperforming Chris Young across the desert to Oakland, Miami unloaded Heath Bell and sent him across the country, and Oakland sent Cliff Pennington south. Young, whose career seemed to be turning for the better in 2010 when he hit 27 home runs, batted .257, and stole 28 bases, struggled over the past two seasons. He had a decent 2011 (20 HR, .236 AVG, 22 SB), but could not come back from an April injury this year. After batting .410 with five home runs in April, he hit just nine the rest of the way and batted .206. He is looking for a fresh start in Oakland. Billy Beane, who is a public supporter of the On-Base Percentage, got rid of Cliff Pennington, whose .278 OBP just didn't cut it. The Diamondbacks are hoping they get 2011 Cliff, who hit eight home runs and batted .264 that year. The biggest name in the deal was Heath Bell. The un-hittable Bell severely underperformed in 2012 for Miami, and a change of scenery should be great for him. The Marlins, however, could have gotten more for him. Yordy Cabrera is a light-hitting shortstop who is not likely to make the majors before 2014, if at all.
Offensive: AVG: Carlos Beltran (Cardinals), .382 (13-34). Home runs: Carlos Beltran, Raul Ibanez (Yankees), Ryan Ludwick (Reds), and Pablo Sandoval (Giants), 3. RBI: Delmon Young (Tigers), 8. Stolen bases: Nate McLouth (Orioles), 3.
Pitching: Wins: Justin Verlander (Tigers), 3. K's: Justin Verlander, 25. ERA: Justin Verlander, 0.74 (24.1 innings, 2 earned runs). Saves: Jason Motte (Cardinals), 3.
Top Performers (from 10/19)
Offensive: Pablo Sandoval (Giants): 2-4, home run, RBI, 2 runs.
Pitching: Barry Zito (Giants): Win, 7.2 shutout innings, 6 hits, 1 walk, 6 K's.
Worst Pitching Performance: Lance Lynn (Cardinals): Loss, 3.2 innings, 4 runs (0 earned), 4 hits, no walks, 2 walks, 6 K's.
Cardinals @ Giants: Chris Carpenter (Reg. Season: 0-2, 3.71 ERA. Postseason: 1-1, 1.86 ERA) vs Ryan Vogelsong (Reg. Season: 14-9, 3.37 ERA. Postseason: 1-0, 1.50 ERA).
Teams followed in this update: Boston Red Sox, Washington Nationals, New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs, Tampa Bay Rays, Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves, Colorado Rockies
If your team is not included, please leave a comment.
HR: home runs. RBI: runs batted in. AVG: batting average. SB: stolen bases. ERA: earned run average. WHIP: walks/hits per innings pitched. K's: strikeouts. WPCT: winning percentage