Once upon a time, a wise man said: “No question about, I am ready to get hurt again.” Ok, fine, it was Michael Scott from The Office, but it perfectly sums up how some fans of the Washington Nationals feel heading into another postseason.
All this team has known in recent postseasons is disappointment, falling short of expectations each time. Could this year be different?
Who knows, but Nationals’ closer Sean Doolittle may have put it best by saying “all you need is just a ticket to the dance.”
We took a stab at trying to predict the unpredictable with some postseason thoughts. First, let us take a look at our writers who will be answering the questions.
- Patrick Reddington - Editor-in-chief, hater of Openers
- Will Kubzansky - Will probably predict an early exit for the Nationals
- Matt Weyrich - President of the James Bourque fanclub
- Blake Finney - Happy he doesn’t have to stay up until 5am for the playoffs
Which Nationals hitter will hit the most postseason HRs?
Patrick: Juan Soto. I think the spotlight and bigger stage will get Soto focused after he struggled down the stretch.
Will: Juan Soto. This is the easy way out, but it’ll look way better if Kurt Suzuki is the surprise winner here as opposed to Soto winning if I put Kurt Suzuki in an effort to be different.
Matt: Howie Kendrick. He’s been the most consistently clutch hitter all season, tying for the team lead with six “late and clutch” home runs. Even though he may hit the bench more often than the other contenders for this title, I could see him going deep in a pinch-hitting spot as well.
Blake: Juan Soto. He seems like exactly the type of player who will shine when the lights are brightest and he has a chance to truly announce his presence as one of the best hitters in baseball.
Which Nationals starter will have the lowest ERA?
Patrick: Stephen Strasburg. This is assuming they get to the NLDS and that he starts Game 1 and gets multiple outings and dominates.
Will: Stephen Strasburg, at least while he’s starting. He’s been the most consistent starter all year, and I don’t expect that to change all too much.
Matt: Stephen Strasburg. I’m going with the guy who has a 0.47 career postseason ERA. Max is Max, but I’m still concerned he’s not back to vintage form.
Blake: Max Scherzer. For the most part, he didn’t look himself after coming off of the IL, but watching his last four starts Max is back and is due a huge postseason.
Which Nationals reliever will pitch the most innings?
Patrick: Daniel Hudson. I think they’re going to lean on Hudson in the playoffs like they did down the stretch.
Will: Daniel Hudson. Though this is all contingent on them making it out of the WC game. Martinez is going to be wary of using Sean Doolittle too much, no matter what he says, so Hudson will be the late-innings stopper, maybe even for multiple innings.
Matt: Daniel Hudson. He’s been used as a multiple-inning reliever four times since being traded to the Nats. Given how few options Dave Martinez will have at his disposal in late-inning situations, Hudson’s durability gives him the edge over Sean Doolittle for me.
Blake: Daniel Hudson. With Sean Doolittle going through some lumps late in the season, Dave Martinez leaned a lot on new addition Daniel Hudson, often asking him to go multiple innings and that will continue into October.
Which Nationals hitter will record the most hits off the bench?
Patrick: Ryan Zimmerman? This is assuming that Dave Martinez goes with Howie Kendrick at first base as often as possible and Zim comes off the bench.
Will: Gerardo Parra. There’s no logic to hitting in the playoffs, especially off the bench (see: Adam Lind’s hit that set up Bryce Harper’s game-tying homer), but Parra’s hitting it well currently and doesn’t seem too fazed by pressure.
Matt: Brian Dozier. He’s been ousted by Asdrúbal Cabrera for the starting second baseman’s job (or at least he should be), so Dozier is now tasked with being a preferred power righty off the bench for the first time in his career. If he can adapt to the limited playing time, he immediately becomes a coveted weapon for Martinez.
Blake: Gerardo Parra. If you had asked me this a week ago, I’d have probably said someone like Kurt Suzuki, but Parra caught fire in the final series of the season and has been delivering clutch hits off the bench all year.
Which Nationals player will raise their stock the most and how?
Patrick: Asdrúbal Cabrera. If he keeps doing what he’s been doing since he joined the Nats, the NLDS and beyond will be a great stage for him to show he can still hit.
Will: If Asdrúbal Cabrera keeps hitting the way he is now, he’ll find a multi-year deal in the offseason.
Matt: Victor Robles. He should be a Gold Glove winner this season, but even so, hasn’t gotten the attention he deserves for his work in center field. If the Nationals go deep in the playoffs, expect some highlight-reel plays out of the rookie along the way.
Blake: Daniel Hudson. The right-hander will continue to step up big for a bullpen that has struggled the whole year and dominate in the late-innings, potentially earning a lucrative free agent deal this offseason.
If the Nationals are going to go all the way, they must _____
Patrick: Have their top 3 starters going at the top of their games — [looking at you Max Scherzer]. If Scherzer is back close to 100% and Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin keep it up, their rotation can beat anyone.
Will: Win close games. The Nats have won two games in their playoff history by a single run, and they were both in 2012. They can’t expect to blow out the Brewers and Dodgers consistently, so they’re going to have to move runners, not waste ABs, and get consistent outs from their bullpen.
Matt: Score early and often. The bullpen is going to give up some runs, even with Doolittle and Hudson carrying a bulk of the load. The offense has to give its starting pitching some support and build leads that give the bullpen plenty of cushion before the later innings.
Blake: Have other bullpen arms step up. They can’t go through the postseason relying on just Doolittle, Hudson and their starters, they need someone like Wander Suero and/or Tanner Rainey to put their inconsistencies behind them and dominate.
What is the biggest concern for the Nationals?
Patrick: The bullpen. It’s always been the bullpen. They will live or die based on their bullpen’s performance.
Will: Beyond somehow expecting Fernando Rodney to get crucial outs, Strasburg and Corbin out of the bullpen is a huge variable, especially Strasburg, who hasn’t pitched in relief before.
Matt: See my previous answer. It’s been the bullpen all season long, and this team is remarkably healthy given how much it had to grind through a 162-game sprint. The rotation and lineup are poised to deliver as expected, it’s just up to the relief corps not to blow it.
Blake: How Dave Martinez will handle the pressure. Saying that you want to go 1-0 every day is well and good, but will it carry over into crunch time. It will be interesting to see how he manages the games and uses all of the options he has.
Which two teams will meet in the World Series?
Patrick: Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Will: Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros again — but the Dodgers will win it this time.
Matt: My preseason pick was the St. Louis Cardinals beating the New York Yankees, so I’m sticking to it. The Wild Card Game is such a toss-up, it’s hard to predict which of those four teams will advance. And come on, Astros vs. Dodgers is just too boring...
Blake: Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves. This may not go down well, but the Braves might be the most underrated team in this year’s playoffs. The Astros topple them on the biggest stage and win their second World Series in three years.
How will the Nationals’ season end?
Patrick: NLDS disappointment vs LA? I don’t feel comfortable predicting anything beyond the Wild Card Game.
Will: Wild Card Game loss. You really think a winner-take-all game at Nationals Park is ever a good idea? I’m chuffed by the Brewers fans who are so confident that their limp to the finish will preclude them from winning on Tuesday. They know they’re playing the Nationals, right? The Washington Nationals! The ones who, in winner-take-all games, have blown a 6-0 lead and a 4-1 lead, the ones who literally threw their playoff hopes wide of first base last time! Personally, I’m excited to see how they can one-up the meltdown of 2017.
Matt: NLCS loss to the Cardinals. The Nats match up well against the Dodgers. If Corbin can take advantage of LA’s lefty-heavy lineup in Game 1, they could head back to D.C. with the series tied 1-1 and Scherzer and Strasburg suiting up the next two games. I like those odds.
Blake: Wild Card Game loss. These really are coins flips at the end of the day. If the Nats can get past the WCG, they could easily make a World Series run, but I think the Brewers’ pitching shuts them down this Tuesday.
One bold prediction not covered by the above
Patrick: Anthony Rendon will announce he signed an extension with the Nats after the parade down Pennsylvania Avenue.
Will: Max Scherzer is not going to be Max Scherzer on Tuesday night – or at least his numbers won’t make his line look like Max Scherzer’s line, even if his stuff is there. If the Nats somehow squeak out a win (which just doesn’t feel possible), it’ll be in a high-scoring affair, something we know these clubs are capable of.
Matt: Sean Doolittle returns to form. He hasn’t been spectacular since returning from the Injured List, but Doolittle is going to be thrust into some important situations. He’s going to benefit from that time off and prove that his poor second half was nothing more than a blip in an otherwise successful Nationals career.
Blake: Well, seeing as I’ve backed myself into a corner here by predicting the Nats will lose on Tuesday, I’ll predict that we see all of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin in that game rather than trying to save them for the NLDS.
That’s all of our predictions for how the Nationals will fare in the postseason. Let us know in the comments what your predictions are for the Nats in the postseason.
Will they finally end their NLDS hoodoo? Who do you think will be the star of the postseason for the Nats? Any other bold predictions for October for this team?