Series Preview: Washington Nationals (55-59) at The Untouchables (49-66)

Now that the winning streak is over, time to get started on a new losing streak. Not only did the Cubs gain no meaningful ground on the Brewers, who were also playing quite well in that stretch, but the Cubs are still 6 games back of the Pirates despite their losing ten games in a row. This should be familiar territory for this series’ rivals, the Nationals, but they have a surprisingly decent record this year. They were actually looking to add a piece or two at the trade deadline, despite the fact that they’re even deeper in the hole division-title-wise than the Cubs, just because a winning record would be a relative marketing bonanza for that team. They did end up shipping out Jason Marquis, who’s had a few decent seasons in Washington. Here’s how the teams shake out on the season:

Team overview

Nats Cubs
wOBA .307 (11th) .317 (8th)
UBR 3.7 (4th) -14.1 (16th)
UZR -8.2 (10th) -20.1 (13th)
SP FIP 3.99 (8th) 4.16 (12th)
RP FIP 4.10 (14th) 4.19 (15th)

Eh, so maybe not as good as their record. But kudos to them for posting such a great record in a tough division. They’ve received great production from Jordan Zimmermann, now returned from TJS, and have received solid production from most of the rest of their forgettable rotation. On the offensive side, 2B Danny Espinosa has provided the most value and largely lived up to his top prospect status, while Jayson Werth has been largely disappointing, both with the bat and with the glove. 3B Ryan Zimmerman, probably their best overall player, has had a down year due to an ab injury in April that caused him to miss two months.

Stephen Strasburg is on his way back from his TJS, and reportedly hit the high 90s with his fastball in his rehab start tonight. The Nats are hoping to call him up in September to give their fans a taste of what’s to come. With Strasburg and Zimmermann fronting the rotation, Espinosa, a healthy Zimmerman at 3b, a Werth rebound, and Bryce Harper tearing his way up to the majors, they’re going to be a legit team in the NL east as soon as next year.

Pitching Matchups

Monday: Chien-Ming Wang, RHP (6.00, 4.68, 4.42, 3.87) vs Matt Garza, RHP (3.78, 3.03, 3.15, 3.65), 7:05 PM CT

Wang was a worm-killing machine in his first few years with the Yankees, but from about 2008 on he’s had a string of injuries. He suffered a foot injury in 2008, and it affected his mechanics in 2009. After being sent down he was diagonsed with weakness in his hips, and he eventually underwent shoulder surgery. The Nationals signed him in 2010 hoping to get a half-season out of him but he ended up missing the season. He was non-tendered and re-signed with Washington to an incentive-laden contract. He’s made two starts with the Nationals, going four innings against the Mets and five against the Braves. His velocity is down but his groundball rate looks to be right in line with his rates earlier in his career, so provided nothing else breaks he should be able to provide some good value for the Nats.

Garza had a great outing against the crappy Pirates offense, striking out seven in seven innings. The only players on this team that are less likely to be traded than Garza are Starlin Castro and Koyie Hill.

Tuesday: Ross Detwiler, RHP (2.66, 4.04, 4.34, 4.27) vs Rodrigo Lopez, RHP (5.17, 4.82, 4.66, 4.91), 7:05 PM CT

Detwiler spent most of the year in AAA, but has pitched well enough in his 20 innings of work this season for the Nats to give him Tom Gorzellany’s rotation spot. He was the Nats first round pick in the 2007 draft and should be a decent enough back end of the rotation guy for them down the road.

Wednesday: Jordan Zimmermann, RHP (3.14, 2.74, 3.54, 3.20) vs Ryan Dempster, RHP (4.87, 3.64, 3.44, 3.71), 7:05 PM CT

Zimmermann is the real deal, and was putting up great numbers in 2009 before going down with an elbow injury. He recovered relatively quickly, making seven starts for the Nationals at the end of last season. The most surprising component of his FIP this year is his 1.56 BB/9. From what I remember the conventional wisdom with guys coming back from TJS is that their velocity comes back but it takes a while to find their control.

Dempster walked six in his last start and his GB rate is starting to tick down again. He’s only had one start in his last eight where he gave up more ground balls than LD/FB. He walked six Reds in his last start but managed to skate by only allowing two runs in six innings.


Two out of three to the Nationals


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