Author Topic: Paul Swydan Believes Braves Will Catch Nats [but who gives gives a rat's ...]  (Read 12317 times)

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Offline mimontero88

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Can anyone with Insider access post what he wrote?  I'm especially interested in seeing who he picks to win this series...

Quote from: Paul Swydan
The St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Nationals will square off in the NLDS. Here's a look at what to watch, who will win and why:

Key matchup: Lance Lynn vs. Ryan Zimmerman

In the regular season, few pitchers were tougher against right-handed hitters than Lynn. Among starting pitchers, no one was -- Lynn's 1.99 FIP was easily tops in the majors among starters. James Shields was second best at 2.65. Lynn wasn't nearly as good against lefties, as his 5.30 FIP can attest. But in the postseason, Lynn will be deployed in relief and, just like last year, could do significant damage.
Lynn feasts on righties, and could be asked to target Zimmerman specifically.
On the other side of the coin, we have Zimmerman, who has bashed with authority since receiving a cortisone shot at the end of June. The Nats' 3-hole hitter generally is surrounded by two lefties, with Bryce Harper hitting in front of him and Adam LaRoche behind him. It's not generally a great idea to burn a pitcher who could throw multiple innings on one hitter, but if you're going to make an exception for such a move in a high leverage situation, this is it.

Cardinals X factor: Matt Holliday

Although he has one of the richest contracts in the game, and has been one of its best hitters for a while now, Holliday continually gets lost in the shuffle. Normally, Holliday is very consistent from month to month -- for his career, he is at least 20 percent better than the average hitter in each month of the season. But this year, he faded in August and September, thanks in part to a lower back injury. It's true Holliday isn't the only masher in the lineup. Yadier Molina, Allen Craig and David Freese all joined Holliday as one of the game's top 30 hitters this season (according to wRC+), but Holliday is not only the team's catalyst in the 3-hole but also is the team's best hitter against left-handed pitching, and the Nats might start three lefties if the series goes five games.

Nationals X factor: Michael Morse

Morse had almost an inverse of the season Holliday did. After a banner 2011 campaign, Morse didn't even get on the field until June, and once he did, he didn't hit. He looked as if he was turning the corner in July, but an August slump derailed that progress. In September, though, Morse once again started hitting. His monthly ISO climbed over .200 for the first and only time this season. His walk rate declined for the second straight year, but if Morse keeps up his hot hitting from September, the Nats' lineup should be imposing.

Cardinals key reliever: Edward Mujica

With Marc Rzepczynski turning in a poor second season in St. Louis, Mujica is the best bullpen arm the Cardinals have against left-handed hitters. Fernando Salas and Mitchell Boggs walk lefties far too often to be trusted options, and Jason Motte likely will be kept on ice for save situations. Mujica has generally been effective against lefties, holding them to a .244/.269/.400 line overall this season and an even better .195/.195/.244 in his brief time in St. Louis. Most encouraging is that his K/BB against lefties is 7.00 this year and 5.53 over the past three seasons, which stands in sharp contrast to the numbers for Salas and Boggs.

Nationals key reliever: Tyler Clippard

Clippard has been the workhorse in the Nats' bullpen for the past three years, and after the Brad Lidge-Henry Rodriguez closer experiment didn't work out, Washington turned to him to pick up saves. With Drew Storen taking the closer role back, though, Washington manager Davey Johnson is free to deploy Clippard wherever he chooses, which is important because Clippard typically has thrived in high-leverage situations. But the second half, in which he allowed a .788 OPS to opposing batters, was not as kind to Clippard as was the first half, when he held them to a more impressive .438 OPS. Washington needs him to rediscover his mojo in a hurry. Which version of Michael Morse will we see in October?

Cardinals key bench player: Matt Carpenter

It's tempting to list Lance Berkman here, but with him not at full strength, Carpenter is likely to be most trusted to be the Cardinals' weapon off the bench. Other than small samples from Pete Kozma (who is now in the starting lineup) and Berkman, Carpenter has been the only effective weapon off the St. Louis bench this year, as he hit .294/.365/.463 in a part-time role. And, although he bats left-handed, Carpenter hit 12 percent better than league average against left-handed pitchers, making him a viable candidate to pinch hit no matter who is on the mound. That is good news for the Cardinals, as they have precious little thump on the bench outside of him unless Berkman has a few more tricks up his ample sleeves.

Nationals key bench player: Roger Bernadina

Bernadina has everything you want in a bench player. With 53 stolen bases against just 11 times caught stealing in his career, he is the efficient base stealer you want late in the game. A patient hitter, Bernadina chased fewer pitches out of the zone this season; as a result, his walk rate rose to a robust 10.7 percent, so he's likely to give a good at-bat. And finally, he plays good defense. Fourteen times in September, Morse was removed for defense in the seventh inning or later, and Bernadina was usually the one who entered for him. Expect to see more of that in the postseason.

Key stat: St. Louis' 3.78 pitches per plate appearance

The Cardinals have had a great offense all season, but although their walk rate tied for eighth best in the game this season, they didn't have to work overly hard to get it -- St. Louis' 3.78 pitches seen per plate appearance was just 20th best in the game.

Residing in the soft National League Central, the Cards' offense wasn't challenged as much as it will be in the postseason, and, although Washington has a great pitching staff, St. Louis has an opportunity to make those pitchers work. Washington pitchers tossed 3.84 pitches per plate appearance, a mark that ranked 22nd in baseball. That is a touch deceiving, as one of the least efficient pitchers for Washington was Stephen Strasburg, and he won't throw in the postseason. But in Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, Sean Burnett, Mike Gonzalez and Tyler Clippard, the Nats still have five pitchers who tossed more pitches per PA than the league average. The Cards need to take advantage, particularly against Gonzalez and Zimmermann.

Modest proposal: Move Carlos Beltran back in the batting order

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny devised a pretty healthy batting order this season. The best six hitters hit in the first six spots in the order, and, although that sounds elementary, it doesn't happen as frequently as it should. But in terms of handedness, the batting order is as follows -- lefty, switch hitter, righty, righty, righty, righty. In the postseason, matchups become everything, and Johnson is going to be able to match up fairly easily against that batting order. This is exacerbated by the fact that the only lefty in the order, Jon Jay, is a fixture at leadoff. Jay was pinch hit for only twice this season, and one of those times Holliday was the one who entered for him. Moving Freese up to the 2-hole and dropping Beltran to fourth or fifth would better break up the lineup, and it would at least give Johnson something to think about when deploying his relievers.

The pick: Nationals in 5

He's actually picking the Nats :shock:  Way to stick to your guns lol