The perception among many Brewers fans coming into this series is probably that anything less than a sweep is a disappointment, given how poor the Washington Nationals have been the last few years. Although I do agree that losing the series would be a very poor result, this Nationals team does have some very good pieces and some players that you should watch out for.
We’ve all seen Adam Dunn blast home runs against the Brewers during his time in Cincinnati, and he still has power – he’s coming off a 38 home run season, and his .262 ISO (Isolated Power, SLG – AVG) is over 100 points above the league average.
Nyjer Morgan plays an incredible defensive center field – both +/- and UZR rated Morgan as 15 runs above average, second only to Seattle’s Franklin Gutierrez. He has tremendous speed, and can steal 40 bases in any given season.
Ian Desmond is the new shortstop in Washington after putting up a tremendous .400 wOBA between AA and AAA last season. How he produces in the majors remains to be seen – CHONE and ZiPS project him to be slightly below average, and if he can field at all, that will make him a productive SS.
The true star in Washington, of course, is Ryan Zimmerman. The third baseman had already put up two all-star caliber seasons, but he truly broke out in 2009. He slugged 33 home runs while showing above average plate discipline, resulting in a line of .292/.364/.525. Not only that, but he’s one of the best defensive third basemen in the league. Both UZR and +/- rated him as 18 runs above average or higher. Combining his fielding prowess with his great bat, and you get somebody who could compete for an MVP sometime in what should be an illustrious career.
Still, the Nationals pitching is questionable. John Lannan, tonight’s starter, is the staff ace. He relies heavily on the ground ball, as he doesn’t get many strikeouts and he walks too many batters to really be considered a control pitcher. Jason Marquis is very unremarkable, and Brewers fans will remember him from his time in Chicago and St. Louis. The rest of the rotation is made up of minor-leaguer Craig Stammen, the rotting corpse of Livan Hernandez, and Marlins cast-off Scott Olsen. The bullpen is also very unimpressive, although former Pirate Matt Capps is a formidable closer.
The Nationals’ pitching is their achilles heel, and the Brewers hitters should be able to tee off at least a couple times this series. Don’t sleep on the Nationals lineup, though. They have some solid players, and as they showed in their 7-5 victory against the Phillies yesterday, they are capable of putting some runs on the board.