About that Cardinals Dodgers preview . . .

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Absent Albert Pujols and Chris Carpenter carrying out a murder-suicide pact before tomorrow’s game, I won’t change my prediction that the Cardinals will beat the Dodgers in four games. I say this for two reasons: (1) my gut just likes St. Louis in this thing; and (2) backtracking on a prediction is weak sauce. If you’re going to predict something stick with it before, during and after, and take the credit and the lumps in equal measure.  It’s only baseball, after all, not medicine. No one is going to sue you if you’re wrong.

All of that said, this bears consideration:

The Cardinals grade out as the worst of the playoff teams with 83 wins against an average schedule.

Cardinals fans will, I’m sure, be up in arms at this characterization. By our measures, the Cardinals pitchers faced the second-easiest set of lineups and the batters faced the easiest set of pitching staffs, meaning they had the easiest schedule by a wide margin. (The Cy Young candidacies for Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright are another discussion.) In addition to playing in the N.L. Central where the next best team ranked 18th in the majors, the Cardinals faced the A.L.’s worst division, the Central, in interleague play.

It’s less about what is being said — that the Cardinals, if they had faced at least an average schedule, would have only won 83 games — than who is saying it: Sean Forman. The same Sean Forman who founded and lords over Baseball-Reference.com, which is only the greatest invention since The Gutenberg Press.  I don’t like being on the other side of certified geniuses on most issues, and Forman may very well have a point.

But screw it. I’m still sticking with the Cardinals prediction. If for no other reason than that I don’t want to fall in with any analysis that may cause baseball to go the way of football where almost every single playoff conversation is about the schedule. It’s a tired, tired exercise that is more about whining than it is about analysis.  And like the man said: there’s no crying in baseball.

  

Stephen Strasburg unlikely to pitch in the NLDS

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 07:  Stephen Strasburg #37 of the Washington Nationals walks off the field after an injury in the third inning against the Atlanta Braves at Nationals Park on September 7, 2016 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
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Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said on Tuesday that starter Stephen Strasburg is unlikely to pitch in the NLDS against the Dodgers, Chase Hughes of CSN Mid-Atlantic reports. Strasburg hasn’t pitched since September 7 due to a strained flexor mass.

Strasburg was pitching well before a few poor starts prior to being shut down in August. He currently holds a 3.60 ERA with a 183/44 K/BB ratio in 147 2/3 innings.

The Nationals signed Strasburg to a seven-year, $175 million contract extension in May. This was obviously not how they invisioned his 2016 campaign going.

A.J. Cole fined, suspended five games for throwing at Jung Ho Kang

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 25:  Home plate umpire Jordan Baker ejects A.J. Cole #22 of the Washington Nationals in the third inning during the game at PNC Park on September 25, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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Nationals starter A.J. Cole has been fined an undisclosed amount and suspended five games by Major League Baseball for intentionally throwing at Pirates third baseman Jung Ho Kang on Sunday, Chelsea Janes of The Washington Post reports. Cole is appealing his suspension.

Kang faked a tag on Bryce Harper, who was coming into third base on a triple. The fake-out caused Harper to slide awkwardly, injuring his left thumb. The Nationals took exception to this and Cole threw a fastball that ended sailing behind Kang’s back during his next at-bat. Cole was ejected and both benches emptied. There was some yelling and some light pushing and shoving, but nothing beyond that.

Cole will remain active until his appeal is heard, which may allow him to make one more start before the end of the regular season. He’s carrying a 5.09 ERA with a 37/14 K/BB ratio in 35 1/3 innings over seven starts this season.