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Series preview: The Nationals sure do seem like they’re going to be pesky

They don’t have any players the Giants would love to have, but they do have some players who can absolutely give the Giants fits.

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Washington Nationals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Nationals have had an interesting season to this point. They’re not good, but they’ve managed an 8-8 road record against the Rockies (2-2), Angels (1-2), Twins (2-1), Mets (2-1), and Diamondbacks (1-2*). They’re supposed to be in a rebuild — and they are — but half a season out from trading away Juan Soto and one might expect them to be a little bit worse than 14-20.

Even the beleaguered, dreadful Patrick Corbin has managed to not look like he did the prior three seasons, when he posted a 70 ERA+ off a line of 17-42 in 390 IP, a 5.82 ERA and 4.97 FIP. In seven starts so far this season, he has a 5.17 ERA / 4.68 FIP in 38.1 IP, an improvement all the way to... 81 ERA+.

Their 91 OPS+ doesn’t match up against the Giants’ 104 OPS+ and they even come up short on ERA+ (94 to the Giants’ 98); but, FanGraphs gives them the edge in fWAR, 2.3 to the Giants’ 1.7. That discrepancy is largely in the bullpen, where the Nationals’ +0.3 fWAR is nearly a full run greater than the Giants’ -0.6.

This seems like a series the San Francisco Giants should handle pretty easily, but I asterisked that Diamondbacks series because the Nationals actually had a chance to win two out of three thanks to a 9th inning home run off the bate of Lane Thomas in game two.

The Nationals aren’t better than other teams late in the game (.214/.283/.349) in innings 7-9, but they are pretty great in innings 1-3 (.277/.349/.407). Meanwhile, the Giants are the opposite: .231/.306/.403 in innings 1-3 versus .236/.323/.447, which doesn’t feel right, but the numbers are incapable of deceit. Right?

The Giants will be facing their number one and two starters, and although they haven’t replaced Juan Soto (or Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon before him), they still have some capable young players mixed in with some potentially dangerous power threats.


Series details

Who: San Francisco Giants vs. Washington Nationals
Where: Oracle Park, San Francisco, California
When: Monday (6:45pm PT), Tuesday (6:45pm PT), Wednesday (12:45pm PT)
National broadcasts: None.

Projected starters:

Friday: Anthony DeSclafani vs. Jake Irvin
Saturday: Logan Webb vs. Patrick Corbin
Sunday: Sean Manaea vs. Josiah Gray


Where they stand


Record: 14-20, 5th in NL East
Run differential: -27, 11th in NL
Postseason standing: -3.5 games back in Wild Card, 9.5 games out of the division
Momentum: 1-game winning streak; 5-5 in their last 10 games


Record: 15-18, 4th in NL West fWAR
Run differential: -17, 9th in the NL
Postseason standing: 2.0 games out of the Wild Card, 5.0 games out of the division
Momentum: 1-game losing streak; 5-5 in their last 10 games


Three Giants to watch

J.D. Davis: I figured Davis torched the Nationals while he was with the Mets and I wasn’t disappointed: .319/.391/.546 (.937 OPS) in 49 games (161 PA), including 7 home runs, his most against any one team.

Mitch Haniger: Either he or Conforto need to get it going this week, but since the Conforto at bats the past couple of weeks have looked beyond hopeless, I’m asking you to keep an eye on Haniger who, like J.D. Davis, doesn’t have a platoon split and has a similar hitter profile. So, in theory they could both do equally well.

Brett Wisely: The Giants’ faith in him has only grown over the past five weeks because he keeps hitting the ball hard (slightly harder than Manny Machado’s current rate of 37%; a 33% sweet spot that’s the same as Wilmer Flores’s!) and he’s playing well wherever they put him on defense. I really like the Wisely-Estrada infield combo right now. Let’s see if he can keep it up, if for no other reason than it’d be a motherload of good fortune if one of Zaidi’s depth acquisitions wound up being a gem specifically up the middle on defense.


Three Nationals to watch

Victor Robles: The Nationals’ best position player. He’s supposed to be a plus defender in centerfield, but so far this season, Statcast is unimpressed. Just 18th percentile in Outs Above Average. 11th percentile in outfielder jump. Arm strength and sprint speed are excellent, but he doesn’t look to be getting great reads on the ball. If he makes any good plays in the outfield, be very annoyed. He also has just a 26.6% Hard Hit rate, which is 7th percentile in baseball. So any extra base hits? Grumble time.

Alex Call: Who is this guy? I don’t know, but he has 16 walks and 26 strikeouts in 130 PA. He’s 28 years old and has a .640 OPS. He plays left field, and I’d like for this series to not be called a signature series for him. The plate discipline, basically 2:1 strikeouts to walks — what sabermetricians call “the cool zone” — has been there since the minor leagues. And he looks to be a solid fielder on top of it (87th percentile Outs Above Average). Not a good or great player, just one of those guys who might slide into the “pesky” range of descriptor.

Lane Thomas: Now here’s a guy who can be really pesky all just by being an Austin Slater clone. He hit the 9th inning home run off of lefty Andrew Chafin the other night. He has a career .855 OPS against left-handed pitchers. Same as Austin Slater. He plays all three outfield positions, and with a mild injury Victor Robles sustained the other day, maybe he’ll even play some centerfield in this series — just like Austin Slater.


Prediction time!


Giants vs. Nationals - How’s it gonna be?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    Nationals sweep
    (4 votes)
  • 26%
    Giants sweep
    (25 votes)
  • 54%
    Giants win, 2-1
    (51 votes)
  • 14%
    Nationals win, 2-1
    (14 votes)
94 votes total Vote Now