match point: the st. louis cardinals can eliminate the nationals with a win today

Brad Mills-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

know your enemy: ross detwiler and the nationals - how they line up against the cardinals. the cardinals play game four of their NLDS at 3:00pm CDT/4:00 EDT today in washington, d.c.

after a very close and hearbreaking loss in game 1, the cardinals quickly hung two blowout victories on the nationals. they are now poised to play game 4 with a chance to eliminate the nationals today. otherwise, they'll play game 5 tomorrow.

since we have a fairly early game today, and i'm sure that it's weighing heavily on your collective minds, this will be more of a glorified pre-game thread. let's take a look at who we're facing, and what we're facing him with.

starting today is ross detwiler, a decent, if unexciting left-hander with the nationals.

before we get into any deep statistical review, let's take that first, pretty key fact: left-hander.

other than jon jay and daniel descalso, we will almost certainly field a team composed of 6 right-handers and a switch-hitter (beltran). freese (.380 wOBA v. LHP), , holliday (.431 wOBA v. LHP), craig(.427 wOBA v. LHP), molina (.427 wOBA v. LHP), . . . all are perfectly capable of mauling a left-hander. beltran is completely respectable as a switch hitter against LHP, with a .361 wOBA on the season.

even jay can credibly face a left-hander. after 300+ career PAs against LHP, jay has a .358 OBP (and a .359 OBP v. RHP in 1000 PAs). he seems less likely to hit for power (.070 ISO against LHP v. .138 v. RHP across his career). with his OBP, he's still a good option for the leadoff spot, and the alternative (shane robinson) is pretty unappetizing (.285 wOBA for his career against LHP).

daniel decalso will hit at the back of the order, but more from generic offensive inadequacy that for platoon reasons. he has a .313 wOBA against LHP, but only a .280 wOBA against RHP over his career. much of that reverse split may be a sample size issue.

on the whole, our team has a .338 wOBA against LHP, versus "only" a .324 wOBA against RHP. so, let's start from there: any day a series comes down to the cardinals facing a left-hander, you have to view this as a point on our side.

and the converse is definitely also true. detwiler is much weaker against righties than lefties. across his career, righties hit for a .327 wOBA off him, while lefties are limited to a .275 wOBA. he has a career 3.75 FIP/4.08 xFIP against lefties, but only a 4.29 FIP/4.55 xFIP against righties.

on the whole, detwiler is a mostly-okay pitcher who's had some good ERA luck this year. he had a rough debut in 2009 (aside from a single inning appearance in 2007), then spent most of 2010 bouncing around the nationals' system. he split last season between the majors and AAA, then spent the bulk of 2012 in the majors. about half of his 336 MLB innings came this year.

he has a 4.17 FIP for his career, a 3.74 ERA, and a 4.34 xFIP. he has a 4.35 SIERA.

he throws his fastball (typically, a sinker, sitting around 92-93 mph) a lot - 75% for his career, 80% for this year. he complements the fastball with a curve, mixing in the occasional change up. he was criticized earlier this fall by davey johnson for relying too much on his sinker.

in some ways he resembles joe kelly a lot, if joe kelly lost a few MPH on his power sinker and pitched left-handed -young, decent, with only nominal secondary offerings.

his power sinker, surprisingly, yielded pretty league-average results in terms of grounders in his first few seasons, but this season his groundball rate is up at a respectable 50%, which is again not dissimilar from kelly's 51% this season.

so, worst-case scenario, his sinker is in full-sink, and his defense and the BABIP gods smile upon him. best case - the cards' right-handers really pick up on his pitches and are able to blast them out of the infield.

unfortunately for any team facing a groundballer, the nats' infield seems to be pretty decent. espinosa appears to be a plus second baseman across his career, desmond is a bit below average at short (-3.2 UZR/150 over his career). laroche is around average at first. zimmerman was a defensive artist, among the best at third base for a long time, although his past two seasons look a lot worse; based on some suggestions that his shoulder is flaring up (i believe i saw he's had FOUR cortisone shots this season), his recent data may be suggestive of a larger problem.

the nats don't have a teamwide split to speak of, with a team wOBA of .323 against pitchers of either handedness. kyle lohse's right handedness doesn't pose an obvious benefit or problem. bryce harper and adam laroche should particularly benefit from lohse's right handedness; jayson werth, ian desmond, and danny espinosa have weaker numbers against right handers.

kyle's peripherals, like detwiler's, are a lot weaker than his ERA might suggest. lohse has a 2.86 ERA with a 3.96 xFIP. he mixes a fastball, changeup, and slider pretty liberally. he's having a career year late in life, with his best-ever walk rate (4.4%) and almost best-ever K rate (16.6% - his only better season mark was 17.1% in 2006). still, he's benefitting somewhat from an unusually low BABIP (.262) and a high strand rate (77.2%).

their defense and their bullpen are both significantly better than ours, although neither is stunning. we've already seen that the washington bullpen is very reachable. they have some arms in their bullpen that are well rested, but not all of them.

yesterday, jackson made it only through 5 innings, leaving stammen, matheus, storen, and garcia to take an inning each. matheus and garcia both threw roughly 30 pitches. that doesn't leave them nearly tapped out, having rested on the 9th, but that leaves them with burnett, clippard, gorzelanny, and michael gonzalez in the bullpen as primary options (note the latter two are left-handed) today. even if a slightly worn bullpen and their platoon splits make davey johnson think hard about leaving detwiler in so the cardinals' batters can see his sinker a third time to figure it out, that minor bullpen wear and tear could help us.

nationals park plays neutral, with a slight proclivity towards the longball, and a slight run suppression for non-homer contact, which balances out on the whole.

things to watch for:

~ is detwiler's sinker sinking well?

~ are the cardinals' hitters picking up on it?

~ regardless of whether struck balls are finding gloves, are the cardinals getting good contact on the ball?

~ given the mid-afternoon start, watch how the shadows are affecting the hitters on both sides.

this is an excellent chance for the cardinals. while gio gonzalez is also left-handed, he is a cy young candidate this year, and poaching a win from him in game 5 will be much tougher. luckily, the cardinals get two bites at this apple.

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