As the visiting Dodgers celebrate their National League Divisional Series win on Thursday at Nationals Park, Bryce Harper and the Nationals are left to wonder what might have been.
The 2016 season was a joyride for the Washington Nationals and their fans. New manager Dusty Baker oversaw a squad that erased the bad feelings from the disappointing 2015 campaign by taking control of the National League East and finishing with the second best record in the Senior Circuit. In the end, however, the 2016 season ended in the same fashion that the 2012 and 2014 seasons did; with a bitter defeat in the post-season.
Here’s our post-season edition of “Nats by the Numbers”, powered as always by Baseball-Reference.com’s amazing Play Index.
Although he pitched effectively for the most part (particularly in Game Five), Max Scherzer saw his Nationals lose both games the Cy Young Award candidate started in the 2016 NLDS. During the regular season, the Nationals only had two times when the team lost back to back games started by Scherzer.
In April, Scherzer fell to the Marlins 5-1 in Miami in a game where he surrendered five runs in five innings pitched while recording a season low three strikeouts. Five days later at home against the Phillies, Scherzer picked up a no-decision while throwing six relatively effective innings (three runs allowed, seven strikeouts) but the team lost 4-3.
In June at San Diego, Scherzer struck out 10 Padres and allowed only one run but got a no decision when the bullpen imploded in a 7-3 Nats’ loss. Six days later in Milwaukee, the Brewers beat Scherzer and the Nationals by a 5-3 score.
The Nationals lost game one of the NLDS by a 4-3 score despite picking up nine walks in the contest. There have been only three nine inning games in LDS history where a team has lost while having nine or more walks in the contest.
You have to go all the way back to 2000 to find that last time it happened before the 2016 Dodgers-Nationals series opener. On October 3, 2000, the Atlanta Braves lost 7-5 to the St. Louis Cardinals despite getting nine free passes. One year earlier, the Cleveland Indians walked nine times but were trounced by the Boston Red Sox 23-7 in Game Four of the teams’ ALDS.
A point of emphasis for Nationals manager Dusty Baker when he took over the team’s reigns was to cut down on situations where Nationals’ batters failed to put balls in play. While some progress was made in that category during the regular season (the Nats struck out 92 fewer times in 2016 than they had in 2015), the problem came back to haunt the team in the post-season.
The Nats struck out 1o or more times in all five games of the 2016 NLDS, including 12 in the decisive game of the series on Thursday at Nationals Park. 15 of the team’s 63 strikeouts in the series came with runners in scoring position.
Chris Heisey’s dramatic seventh inning pinch-hit home run in Game Five was only the 25th pinch-hit home run in LDS history. Los Angeles’ Carlos Ruiz also had a pinch-hit home run in the series (in Game Three), making the series only one of two in LDS history that has included more than one pinch-hit home run. In a 2002 LDS match-up between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Dusty Baker-led San Francisco Giants, St. Louis’ J.D. Drew had a pinch-hit round tripper in Game One of the series, with teammate Eduardo Perez matching him with a pinch-hit homer in Game Two.
During the regular season, the Nats posted a 77% winning percentage in games where their starting pitchers threw 6.1 or more innings. In games where the starters threw six innings or fewer, the percentage dropped 34 points to 43%. The Nationals did not have a starter with more than six innings pitched in any of the NLDS games against Los Angeles.
Nats’ fans will be left to wonder what might have been had one of their team’s best hitters against left-handed pitching would have been available for the series against a heavily left-handed Dodger pitching staff.
In 103 at bats during the season, Wilson Ramos posted a .631 slugging percentage while hitting nine homers and driving in 23 runs. Ramos’ slugging percentage was the sixth highest in the Major Leagues for players with at least 100 at bats against left-handed pitchers.ten