This weekend, the Dodgers welcome the NL East-leading Washington Nationals to Los Angeles. The Boys in Blue will be facing the best starting pitchers the Nationals have to offer in Ross Detwiler, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez. Information taken from Baseball-Reference, Fangraphs and www.minorleaguecentral.com.Friday, April 27: Ross Detwiler (L)
Ross Detwiler is the most surprising pitcher on the most surprising team. Thought to be filling space until Chien-Meng Wang returns from injury,Detwiler has put together three starts where he has allowed only one run over 16 innings. Detwiler hasn't been doing it with smoke and mirrors either. He throws either a 92mph four-seam fastball or a 91mph sinking fastball a combined 70% of the time. The "book" says to throw your fastball 70% of the time and work your offspeed pitches off of that. Detwiler is the first pitcher the Dodgers have faced this season who throws his fastball "enough". He may also be the first pitcher they've faced not named Greinke with a fastball worthy of throwing that often. Detwiler will also use a 79mph slider (20%) as his main offspeed pitch, while working in an 84mph changeup about 10% of the time.
What to Watch For: Detwiler is going to come after hitters with a heavy dose of challenge fastballs and sinkers. His slider is a good pitch that he will work down and under the hands of a right-handed hitter for a strikeout pitch, while working it away from lefties. He has a tendency to elevate the sinker, but he throws it hard enough that he can get away with it at times. Dodger hitters are going to have to lay off the sinkers down in the zone and wait for a pitch they can drive.
Pick to Click: I think this is a tough matchup for the Dodgers, but I'm going with professional AB A.J. Ellis
Saturday, April 28: Stephen Strasburg (R)
Oh, the matchup that could have been. Strasburg has had a whirlwind couple of years. Going from sure-fire #1 overall draft pick to record setting signing bonus to striking out 14 Pirates in his MLB debut after only 11 minor league starts to Tommy John Surgery that knocked him out of 2011. Now back with the big club carrying a fresh elbow ligament, Strasburg has picked up right where he left off. In 25 innings this year he has 25 strikeouts against only six walks, allowing only three earned runs for a 1.08 ERA.
What to Watch For: From top to bottom, Strasburg probably has the most electric repertoire in baseball. He throws a 96mph four-seam fastball (41% of the time), a 95mph sinking fastball with incredible movement (24%), an 80mph curveball 22%) and an 88mph changeup (13%). But, Strasburg relies so much on his movement and velocity that he often does not locate his pitches very well. It is well known that Strasburg is on an innings limit this season, and if the Dodgers are able to get his pitch count up early in the game by fouling off tough pitches and making him work for his strikeouts (which, to be honest, if he has less than 10 strikeouts against us it'll be a good game), they might be able to get to the bullpen and do some damage. If, instead, the Dodgers try to attack his pitches early in the count, I think Strasburg is going to have a nice relaxing stroll through our order.
Pick to Click: Vin Scully. It'll be his first look at Stephen Strasburg, and I can't wait to hear him tell the story.
Sunday, April 29: Gio Gonzalez (L)
Phew. We did it. We survived Stephen Strasburg. What's that? Another ace pitcher today? But this is the Nationals! They stink! Gio Gonzalez? When did that happen?! Crap.
On the young season, Gio Gonzalez has been matching Strasburg inning for inning. He's striking out over 10 hitters per 9 innings, and walking fewer than 3 per 9. If you're a peripherals fan, his FIP and xFIP are actually lower than Strasburg's. Gonzalez also comes after you with a fastball (are you seeing a trend with the Nationals' strategy?), throwing either his 93mph four-seamer or 93mph two-seamer a combined 64% of the time, while mixing in an 80mph curveball (24%) and 85mph changeup (12%).
What to Watch For: Gio Gonzalez carries with him some deception in his mechanics, and releases every single pitch he throws in the same arm slot, at the same release point, and at the same timing.
The rub with Gonzalez is that he tends to elevate his pitches, and has trouble locating at the knees. Watch for him to get some pitches around the thighs. Those are the pitches Dodger hitters are going to have to attack if they want to find success.
Pick to Click: Another day game, another Jerry Hairston Jr. pick to click.