One of the problems that can hurt the Washington Nationals in October is that teams will be trying to steal bases on Matt Wieters
When Trea Turner is healthy and the offense is clicking, one of the things the Washington Nationals offense is known for is trying to steal bases. But, once the postseason comes around, their opponent (possibly the Chicago Cubs) might try to pull the same strategy on them.
This season, you can say that Matt Wieters has been a disappointment for the offensive production being down, but his caught stealing percentage has also gone down drastically from last year. According to Baseball Reference, he has thrown out 25% of runners, which is a ten percent decrease from 2016 with the Orioles.
Let’s take a look at September in particular, it is a small sample size, but teams are 8-for-9 stealing bases on Wieters. This doesn’t include the throwing error he had on Thursday night trying to pick off Ozzie Albies and the ball went all the way into right field.
If Wieters isn’t throwing out baserunners, then it is up to the pitchers to try to control the running game. Unfortunately, the Nats starting rotation is not be the best in that category. All season, only three pitchers have picked off baserunners. Those pitchers are Tanner Roark, Enny Romero, and Jacob Turner.
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With the Nats playing the NL Central winner in the NLDS in all likelihood, the Brewers and Cubs are two teams that can wreak havoc on the bases. Since the All-Star break, Milwaukee has the most stolen bases in the NL (47) and the Cubs are tied with the Nats for sixth (33).
In their seven matchups against the Cubs this year, Chicago didn’t try to run much on Wieters. They were 4-for-5 in stolen bases against the Nats catcher with two of the steals coming courtesy of Javier Baez (seven stolen bases leads the Cubs in the second half). However, Wieters did pick off Jason Heyward and caught him stealing on August 6.
Now, the offense has been a problem for Wieters this year except with runners in scoring position (44 of his 51 RBI’s in those spots). He won’t have to carry the offense, but any baserunner moving into scoring position could be the difference between winning or losing a game in the postseason.
Meanwhile, if the Nats opponent is the Cubs, Chicago has a big edge defensively with the arm Willson Contreras has behind the plate. Also, they went out before the trade deadline and added veteran Alex Avila in the Justin Wilson deal after the Nats ran on Miguel Montero in June.
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As we have seen the last few days, teams are going to take their chances on the bases against the Nats. With defense being a struggle, it might be better to just hold the ball instead of throwing it into the outfield. Their best defensive catcher is Pedro Severino, but he might not make the playoff roster. Defense at catcher is a cause for concern heading to October.