As we begin the National League Championship Series, featuring the Nationals and Cardinals, our positional breakdown of the Nats needed an update. Some of this is borrowed from our Wild Card preview post, with lots of additions.
In a matchup with just about anyone, Max Scherzer would be enough to tip the scales in the Nats favor. He’s the epitome of a bulldog, solidifying that status when he K’d 10 Phillies with a broken face.
Mad Max Scherzer is truly one of the most intimidating pitchers of this era. Number one of number ones. There’s a good chance he has no idea what swag is. That’s swag. Here he is making quick work of WPW on photo day:
Scherzer had some fire PE Trout 5s this year, too.
Stephen Strasburg follows right behind Scherzer in unhittable-ness, and it may surprise some that Strasburg has some of the best gear that Nike makes. Strasburg chatted with WPW a couple years back:
One of our favorite cleats of the year, Strasburg has his infant daughter’s feet as a pattern on his cleats. This is “Player Exclusive” Swag.
Strasburg, with his 1.32 postseason ERA, is a few scoreless innings from cracking the All-Time Top 10 with names like Rivera, Ruth, Mathewson, and Koufax.
Rounding out the Nationals three-headed monster, Patrick Corbin’s off-season signing flew under the radar as the departure of Bryce Harper grabbed headlines.
Corbin gave the Nats a 3-man rotation that is as good as any in the game right now. The Wilson B2 we saw in Spring Training was a perfect combo of black and red. Get it for $380 at Wilson.com.
No pics of Anibal Sanchez, but check out that shagging Rawlings beauty. Anibal’s “butterfly” change got him 9 K’s in his Division Series start. Its the kind of pitch that you can tell the hitter its coming and he still won’t hit it.
Depth is an essential feature of great teams, and the Nats have that at the catcher position. Yan Gomes steps in for Kurt Suzuki after a nasty HBP in the Division Series.
The Sao Paolo, Brazil native will wear Mizuno gear and leather behind the dish. His game glove is a well-worn GMP2, similar if not identical to this one for $400 at JustBallgloves.com. His Mizuno Pro catcher’s gear is also shoppable at BaseballExpress.com.
Kurt Suzuki brings pre-WPW era swag, all the way back to his College World Series days with Cal State Fullerton, where he won the Brooks Wallace Award for the nation’s best player in the 2004 National Championship season for the Titans.
Suzuki has been a Nike contract player for as long as we can remember, and with the number of teams he’s played for, Kurt probably has more player exclusive Nike gear than anyone on the planet. The WPW follower wore (if not in games, in practice) the MLB’s first and only (we think) Nike catcher’s glove back in 2014. As far as catcher’s go, Suzuki is a swag legend.
Ryan Zimmerman has “Fifteen in The Show / 1000 RBI Club” swag. Less than 300 men are in the 1000 RBI Club. His gear has mostly been forgettable, though his third base pattern is now the Kris Bryant pattern.
Zimmerman basically ensured a Game 5 in this NLDS by clubbing a letters-high 97 MPH fastball from Pedro Baez. He did it with a Louisville Slugger C353, a lumberjack cut that traces its roots to Jeff Conine. Its the same bat that Josh Hamilton swung in his legendary Yankee Stadium HR Derby in 2008. The most similar bat available to the public is the i13, for $50-$150 at Slugger.com.
In our Wildcard matchup post, we left Howie Kendrick out of the post. Howie clearly took exception to it as he smashed the biggest home run in Nationals history… a dead central grand slam in the 10th inning of the decisive fifth game, sending Washington to their first-ever NLCS.
As an apology, I’m going to break down the perfection that is Howie Kendrick’s swing. Long before the legendary bomb, I’ve admired Kendrick’s swing, which has yielded a .294 lifetime batting average over 14 seasons, good enough for top 20 among active players.
Kendrick’s swing is flawless. He manages to maintain balance, keep his hands back and head still; no matter the pitch type, location, or speed. He is the textbook example of “trusting the hands” and “letting the ball travel.” In this highlight reel, facing a variety of pitches and locations, Kendrick’s head, shoulders, hips, and legs are always in the same place, doing the same thing, in perfect balance. Howie is not a guess hitter. He is disciplined, seeing the ball as long as humanly possible, trusting that his lightning quick hands will find the barrel. Because of this approach, he almost always gets his “A” swing off, capable of driving the ball to all fields. For a right-handed hitter, this should be your model.
Kendrick slides over to the keystone for Game 1 of the Championship Series, wearing this mash-up of classic and modern Rawlings Pro Mesh. We’ll work on a link for this one.
Anthony Rendon is an absolute baller who belongs in the conversation with Bregman, Bryant, Donaldson and Arenado as the best 3Bs in the game. To add to the swag, Rendon has Adidas PE’s with his initials and number sewn in, and this off-season Rendon will achieve the exceptionally rare “I Made a Quarter Billion Playing a Kid’s Game” Swag.
The easy-going-borderline-goofy Rendon let the Nats hop on his back in 2019.
Rendon’s Rawlings Heart of the Hide H-Web is another classic beauty.
We think its a PRONP2, similar to this custom return on JustBallgloves.com, but we’ll update this when we get word from Rawlings.
Fastest player in baseball. Check.
Tremendous taste in leather. Check. (This Rawlings PRONP5-IKC 11.5″ beauty is a special order but you can get close for $360 on Rawlings.com.)
Lets WPW in his home to talk about gloves. Check. Long-time WPW follower and star shortstop for the Nationals, Trea Turner checks all the boxes.
Juan Soto, at 20 years old, is dominating in the MLB. The Acuña craze is warranted, but Soto might be better when its all said and done. He, along with Ted Williams, are the only players under 22 years old with 100 RBI, 100 runs, and 100 walks in the first 162 games of their career. That “In the Same Breath as Ted Williams” Swag.
You see a lot of guys thanking God as they’re rounding the bases or in post-game cliches, but how many do you see on their knees in prayer before the game starts. There’s a certain humility, gratitude and focus that Soto exudes that makes you forget that he’s not even old enough to drink.
With Victor Robles recovering from a hamstring injury, fellow speed demon Michael A. Taylor will get the start in center, wearing a sneaky Mizuno H-Web in black with a red web. JustBallgloves.com offers a Mizuno Pro 12.75″ H-Web, the same model in a beautiful camel colorway for $350 ($150 off original price, lefty only). Other similar options are available, too.
Adam Eaton was the prize for Washington in a December 2016 deal that sent #1 prospect Lucas Giolito to the White Sox, and Eaton will get his first big chance for the Nationals in this Wild Card game. He’ll have plenty of opportunities the two-hole of a dangerous lineup. He’s clearly got sock swag, crushes the knee-high taper, and if the Nats can extend their stay, Eaton is a solid bet for Strongest Playoff Beard.