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Handicapping the Nats' award hopes

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Handicapping the Nats' award hopes

The regular season has long since ended. The postseason is now over, as well. And the offseason is about to kick into high gear.

But sandwiched in between all of that is another season, one that Nationals fans will need to pay attention to more than any previous year: Award season.

Yes, the time has come to hand out plaques, statues and bats and gloves made out of precious metals. The fun begins tonight with the Gold Glove awards, then concludes Nov. 15 with the MVP awards.

Plenty of Nationals are going to be in the mix for all of the honors. Let's run through each award and handicap everyone's chances...

GOLD GLOVES
Announced: Tonight, 9:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Previous Nats winner: Ryan Zimmerman (2009)
Who votes: NL managers and coaches
Two Nationals infielders were named finalists: Ian Desmond and Adam LaRoche. Desmond faces stiff competition from three fellow shortstops: Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins and the Zack Cozart. Desmond has a strong case, but remember that managers and coaches tend to vote based on old-fashioned stats (errors, fielding percentage) and what they see with their own eyes. Rollins had the best fielding percentage (.978) and errors (13) of the group, with Cozart (.975, 14 errors) right behind him. Desmond committed 15 errors but spent five weeks on the DL, so his fielding percentage is a lower .970. Reyes had the most errors (18) with a .973 fielding percentage. LaRoche seems to have a better chance of winning. His .995 fielding percentage was second only to Carlos Lee's .996 among NL first basemen, and his seven errors were second only to Joey Votto (another finalist) and Lee's six. Freddie Freeman (12 errors, .991 fielding percentage) is the other finalist. What distinguishes LaRoche from the rest is his superb ability to scoop up bad throws from his fellow infielders.
Chance of Desmond winning: 25 percent
Chance of LaRoche winning: 50 percent

SILVER SLUGGERS
Announced: Nov. 8, 6 p.m. (MLB Network)
Previous Nats winners: Alfonso Soriano (2006), Ryan Zimmerman (2009, 2010)
Who votes: NL managers and coaches
There are several potential candidates off the Nationals roster, with Desmond and LaRoche in the mix as well as Ryan Zimmerman and ... Stephen Strasburg. (Yes, they give out a Silver Slugger to the best-hitting pitcher in the NL.) LaRoche has a strong case, having led first basemen with 33 homers and 100 RBI. His .510 slugging percentage was solid, too, though he trailed Joey Votto (.567), Allen Craig (.522), Garrett Jones (.516) and Corey Hart (.507) in that department. Votto's .337 batting average lapped the field, but the Reds slugger will be penalized for having played in only 111 games. Desmond has an almost air-tight case at shortstop, leading his position with 25 homers, a .292 average and .511 slugging percentage. Hanley Ramirez (24 homers, 92 RBI) and Jimmy Rollins (23 homers, 102 runs) present some worthy cases, but neither matches Desmond in overall offensive production. Zimmerman would have been a shoo-in to win his third Silver Slugger (and perhaps his first NL MVP) had he produced all season the way he did after receiving a June 24 cortisone shot in his shoulder, but managers and coaches aren't going to take that into consideration. There are plenty of worthy third baseman, from Chase Headley (31 homers, 115 RBI, .498 slugging percentage) to Aramis Ramirez (27 homers, 105 RBI, .540 slugging percentage) to David Wright (21 homers, 93 RBI, .306 average). Then there's Strasburg, who led all NL pitchers with seven RBI and five extra-base hits while finishing third with a .277 batting average behind Mike Leake (.295) and old pal Jason Marquis (.281).
Chance of LaRoche winning: 50 percent
Chance of Desmond winning: 75 percent
Chance of Zimmerman winning: 15 percent
Chance of Strasburg winning: 75 percent

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Announced: Nov. 12, 6 p.m. (MLB Network)
Previous best Nats finish: Ryan Zimmerman (2nd place, 2006)
Who votes: Baseball Writers Association of America
Bryce Harper certainly is among the favorites for this prestigious award, his 98 runs and 57 extra-base hits leading all NL rookies. He ranked second in homers (22) and stolen bases (18), third in slugging (.477) and fourth in OPS (.817). Harper's chief competition: Reds third baseman/outfielder Todd Frazier (.273, 19 homers), Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario (28 homers, 71 RBI) and Diamondbacks left-hander Wade Miley (16-11, 3.33 ERA).
Chance of Harper winning: 50 percent

MANAGER OF THE YEAR
Announced: Nov. 13, 6 p.m. (MLB Network)
Previous best Nats finish: Frank Robinson (4th place, 2005)
Who votes: BBWAA
Davey Johnson has as strong a case as anyone for this award, having guided a Nationals club that had never posted a winning record to a 98-win season that led the majors. His chief competition will be Dusty Baker, who also led the Reds to 98 wins, though that team had higher expectations entering the season. Historically, the BBWAA gives the Manager of the Year to the skipper whose team most exceeded preseason expectations, which makes Johnson the front-runner.
Chance of Johnson winning: 67 percent

CY YOUNG
Announced: Nov. 14, 6 p.m. (MLB Network)
Previous best Nats finish: Chad Cordero (5th place, 2005)
Who votes: BBWAA
Gio Gonzalez is in the running for his first Cy Young Award, his case built behind the fact he won an MLB-best 21 games while posting a 2.89 ERA, leading the league in strikeouts per nine innings (9.3) and fewest hits allowed per nine innings (6.7). But Gonzalez is going to have a tough time overtaking knuckleball sensation R.A. Dickey, who won 20 games with a 2.73 ERA, a league-best 230 strikeouts and a league-best 27 quality starts. Clayton Kershaw (13-9, 2.58 ERA, 221 strikeouts) also has a case, as does dominant Braves closer Craig Kimbrel (1.02 ERA, 42 saves, 113 strikeouts in only 61 innings).
Chance of Gonzalez winning: 25 percent

MVP
Announced: Nov. 15, 6 p.m. (MLB Network)
Previous best Nats finish: Alfonso Soriano (6th place, 2006)
Who votes: BBWAA
There's really no legitimate chance of a Nationals player winning the most prestigious of postseason awards, but both Desmond and LaRoche should find their way on plenty of ballots (voters are instructed to list their top 10 players). It'll be interesting to see who gets more votes between the two; LaRoche was a more consistent presence all season, but Desmond carried the club for a good stretch over the summer before he was sidelined with a strained oblique muscle. As for the actual winner of the award, as the season wound down, it appeared to be a showdown between batting champ Buster Posey and reigning MVP Ryan Braun.
Chance of Desmond winning: .001 percent
Chance of LaRoche winning: .001 percent

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Nats not ready to reveal playoff rotation, how Gio Gonzalez may fit in

Nats not ready to reveal playoff rotation, how Gio Gonzalez may fit in

Just because the Los Angeles Dodgers have released their playoff rotation plans for the NL Division Series, doesn't mean the Nationals are ready to do the same.

Manager Dusty Baker remained coy about who will start for the Nats opposite Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill and Kenta Maeda. He doesn't see any reason to do so until he absolutely has to.

"Just because they did it doesn't mean we've gotta do it. Hey man, they can do what they want to do. I don't really see a point in releasing it so early," he said. "That's nobody's business right now. We'll tell you when we tell you."

[RELATED: Dodgers set rotation for playoff series against Nationals]

Okay, fair enough. We already know who will be pitching Game 1, barring something extraordinary. Max Scherzer will be getting the ball for that one. The same for Tanner Roark in Game 2.

Game 3 is where it gets interesting, though lefty Gio Gonzalez is emerging as the favorite there. GM Mike Rizzo dropped that hint on 106.7 The Fan on Wednesday morning. That would leave Joe Ross for Game 4, unless the Nats opt to pitch Scherzer on short rest, which they have indicated they don't want to do.

"It's probably no secret anyways, other than when you get past No. 2 and 3," Baker said. "Gio's penciled in anyway."

So, when will the Nationals announce their rotation? Technically, they can wait until next week, as playoff rosters don't have to be revealed until the morning of Game 1.

"We haven't talked about it yet. We have to talk about it as a staff before we let you guys know. We'll probably do that on Friday, then we'll let you know," Baker said.

Baker circled back to Gonzalez on Wednesday with the lefty set to make his final regular season start later that night. Gonzalez has reverted back to inconsistency with 14 earned runs allowed in 19 1/3 innings across his last four starts. That followed a stretch of 11 outings from the beginning of July through August where he had a 3.16 ERA.

Baker is preferring to look at Gonzalez with glass half-full optimism as the team enters the postseason.

"Let's not expect bad out of Gio. I'm expecting good out of Gio. I told him when the season started that he was the main key to this ballclub. I didn't know he would be the main key at this point in time coming into these playoffs, but Gio can put him and us on the map with the way he performs," he said.

Gonzalez does have a strong track record against the Dodgers, who happen to feature a lefty-heavy lineup. Gonzalez held them to one run through six innings back in July. And since 2012, he has eight runs in 32 innings against L.A. Certainly, Baker and the Nats would like some more of that.

[RELATED: Podcast: Can Nationals win without Wilson Ramos?]

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Harper and Murphy remain out, as Gio makes final playoff tuneup

Harper and Murphy remain out, as Gio makes final playoff tuneup

Nats (92-65) vs. Diamondbacks (65-92) at Nationals Park

The Nationals have reached their final five games of the regular season, which means each start made by their rotation will be that pitcher's final tuneup for the playoffs. On Wednesday, it's Gio Gonzalez (11-10, 4.51) on the mound making his final start before he likely pitches in Game 3 against the Dodgers. The lefty will be making his 32nd start of the season.

That is, of course, if weather permits. Heavy rain is in the forecast and Wednesday night's game could be affected by it. If Gonzalez can't pitch due to the weather, he will skip his start to attend Jose Fernandez' funeral in Florida.

Bryce Harper (thumb) and Daniel Murphy (buttock) remain out of the Nationals' lineup. Harper could have played, but the Nats want to play it safe on the wet field given what happened to Wilson Ramos on Monday.

First pitch: 7:05 p.m.
TV: MASN2
Radio: 106.7 The Fan
Starting pitchers: Nats - Gio Gonzalez vs. Diamondbacks - Shelby Miller

NATS

2B Trea Turner
CF Ben Revere
3B Anthony Rendon
1B Clint Robinson
LF Jayson Werth
RF Brian Goodwin
SS Danny Espinosa
C Jose Lobaton
LHP Gio Gonzalez

DIAMONDBACKS

2B Jean Segura
SS Chris Owings
1B Paul Goldschmidt
C Welington Castillo
LF Brandon Drury
RF Yasmany Tomas
3B Jake Lamb
CF Mitch Haniger
RHP Shelby Miller

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