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July 2013 Monthly Review of Nats Rotation by Opponent

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Zimmermann really struggled in July. Photo Manuel Balce-Ceneta/AP

Zimmermann really struggled in July. Photo Manuel Balce-Ceneta/AP

[Editor’s note: duh, I published this with the wrong title; just fixed 8/2/13]

Continuing a monthly series of look-backs at our starters (here’s Apr 2013May 2013June 2013, July2013 posts), here’s a monthly glance at how our rotation is doing from a Starting Pitching standpoint. As with previous posts, we’ll have “Grades” per outing, the team’s performance per opposing starter sliced and diced a few ways, and other per-starter stuff that I like to track.

MLB Rotation Per-Start Grades (click here for Nats overall season stats)

  • Strasburg: A,C,F,B,A+,D
  • Gonzalez: C+,A,A+,B,F-
  • Zimmermann: C-,C,B,F-,D
  • Haren: C-,A+,D,A
  • Jordan: B-,C-,B,C+,A
  • Ohlendorf: B long relief,A spot start
  • Detwiler: B- -> D/L

Quick Summary:  A month where we had a handful of really shocking blow-up starts.  Gonzalez‘s 11 run debacle  yesterday, Strasburg‘s 2 inning/7 run meltdown being the most shocking examples.  Only rookie Taylor Jordan kept an even keel, never pitching that badly and only really pitching excellently in his last start (also, not coincidentally his first win).  I will say it is good to see Dan Haren putting in some good-to-great starts; that may really help.  Ross Ohlendorf‘s injury yesterday better not be serious; Jordan’s innings limit is fast, fast approaching.

Performance By Opponent Starting Pitcher Rotation Order Number

A look at the opposing team’s rotation ranked 1-5 in the order they’re appearing from opening day.  This table changes at the all-star break and honestly must be taken with a grain of salt, since guys like Clayton Kershaw are now the “#3 starter” because their turns were skipped coming out of the all-star game.

Starter # Record Opposing Starter in Wins Opposing Starter in Losses
1 2-3 Gallardo, Burnett Hamels, Nolaso, Sanchez
2 2-3 Lee, Slowey Peralta, Greinke, Verlander
3 1-4 Harvey Lohse, Kendrick, Kershaw, Liriano
4 2-1 Marquis, Gee Cole
5 2-3 Hand, Torres Lannan, Fernandez, Morton
5+ 2-2 Cashner, Erlin Eovaldi, Mejia

Quick thoughts: given the aforementioned caveat of having Justin Verlander listed as a #2 and Kershaw listed as a #3, the team more or less performed as you’d expect.  A 1-4 record against opposing teams’ #3 starters is really skewed by the likes of Harvey, Lohse, Kershaw and Liriano in that grouping, all four guys being their team’s current aces.  This table is becoming less and less meaningful as rotations get scattered as the season goes along.

Performance By Opponent Starting Pitcher Actual Performance Rank Intra-Rotation

A ranking of opposing teams’ rotations by pure performance at the time of the series, using ERA+ heavily.

Starter # Record Opposing Starter in Wins Opposing Starter in Losses
1 3-4 Lee, Harvey, Cashner Sanchez, Lohse, Kershaw, Fernandez
2 1-2 Hand Kendrik, Liriano
3 4-2 Gallardo, Burnett, Marquis, Gee Greinke, Eovaldi
4 1-4 Erlin Nolasco, Peralta, Verlander, Morton
5 2-2 Slowey, Torrez Hamels, Cole
5+ 0-2 Lannan, Mejia

Quick Thoughts: the Nats actually held their own very well against other teams’ best performing guys.  They hung losses on Matt Harvey somehow, and hung a loss on Cliff Lee.  Less impressive was the collapse against AAA-callup Jenrry Mejia or the no-show against former teammmate John Lannan.

Performance By Opponent Starting Pitcher League-wide “Rank”
A team-independent assignment of a league-wide “rank” of what the starter is. Is he an “Ace?” Is he a #2?

Starter # Record Opposing Starter in Wins Opposing Starter in Losses
1 2-4 Harvey, Lee Kershaw, Grienke, Verlander, Hamels
2 0-3 Sanchez, Liriano, Fernandez
3 2-3 Gallardo, Burnett Lohse, Nolasco, Cole
4 0-1 Kendrick
5 6-4 Cashner, Hand, Marquis, Gee, Erlin, Slowey Eovaldi, Peralta, Morton, Lannan
5+ 1-1 Torres Mejia

Quick thoughts: despite a supposedly “weak” schedule the team faced a lot of big-time names in July.  Six of the 27 games went against league-wide Aces, a tall order for any team.  They also got whitewashed by the near-Aces/#2 starters, losing all three games against these types.  More disappointing?  Only a 6-4 record against league-wide #5 pitchers, the kind of guys that are nearly interchangeable with AAA players.  Maybe John Lannan isn’t really a #5 starter (probably not; he’s probably more of a #4), but the rest of these guys?

Records by Pitching Advantage

Start-by-start advantages in my own opinion and then looking at the results.

Wash 4-6 Zim-Gallardo, Gio-Cashner, Zim-Marquis, Stras-Erlin Det-Lohse, Stras-Nolasco, Zim-Kendrick, Stras-Eovaldi, Stras-Peralta, Zim-Mejia
Even 3-3 Gio-Burnett, Jordan-Hand, Jordan-Torres Gio-Verlander, Stras-Sanchez, Stras-Liriano
Opp 4-8 Jordan-Slowey, Ohlendorf-Harvey, Haren-Gee, Gio-Lee Zimm-Kershaw, Gio-Greinke, Haren-Fernandez, Jordan-Hamels, Haren-Lannan, Jordan-Cole, Haren-Morton

A sign of how our season has gone:  I gave opponents the clear advantage in 12 of our 27 games this month.    Compare this to April, when I only gave our opponents the advantage in TWO of our first 27 games.  We’re to the point where Haren and Jordan are automatically underdogs nearly every time they take the mound, and we face enough power arms where our big three may not always be favored to win either.

Matchup analysis

Looking at the opposing starter rank that our guys are going up against to see how their competition fares.

Nats Starters Opponents matchup analysis Nats Record under starter
Strasburg Two #2s, a #3 and three #5s 1-5
Gonzalez Three Aces, a #3 and a #5 3-2
Zimmermann An Ace, a #3, a #4 and two #5s 2-3
Haren one #2, three #5s 1-3
Detwiler one #3 0-1
Jordan An Ace, a #3 and three #5s 3-2
Ohlendorf An Ace in Harvey 1-0

Instead of classifying by rotation order in this table, this is by “league wide rank.”  And we see some very interesting information.

  • The team was only 1-5 in Strasburg’s 6 starts this month, and he wasn’t exactly going against an all-star collection of opposing starters.  That’s a big-time area of concern.  It all comes down to run support.
  • Gio meanwhile had to face up with three of the best 20 pitchers in the league and still managed to have a winning record during his starts.
  • Zimmermann, as we see in his grades, tailed off badly this month.
  • Haren, despite facing off mostly against other #5 quality guys, still conspired to lose 3 of his four starts.
  • Jordan, as we all know, has really surprised everyone and has been helping the team win.
  • Ohlendorf faced off against one of (if not the) major’s best hurlers and the team got a win in his spot start.

 

Nats Starter Matchup Monthly Analysis

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Ross Detwiler has been helping to keep the team afloat all year. Photo: Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images

In the same spirit of grading the Minor League starters from yesterday’s post, here’s letter grades for each of the starts in April for our MLB rotation:

MLB Rotation:

  • Strasburg: A,D-,A-,B-,C+,B-
  • Gonzalez: A,B+,F,D,A+,D-
  • Zimmermann: B,B+,A,B-,A+
  • Haren: F,D,D-,C-,B+
  • Detwiler: A,A-,A-,B-,C-

Discussion: Nats YTD Stats are here for reference

We’ve all been watching the games, so nothing surprising here.   Jordan Zimmermann has quietly been one of the best starters in the NL so far.  He’s working on a .861 WHIP and has 5 straight Quality Starts.  This is reflected in his grade scores above.   Meanwhile. Dan Haren‘s early struggles are slowly turning into workable outings.  Ross Detwiler‘s Sunday loss was “death by paper cuts” and his 11 hits allowed wasn’t as bad as it looked in the box score.  I’d like to see some more consistency out of Gio Gonzalez; is he an 8ip-1hit guy or is he 7 runs in 5 innings guy?  There really hasn’t been an in-between for him.  Lastly Stephen Strasburg hasn’t pitched that badly (one bad outing out of 6) but has gotten almost no run support, contributing to his ugly W/L record.


Now here’s some fun Starting Pitcher Matchup analysis.  I’ve been keeping track of the opposing starter we’ve faced each night and ranked them three different ways:

  • Their Rotation Order intra team: the opening day starter for a team is their “#1″ and the other four guys are ranked 2-5 as they appear in the opposing rotation.
  • Their Ranked Performance intra-team: at the time of their series with the Nats, the 5 starters on a team are ranked 1-5 on pure in-season performance.  The guy with the best season stats at that time is ranked #1, the guy with the worst #5.
  • Their Subjective League-Wide “Rank” as a pitcher: a subjective look at whether the opposing starter is a league wide “Ace,” a near-Ace or #2, and the like.

I also kept track on a night-to-night basis a quick opinion on whether I felt the Nats had the Starting Pitching Advantage (or if it was an even-matchup, or if I felt the opposing team had the pitching advantage) and tracked how we did.

Here’s some analysis based on our opposing pitcher each night.  It provides some interesting insight into the team’s performance so far.


Rotation Order Stats

Starter # Record Opposing Starter in Wins Opposing Starter in Losses
1 2-4 Nolasco (2) Cueto, Hudson (2), Wainwright
2 2-3 Slowey, Peavy Maholm, Harvey, Garcia
3 5-0 Leblanc (2), Floyd, Hefner, Arroyo
4 1-3 Bailey Bailey, Sanabia, Gee
5 3-3 Leake (2), Axlerod Teheran (2), Miller
5+ 0-1 Cingrani

In other words, the Nats are 2-4 versus opposing team’s “Aces,” 2-3 against their #2’s, etc.

(Note: a “5+” pitcher means a starter who was not on the opening day roster for a team.  We’ll see a ton more 5+’s as more starters go down with injury and are replaced by minor league call-ups).

Not all #1 starters are made the same, nor are #5 starters.  The team has the expected losing record against other team’s #1s, but also has a relatively weak record against other team’s #4 and #5 starters.  Some of this is thanks to Haren‘s weak matchup as our #4 starter, and some of this is because guys like Homer Bailey, Shelby Miller and Tony Cingrani aren’t exactly bottom tier starters in this league (we’ll see this later on with the “League Wide Rank” table).


I initially started tracking this ranked-opposing starter analysis to prove to a friend that a team’s “Ace” doesn’t always go against another team’s “Ace.”  And you can see how quickly team’s rotations get mis-matched versus one another thanks to the unbalanced schedule and irregular off-days:

Strasburg Three vs #1, Two vs #2, One vs #5
Gonzalez Three vs #2, Two vs #3, One vs #1
Zimmermann Three vs #3, Two vs #4
Haren Two vs #4, Three vs #5
Detwiler Two vs #5, Two vs #1, One vs #5+

Detwiler’s #5 rotation spot is now matched up essentially with the #1 spot of a lot of his opponents (the one #5+ spot was Cingrani, who took Cincinnati’s #1 spot from Johnny Cueto when he hit the D/L), and has been since mid April.  Thankfully our #5 has been pitching like a #2 all year.

You can kind of tell what has happened to the Nats versus opponents in terms of schedule off-days just by looking at this list; clearly the Nats stayed on schedule with their opponents for at least the first three turns through the rotation, then jumped ahead a day for two turns,


Ranked Performance intra-team

1 2-3 Nolasco (2) Cueto, Maholm, Harvey
2 2-1 Peavy, Bailey Miller
3 2-4 Slowey, Floyd Hudson, Bailey, Wainwright, Cingrani
4 4-2 Leblanc (2), Hefner, Arroyo Hudson, Garcia
5 3-4 Leake (2), Axlerod Sanabia, Teheran (2), Gee

In other words, the Nats are 2-3 against opposing teams’ best pitcher at the time of the series, 2-1 against the opposing team’s 2nd best performing pitcher at the time of the series, etc.

As with the above, not all #1s are the same.  Ricky Nolasco is perhaps the 4th starter on a good rotation but he’s the best Miami has.  Believe it or not Adam Wainwright was only the 3rd best starter on St. Louis’ team at the time of our series (behind both Jake Westbrook and Shelby Miller), despite my believing him to be an “Ace” in this league (see the next table).


League-Wide “Rank”

Starter # Record Opposing Starter in Wins Opposing Starter in Losses
1 0-3 Cueto, Harvey, Wainwright
2 1-5 Bailey Bailey, Hudson (2), Miller, Cingrani
3 4-2 Nolasco (2), Peavy, Floyd Maholm, Garcia
4 1-0 Arroyo
5 7-4 Slowey, LeBlanc (2), Axelrod, Leake (2), Hefner Sanabia, Gee, Teheran (2)

In other words, the Nats are 0-3 against MLB “Aces,” 1-5 against MLB “near aces” or #2’s, etc.

This table really shows how the team has truly done against the elite pitchers in this league.  We can argue in the comments section about my subjective ranking of pitchers (is Matt Harvey truly an “Ace” in this league?  Probably not yet, but he sure is pitching like one.  Is Julio Teheran really a #5 pitcher in this league?  Not on talent, but certainly on performance thus far), but I’m happy with my rankings for pitchers overall.

For comparison purposes with our own team talent-wise, I have Strasburg as a league-wide #1, Gonzalez and Zimmermann as #2s, Detwiler as a #3 (but rising) and Haren as a #4 (but falling; he was a #2 just a couple years ago).

The Nats have managed just one victory over Aces or near-Aces in this league so far (and that was by virtue of Zimmermann‘s one-hitter victory over Homer Bailey: you don’t win 1-0 games in the Majors very often).  They’re 12-6 against everyone else.

The team’s bigger concern should be games dropped to the #5 pitchers.   For every loss to an Ace, you have to make up for it by beating up on the lesser starters in this league.  You just cannot lose to guys like Alex Sanabia or Dillon Gee.


Performace against Expectations by Advantage

By “Advantage” Record Matchups in Wins Matchups resulting in Losses
Wash 10-6 Stras-Hudson, Stras-Garcia, Haren-Sanabia, Zimm-Gee, Detwiler-Teheran, Stras-Teheran
Even 3-6 Zimm-Bailey, Detwiler-Nolasco, Haren-Leake Stras-Cueto, Stras-Harvey, Detwiler-Wainwright, Detwiler-Cingrani, Gonzalez-Hudson, Gonzalez-Maholm
Opp 0-2 Haren-Bailey, Haren-Miller

In games where I thought Washington had the clear starting pitching advantage head-to-head, we still managed to lose 6 times.  Those losses are listed above: three times we dropped games where Strasburg was pitching against lesser opponents.  You can quibble whether Strasburg-Tim Hudson is an even matchup or not, but certainly Strasburg vs Teheran or Jaime Garcia is a mis-match on paper.

In games where I thought the pitching matchup was even, the team still went just 3-6.  Again, Strasburg ended up with some tough matchups against other fellow “Aces,” while Detwiler ran into a couple of hot-hands.

The two games where I thought our opponent had the clear advantage heading into the game both involved Haren going up against near-aces from Cincinnati and St. Louis; we lost both games easily as expected.


April Conclusion: The Nats have faced some good teams with some good pitching thus far; they need to do a better job cleaning up against opposing teams’ #5 starters.

This analysis doesn’t even start to look at the offense; with better run support Strasburg may be 4-1 instead of 1-4.  And it doesn’t look at the bullpen or our defense of course; two areas that have turned Wins into Losses pretty quickly for the team.

Nats Rotation Cycle 2012 #1: good/bad/soso

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Surprise 5th starter Detwiler turned in your best outing of the first Rotation Cycle. Photo Cathy T via nationalsdailynews.com

It has been so long since I did one of these, that I nearly forgot that I used to do them :-)

For the uninitiated, I try to do a quick recap of our starters each turn through the rotation, culminating in 33 “rotation cycle” posts that can be seen if you click on the “Nats Rotation Review” category tag to the right.  If I’ve seen the game, I’ll give more detailed analysis based on my observations.  Otherwise I’m recapping the box score and interpreting the stats to come to a conclusion.  The focus is on the starters, but there is a section for relievers and the offense.

The classifications are not very scientific; usually good, bad or mediocre/soso.  If someone is great or awful, we’ll note that as well.

Good

  • Stephen Strasburg looked healthy and in command on opening day 4/5 (box/gamer), getting a no decision after 7 complete innings.  His line: 7ip, 5 hits, 1 ER, 5K and 1BB.  More importantly he was only on 82 pitches through 7 innings, a very efficient work day.  A couple of these hits were relatively weak (one an infield pop fly that fell between 4 infielders, another a scoring issue that probably was a hit).  Its not difficult to look unhittable when its 41 degrees and the wind is blowing in, but Strasburg seems to be adopting the same strategy as his compatriot Jordan Zimmermann: pitch efficiently, pitch to contact, and keep your pitch counts down so you go deeper into games.  It may not be as flashy as a 14-K effort, but if it leads to wins everyone is happy.
  • Jordan Zimmermann‘s first start on 4/8 (box/gamer) was just as effective as Strasburg’s; unfortunately for Zimmermann he went up against a buzz-saw in Jeff Samardzija and his offense couldn’t help.  Zimmermann took the loss on a day when he went 7 complete innings on just 80 pitches, giving up 6 hits, 0 walks and one earned run.   This is the classic adage of why W/L records are misleading; if Zimmermann pitches this way all year as our #3 starter we’re going to go far.
  • Ross Detwiler‘s rotation spot won’t be going away any time soon if he continues outings like 4/10 (box/gamer).  5 innings, 2 hits and a walk with 6 Ks to earn the win.   Detwiler picks up where he left off last summer and gives immediate validation to the Lannan- demotion decision.

Bad

  • Yes, its bad when your marquee off-season acquisition Gio Gonzalez fails to get out of the 4th inning in  his debut start.  Gonzalez struggled with control and with effectiveness on 4/7 (box/gamer) and gave up 4 runs on 7 hits and 3 walks.  He did have 6 strikeouts in his 3 2/3 innings, so there’s that.  His fastball was hopping; 95mph in the first two innings, averaging about 93 on the day.  He threw mostly fastballs but wasn’t getting the swing-and-miss effect like he needed.  Of course, an outing like this isn’t helped in the analysts’ minds when Tommy Milone (the 4th best prospect sent the other way in the trade) pitched 8 shutout innings in his debut.  Lets hope this is first-start jitters.

Mediocre/Inconclusive

  • Edwin Jackson‘s 4/9 start (box/gamer) wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t as effective as we would have liked.  He was a victim of the long-ball, giving up 3 runs on 4 hits and a walk in 5 innings.  He did have 6 punchouts on a night where he threw a ton of off-speed stuff (only 42 of his 78 pitches were fast-balls; he threw a ton of sliders on the night).   The homer he gave up ended any chance of his getting a W on the night on a game that was more or less thrown away by replacement starter Henry Rodriguez.

Starter Trends

MLB Trends (through Detwiler 4/10 Cycle 1)

Strasburg    good
Gonzalez    bad
Zimmermann    good
Jackson    soso
Detwiler    good

Relievers of Note and other News

  • So far its looking like Brad Lidge may be the steal of the FA market.  He’s throwing well, his slider is back and he’s closing out save opportunities for just $1m.
  • So far, its looking like the “bad” Henry Rodriguez from 2011; a 0.00 ERA but a 2.25 whip and a loss by virtue of his own throwing error.
  • Ryan Mattheus isn’t doing himself any favors right now and may not be long for this bullpen.  Of course then again its looking like Drew Storen is closer to Tommy John surgery than returning to the field, having visited Dr. James Andrews this week.  Meanwhile, surprise 25-man roster includee Craig Stammen is performing decently in a swing-man role and looks to stick.

Thoughts on the offense

  • Adam LaRoche comes out on fire, a shock considering he’s usually a slow starter and the fact that he looked beyond awful in the first game, waving weakly at curveballs in the dirt.  Ian Desmond looks like the Desmond of September, which is great news.
  • Meanwhile, in a completely unsurprising development Roger Bernadina has started out the season 3-for-20.  Why aren’t we looking for a CF again?
  • Too bad Chad Tracy doesn’t have any OF flexibility; he’s looked great off the bench so far.

Overall Summary

Can’t argue with an away series win, despite the weakened nature of the opponent in Chicago.  We could get a second away-series win tonight if one stud young Ace (Strasburg) can beat one come-back Ace (Johan Santana).  That’s the way to go in baseball; play .500 on the road and play .600 ball at home and you’re a 90 win team in an era where 90 wins almost certainly guarantees post-season play.

Nats Rotation Cycle #33: good/bad/soso.

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31 and Done for Michael Morse, capping a fantastic breakout season. Photo Jacqueline Martin/AP via federalbaseball.com

This is it; the last rotation cycle of the season.  And it will be a shortened one; with just 3 games remaining.  But we do get one more start out of Stephen Strasburg as the team improbably has a chance to finish the season with a winning record.  To do it, they’ll have to go into the lion’s den and beat a Florida team that has had its number over the past few seasons.  Here’s the Nats record against Florida over the past few seasons:

  • 2011: 5-10 (not including last three games)
  • 2010: 5-13
  • 2009: 6-12
  • 2008: 3-14 (!)
  • 2007: 10-8
  • 2006: 7-11
  • 2005: 9-9

That’s a total (since moving to Washington) of 45-77.  This clearly needs to improve, especially since in 2011 the team beat or was even with the rest of their NL east opponents.

Good

  • Stephen Strasburg finished off the season with a bang on 9/28 (box/gamer), absolutely dominating the Marlins over 6 innings.  Final line: 1 hit, 0 runs, 2 walks and 10 Ks in just 79 pitches.  Wow.  How’s that for a teaser for 2012?

Mediocre/Inconclusive

  • Tommy Milone labored through 4 1/3 innings before getting an early hook on 9/26 (box/gamer), leaving it for later heroics (aka, Michael Morse’s 9th inning 3 run shot) to get the win.  The mediocre start caps off a pretty good September for Milone, who has certainly staked his claim for the 2012 rotation.
  • John Lannan‘s final 2011 start on 9/27 (box/gamer) wasn’t too bad; 6ip 3 hits and 3 walks resulting in 2 earned runs and a no-decision.  As has been typical in September he was yanked an inning too early (he sat on 89 pitches) and could have gone 7.  None the less, he caps off a great season, his best as a pro, and is clearly the #3 starter on this team going into 2012.

Starter Trends

2nd half
Milone    bad,soso,good,good,soso
Lannan    good,good,bad,soso,good,bad,bad,good,soso,good,bad,soso,soso,soso
Strasburg    great,soso,good,bad,great
Detwiler    soso,soso,good,good,bad,bad,soso,great,good
Wang        bad,bad,great,soso,soso,good,bad,soso,soso,soso,good,good
Peacock    good,good,great

Relievers of Note and other News

  • Mike Rizzo was quoted on 9/25 as saying the team was “an outfielder and a starting pitcher” away from real contention in 2012.  This could be an indicator of the off-season plans of the team (definitely a future blog post).  Adam Kilgore guesses the team could sacrifice some of its starter depth to obtain a center fielder (perhaps again going after someone like BJ Upton).
  • Bryce Harper will play all three OF positions in the AFL, and presumably next season, in preparation for positional flexibility once he arrives in the majors.  This makes sense to me; he’s athletic enough to play some center and has a big enough arm to play right.  Meanwhile Jayson Werth is in the same boat.  Only Michael Morse has positional inflexibility.
  • Stephen Strasburg probably will have a similar 160ip limit in 2012 that Jordan Zimmermann had this year, per various national reports.  What may be interesting is this; if this team, which has already won 78 games and surpassed most people’s predictions of between 72 and 75 wins, continues its improvement into 2012, they very well may be in the thick of the wild card race right at the time when Strasburg is set to shut down.  Would the team shelve him for a month to save innings?
  • With the 9/28/11 victory, the team officially dropped to the 16th draft pick in the first round (here’s your Reverse Standings).  Adam Kilgore commented on this same topic here.  This officially means the team had an unprotected first round draft pick for the first time since the team moved here.  This automatically and drastically changes the nature of our off season FA plans.  Knowing we have to give up the 16th overall pick (even if its a weaker draft) certainly will give pause to the draft-pick coveting front office.  Is CJ Wilson worth losing this pick?
  • Hey, here’s a shock; Doug Slaten blew another game for the Nats on 9/27  This time it was the 2nd to last game, giving up a walk-off homer to a lefty who nobody’s ever heard of to lose the game.  I don’t get it; why was Slaten even in the game?  Here’s his game-log for 2011; since returning from the DL he has had exactly ONE “successful” outing (a one-pitch, one out appearance against Houston).  Every other time he’s given up hits, walked the guy he was brought in to face, or otherwise disappointed.  Here’s hoping the team has learned all they need to learn about him and gives him his walking papers as soon as the season is over.
  • The team and Laynce Nix have “exchanged salary figures” for 2012.  Interesting; if the team locks up Nix for 2012, suddenly there’s one less outfield position available for the slew of guys potentially in the mix.  That most likely means the end of Jonny Gomes tenure here (one that probably was guaranteed by his poor batting average anyway).  The problem is that we likely won’t get the benefit of Gomes’ compensation pick now; he probably would accept an arbitration offering, sticking the team with the player for 2012 and locking up two backup outfielder positions.  Nix had a pretty good year, mostly working in a platoon situation against RHPs, and has some positional flexibilty to play LF, RF and 1B.  He’s also played CF in the past, though he seems too bulky to really be a Rizzo-preferred defender there now.

Now that the season is over, I’ll do a wrap-up of the MLB pitching similar to the other levels, and follow that up with projected 2012 positions throughout the entire system.

Nats Rotation Cycle #32: good/bad/soso

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After Wang's latest gem, perhaps he'll be in a Nats uniform a bit longer? Photo via the team.

Good

  • Tommy Milone efficiently worked his way through a Ryan Howard-less Philadelphia lineup in the first half of  9/20’s twin-bill (box/gamer) for the easy victory.  Line: 6 scoreless innings giving up just 4 hits and no walks.  He was matched by Philly’s spot starter Kyle Kendrick so he got a no-decision on the day.
  • Brad Peacock looked pretty durn good on 9/22 (box/gamer) to help the team sweep the Phillies away.  5 2/3 innings, giving up just one hit (on a somewhat questionable scoring call giving Ruiz a hit and an error on a diving stop but errant throw from Ryan Zimmerman).   He absolutely dominated the lineup through 5, finishing those 5 innings on just 50 pitches.  He gave up a ton of fly balls (small quibble: as with last week he had 9 flyball outs versus just 2 grounders), but lots of the fly ball outs were pop-ups on balls where he simply overmatched the hitter.  He struggled in the 6th, seemingly trying to aim the ball versus Oswalt and ending up with a 4-pitch walk.  He couldn’t be tired; he was only on about 55 pitches at that point.  After giving up a second walk (losing the at-bat after having Rollins down 0-2), he got a flyball out before getting yanked on just 69 pitches on the night.  Had he been left in, he could probably have gone 8 complete, but Davey decided on a lefty-lefty matchup and brought in Gorzelanny to finish off the rally.  I’m still taking the “glass is half empty” analysis here, but Peacock looked pretty good.
  • Chien-Ming Wang put an exclamation point on his comeback season, getting the win on 9/24 (box/gamer) and dominating the Atlanta Braves, who (unlike the Phillies) were certainly playing a full-strength roster.  Final line: 6ip, 4 hits 1 run (on a solo shot in the 5th) and 4 strike-outs versus zero walks.  He was only sitting on 85 pitches and could probably have gone at least one more inning easily.  He had a 9/3 go/fo out ratio, showing his sinker working well.  I wonder how negotiations are going to go with Wang in the off season (per this report here … maybe we won’t even get to the off season if the team and Wang are already talking an extension.  Great news if this is true).
  • You can’t ask for much more than Ross Detwiler did on the game’s final home game of the year on 9/25 (box/gamer), just pitch 6 scoreless innings and give a shutout to his bullpen.  Line: 6ip, 4hits, 2 walks and 4ks against a Braves team that is hanging on to the playoffs for dear life.  His day was highlighted not by dominance, but by his getting out of a bases-loaded, 0 out and 3-0 count jam without giving up a run.  He got a bloop, a flyball and a grounder out of Chipper Jones to finish off the threat and preserve the victory.  Another great statement game for Detwiler going into 2012.

Bad

  • Stephen Strasburg really struggled to be comfortable on the mound in the first inning on 9/23 (box/gamer), getting touched up for 3 runs on 4 hits (all singles but a couple hit on the nose) and facing 8 hitters before getting his 3rd out of the game.  He was missing spots, fiddling with the mound, fiddling with his landing spot, shaking his hand and going to the resin bag over and again before getting out of the inning.  He then cruised through the next three innings, facing just one over the minimum before getting yanked.  His rough first inning cost him his 5th inning; he was sitting at 75 pitches through four.  He was somewhat controlling his speed, averaging 95.5 and humping it up to 97.6 on several occasions.  His change-up was fantastic on the night, if his four-seam control was off.

Mediocre/Inconclusive

  • John Lannan got the win on 9/21 (box/gamer) on somewhat of an off day for him; 5ip, 8hits, 3runs.  Not a great outing, but enough to get his 10th win of the season.

Starter Trends; Its hard to give some of these starts just a “good” rating, especially when you give the team 6 scoreless innings (as Milone and Detwiler did).

2nd half
Milone    bad,soso,good,good
Lannan    good,good,bad,soso,good,bad,bad,good,soso,good,bad,soso,soso
Strasburg    great,soso,good,bad
Detwiler    soso,soso,good,good,bad,bad,soso,great,good
Wang        bad,bad,great,soso,soso,good,bad,soso,soso,soso,good,good
Peacock    good,good,great

Relievers of Note and other News

  • I love the fact that 9/21’s win over Philadelphia guaranteed at least a season-split with them, and then we went and took the season series the next day.  That’s right; the Nats won the season series against the best team in the majors.
  • Likewise, 9/25’s win over Atlanta split the season series with them 9-9.
  • Is anyone else worried about the Nats losing a protected 1st round pick with this late season surge?   Here’s your reverse standings (normally a point of extreme interest for Nats fans looking to wrap up the first overall pick).  I guess its a good problem to have, but it will give the team some pause if they go after a type-A free agent.
  • I havn’t always been the biggest Henry Rodriguez proponent, but I’ll give credit where credit is due.  His 7th inning appearance on 9/25/11 was perhaps the most dominant 3 outs I’ve seen a reliever throw this season.  He was dialed in on his fastball, in complete control and absolutely overpowering hitters.  He punched out Jason Heyward on a pitch that was in the glove before he swung, then got the opposing catcher to actually attempt a bunt with 2 strikes.  He then put two 101-mph pitches on Jack Wilson before throwing an 88-mph hook to end the inning that had me saying “holy cow” to my TV screen.  JP Santangelo said it best; “that may have been the best inning i’ve seen a reliever throw all year.I concur.

Overall Summary

Here’s an “arbitrary endpoint” statistic; since Livan Hernandez‘s last start on Sept 4th, the team is 14-6.  Livan and Jason Marquis‘ starts have been replaced by guys who are making pretty good statements for 2012’s rotation, and the team is doing this without Jordan Zimmermann‘s stellar #2 starter capabilities.  Maybe 2012 is going to be more than the last transition year for this team.  I’m starting to believe in these up and coming starters.  Masn put up a graphic that showed our starters having the #1 ERA in the majors for the past few weeks and it has shown.

Nats Rotation Cycle #30: good/bad/soso

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Brad Peacock gets his first turn in the rotation. Photo via bleacherreport.com

A reminder; the rotation is now Milone-Lannan-Strasburg-Detwiler-Wang after Detwiler got skipped when the last Dodger game was cancelled.   Plus we’ve found out that Brad Peacock will get a start at the end of this cycle, so this is a 6-man review.  We may be in a 6-man rotation the rest of the way as well.

Good

  • Brad Peacock‘s debut mlb start resulted in 5 scoreless innings and a win on 9/14.  Here’s much more analysis on the performance.

Bad

  • An ugly loss on 9/10 (box/gamer) from John Lannan, the one remaining rotational hold over from the beginning of the season.  2 1/3 innings, 8 hits, 6 runs (4 earned) to raise his season Era from 3.48 to 3.65.  Luckily the team has about a dozen relievers to pick up the slack now, and 5 guys combined to finish the game.  Of those 5, only Collin Balester impressed, pitching two clean innings.

Mediocre/Inconclusive

  • Tom Milone (or, as found out on Saturday, “Tommy Milone“) didn’t “appear” to be pitching badly in his 9/9 start (box/gamer), but by the time he got yanked in the 6th it seemed to be “death by paper cuts.”  He gave up 3 runs on 8 hits, had 3 Ks and (of course) zero walks in his tenure.  89 pitches, 64 of them strikes.  Pitch F/X is still struggling to properly classify his pitches, as were the Masn announcers, who routinely were claiming his cutter is the same speed as his fastball.  In reality he throws his four-seamer between 88-90 with good movement, and his cutter comes in at about 86.  He mostly as a 2-pitch pitcher last night, fastball and change-up, with five big curves thrown in and just a handful of cutters.  He really struggled to get his cutter on-target, but did get a great bat-snapping cutter for a weak grounder early on.  He worked the corners really well, but got punished when he missed over the plate.  A couple of guys flailed on curves and outside pitches for weak hits (hence my “paper cut” comment), and he was victimized each time a lead-off hitter got on base (3 innings with first batter retired?  0 runs.  3 innings with the lead-off hitter getting on base?  Scored each time).  Milone definitely works the corners well though, and throws a ton of strikes.  I continue to wonder if he will be a Greg Maddox-type pitcher (i.e., someone who doesn’t throw amazingly hard but has such great control and movement) or if he’ll flame out into a 4-A type starter, great in the minors but without good enough stuff to be successful in the majors.  We need more starts, more evidence.
  • Wunderkid Stephen Strasburg‘s 2nd start back was troubling against the Astros on 9/11 (box/gamer).  From the first pitch (a 94-mph fast ball) he clearly didn’t have the velocity that he featured in his first start (to say nothing of his 2010 velocity).  The Astros worked him for 30+ pitches in the first inning, and he was sitting at 57 pitches through 3 complete innings before getting the safety hook from the dugout.  He seemed to be struggling with the control of his 2-seamer and wasn’t throwing his curve nearly as much as he needed to.  On the plus side, his change-up was fantastic, and was directly responsible for 3 of his 4 Ks on the day.  And, he really only gave up one hard-hit ball (a liner to right field for an out).  Final line: 3ip, 3 hits and one run.  The next day, he talked about his lack of velocity, noting that his mechanics were “on and off.”  Lets hope its that and not something more serious.
  • Ross Detwiler looked great early on 9/12 (box/gamer), giving up just a hit and a walk through five complete, then getting the first two outs in the 6th before unraveling in the 6th.  Two quick walks and then two hits ended his night and spoiled an otherwise good looking night.  Final line: 5 2/3, 3 hits, 2 runs and 3 walks.  His ERA on the season now sits at 3.76, but his FIP stands nearly a point higher (though to be fair his xFIP is nearly in line with his ERA, a good sign for the longer term).  In any case, each decent start we see in September makes me feel better about the likely fact that Detwiler’s going to make the 2012 rotation.
  • Another start, another piece of the Chien-Ming Wang puzzle.  He went 5 innings on 9/13 (box/gamer), scattering 5 hits through 4 before giving up a 2-run single in the 5th.  On the night: 5ip, 9 hits, 2 runs.  The improvement this time around was the clean first inning (he had a 12.75 ERA in the first innings of his games this year).   He was only on 72 pitches when he was pinch hit for in the top of the 6th and could have easily gone 8 complete if the team had any sort of lead.
  • Sometimes its the little things that make a difference; apparently Sean Burnett‘s turn-around this season was due to changing his rubber location.  According to an excellent piece by Adam Kilgore, Burnett moved towards the first base side of the rubber about 18 inches.  Results?  As of July 19th he had a 5.67 era.  Since the move he has a 1.37 era.  Yeah, that’s a great adjustment.

Starter Trends

2nd half only:
Milone    bad,soso
Lannan    good,good,bad,soso,good,bad,bad,good,soso,good,bad
Strasburg    great,soso
Detwiler    soso,soso,good,good,bad,bad,soso
Wang        bad,bad,great,soso,soso,good,bad,soso,soso
Peacock    good

Relievers of Note and other News

  • The cancellation of the 9/8 Dodgers game means the team will flip-flop Wang and Detwiler’s next starts so that everyone continues on normal rest.
  • Wang, like every other FA that’s not necessarily entirely going to be in demand this off-season, has said he wants to come back to his current team.   See my thoughts on the team’s lack of a club option on him here.
  • Brad Peacock will get a start this week in NY, possibly putting the whole staff into a 6-man rotation.  Perhaps he’ll replace Lannan in the rotation to give the Nats a completely new rotation versus opening day.  More likely is that he’ll fit in between regular starters to give the team a 6-man rotation.  Can’t wait to see him stretched out to see his full arsenal of pitches.
  • Garrett Mock was outrighted to AAA after passing through waivers, meaning that he passed through waivers without another claim (similarly to what happened earlier in the year with Chico in December of last year).  On the positive; he stays in the system on the off chance that 2011 was a complete outlier and he can turn around the ship.  On the negative; a guy with a plus fastball but who has proven time and again that he can’t produce consistent results stays in the system to provide continual tempting of the club management (the leader of whom Rizzo has a soft spot for him, having drafted him while working in Arizona).  Lets hope he doesn’t take the job of someone more deserving.
  • Here’s Doug Slaten‘s 9/13 appearance: two batters, one walk and one HBP.  Is anyone surprised by this?  Why is this guy still getting the ball?  Hasn’t he shown enough failures as a loogy and in middle relief to show the team everything they need to know going forward?
  • Reverse draft standings update: As of 9/13 the team is projected to draft 12th overall in the 2012 rule-4 draft.  With a bad run of form we could easily rise to #8.  The 2012 draft is considered to be much weaker than 2011, but there’s still talent to be found.
  • 2012 preliminary schedules have been released and the Nats get the AL east next year!  Away to Boston and Toronto, home dates against the Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays.  I’ll predict now that the Saturday Yankees game will break the attendance record at the stadium.  Or come darn close to it.
  • About 5 questions into Keith Law’s chat on thursday 9/15/11 (insider only), someone asked him about Peacock and Milone’s debuts.  His opinions thus far mirror mine: Milone may be a 4-A starter and Peacock may end up a reliever.

Nats Rotation Cycle #29: good/bad/soso

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The prodigal son returns. Photo via centerfieldgate.com

After seeing last cycle’s debut of Tom Milone, this cycle will feature two interesting milestones for the team.  Livan Hernandez‘s final start of the season comes first, then the long anticipated 2011 debut of Stephen Strasburg.  Lastly, this cycle got cut short due to the Monsoon of 2011 (aka, Raingate?) and Ross Detwiler got skipped so as to keep the wunder-kid on his regular rest and home-grown schedule.  I wonder how that is playing in the clubhouse… Technically Milone took over the #5 spot in the rotation initially, but the insertion of Strasburg into the #3 hole made for one cycle of 6, that is until Detwiler got skipped.

So as of now the rotation is going Milone-Lannan-Strasburg-Wang-Detwiler.

Good

  • John Lannan looked shaky at the beginning of his labor day 9/5 start (box/gamer) but settled down decently enough (aided by a 4 run, 3 homer first inning by his offense) and got the win against the Dodgers.  He only went 5 1/3, surprisingly getting yanked after giving up a 1 out single in the 6th.  He was high on the pitch count at that point (94 pitches) but it was still a quick hook in this opinion.  He gives up one run on 5 hits with 2 walks and a handful (4) of K’s on the day.  Lannan is an interesting case; he continues to be solid (3.48 era on the season) if not flashy.
  • Stephen Strasburg‘s 2011 debut on 9/6 (box/gamer) may not have been the amazing 14-K performance he showed during his MLB debut in 2010, but it certainly was as good as we could possibly expect.  See here for more details.

Bad

  • Livan Hernandez‘s last start of the season (and possibly his last in a Nats uniform), showed why his position on the team is really in jeopardy.  He put in yet another sub-par performance leading to an easy win for the Mets on 9/4 (box/gamer).  5 1/3 innings, 8 hits, 6 runs.  For a team that averages only 3.84 runs a game, you just can’t have a starter who gives up 6 in 5.  That being said, i’m definitely advocating the team keep him around for 2012.

Mediocre/Inconclusive

  • Chien-Ming Wang put in another 6 inning start in the midst of the monsoon of 2010 on 9/8 (box/gamer), giving up 4 runs early before retiring 10 of the last 11 batters.  He was bailed out by the offense and got a no-decision.  Wang’s early troubles were chronicled by Adam Kilgore here, noting that since his surgery Wang isn’t warming up until he’s been on the mound for a couple of innings, leading to his frequent pattern of giving up early runs but finishing strong.  The team is eventually going to have to figure out which Wang they have when it comes time to decide whether to try to bring him back for 2012.

Starter Trends (2nd half only).  Livan ends on a bad note, but his up-and-down performances could have predicted it.  Lannan continues to chug along.  Strasburg was fantastic.  Wang is consistently mediocre, as noted.  Detwiler has slipped after a couple of good outings, and Milone needs to improve on his debut.

  • Lhernandez    bad,good,bad,good,bad,good,bad,soso,good,bad->shelved for season
  • Lannan    good,good,bad,soso,good,bad,bad,good,soso,good
  • Strasburg    great
  • Wang        bad,bad,great,soso,soso,good,bad,soso
  • Detwiler    soso,soso,good,good,bad,bad
  • Milone    bad

Relievers of Note and other News

  • “Negotiations” are already being talked about with Livan and the team for next year.  WT’s Amanda Comak does some good dollar/per win or /per inning research here, and comes to the same conclusion that I have had for a while; Hernandez is a total bargain on the FA market for what he can give … if you can put up with the occasional (frequent?) blowups.
  • Lots of 9/1 call-ups are came a few days after the actual September 1st date, with arms Stammen, Severino, Peacock, and Maya joining position players Lombardozzi and Brown.  Peacock and Lombardozzi require corresponding 40-man moves, and (based on past research) we may be seeing a DFA in the next couple days.  Update: I was almost correct with the required moves to make room for the new guys to the 40-man roster, with the Nats transfering Kimball to 60-day DL.  The team (finally, in the eyes of many) DFA’d Garrett Mock, a not-entirely unexpected move.  The surprise was the outright release of Adam Carr.  I thought at least the team would recall him and 60-day DL him, and the unconditional release is somewhat surprising.
  • Clearly Davey Johnson has been given an edict to “play the kids.”  But his use of “the kids” in the 9/6 game was, well, a bit frustrating.  He brought a starter in (Brad Peacock) for his MLB debut in a 2-on, one out debacle left by Doug Slaten.  He brought in a hitter (Corey Brown) for his Nats debut in a pinch hitting, bases loaded situation against a Dodger fireballer.  Is he setting these guys up to fail?  I completely agree with Capitol Baseball’s assessment of the situation, published here.
  • Kilgore and other beat reporters noted that Wang’s incentives are almost certain to kick in to the tune of an additional $1M by the end of 2011.

Nats Rotation Cycle #28: good/bad/soso

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Welcome to the Majors, Tom Milone. Photo: Tom Priddy/Four-Seam Images/Milb.com

The big news this cycle is that the Nationals will be welcoming a new starter for his MLB debut.  Tom Milone, 2010 Nats minor league pitcher of the year and owner of a rather consistent set of minor league stats as he’s progressed up the system.

  • 12-5, 2.91 era in high-A in 2009
  • 12-5, 2.85 era in AA in 2010
  • 12-6, 3.22 era in AAA this year

So you’d think he has high hopes of continuing to pitch at that level.  What’s going against him?  The jump from AAA to the Majors is the biggest of course, and the scouting reports on him say he’s a soft-tossing lefty that relies on guile to get hitters out, and thus has a potential ceiling of #5 starter at best.  I can’t wait to see how he does.

Good

  • Livan Hernandez cooly pitched his 50,000 career pitch while easily controlling the powerful Braves lineup on 8/30 (box/gamer).  7ip, 5 hits, 2 runs.  Meanwhile the team’s 3-4-5-6 hitters all went deep against the Atlanta’s best pitcher Jurrjens.  A good night for the team.

Bad

  • Chien-Ming Wang had another poor outing on 9/1 (box/gamer) where his sinker wasn’t sinking, resulting in fly balls and home runs.  End result: 5 2/3, 4 runs, 7 hits and 3 base-runners for nearly a 2.00 whip on the night and a loss in Atlanta.  More concerning; 0 strikeouts.  On the season now; 38 2/3 innings, NINE strikeouts.  I’m sorry; i know the beat reporters are saying things like “well he wasn’t a big strike-out pitcher before” but he’s at 2.1 k/9, nearly 50% less than his career K/9 rate.  His walk rate is way up as well.  Yes he’s still coming off injury and likely isn’t 100%.  But i’m getting less and less inclined to recommend re-signing him as his starts pile up.
  • Not the best outing for Ross Detwiler on 9/2 (box/gamer): 6 runs on 7 hits over just 3 innings, highlighted by a 3-run homer given up in the top of the 1st.
  • Tom Milone‘s debut on 9/3 (box/gamer) started out well, but ended badly.  See here for an in-depth look.

Mediocre/Inconclusive

  • John Lannan didn’t look that effective against the Braves early on 8/31 (box/gamer), giving up a bomb to Chipper Jones and another homer to his counterpart, but he got things back together and put in 7 solid innings.  3 runs (2 earned, the unearned run coming via Lannan’s own throwing error), 6ks and just 1 walk.  It was one of those outings that “seemed” worse than it ended up being.

Starter Trends.  Livan gets back on the good side but the rest of the rotation struggles, contributing to a 2-3 rotation cycle.

2nd half
Lhernandez    bad,good,bad,good,bad,good,bad,soso,good
Lannan    good,good,bad,soso,good,bad,bad,good,soso
Wang        bad,bad,great,soso,soso,good,bad
Detwiler    soso,soso,good,good,bad,bad
Milone    bad

Relievers of Note and other News

  • (repeating this from the last post b/c of the timing) I saw a blip in the paper today about how Livan wants to stay a Washington National, and that he’s willing to become a long reliever understanding that he may be forced out of the rotation by the rise of young arms.  That’s good news for the team frankly; if he stays at or near his current salary ($1.25m base, roughly $2m with incentives) then he’s a very good, very cheap insurance policy in case one of our younger arms has a meltdown.  Livan may be finishing a frustrating on-again/off-again season, but he does put in a number of quality starts when given the chance.
  • Look at our AFL roster: Harper, Rendon, Solis, Martin, Lehman and likely Purke.  Wow.  Talk about the future of this franchise.
  • Twitter feeds from teammates seemed to indicate before any official press releases that both Milone and Peacock are indeed getting 9/1 callups.  Tatusko then retracted the tweets and apologized for starting rumors.  Ahhh the modern media world.
  • Adam Kilgore thinks the Nats are calling up no less than 5 players in addition to Milone; Peacock, Severino, Bernadina, Lombardozzi, and Maya.  Honestly I have a hard time believing they’re going to call up Bernadina or Maya.  What is Bernadina going to do as the 6th outfielder on this team right now?  Maya is a starter; we have at least 3 too many starters on the traveling team as it is.  Severino makes some sense, to spell a tired bullpen, but he’s been up twice before and has never thrown a pitch in anger.  Its about time they figured out if he’s worth the 40-man spot he’s been occupying for 2 years.  9/2 update an injury to Nix probably means Bernadina’s call-up for cover.
  • Strasburg‘s final rehab start was pretty good; he allowed just one hit through 6, pitched 5 perfect innings and departed on 70 pitches.  I guess he’s ready.  The Nats announced that he’ll only pitch at home, possibly enhancing the repeated criticisms that the team is “baby-ing” him.  Per Goessling’s article the home dates will be roughly the 6th, 11th, 16th, and 23rd.  Personally I hope its the 24th; those are my last season tickets of the season (a 105 saturday game).

Nats Rotation Cycle #27: good/bad/soso

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We won't see Zimmermann again til spring training 2012. Photo AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Rotation #27 marks the final time we’ll see Jordan Zimmermann starting this year.  He’s scheduled to exceed the 160IP limit set for him by the team this time around.  We’ll see announcements presumably for his replacement later in this cycle.

Good

  • John Lannan didn’t pitch badly on 8/25 (box/gamer), giving up 2 runs on 7 hits in 6 innings, but again his offense failed him and he took a loss.  His bullpen unraveled after he left, highlighted by Henry Rodriguez‘s 5 hit, 3 run debacle.
  • Chein-Ming Wang‘s 6th outing was decent, giving up one earned run in 6 innings in the Cincinnati bandbox on 8/26 (box/gamer).  He was wild (4 walks) and he didn’t work down in the zone as much as he usually does (10 ground ball outs to 6 fly outs) but he put his team in a position to win with the “real” quality start.  Through six starts and 33 innings Wang has a respectable 3.82 era and a slightly mediocre 1.33 whip.   I figure he has about 6 more starts before season’s end to prove to the Nats (and the league) what he’s worth in the free agent market.

Bad

  • Ross Detwiler may have gotten a quality start in his 8/27 loss against Cincinnati (box/gamer), but he still gave up 6 runs in 6 innings.  Rookie Chris Marrero‘s first major league start resulted in his booting two of the first three balls hit to him, and those errors turned into 3 unearned runs.  He was definitely around the plate all night (59 of 88 pitches for strikes through 6 innings) but too many of his pitches caught too much of the plate against a potent Cincy offense.  Still, he’s got a sub 3 ERA through 6 starts and his 5 relief appearances on the season so you can’t really criticize too much.
  • Jordan Zimmermann‘s last start of 2011 wasn’t the heroic winning sendoff people were hoping for on 8/28 (box/gamer).  He gave up solo shots to each of Cincinnati’s big hitters, then walked in a run in the 5th to force his early exit.  Final line on the day: 4 1/3, 6 hits, a walk and a HBP, and 3 earned runs.

Mediocre/Inconclusive

  • Livan Hernandez gave the team one more excuse to remove him from the rotation when the roster expand, giving up 4 runs in 7 innings and taking the loss against Arizona on 8/24 (box/gamer).  It wasn’t the worst outing he’s had, but it wasn’t a quality start.

Starter Trends (2nd half only)

Hernandez has struggled lately, Lannan follows up a couple of poor outings with a good one, Wang maintains his decent to good trend, Detwiler has a rough outing that I may be judging too harshly, and Zimmermann takes a step back in his last appearance of the year.

  • Lhernandez:     bad,good,bad,good,bad,good,bad,soso
  • Lannan              good,good,bad,soso,good,bad,bad,good
  • Wang                  bad,bad,great,soso,soso,good
  • Detwiler             soso,soso,good,good,bad
  • Zimmermann: bad,bad,great,good,soso,good,good,bad->shutdown for season

Relievers of Note and other News

  • Ryan Mattheus‘s shoulder strain probably will cost him the rest of the season.  He’s been our 3rd best reliever the 2nd half of the season and looks like he’s definitely going to be a part of the 2012 bullpen.  He’s being replaced on the roster by 2007 first rounder Chris Marrero, who finally gets a debut after years of toiling and improving in our minor league system.
  • Stephen Strasburg did his 5th rehab start in Syracuse on 8/28 (gamer from Ben Goessling) and he was, well, dominant.  Five perfect innings, 7 ks while seemingly working solely on his 2-seam fastball.  He had 7 ground ball outs to just one flyball out and was “only” hitting 95-96 on the stadium gun.  I’m guessing that he was working on his 2-seamer and his off-speed stuff on the night.  Its hard to really analyze these starts in some respects; he blows through AAA hitters that mostly have MLB experience, yet he gets tagged in the bush leagues.  Its a recurring theme that the guys in the lower minors will “swing at anything” and often times the ball runs into their bats for hits, but this is the second time through the minors for Strasburg where he’s fared *far* better against AAA hitters than AA or A ball guys.  Odd.
  • Get your tickets now: the team announced Strasburg’s return as being 9/6/11 against the Dodgers.
  • Jordan Zimmermann’s  season ending stats: 8-11, 3.18 era, 1.147 whip.  124/31 k/bb in 161 1/3 innings.  Excellent 4.0 k/bb ratios, 0.7 homers/9 and a 120 ERA+.   Looking at more advanced pitching stats: his FIP was right on line with his ERA at 3.15, his xFIP a respectable 3.74 and his SIERA at 3.55.   All in all a great season and a promising one for Zimmermann’s future as Robin to Strasburg’s Batman.
  • Saw a blip in the paper today about how Livan wants to stay a Washington National, and that he’s willing to become a long reliever understanding that he may be forced out of the rotation by the rise of young arms.  That’s good news for the team frankly; if he stays at or near his current salary ($1m base, $2m with incentives) then he’s a very good, very cheap insurance policy in case one of our younger arms has a meltdown.  Livan may be finishing a frustrating on-again/off-again season, but he does put in a number of quality starts when given the chance.
  • The Nats pulled both Tom Milone and Brad Peacock from dominant AAA starts over the weekend, presumably for eventual callup to the majors.  Then on 8/30, Milone was announced as the Zimmermann replacement for the upcoming Saturday 9/3 game.  This will require a 40-man move, with alternatives mentioned in this space last week.

Nats Rotation Cycle #26: good/bad/soso

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(apologies; i’m a week behind on posting this)

Cycle #26 starts with a 3-game set at home to Philadelphia, one that set attendance records for the Nats Stadium.

Good

  • Ross Detwiler put in perhaps his best appearance of the season in the opener against Arizona on 8/22 (box/gamer).  He gave up just one run on 6 hits and 3 walks through 6+ innings and beat Arizona’s nominal “Ace” and northern virginia native Joe Saunders.  My opinion on Detwiler’s future use continues to waver; clearly he’s above Gorzelanny in the pecking order but I continue to doubt his ability to stick in the starting rotation.  A few more quality starts should start to change my opinion.
  • Jordan Zimmermann‘s 2nd to last start on 8/23 (box/gamer) was a tale of two pitches.  He pitched 6 shutout innings, allowing just 3 hits and one walk.  Four batters into the 7th; a ground out, a walk, a homer and a double erased his clean outing and tagged him with a loss.  His horrible run support continues; his offense was completely shut down by Arizona’s ace Ian Kennedy.

Bad

  • Its hard to really knock Livan Hernandez for what he did on Friday 8/19 (box/gamer).  After throwing just a handful of pitches before enduring a 2 hour rain delay, he dutifully came back out on the mound instead of burning a spot-starter for his team.  Unfortunately the Phillies were ready for him; 4 runs on 7 hits in 4 ip.  Luckily for all involved, Gorzelanny came out and pitched 3 innings of shutout ball before the team scored SIX runs in the bottom of the 9th to get the unlikely win.  Unfortunately for Hernandez, its just one more piece of evidence that his days with this club are numbered.
  • John Lannan got bounced around by a feisty Phillies team on 8/20 (box/gamer) and took a loss in a game that nobody on the staff could have won.  Counterpart Roy Oswalt pitched 8 shutout innings after getting an extra night’s rest and the team’s offense went to sleep.  He gave up 5 runs (3 earned) on 7 hits and four walks in just 5 innings.  The massive influx of Philadelphia fans set a new stadium attendance record, besting the previous record by nearly 3,000 fans.

Mediocre/Inconclusive

  • Chien-Ming Wang drew the Phillies ace Roy Halladay in the 8/21 series finale (box/gamer) and pitched toe to toe with him before a rain delay knocked both starters out.  Wang gave up 3 runs on 5 hits, including two shocking home runs that seemed out of character for his pitching style.  Keeping the Phillies hitters to 3 runs over 5+ innings may seem herioc but I’ll just give him a mediocre outing on the day.

Relievers of Note and other News

  • Stephen Strasburg‘s 4th rehab outing is scheduled for Monday 8/22 in Hagerstown.  Results?  Better than the last time.  3 innings, 2 runs on 2 hits and 6 K’s while working mostly on off-speed pitches.  The opposing team stole four bases, an indication to me that they knew Strasburg wasn’t really holding them on that well.  60 pitches 40 of which were for strikes.  Zuckerman seemed to think it was a successful outing.

Thoughts on the offense

  • Mr Walkoff Homer Ryan Zimmerman got his 8th career walkoff with a memorable grand slam on friday 8/19.  According to rather dubious google research, the career leaders in baseball history are a slew of hall of fame sluggers with 12 each.  Ryan is 26 and in his 7th pro season and is nearly in the conversation of having the most of these for his career.