Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Nats Rotation Cycle #5: Good/Bad/Mediocre

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Gorzelanny puts in his best outing of the year. AP Photo/Frank Franklin II via

Rotation Cycle #5 notes: The team gets back Todd Coffey from the DL and says good-bye (for now) to Collin Balester.  Because of the rain-outs from last week, Jason Marquis‘s turn got skipped, which is unfortunate since he’s the most effective starter we have right now.  Meanwhile, another rain-out on Friday 4/21 was rescheduled to a previous off day on Monday 4/25, a gift for John Lannan, who got to pitch on normal rest.  Lets see how these guys fared.


  • Depending on how much credence you give to stadium guns, Drew Storen hit 97 during his 4/24 save.  Just to make sure, I looked up the pitch f/x data, and sure enough he maxed out at 97.1 while averaging 96.1 for his 7 four-seamers on the day.  For some reason, I didn’t realize he could bring it that heavy.  If he’s gaining speed, that’s great news for his closing career.  He’s got a fantastic start to the season; an ERA and Whip below 1.00, 3 saves and a slew of dominant performances.  As a side note, boy i’d love to see him in the rotation…
  • Tom Gorzelanny put in his best performance of the year in the opening game of the Mets series (box/gamer) only to watch Sean Burnett melt down in the 9th (well, technically Tyler Clippard blew the “win” for Gorzelanny first) and cost both him and his team the win.  Line: 6 1/3, 5 hits, 1walk 1run and 4Ks.  Amazingly (for Gorzelanny) he was only at 85 pitches when he was pulled.  Normally he’s nearing 100 pitches at the end of the 5th.  He lowered his ERA by a full point and took his ERA+ from 74 to 101 with this one outing.  His fip/xfip are starting to look better as well.  One area of concern is his BABIP; currently at at amazingly low .200.  At some point this will rise and he’ll take some lumps.


  • Livan Hernandez‘s 450th career start is one he’d like to have back.  He gave up 5 runs in the first, 7 overall (4 earned thanks to several errors by his defense) and he took an ugly loss on 4/23 (box/gamer).  Line: 6ip, 9hits, 7 runs (4 earned), 4bbs and 2ks.  Livan, a creature of habit, had his typical pre-game routine thrown off by an hour-long rain delay and then apparently short notice to get ready to go.  He commented as much to beat reporters and even pseudo-accused the Pirates of playing some gamesmanship with the notification timing (seemingly, his opposite number Jeff Karstens got plenty of notice to begin his warmup).  Either way, it was only the 2nd “meltdown” our starters have thrown all year (I define a “meltdown” as a pitcher who gives up as many or more runs as innings pitched during an outing) as opposed to the FOURTY they managed to throw in 162 games last year.
  • Chad Gaudin managed to get through 2/3 of an inning without giving up a run on monday, but not without some embarrassing moments.  He managed to throw not one but two balls behind the backs of opposing hitters.  He was flat-out aiming several other pitches, including a slider that probably would have been disintegrated by better hitters.  Unfortunately, he just looks like he’s lost confidence in his command, and he must be reading the writing on the wall (i.e., that he’s most likely gone when Henry Rodriguez is done with rehab).  Update: he was placed on the 15-day DL when Rodriguez was re-instated on 4/27, and I commented about the move here.
  • Not a good start from Jordan Zimmerman, who continued the Nats starter streak of pitching into the 5th inning on 4/26 against the Mets (box/gamer), but only barely.  He gives up 5 runs on 9 hits in just 5 1/3 inning.  On the bright side, he was throwing lots of strikes (53 of 73 pitches for strikes) and his pitch count was very low (73 through 5 1/3, putting him on pace to at least finish 7).  Perhaps he was trying to pitch to contact tonight instead of trying to blow guys away.  Zimmermann still has 2nd best FIP and xFIP values of the rotation, so he’s not the real problem right now.
  • Doug Slaten may have a 0.00 era at current, but he’s got a 1.80 whip and allowed both runners he inherited from Zimmermann to score on 4/26, essentially sealing the 6-4 loss for the team.  1.80 whip is just too many baserunners for a matchup-guy and he needs to work on getting clean outings.  In his defense, his BABIP is absurdly high (.438), so he may just be unlucky in the early part of the season.
  • Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard both conspired to waste Gorzelanny’s great start, each getting a blown save on 4/27.  Burnett’s was completely egregious; he blew a 1-run game in the 9th, gave up FOUR runs and forced the team to burn Storen on a night he was scheduled to have off.  If there’s any question who the “closer” is for this team now, I think we have our answer.


  • Jason Marquis struggled with his control all day on 4/24 (gamer/box), but scattered 10 baserunners over 6 innings and managed to only give up 3 runs.  Meanwhile his hitters backed him up enough to get the win.  He nearly didn’t make it out of the 5th inning; he was probably one more baserunner from getting yanked before qualifying for the win.  But he gutted the inning out and finished the 6th upon throwing his 100th pitch.  His day included a 55-mph floater that he just tossed in to avoid a balk after slipping mid-way through his rotation … the  batter (Neil Walker) just watched it into the mitt for a called strike and then looked as if he’d just passed up on the pitch of a lifetime.
  • John Lannan was victimized by a short rain delay, which seemed to throw him off his game, leading to a 4-run 4th inning and a loss on 4/25 (gamer/box).  He went 5 2/3 all told, and was bailed out of the 6th inning by reliever Todd Coffey.  Not his worst start, but enough to cost his offensively-challenged team a win.  Lannan is putting a lot of guys on base (whip of 1.538 on the season) and is probably our least effective pitcher right now.  He’s only had one really “good” outing out of 5 so far this year.


As with the minor league rotations, here’s the trends of our starters so far.  Livan is doing what we normally expect; throwing in a really bad outing intermixed with good ones.  Lannan’s trends are troublesome; he’s only really had one dominating outing all year.

MLB Trends:
Lhernandez    good,bad,good,good,bad
Lannan    good,soso,soso,bad,soso
Zimmermann     good,good,good,bad,bad
Marquis    good,good,good,soso
Gorzelanny    soso,good,soso,good

Written by Todd Boss

April 29th, 2011 at 11:34 am

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