Nationals Arm Race

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

2016 MLB Rotation Rankings 1-30


The best pitcher on the best rotation in the league. Photo: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The best pitcher on the best rotation in the league. Photo: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

I’m returning to a fun post that I did in 2013 and again in 2014 (but couldn’t find the time to do while switching jobs in 2015): Ranking the MLB rotations 1-30 ahead of the new season.  I normally wait to do this post until all the significant starter free agents have signed; when Yovani Gallardo signed, he was the final QO-attached starter who might make a difference in a team’s ranking, so it was time to publish.

This is not a scientific analysis necessarily; i’m not looking at PECOTA or ZIPS to project war to do my rankings.  Rather, this is an eye test of the guys projected to pitch 1-5 for each team in the coming season.  So feel free to disagree.  For what its worth, I am pretty confident in my top 10 and my bottom 5 rotations … but am not exactly going to argue vehemently that the rotation i’ve got ranked 22nd is appreciably better than the one I have ranked 24th.

At the bottom i’ve put links to other pundit’s rankings, which are similar but different.

As always, I show my work; here’s the rotation ranks worksheet that I use to track rotation players.  As an added bonus to what is shown below, the worksheet color codes new acquisitions, puts in “depth” for each team and tracks who the team lost from last  year.  it also has a list of as-of-yet-unsigned hurlers, though none would move the needle if/when they sign for 2016.

I’ll put these into sections and put in comments as we go.

Team Rank Projected 2016 Rotation 1-5
New York Mets 1 Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Bartolo Colon
St. Louis 2 Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, Jaime Garcia, Mike Leake
San Francisco 3 Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Matt Cain, Jake Peavy
Cleveland 4 Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer, Cody Anderson
Washington 5 Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Joe Ross, Gio Gonzalez, Tanner Roark

Discussion 1-5: My top 5 is pretty similar to other people’s top 5 rotations.  I don’t think anyone would argue against the Mets being at #1; if Zack Wheeler comes back healthy he can replace either the ageless Colon or the oft-injured Matz and perhaps even improve what is clearly the class of the league.  I have St. Louis #2 since everyone seems to forget just how good they were last  year; yes they lose Lynn but they gain back Wainwright.

I could see why people could argue against having both San Francisco and Cleveland higher than Washington, and indeed over the course of the winter I had Washington above both.  But I’m convinced that both of SF’s new acquisitions Cueto and Samardzija will completely thrive playing in the NL West, and you can do worse than Cain/Peavy as your 4/5.   They have some depth in case those two veterans get hurt and I see SF as a sneaky NL West challenger in 2016.

Cleveland you say?  Kluber is a former Cy Young winner who hasn’t forgotten how to pitch, Carrasco and Salazar are two of the best young arms in the league (I’m seeing Carrasco in particular going very high in fantasy ADP rankings for 2016), and their 4/5 are comparable to Washington’s back end.  If you wanted to argue that man for man Washington was just ahead of Cleveland i wouldn’t disagree; i’ve been burned over-ranking DC’s rotation in the past so perhaps I was gun shy this time around.

Team Rank Projected 2016 Rotation 1-5
Chicago Cubs 6 Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jason Hammel, Kyle Hendricks
Arizona 7 Zack Greinke, Shelby Miller, Patrick Corbin (TJ), Robbie Ray, Rubby De La Rosa
Los Angeles Dodgers 8 Clayton Kershaw, Scott Kazmir, Alex Wood, Kenta Maeda, Mike Bolsinger
Seattle 9 Felix Hernandez, Taijuan Walker, Hisashi Iwakuma, Nate Karns, Wade Miley
Chicago White Sox 10 Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Carlos Rodon, John Danks, Erik Johnson

Discussion 6-10: So, is Washington > than the Cubs?  I think so: I don’t view Lester as a real #2 any more, Lackey is approaching retirement and their 4/5 are basically 5th starters easily found on the waiver wire; i’d take the Nats’ 3-4-5 over the Cubs any day.  Still, Arrieta‘s 2nd half was legendary and it is possible that Lackey puts up a 3-win season, so they’re still quite good.  Both Arizona and the Dodgers are propped up by virtue of their Aces; the back side of both rotations looks downright scary.  In fact, you can say the same for Seattle and the White Sox too; all four of these teams have league-wide top end Aces and then 5th starters who seem like they could be replaced by someone in AAA.  That’s really the difference between these teams and the top 5 ranked teams; its the back of the rotations, not so much the front.

I could be slightly wrong about Seattle’s depth; if Iwakuma is really hurt and if Felix‘s decline phase has really started, then Seattle’s a notch down.  If Rodon takes the step forward that he can, then the White Sox can really become a force of a rotation quickly.

Team Rank Projected 2016 Rotation 1-5
Pittsburgh 11 Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano, Jeff Locke, Jon Niese, Ryan Vogelsong
Houston 12 Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, Lance McCullers, Mike Fiers, Scott Feldman
Boston 13 David Price, Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez, Roenis Elias
Tampa Bay 14 Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Erasmo Ramirez, Drew Smyly, Matt Moore
Detroit 15 Justin Verlander, Jordan Zimmermann, Anibal Sanchez, Daniel Norris, Mike Pelfrey

Discussion 11-15: So again looking at edge cases, I have the likes of Seattle and Chicago > Pittsburgh based on the strength (or lack there of) of the back-end of Pittsburgh’s rotation; NieseVogelsong??  Really?  I just have a hard time believing that Pittsburgh is going to reach 90 wins with this 2016 rotation.  Houston is one Cy Young winner and four guys who look like 4-A replacements.  I like the Price signing … but Price is not exactly Kershaw-esque when it comes to putting up constant shut-down performances; Price gets just lit up some times.  Last year he had outings where he gave up 10 hits/8 runs in 2+ innings and a 13-hit 6 1/3 outing.  75% QS rate, which sounds good but isn’t in the 82-85% range like Kershaw and Arrieta.  My point is this: Price goes to the AL East, to pitching in a hitters park, and he can take some big numbers.  The rest of Boston’s rotation is weak too; would you trust Buchholz at this point?  Porcello is their #3 and he’d be in the Syracuse if he played for us.

In fact, Maybe I have Tampa and Detroit too low; Tampa in particular could be a monster if Moore comes back strong and Archer is as good as he could be.  If Verlander can capture his 2nd half form … then Detroit could take a big step up too.

Team Rank Projected 2016 Rotation 1-5
Texas 16 Yu Darvish (TJ), Cole Hamels, Derek Holland, Martin Perez, Nick Martinez
Miami 17 Jose Fernandez, Wei-Yin Chen, Jared Cosart, Tom Koehler, Adam Conley
Kansas City 18 Yordano Ventura, Edinson Volquez, Danny Duffy, Ian Kennedy, Chris Young, Kris Medlen
Los Angeles Angels 19 Garrett Richards, Jered Weaver, Andrew Heaney, Matt Shoemaker, ?
New York Yankees 20 Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi, Ivan Nova

Discussion 16-20: Texas is an interesting one; Darvish won’t be ready for opening day, but if he comes back this ranking could rise.  Likewise, I might have Miami too low considering that Fernandez is one of the top pitchers in the game; i just don’t trust the rest of their rotation, and the Chen signing made zero sense for a team that can’t seem to decide if they’re trying to win or not.  The strength of Kansas City’s pitching staff isn’t their starters; its the bullpen (best in the league along with the  Yankees), and the Kennedy signing seemed to make no sense.  Thanks to two early ST injuries, I literally have no idea who the Angels 5th starter is going to be now … perhaps they should now be lower.  Lastly you have the Yankees: every guy in their rotation seems like a huge question mark; Tanaka has a torn UCL, Sabathia is a shell of who he once was, Pineda had a shoulder injury that cost him all of 2012 and half of the next two seasons, Nova just came off of Tommy John surgery, and Eovaldi (himself on his 2nd elbow ligament) can’t find the plate.  If these guys are ranked 20th … imagine what’s coming below.

Team Rank Projected 2016 Rotation 1-5
San Diego 21 James Shields, Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross, Robbie Erlin, Colin Rea
Toronto 22 Marcus Stroman, Marco Estrada, R.A. Dickey, J.A. Happ, Drew Hutchison
Oakland 23 Sonny Gray, Jesse Hahn, Chris Bassitt, Kendall Graveman, Rich Hill
Baltimore 24 Ubaldo Jimenez, Chris Tillman, Yovani Gallardo, Miguel Gonzalez, Kevin Gausman
Atlanta 25 Julio Teheran, Matt Wisler, Manny Banuelos, Bud Norris, Williams Perez

Discussion 21-25: As with all the edge cases, perhaps you can squint at San Diego and say they could be ranked higher.  Perhaps; but take any of those 5 guys at this point and put them in a hitter’s park and they’re not half as good.  I like Stroman (former Nats draft pick!) but the rest of the Toronto rotation looks like guys who are just holding on.  I’m not sure even Oakland’s management knows who some of their rotation candidates are.

I might be selling Baltimore a bit short; I’ve just never been convinced that Jimenez can repeat his earlier glory, and Baltimore’s notoriously awful coaching staff has seemingly ruined yet another young vibrant arm in GausmanAtlanta’s rotation may not look that great right now, especially considering that they’re purposely tanking in 2016 … but they have a couple of sleeper potentials and their prospect depth (including two high end hurlers in Michael Foltynewicz and Aaron Blair) put them above the bottom 5.

Team Rank Projected 2016 Rotation 1-5
Philadelphia 26 Aaron Nola, Jeremy Hellickson, Charlie Morton, Vincent Velasquez, Brett Oberholtzer
Cincinnati 27 Anthony DeSclafani, Michael Lorenzen, Raisel Iglesias, Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb
Minnesota 28 Phil Hughes, Ervin Santana, Ricky Nolasco, Kyle Gibson, Tommy Milone
Milwaukee 29 Matt Garza, Wily Peralta, Jimmy Nelson, Taylor Jungmann, Zach Davies
Colorado 30 Jorge De La Rosa, Chad Bettis, Jordan Lyles, Jon Grey, Tyler Chatwood

Discussion 26-30: The bottom 5 rotations feature two teams clearly tanking (Philly and Cincy) who are throwing out mostly kids and 4-A one-year acquisitions.  Its telling that these two rotations are better than the bottom 3 rotations, each of which belongs to a team that just seems to have no idea how to build a modern rotation.  Minnesota has for  years favored soft-tossers and not pursued high-end arms and now they have a relatively highly paid rotation of guys who, well, are not effective.  Milwaukee is in the same boat, having shelled out money for Garza just to watch him implode.

Lastly we come to Colorado, who still is searching for a strategy upon which to build a rotation.  The latest seems to be to pursue high velocity fastball guys who can just throw their ball through the light air and fool hitters.  But they’re not there yet and their Ace for 2016 is a 35yr old with a career 4.55 ERA.  Its not looking pretty in Colorado for 2016 and the fact that they havn’t sold off all their quality outfielders for parts speaks to the incompetence and indecision of their front office.   You’re not going to win in 2016; you’re in a division with the Dodgers, Giants and Diamondbacks, all of which spent big (either last off-season or before) and are putting out quality lineups.


Some other pundit’s rotation ranks for 2016 for comparison purposes.

All 30 MLB teams’ starting rotations, ranked


58 Responses to '2016 MLB Rotation Rankings 1-30'

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  1. I’d go Mets, Indians, Nats, D’backs and STL for the top 5, followed by Tampa, CHC, NYY, LAD and HOU. Mets are just too good and deep, and I think NYY is undervalued because of injury risk, and TAM and HOU are just underrated. I think ATL will be the worst rotation, followed by COL and PHI.

    Dave Cameron thinks LAD is the best, primarily on the strength of Kershaw’s value over two pitchers. I agree Kershaw is the best but the rest aren’t good, imo.

    The other thing Cameron said is that if he could do over the 2014 draft, he’d take Trea Turner or Conforto #1.


    9 Mar 16 at 7:01 pm

  2. What happens to the rankings when Thor goes for TJ surgery in a few weeks and assuming Harvey misses 6 weeks with a sore shoulder? Thor pitched a lot of innings at very high velocity last year and Harvey’s usage makes me really nervous for him as well..

    Andrew R

    9 Mar 16 at 11:42 pm

  3. Positive article on MASN about Glover, who KW likes. Hard to tell if it’s a standard puff piece or something more. But the 2015 draft class looks to be one of the Nats better ones, with 5-7 interesting guys like Stevenson, Perkins, Hearn, Watson, Schrock etc.

    Any thoughts on whether this is a change in scouting personnel (i.e. No more Roy Clark or Derek Ladnier), or luck or philosophy?


    10 Mar 16 at 9:36 am

  4. Wally; wow cleveland #2?? That’s bold. I was debating whether they were even better than Washington. Lets compare:
    – Scherzer > Kluber at this point; Scherzer more consistent and had a better season by any measure last year
    – Strasburg vs Carrasco: well … sure Carrasco has a ton of potential, but he’s only been a Full time starter for one year. Strasburg’s 2nd half once he was clear of injuries and mechanical issues was Cy Young quality. Sorry i sill take Strasburg > Carrasco.
    – Gonzalez vs Salazar: I’ll give you Salazar over Gonzalez at this point …
    – Ross vs Bauer: Ber led the league in walks last year while Ross looked like a #2 starter up until he ran out of gas his last two starts. Ross > Bauer.
    – Roark vs Cody Anderson. Well, who would you rather have? A guy with a 5-win season on his resume or a guy with 15 career MLB starts and a 4.27 FIP last year??

    I think the Nats > Cleveland rotation.

    Todd Boss

    10 Mar 16 at 10:37 am

  5. AndrewR: obviously you’re doing these rankings with rosy colored glasses. But if all the bad things happen to the mets as you say; Assuming that the Mets rotation becomes: deGrom, Matz, Colon, a AAA guy and eventually Wheeler? well then they’re probably down in the 10-12 range. deGrom is still an Ace, Matz can be a 2-3 if he stays healthy, Colon has proven he’s a league-wide 4. That’s still better than what a lot of teams are putting out there.

    I tell you what though; if the Mets lose two of their rotation guys to injury, they don’t really have a ton of cover. Wheeler isn’t quite ready to come back and may be limited until May. Their AAA options are not promising to provide fill-ins.

    Todd Boss

    10 Mar 16 at 10:41 am

  6. Glover article thoughts. Perhaps partly a puff piece. But his results were solid. would love to see what he can do as a starter with that kind of stuff.

    So far i’m most excited about 2015 draftees Perkins, Hearn, Glover, Lee, Schrock, Brinley, and Watson.

    Jury for me still out on Stevenson and Wisemann.

    Todd Boss

    10 Mar 16 at 10:47 am

  7. On Cle v Nats, it’s certainly close but I’d say Scherzer Gio ( big), Ross > Bauer (not as big) and Anderson => Roark. But more importantly, if you substitute Arroyo for one of the last two, there becomes a clear advantage.

    If you prefer WAS, my guess is you feel stronger about Roark. My concern is that he is two years removed from that season and I don’t know what he is going to be this year. The fact that the are giving Arroyo such a real chance tells me that the Nats aren’t completely sold on one of Ross or Roark.


    10 Mar 16 at 12:39 pm

  8. Sorry, something didn’t come through earlier. Scherzer Gio (big)


    10 Mar 16 at 12:41 pm

  9. Hmmnn. I can’t get it to come through properly on my phone. I was trying to say that Scherzer is less than or equal to Kluber. Stras and Carrasco are a push. Salazar is better than Gio. hopefully this one works.

    I just go by which one I’d rather have, as opposed to a pure statistical comparison. I am happy with Max but that bad stretch during a key time bothers me. But if you rely more on stats, I don’t think its fair to cherry pick. Stras pitched the whole year, not just the second half. Ross has pitched less than 1 year (Carrasco comment). Plus CLE pitches in a stronger league and stronger division

    Like I said, its very close but if you gave me the choice of both, I’d take CLE. Also think their 6 and 7s are better.


    10 Mar 16 at 12:47 pm

  10. wow, you like Kluber over Scherzer?? Talk about one guy whose done it more consistently and longer than the other. I mean, yeah I get that Strasburg had a tough 1st half but it was explainable (injured ankle in ST leads to mechanical changes leading to niggling injuries). Again, in Strasburg you’re talking about a guy who by nearly every measure is a top 10-15 arm for the last 4 years in this league versus Carrasco, he of just a handful of starts. Ross lines up with Bauer; both are young, but they’re trending in very different directions; Ross’ debut was impressive. Bauer’s has not been so and he was sent back to AAA t one point last year.

    Todd Boss

    10 Mar 16 at 1:19 pm

  11. Max and Stras definitely have more of a track record. But I don’t value that as highly as I think you do, especially with pitchers. I am trying to predict next year, so I don’t ding them as much for differences in track record.

    Kluber and Max are on the same tier, certainly. And Stras and Carrasco are almost identical statistically. Maybe Kluber historically has a bit better peripheral stats, especially BB/9. And Kluber’s best year was better than Max’s best year. But that’s quibbling, what led me to give Kluber the slight nod is AL Central v NL East. He didn’t get ATL, PHI and MIA for ten starts. I might lean Stras over Carrasco because I am such a fan, but then how do you factor in those Stras blow ups that seem to pop up from time to time?

    But looking back, Ross is probably a stronger pick over Bauer than I gave originally. Less because I am highly confident that Ross is the Ross from the first five starts, and more because Bauer hasn’t done much to impress. But I probably like McCallister and Tomlin much better than Jordan and Cole for 6 and 7.

    Look at it this way, if I told you that you could have a rotation that starts with 3 guys who average 10k/2BB per 9, you’d jump on that, wouldn’t you?


    10 Mar 16 at 2:06 pm

  12. Absolutely i’d jump on that rotation. And in fact the Nats already have. Here’s 2015 numbers:
    – Scherzer: 10.9 K/9 and 1.3 BB/9, both of which were better than any Cleveland starter last year.
    – Strasburg: 11.0 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 … again, both figures BETTER than any Cleveland starter last year.
    – Gio: 8.7 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9. Fine; Gio’s walks are up. But Bauer frigging walked 4+ guys per nine with identical K/9 numbers as Gio.
    – Ross: 8.1 K/0 and 2.5 BB/9 … but 9 of his 21 walks were in his last two September starts, when he was clearly gassed and at the end of his season in terms of IP. Take away his last 2 starts and his numbers: 66 IP, 65 Ks, 11 walks. Thats 9.0 K/9 and a 1.5 bb/9.

    Only Roark doesn’t fit the bill, but again he’s *proven* that when he’s given the ball every 5 days he can deliver at a level better than any of the 10 guys we’re talking about.

    Todd Boss

    10 Mar 16 at 2:27 pm

  13. I am smiling now, since we are splitting hairs over two of the top rotations baseball, and it isn’t lost on me that a tetam would be lucky to have either one. But let’s keep going!

    You make a compelling argument, but you are talking rate stats. Let’s compare those top 3 in actual stats last year: WAS got 5351 Ks and 1137 BBs; CLE got 5879 Ks and 1246 BBs.

    That’s over 500 more Ks v only 100 more BBs. Still want the shinier model that spends more time in the shop?


    10 Mar 16 at 3:11 pm

  14. Hey, wait a minute – my math is wrong. give me second


    10 Mar 16 at 3:12 pm

  15. Ok, I am laughing now because I am trying to do this at work without anyone seeing me and I am rushing. I forgot to convert rate to actual IPs.

    I think it goes 594 Ks to 653Ks and 126 BBs to 138 BBs. So 50+ more Ks against 12 more BBs.



    10 Mar 16 at 3:17 pm

  16. Buuuuut does that include relievers and starters? Nobody’s arguing that Cleveland’s bullpen might be better than what hte Nats were rolling out last year 🙂,ts&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0

    Fangraphs: team stats, starters only for 2015
    – Washington: threw 966 ip, 921Ks, 222bbs
    – Cleveland: 979ip, 969ks, 275bbs.

    Not entirely apples to apples of course: Nats guys get the benefit of facing lots of pitchers and Cleveland plays teams with DH and lots of hitters parks.

    Splitting hairs perhaps. I will say this: lots of people are very bullish on Cleveland and knocking down Nats. I myself found that I was poo pooing St. Louis even though they were the best rotation by most measures last year statistically.

    Todd Boss

    10 Mar 16 at 4:32 pm

  17. I just compared the top 3 starters for each.


    10 Mar 16 at 4:50 pm

  18. Just saw this on Fangraphs, thought it was appropriate given our discussion


    10 Mar 16 at 8:07 pm

  19. Looks like I’m late to the party! I thought they had Glover ticketed as the closer of the future, so it’s interesting to see that they’re at least thinking about him starting. The other big closer they drafted, Andrew Lee, finished the season with five starts. One positive for both of those guys is that neither has a lot of mileage on his arm innings-wise, although as noted in the article, Glover has had TJ.

    Speaking of arm mileage, I agree with Andrew’s premise, if not his full prediction. The Mets really flaunted convention with their arm management last year, so we’ll have to wait and see if they have to pay the piper. Until that time, though, they probably are #1.

    There’s not enough duct tape in all of SF to hold that rotation together, particularly Cain and Peavy. I see them struggling to be in the top 10 rotations by the time it’s all said and done. As for the Cards, they look solid if unspectacular . . . IF Wainright is all the way back.

    I don’t know enough about the CLE rotation to get into the DC-CLE debate. FWIW, I’m counting on a big plus with the Maddux Effect. (I’m glad Gio blew his top yesterday so they can start working on screwing on his head a little tighter.)

    Really, even by the time you get to teams 5-10, the #4 & #5 guys get thin real fast. If Arroyo doesn’t stick with the Nats, he won’t have trouble finding work.

    A question struck me as I looked down the list: just how bad can your rotation be for your club to still be a viable playoff team? A lot of otherwise stacked clubs seem to be hoping to get to the postseason and only use three starters there. Either that, or they better have a Royals-like bullpen.


    10 Mar 16 at 8:53 pm

  20. Glover: Starter >>>> Closer in terms of WAR and prospect value of course. If he fails as a starter in AAA he can always go back to relieving. Speaking of this … how about Alex Meyer? He’s STILL not a MLB regular despite being a 1st rounder in 2011. I mean, the guy who we traded him for isn’t even still on the team and he’s still not in the majors. “There is no such thing as a pitching prospect?”

    Mets Arms: i would not be surprised in the least if the Mets starters struggle with injury. Harvey was pushed well beyond where he should have been pushed. Thor was 30% more innings than last year. Colon is 40. And Matz has never thrown more than 140 innings and he’s been a pro since 2009.

    How bad can your rotation be? Look at KC last year; their rotation was middle of the road at best even with mid-season acquisitions.

    Todd Boss

    11 Mar 16 at 9:49 am

  21. That Arizona pitching staff could turn out to be very good this year if they get help in the back-end of the rotation.

    Ghost of Steve M.

    11 Mar 16 at 3:54 pm

  22. Oh yeah, if the Nats were to get power starters out of drafting RELIEVERS with picks from rounds 8 and 11 (Glover and A. Lee), those would go down among the steals of the century. The only downside I see to experimenting with them as starters is that it may slow their progress as relievers. I’m already on record with Glover as my darkhorse pick for a run all the way to the majors this season (if he stays as a reliever).

    A sign of just how deep the Nats are with starters: they’ve already optioned Cole, Jordan, and Voth, all of whom probably could be on the back end of quite a number of MLB rotations. I’m still not sure what to think of the Arroyo vs. Roark battle. Are they really going to stick Roark in the ‘pen yet again? They’ve already got Petit ticketed as the long man.


    11 Mar 16 at 10:00 pm

  23. Development of relievers versus starters: do you think it really affects them? After all these years of studying pitchers, it seems to me that the difference between starters and pitchers comes down to just one of a few specific things:
    – lack of a 3rd pitch. Or even a second pitch. How many times have you seen this scenario: guy has a great fastball, a decent slider … and nothing else. Take our own Aaron Barrett as a classic example of this: he throws a 2-seam fastball and a slider. And basically nothing else. So if you’re only facing a guy one time in a game, or even a series for that matter, you can get away with him playing the coin flip game at the plate. Especially when both your fastball and your slider are plus pitches.
    – Not enough velocity to matter: if you’re “saving” your arm to last 100 pitches and can only muster 90 … odds are you can “air it out” and get a couple extra ticks on your fastball knowing you are only throwing 15 or so four-seamers on the night and then likely get a day off the next day to recover if you go too long. Tanner Roark is a classic example here; as a starter in 2014 his average FA velocity was just 91.1 and his peak on the year was 94.7. But in 2015 when asked to be a short-inning reliever, his average velocity jumped to 92.7 and his peak was 96.4. You don’t just invent 2 MPH on your arm over night; he was clearly altering the way he threw in 2015 based on his usage. And as we now know, he struggled, he admitted he was overthrowing and “straightening out” his natural movement as such.
    – Mechanics/Body type; if you have sh*tty mechanics or arm action, or you’re just not built like a pitching adonis, you may just need to move to the pen so the team can actually use you instead of having you constantly be on the D/L. Not sure the Nats have someone naturally like this … but i think of someone like Tim Lincecum at this point in his career. I don’t think he can start any more …but i’ll bet he makes an awesome late-inning reliever.
    – A gimmick pitch; Mariano Rivera’s cutter, Chapman’s fastball. One pitch that’s so frigging good that you’re unhittable as a closer but not so unhittable that you’d work as a starter. On our team I think that best suits Treinen’s sinking fastball.

    Anyway my conclusion is this: lets say you’re falling into one of those reliever categories right now … and the team is trying to “make you” starter. More often than not that means they’re telling you to work on a 3rd or 4th pitch option and get them to the point where you can command them at any point int he count, have faith in the pitch to throw it 3-1 or to the opposing team’s best hitter, and to make it at least a 40-50 pitch to complement your already 65-70 fastball and 55-60 off-speed pitch. That’s how you “make” a starter. If you can’t ever develop the 3rd pitch … then its back to the pen. But is your ‘development” as a reliever stunted as a result of trying to find that 3rd pitch? Nah; you already have two good pitches … which you’re still throwing more often than not.

    Todd Boss

    14 Mar 16 at 9:43 am

  24. Roark vs Arroyo. Well, not that ST stats matter but Roark’s numbers are better and he’s given the team no reason to think about replacing him. (unlike say … oh i dunno Danny Espinosa for the nth season in a row, hitless so far while Turner is shocking people with his speed and arm strength).

    I wonder if the team won’t find a way to D/L Arroyo and keep him in XST to provide injury cover.

    Todd Boss

    14 Mar 16 at 9:46 am

  25. If Arroyo can’t break 80mph, I think they’d have good reason to stash him in XST.

    Andrew R

    14 Mar 16 at 8:44 pm

  26. The starters who have had less success in the spring have been Gio and Ross. Ross only surrendered a 1st inning HR yesterday, but he did give up five hits in four innings. Would they dare think about starting Arroyo over Ross? Arroyo got knocked around in his first start but weaved his magic in his second one. Personally, I hope he’s in came just as an insurance policy, but Dusty loves him, which worries me. Roark hasn’t given them much room to question him, only one run in nine innings.

    Interestingly, the Nats have “stretched out” Treinen again this spring, but they’ve only pitched him once thus far. Not sure what they’re doing with him, or even about his chances to make the big club.

    Turner might have put some pressure on Danny if he had hit, but he hasn’t. Danny apparently has looked really, REALLY bad at the plate. He sure did in the game I saw on TV on Sunday. So did Taylor, despite his supposed better spring.

    On starter vs. reliever, yes, a lot of it is whether the guy can develop the third (and potentially fourth) pitch. That supposedly had a lot to do with why Lopez got stuck in Woodbridge all year. And that’s pretty much my point: they have more reason to keep the younger starters at a level until they prove if they can master the full repertoire, while young relievers can move up quickly just blowing guys away, as Glover and A. Lee did last year.


    15 Mar 16 at 5:23 am

  27. Agree with most of your speculation, KW. Dusty does seem to be in the can for Arroyo, and no guarantees that Ross makes it, although Dusty did praise him yesterday as ‘electric’. I am really not excited about Arroyo.

    I’d had forgotten all about Lopez – is he even in camp yet?


    15 Mar 16 at 7:33 am

  28. I dunno about Lopez. There’s very little minor league coverage in the spring. Byron Kerr has a few tidbits here and there. It is interesting to note that Lopez and Giolito started last season essentially even, both with extended stints at Potomac before Giolito moved up. Now Giolito is getting a long look with the big club. He’s supposed to follow Gio today.

    I don’t get the flirtation with Arroyo. Would they really risk Ross’s confidence by sending him down in favor of Arroyo? Time to give Bronson one more start and then wish him well on the back end of someone else’s rotation.


    15 Mar 16 at 8:02 am

  29. I think that most of the angst about Arroyo is premature and overblown. He’s had two outings, one good, one terrible. He’s been maxing out at 81-82 on the radar gun. Yes, Dusty has said nice things about him. What was he supposed to say – “wow, Bronson really looks done?”

    To say nothing of the fact that, while Baker gets a vote, Rizzo gets a veto. Still three weeks until Opening Day, and a lot of roster sorting, to go.

    John C.

    15 Mar 16 at 9:04 am

  30. I wonder if the Treinen and Arroyo situations are linked. As you noted, Treinen has been told to work on a 3rd pitch and is being “stretched out.” He’s got just 2 IP so far while a slew of NRIs have more. Does this mean that the team is leaning towards keepign Arroyo as long-man, sending Treinen to AAA for starter insurance and Petit becomes more of a 6th-7th inning guy?

    Todd Boss

    15 Mar 16 at 9:19 am

  31. My ‘angst’ about Arroyo isn’t so much that he wouldn’t deserve it – I defer to Rizzo to make the best choices. It’s, as I think I’ve said before, I just don’t enjoy watching him pitch. Never been a fan of junkballers. Wasn’t a Livo fan either.

    But on roster choices, if Turner picks it up, I could see Rizzo going with him out of camp. On the last year of his (Rizzo’s) deal, I can see the value of that extra year of control being less valuable to him. Not saying I agree with the choice, but moral hazards do exist.


    15 Mar 16 at 9:31 am

  32. Is it the worst thing if the team throws Arroyo a bone, lets him be 7th guy in the pen, throwing once a week in slop/blowout games and letting him be the “adult” in the bullpen mentoring the staff?

    I’d be ok with it if a couple of things happen:
    1. Petit proves himself to be a useful shorter-stint reliever and can be thrown into the former Stammen/Barrett roles adequately
    2. Treinen looks like he’s developing a 3rd pitch that he can use to get lefties out, something he hasn’t been able to do recently.

    I’m looking back at who owned the “long man/spot starter” role on the staff on opening day and came up with this list:

    2015: Roark. 2014: Detwiler. 2013: Zach Duke. 2012: Tom Gorzelanny. 2011: Brian Broderick. 2010: Miguel Batista. 2009: Julian Tavarez. 2008: Joel Hanrahan, 2007: Levale Speigner

    So … not exactly a murderer’s row of hurlers. The team won divisional titles with Gorzelanny and Detwiler in those roles.

    Todd Boss

    15 Mar 16 at 10:50 am

  33. Oh, I’m with you Wally. Even over and above my normal disdain for junkballers, there’s something about Arroyo that I’ve never liked. I’m not sure whether it’s the perpetual seeming smirk, the stupid leg kick, or what. But I have a completely unreasonable, subjective, and quixotic dislike of him. Always have. I just don’t think that there’s a solid path for him to the rotation unless there’s an injury.

    John C.

    15 Mar 16 at 10:57 am

  34. FWIW, the Nats’ agreement with Arroyo is that they have to notify him at least five days before the Nats break camp if he hasn’t made the team, or something to that effect. Their last ST game in FLA is Mar. 30, so presumably they “break camp” on the 31st. Arroyo is set to start again tomorrow (Mar. 16). He would have a couple of more starts before his due date if the Nats keep him around that long.

    Would Arroyo take a seat in the bullpen? I have no idea. Whose seat would he take? Treinen’s? Petit would seem to be the first-call swingman.

    I’m a lot more comfortable with Roark and Ross in the short term than I am with Arroyo, and of course there is no long term with Arroyo. The Nats need Roark and Ross in the rotation not just in 2016, but going forward.

    Yes, yes I know that even “lucky” teams end up needing at least seven or eight starters over the course of a season. The Nats would seem to be pretty solid at #6 with Giolito primed and nearly ready. Petit and Treinen have swingman experience. Cole and Voth are close, and Taylor Jordan is still kicking around (although I found it curious how early that trio got optioned, without Dusty getting much of a look at them in game action).

    That’s a roundabout way of saying that while I’m glad that Arroyo has had a good outing, I don’t see how he fits unless someone falls apart (which Roark and Ross haven’t) or gets injured (Heaven forbid!).


    15 Mar 16 at 11:43 am

  35. I agree with you on Jordan. Always liked him but they shipped him out right away so I have to believe he’s done, here at least. Plus he has never looked as good as his brief trial in 2013 (I think it was). I find myself wanting to make excuses for him but at some point, a player is what he produces and I think Jordan is there now.

    Has the feel of Shawn Hill at this point. I kind of wish they’d let him and TMo go elsewhere to see if regular use gives them some kind of big league career.


    15 Mar 16 at 12:44 pm

  36. I’d be a-ok with Arroyo getting the long man job under a couple of conditions:
    1. Petit needs to show he’s capable of doing 7th inning duties and be just as good as what Stammen/Barrett gave us
    2. Treinen needs to show enough promise on his 3rd pitch and/or prove himself still incapable of getting lefties out to the point where he needs to be in AAA.
    3. Arroyo shows that he can be a good veteran influence on the bullpen

    Here’s a quick list of the “long man/spot starter” roles on our bullpen going back a ways: 2015: Roark, 2014: Detwiler. 2013: Zach duke. 2012: Tom Gorzelanny. 2011: Brian Broderick. 2010: Miguel Batista. 2009: Julian Tavarez probably. 2008: Joel Hanrahan. 2007: Levale Speigner. 2006: Jason Bergmann. 2005: TJ Tucker I guess.

    Not the most impressive list of guys. Nats won 95+ games with Detwiler and Gorzelanny in the long man roles, so it isn’t as if you need a super star there.

    Todd Boss

    15 Mar 16 at 1:21 pm

  37. FWIW, Chelsea Janes has tweeted that Dusty said this morning that Treinen “is not a starter” but that they have big plans for him in the bullpen. But when are they even going to let him pitch? As Todd noted, the NRIs are eating a lot of innings.

    Wally, T-Mo and Taylor Jordan should have been “freed” at least an offseason ago. If Rizzo gets offered a bag of balls for either, he should jump on it.


    15 Mar 16 at 1:31 pm

  38. I realized i posted the same thing twice. Browser crash.

    Todd Boss

    15 Mar 16 at 2:40 pm

  39. Todd Boss

    15 Mar 16 at 4:53 pm

  40. Good stuff on Giolito. He apparently struggled a bit today, though.

    The timing with Giolito will be interesting, as will who he replaces in the rotation, unless there’s an injury. He’s only got 140-150 innings for this year. For the “Nationals Way,” that also includes the playoffs. It’s a hard and fast number. How do you get to the finish line with that limitation? I’d say he stays in XLT until May, ramps up slowly in May/June, perhaps with starts every six or seven days (as he was doing last season), then in June/July starting regular rotation work, with a target date between the All-Star break to around August 1. That’s all just a guess, with a little back-of-the-envelope work on how many innings might be needed for the pennant race and playoffs.


    15 Mar 16 at 7:45 pm

  41. Err, XST, Extended Spring Training. I doubt they’ll want him in Upstate NY in April, though, or mid-state PA.


    15 Mar 16 at 7:48 pm

  42. You have to get there first, though, and I don’t think they can afford to let him idle away in XST if it means that he would be a month away from being ready if they need him early. If they get off to a bad start and need a SP, they will need him ready to go right away. Planning to have him for the 2d half only is a high risk strategy, and with what happened last year (the underperformance, not the specifics), I don’t think it’s wise.

    I think this year, it’s truly a best 25 go north deal. Ok, the Pie Guy doesn’t go north right away, but he should be first man up.


    15 Mar 16 at 9:39 pm

  43. The Nats have three choices with Giolito: a) bring him up in June, knowing that he’ll be done at the top of the stretch for the pennant, as Ross was last year; b) bring him up in July, with the possibility that he can make it through the end of the regular season but probably not the playoffs; or c) bring him up in August, believing that he can go the whole way.

    I honestly don’t know what the “right” answer is. It looks like it might be a tight divisional race, so you certainly don’t want to hold anything back that might help tip the scale in your favor. At the same time, look at the lists in the initial post above and tell me what trio you’d rather have for the postseason than Scherzer-Strasburg-Giolito, if Giolito lives up to his hype. *Maybe* you would give the Met trio an edge, but our plan is for the Met trio not to be in the postseason!

    Oh well. It’s not my call. The Nats also have the advantage here of having five good starters with whom to begin the season. There’s no rush. But there’s significant expectation.


    16 Mar 16 at 6:22 am

  44. Been thinking about Turner. Does anyone know offhand how long do they have to keep him down to gain the extra year? I think it’s mid June or so (the decision to bring him up sure looks like a poor one).

    Given that it is so long, similar in theory to my comment that Giolito shouldn’t be idling away in XST too long, they may start with Espy/Drew but if that’s not producing right away, I could see a quick call up. If they don’t wait long enough to get the extra year, there is no difference between April 10 and May 30 for service time, so why not get the player up?


    16 Mar 16 at 9:36 am

  45. I saw someone say somewhere that Turner will have regained his service year by May 29, although I don’t know how authoritative that was.

    Dusty supposedly made a comment yesterday that he might throw open the SS competition among Danny, Trea, and Drew. We’ll see. Danny is looking like 2013-Danny, as in historically bad at the plate, particularly from the left side, digging his hole deeper with every at bat. I was really eager to see his plus defense get a look at SS, but he’s just been a train wreck in the spring. Trea hasn’t exactly seized the opportunity, but he hasn’t hurt himself nearly as badly, either.

    This wasn’t supposed to be a competition, at least at this stage, but it’s becoming one.


    16 Mar 16 at 9:52 am

  46. By the way, Nats Talk has just blown up over Danny over the last couple of days, if you want to see a zillion comments about it. I don’t really know the answer. I don’t think Drew is it. I’d rather see them just eat the year of service time time and start Trea from day one if it comes down to Drew vs. Trea. The “Harper window” is only going to be open for so long, and the “Stras window” for even less.


    16 Mar 16 at 10:48 am

  47. I could see a platoon between RH Espy and LH Drew to start. My Turner issue is that he hasn’t looked ready either, so what are we getting? If he went all Kris Bryant on ST, then sure go with the kid. But I think they have to choose highest performance right now, and if Turner needs an adjustment period, I’d take the vet for now.


    16 Mar 16 at 11:09 am

  48. Back to the fifth starter debate, Arroyo has been scratched from his start today, with Treinen taking his place . . . just a couple of days after Dusty declared that Treinen isn’t a starter.

    Danny is still in there at SS and will get some RH swings today. Trea is starting at 2B against the lefty.


    16 Mar 16 at 11:31 am

  49. Turner: got 45 days of service time last year. Add in an additional 10 days to account for the difference between a defined service year (172 days) and the number of calendar days in a typical MLB season (183) and you’re talking having to keep him in the minors for 55 days. If opening day is April 3rd, then 55 days after April 3 is….. May 28th. So whoever had May 29th as a date to circle is spot on.

    Todd Boss

    16 Mar 16 at 2:31 pm

  50. Arroyo getting scratched is bad timing for him … he doesn’t have a ton more opportunities to pitch as a NRI given that we’re about 2 weeks from the season and the starters have to start getting more and more time. Buuuuuuut it could lead to a D/L spot and him hanging around XST for a while….

    Todd Boss

    16 Mar 16 at 2:33 pm

  51. Back to pitching, Treinen had a strong start against Miami today, with four Ks in two innings with only one hit allowed. The competition for the final seats in the bullpen is going to get very interesting.

    Meanwhile, Danny has two hits today thus far . . . while batting RH.


    16 Mar 16 at 2:39 pm

  52. Uuuugh:

    Arroyo has 80% tear in his Labrum. Geeze. That’s it for him.

    Todd Boss

    16 Mar 16 at 8:58 pm

  53. Yep. While he wasn’t my choice to make the team, it’s sad for anyone to have his career end that way. For whatever it’s worth, he did have one last start where his magic worked.


    17 Mar 16 at 5:18 am

  54. Agreed, you never want to see this happen to anyone.

    How about the Laroche thing? Pretty weird, I’d say. It has the feel to there being more to the story. I wonder if Adam was already thinking of packing it in, and this just gave him the out. But my guess is that there were some players who weren’t happy about the kid around, and didn’t want to do it publicly so they went to Williams. And if that’s right, then Williams is being a standup guy and taking the heat on himself, rather than sell out the players.

    But my strongest reaction is this: as a father myself, I think ALR’s decision on what to do should primarily be motivated by what puts his boy in the best spot, and I am not sure that your dad resigning from a well paid, highly public job, and being criticized to boot, is the best for the kid. I mean, on the one hand it’s great for a boy to see his dad stand up for him. But the flip side is that he probably thinks it’s fault that all of this is happening. Kids have a large capacity to blame themselves for stuff, despite what adults tell them.


    17 Mar 16 at 12:12 pm

  55. Btw, have comments 1-50 disappeared for everyone else, or is it just happening on my iPad?


    17 Mar 16 at 12:13 pm

  56. Well, I can see the comments 🙂

    I was going to post something on the ALR situation but wanted to wait til there was more information. I’ll do a new post to discuss b/c I do have an opinion.

    Todd Boss

    18 Mar 16 at 9:20 am

  57. New posted on LaRoche situation. Your comment is definitely a different take than the way I went and i’ll cut-n-paste it there.

    Todd Boss

    18 Mar 16 at 9:50 am

  58. […] Even though there’s still about 20 “starting pitchers” still on the FA market, none of them really project as anything more than a 5th starter competition or a MLFA signing at this point in the off-season, so I thought it was high time to break out my 2017 Rotation Rankings.  (Here’s a link to last year’s rankings) […]

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