Nationals Arm Race

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

Did the team waste $8M on Maya?


Are we about to see the last of Yunesky Maya? Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images via

In 5 starts last year; Yunesky Maya was 0-3 with a 5.88 era, a 1.577 whip and a very bad 69 ERA+.  The team lost all 5 games he pitched and he didn’t come close to even recording a quality start.

He was any one of a number of excuses.  He was “rusty.”  He was “rushed to the majors.”  He was “homesick” and he “missed his family.”  He was suffering from a “lack of competition.”  All those points were true.  The real test for Maya would be spring training 2011.

He failed to make the rotation out of the spring this past March, but you can’t fault him there.  The only rotational guy really in any jeopardy of not making the rotation (by virtue of contract or option status) was Jordan Zimmermann, and even then it was only if he was hurt.  So he (by some accounts) sulked to AAA and got pounded his first few starts before sucking it up and starting to pitch like a pro.  Because of Detwiler‘s sudden lack of performance in AAA, Maya was first to be called up to make a spot start when Gorzelanny got hurt.

All the 2010 excuses are now out the window.  He’s had a full spring, he’s rested, he should be in playing shape, and he had a bunch of AAA starts.  So, what happened?

He got lit up.  Again.

  • 5/29: 6 hits and 2 walks in 4 2/3 innings.  His team bailed him out for a ND.
  • 6/3: another 6 hits and 3 more walks in 4 innings plus.  His bullpen failed him and made his line look worse than it was, but still.  He took a loss and dropped his era to 8.00.
  • 6/8: He actually looked great.  6ip, 4 hits, 1 run, albeit against a weaker hitting San Francisco team.  He got an early hook and his bullpen blew the game for him.
  • 6/14: The coup-de-grace.  Finally going against a decent hitting team (St. Louis), Maya got pounded like a bullpen pitcher.  Only a 6run 7th inning from his offense bailed him out and gave him a ND.

Those first two starts were against San Diego and Arizona, two of the weakest hitting teams in the league.  He was clearly nibbling at the strike zone instead of commanding his pitches.  His one quality start was against San Francisco, also a weak hitting team (man that NL west just can’t hit!).  But notice what happened when he went up against a lineup of proven hitters: Pujols homer, Berkman homer, Rasmus rbi-double.  Thank god Holliday is hurt.

With Gorzelanny having finished a rehab start and looking to come back, Maya has been optioned back to AAA.

One of the reasons we drafted Maya was because of his reported “93-94” mph fastball.  That, as it turns out, as proven to be a complete myth.  Here’s his pitch f/x links for his 2011 starts:

  • 5/29: 89.24mph average, a MAX speed of only 91.7.  He only looks like he even broke 90mph a handful of times on the night.
  • 6/3: 88.7 average and ONLY 89.4 as a max.  89.4 as a max fastball for a right-handed starter in the major leagues?
  • 6/8: 88.6 average, 90.6 max.  And this was his best game.
  • 6/14: 89.1 average, max of 91.1.  The announcers said he had no movement, his fastball was flat, he was missing out over the plate and he had no control.

Yeah, he throws a gazillion different pitches.  Pitch f/x distinguishes between 6 of them, but he varies his arm slot on his fastballs and curves for even more variety.    But clearly he’s not throwing 93-94.  Whoever quoted that speed was probably on a fast gun at a stadium or was working on commission.

He’s had two shots at the big leagues and has badly underperformed both times.  If he had better stuff or commanded his pitches better, then his lack of velocity wouldn’t matter as much (see Hernandez, Livan as Exhibit 1-a).  But he doesn’t (have command), so he can’t (get around a lack of velocity).  Unfortunately for Maya and the team, it looks like his contract may be a bust.  When he goes back to AAA, it may be for good.  Perhaps he’ll make for a long-man/mop-up guy at some point.  But his career as a prospective Nationals starter seems done.

9 Responses to 'Did the team waste $8M on Maya?'

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  1. I think that you nailed this.

    It happens, though. I hope that it doesn’t make Rizzo gunshy to keep dipping into the international pool. We can’t afford to lose that source of talent. But I would like to see him adopt Brian Oliver’s approach of spreading out a few million over a bunch of $100-250k kids.

    At least it wasn’t Kei Igawa.


    16 Jun 11 at 1:05 pm

  2. I was at the Giants game with my family, and i can safely say we were baffled by who that Maya was on the mound. He had command of his pitches, and was mixing them effectively and throwing each pitch at different points in the count. He has also only thrown about 50 pitches or so in those 6 innings, which is just absurd (maybe more a testament to the Giant offense though).

    I think it’s too early to completely give up on him. If there was anyone to learn from, it was Livan, and maybe he was able to pick up some advice from Mr. 50 CGs himself. If he can learn to attack the strike zone in the minors, I could very easily see Maya pushing for the No. 5 slot in the rotation.


    16 Jun 11 at 1:54 pm

  3. I had this posting canned up for the past two weeks, and held on to it after seeing him dominate in SF. But then when he got just blitzed by Stl I knew he’d be going back down, and I figured we may never see him again. I think the difference between him and Livan is that Livan at least at one point had a power fastball, and as he lost the FB he gained guile and control that makes him who he is today. Maya doesn’t seem to have that same control. Hence, while Livan gets pounded every 4th start or so, but then gives three straight quality starts, it seems Maya is the reverse. He blew his shot last year, and blew his shot this year.

    In 2012 (barring FA signings), I can’t see how Maya possibly features. We’ll have Strasburg back, Zimmermann as #2, Lannan and Gorzelanny under arbitration control, and probably Livan back on another ridiculously cheap FA deal. In terms of pecking order you have to think after these 5 guys it will go something like Detwiler, Meyers, Milone, Peacock and only then Maya and perhaps Stammen (who still has options).

    Here’s some interesting thoughts for you (a future off-season planning blog post). Here’s a list of familiar names who are OUT of options after this season: Balester, Detwiler, Mock. Do you think any of these three guys is making our 2011 25-man roster? If so, we may be facing a Gorzelanny situation where guys HAVE to make the team or we’re losing them (or, of course, we “invent” an injury to stash them on the DL).

    Todd Boss

    16 Jun 11 at 2:32 pm

  4. I think that “Yuniesky Maya” is Spanish for “Kei Igawa.” Yankee fans will understand that one.

    More seriously, it’s too early to give up on Maya, but from now on he will have to earn his way back to DC. If he can get into top shape and squeeze few more mph out of his arm, or learn the Livo Guile Method ™, then he can earn his way back in some role, possibly in the Miss Iowa long relief/spot starter role. But he’s in serious danger of getting passed up in the org hierarchy, and so there are no guarantees.

    Mock is toast; I doubt he lasts the season on the 40 man. Balestar and Detwiler have to earn their way up, most likely in the bullpen. If Strasburg comes back healthy, then the rotation next year (as of right now) is Strasburg, Zimmermann, Gorzelanny, Lannan, and some RHP that would split up the lefties. Milone and Peacock will probably get a chance to crash the party, and of course there is the possiblity of a free agent signing (Buerhle? Oswalt?) as well.

    John C.

    16 Jun 11 at 3:10 pm

  5. At least Maya didn’t cost as much. 0 wins and 9 starts for $6M thus far. Igawa: 13 starts, 2-4 record for $20M over 5years ($46M including the posting fee). Thats $18M per win, $3.5M per start. With the posting fee, easily the worst free agent pitcher of all time. At least Maya has his $/start lower than Igawa. 🙂

    Maya has competition for the 7th man in the bullpen, if it comes to that. Is he any better in that role than Balester, Stammen or even Mattheus?

    Agree on Mock. He’s had nearly as many chances in this organization as Steve Howe did.

    2012: if Livan signs for some ridiculously low number again, you have to consider him as well. For going 10-12 last year he represented one of the biggest bargains in baseball in terms of $/win and $/start. He’s clearly better than a replacement pitcher for barely more money, and provides seniority to the staff. What i wonder for 2012 is if the likes of Lannan and Gorzelanny stick. Gorzelanny’s era is in the 4s and he’s got a babip in the .230 range. If anything he’s going to get hit harder. Meanwhile Lannan seems to be replaceable. Career 4.04, periods of god-awfulness. He’s a #5 starter maybe on most other teams. At some point he’ll not be worth his arbitration salary, get non-tendered and we may lose him to a team like Pittsburgh that seems content to field an entire rotation of #5 starters and never win.

    Not too many real good FA pitchers this coming off season. I can’t see Oswalt or Buehrle leaving where they are frankly. For me the best names in the pool will be Edward Jackson, Joel Peineiro, and CJ Wilson. But, the yankees will be sniffing around for whatever they can get and might buy all three guys. I think we’ll hunker down and try to make a splash after NEXT season, when the market has a ton of major arms/Aces coming into the marker (Greinke, Cain, Weaver, Liriano, hamels, Marcum, Peavy, both Sanchezs).

    Todd Boss

    16 Jun 11 at 3:59 pm

  6. I could see Detwiler and Balester making it, but since they aren’t signed to big contracts, I think that we’ll avoid the Gorzelanny (and Coffey) situation. They’ll have to earn it, to a degree. Tie goes to them, but not if they are clearly outpitched in ST. Then they get DFA’d and traded for scrap, is my guess.

    Getting back to Maya, I think his signing was following the same philosophy that Rizzo has in preferring college draftees over HS, which is that he strongly prefers the higher predictability,and he’ll trade ceiling for that. So rather than spend less on more, younger kids, he was more comfortable spending a lot on someone he could predict (he thought). I can’t fault him, his overall track record is good, and this kind of stuff happens. I would probably opt for the scattershot approach, but what do I know, I am just a guy. So long as he recognizes that it is spent money and doesn’t play him just because of the contract (which is how I expect him to act), I look at it as a cost of doing business.


    16 Jun 11 at 6:32 pm

  7. Todd Boss,

    You mentioned the lack of quality starting pitching. What about the Japanese kid who plans to come to the states next year? Yu Darvish? or something, like that? Maybe we can get him…


    16 Jun 11 at 11:31 pm

  8. BA had a pretty extensive report on Darvish here; . I don’t think our team would win the posting war to get him honestly. If they’re saying he’d get a higher posting fee than Dice-K, that’s $50M before even signing the guy. That seems like such a massive risk (consider the $30M the Reds paid for Chapman, who is at best an 8th inning, one-inning-per outing guy and is struggling badly in AAA right now). I’d rather develop and spend money on guys we have a track record on. I’d rather risk $4M on Purke than $50M on Darvish.

    Darvish is still under Japanese contract for a number of years, and it would be up to his Japanese team to make the decision to allow him to post. So it may not even be a sure think he’s coming here anytime soon.

    Todd Boss

    17 Jun 11 at 10:37 pm

  9. Detwiler/Balester: perhaps they take the roles next year that we gave this year to Broderick and Coffey. I think the team would have a hard time giving up on a guy like Detwiler, former 1st rounder, high bonus money invested, who is lefty and can throw 93-94. Perhaps he’ll have an “injury” coming out of spring if he doesn’t make the team.

    Agree on Maya. In the long run $6M over 4 years isn’t that big a risk.

    Todd Boss

    17 Jun 11 at 10:40 pm

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