Nationals Arm Race

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

Nats Rotation Cycle #14: good/bad/soso



Jordan Zimmermann is pitching like the "2nd ace" that we all have hoped for. Photo AP/Manuel Malce-Ceneta

The news this rotation is that Jason Marquis will drop his appeal of his undeserved 5-game suspension and serve it out.  Reason?  Because an off day in the schedule allows the rest of the starters to go on normal rest and Marquis will just move back in the rotation.  So next cycle will only have four of the five pitchers reviewed.


  • Jason Marquis pitched an efficient game on 6/9 (box/gamer) getting his 7th win.  6ip 3hits 1run 5k 3bb.
  • John Lannan throws his fourth excellent start in a row on 6/11 (box/gamer) to get the win.  He’s now thrown four straight games with 0 or 1 run allowed and has lowered his season ERA to 3.60.  Line: 6 1/3, 6hits, 1run, 1k and 2 bbs.  Not a lot of Ks, but he didn’t need them.
  • Jordan Zimmermann threw perhaps the best game any starter has thrown this year on 6/12 in San Diego (box/gamer).  7pm, 4 hits, 1 walk 0 runs and 10 strikeouts.  Too bad his team couldn’t score him any runs, so the win was left for Todd Coffey to clean up.  As was pointed out in another blog, his game score on the night was better than Strasburg‘s debut 14-k game last June.  This is Zimmermann’s 8th straight quality start, and his third straight start going 7 complete and giving up 0 or 1 runs.  You can’t ask more than that out of a starter.


  • So it goes for Livan Hernandez: some good, some bad.  His start on 6/8 (box/gamer) was definitely in the bad category, getting peppered for 9 hits and 6 runs by the light-hitting Padres.
  • Yunesky Maya certainly pitched his last Nationals game on 6/14 (box/gamer) for a while, and it was indicative of his previous outings.  He failed to finish 5, gave up 6 runs on 9 hits and looked completely overmatched against a good hitting team.  Stay tuned for a Maya-specific post coming up…

Starter Trends (last 5 starts only).  Lannan rebounding nicely, as is Marquis.  Zimmermann has been outer-worldly, while Maya is destined for a return to AAA.  Marquis continues to improve his trade value.

  • Lhernandez      good,soso,soso,good,bad
  • Marquis             bad,soso,good,good,good
  • Lannan               bad,great,good,good,good
  • Zimmermann  good,good,good,good,great
  • Maya                   bad,soso,good,bad

Relievers of Note and other News.

  • A recent spate of sub-par outings by guys in the bullpen has the team over-relying on Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen for late inning success.  We need to get Sean Burnett back in the saddle and pitching the way he did last year.  However the addition of the next guy may help.
  • Ryan Mattheus gets his long awaited shot at the majors, having been added to the 40-man on 6/10/10.  Mattheus has been pitching in the minors since 2003, was our trade bounty for Joe Beimel in 2009 from the Rockies, and has fully come back from Tommy John surgery.  We were sitting at 39/40 on the 40-man after Broderick‘s dfa, so no corresponding move was needed.  His stuff looked pretty nasty during his debut on 6/14; he had a couple of Ks and looked pretty confident.  Per pitch f/x, he averaged 93 and hit 94.5 mph on his fastball and showed a huge gap between his fastball and off-speed stuff.  I’m not sure I believe that he showed 4 pitches (fast, curve, slider, change) but he definitely showed 2 fastballs (a 2 -seamer and 4-seamer) that both showed life, and he’s got a Clippard-esque delta from fastball to changeup.  If Mattheus turns into Clippard v2.0, I’d be very happy.
  • Mattheus replaces Cole Kimball, who has “right shoulder inflammation”  and went on the 15-day DL.  Kimball has been pretty effective thus far, but is walking guys far too often and the rest may do him some good.  But as is apt to happen to guys getting their first shot at the bigs, he has been in pain since April and failed to tell anyone about it.  Now he’s got such bad rotator cuff inflammation he may not pitch for weeks.  Well, at least we get to see what Mattheus can do.
  • Tom Gorzelanny pitched a rehab start in Syracuse on 6/13, putting him in line to re-take his rotational spot during this next cycle.  Per Ben Goessling, Gorzelanny is already back with the team and is ready to go.  Based on Maya’s last outing, I’m guessing Gorzelanny will be activated sunday morning to make his next start.

I’ve a bit behind on these rotation reviews, having captured the data but not really done any analysis.  Here’s the good/bad/soso from the 12th and 13th cycle.

During the 13th Rotation cycle, our crew had perhaps its best 5-day run since the first week of the season.  All five starts were strong.  Even Maya had a strong start, the first of his major league career.


  • Livan Hernandez was strong through 7 but gets loss on 6/4 (box/gamer).   Only 4 hits thru 7complete but his offense disappeared.
  • Jason Marquis was excellent until he got ejected in rather ridiculous fashion on 6/5 (box/gamer).  He was ejected in a highly charged game featuring lots of HBPs and other bad blood between teams, but there’s just no way he was purposely hitting a guy on an 0-2 count.
  • John Lannan looked great on 6/6 (box/gamer) but bullpen blew it.  7 innings, 4 hits and only 1 run.
  • Jordan Zimmermann threw his 7th straight quality start on 6/7 (box/gamer).
  • Yuniesky Maya had his best MLB start, by far, on 6/8 (box/gamer).  He got an early hook though and Burnett blew the game for him.

Relievers of Note News.

  • The Nats placed Doug Slaten on the DL, called up Craig Stammen.  Slaten complained of “shooting elbow pain” that has lasted for 2 weeks, but one could see this as the continuation a convenient trend of the Nats using the DL to hide off their underperforming players.

The 12th rotation cycle started on a blisteringly hot Memorial day at the park, where the temperatures neared 100.  The Phillies were in town, which meant an invasion of Roy Halladay-jersey wearing obnoxiousness.  To make matters worse, the Nats were lined up to go against the #1-2-3 starters on the best rotation ever constructed.  How’d we fare?


  • Jason Marquis pitched very effectively while his teammates battered Cliff Lee for 6 runs on 5/31 (box/gamer) and he got the well deserved victory.  Line: 6 1/3, 2 runs, 8 hits, 0 walks, 4 Ks.
  • John Lannan put 8 guys on in 5 1/3 innings and worked in and out of jams in pretty much every inning, but allowed only one unearned run and got his first ever victory over Philadelphia in the series finale on 6/1 (box/gamer).  A tough third game to a tough series (hot streak, two day games out of three throwing off everyone’s sleep patterns).
  • Another excellent start from Jordan Zimmermann, opening up the Arizona series on 6/2 (box/gamer) with a 7inning 1run performance.  Line: 7ip, 6hits, 1run, 4ks and 1 walk.  I’d love to get an interview with Steve McCatty and find out if Zimmermann has changed his approach; he’s striking out guys at a 33% lower rate than last year.


  • Livan Hernandez opposed Roy Halladay on 5/30 (box/gamer) and did his best to keep his team in the game.  He ends up with a no decision, giving up 4 runs in 6 1/3.  He nearly pitched his way out of the game in the third, when the Phillies strung together 5 straight hits (including two solo homers).  In typical Livan fashion, he worked his way out of the jam and then pitched 3 more scoreless innings.  The offense (amazingly) really got to Halladay, and its a shame the bullpen dropped the ball after getting 4 runs on the best pitcher in baseball.
  • I’m not quite ready to judge Yunesky Maya‘s 2nd (and presumably last) start as completely bad.  I think he was just unlucky, and possibly the victim of a trigger-happy manager addicted to matchup managing.  Instead of letting Maya try to get out of his own jam, he brought in Doug “The firestarter” Slaten to throw three straight balls, then groove a 3-0 fastball for a bases-clearing triple.

Relievers of Note and other Pitcher News.

  • Sean Burnett blew Livan’s win for him on Monday, and has really struggled this year.  Adam Kilgore reports that Riggleman is standing by his guy, which I suppose is admirable considering the distinct lack of left-handed reliever talent we have in the system right now (in case you’re wondering, that’s close to zero.  Check out our lefty-reliever depth at this link here).
  • Mark Zuckerman reports that Chien-Ming Wang is (finally) ready to leave extended spring training and go out on a rehab assignment.  This means he’s going to supplant a starter, somewhere in the system.  I’d guess he’s going to Potomac to start, as they seem to have the least-performing collection of starters right now and he’d completely overmatch the younger hitters in low-A.  The implication of his going out on a rehab assignment is this: he only gets 30 days in the minors (probably about 6 starts) before the Nats have to make a decision on what to do with him.  He has no minor league options, so in 30 days he either joins the 25-man roster, goes back on the DL or is DFA’d.  After all we’ve invested in him (and for the sake of his career), I’m hoping he still has something left.

Thoughts on the offense (dated 5/31, but still applicable right now).

All of a sudden, we have what looks like a halfway decent offense.  As of 5/31, here’s the OPS+ figures of our starting 8 out-field players:

  • C: Wilson Ramos, 105
  • 1B: Michael Morse, 128
  • 2B: Danny Espinosa: 112
  • SS: Ian Desmond: 73
  • 3B: Jerry Hairston Jr: 85
  • LF: Laynce Nix: 148
  • CF: Roger Bernadina: 75
  • RF: Jayson Werth: 117

When Ryan Zimmerman comes back (he’s sitting at 185 through 37 plate appearances) we’d have 6 of 8 positional players being above the mlb average at the plate.  That’s really good :-)

Written by Todd Boss

June 15th, 2011 at 9:46 am

7 Responses to 'Nats Rotation Cycle #14: good/bad/soso'

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  1. Happy to see Mattheus getting a shot and performing well last night. I wish MLB would call the Nats on the carpet for all of these fake injuries when guys underperform, I suspect Maya will be headed to the DL next!!


    15 Jun 11 at 11:42 am

  2. :-) I was initially irritated by the “gaming” of the DL that the Nats seemed to be doing … but hey, it is to our advantage, so don’t rock the boat. Honestly, Maya’s not going to the DL, he’s going to AAA where he’ll probably live the rest of his days. I’ve got a blog post coming up on him, but it is clear to me that he’s not what we were told, and he doesn’t have the arm we paid for.

    Todd Boss

    15 Jun 11 at 12:17 pm

  3. Clearly, Todd, you’re right about the Nats not getting what they thought in Maya, but the question is what to do next. They’re invested for 3 more years so the answer seems obvious to me.
    He good the 1st time through the lineup, mediocre the 2nd time & terrible the 3rd time. That spells reliever plain and simple.

    Mark L

    15 Jun 11 at 4:54 pm

  4. Livo earns a “great” or “super great”, if you have that supurlative in your rating system. Shutout, complete game, 3 hits, no (maybe one) walks, and 5 strikeouts. If the bats keep going the whole rotation will “improve.”

    Maya is done but it was a good gamble on the NATS’ part. Thanks for the Wang (thought he had gone into a black hole) news.

    Any thoughts on trade/keep Marquis and why signing announcements seem slow as compared to prior years?

    Sec 204 Row H Seat 7

    16 Jun 11 at 9:28 am

  5. Just published what i’ve had in the can for 2 weeks on Maya.

    Todd Boss

    16 Jun 11 at 11:25 am

  6. Was at last night’s game. Definitely one of the better all around games this team has ever played, offensively and pitching-wise.

    Just posted on maya;

    I think you trade Marquis. Wrong side of 30, pitching well in a contract year. Teams out there with need for a starter who can pitch decently and eat innings (see Yankees, New York). He’s not a type A or B pitcher so there’s no draft compensation. He’s not going to make this team’s rotation once the slew of #1/#2 draft picks matures, and in the meantime we can see if Milone, Meyers, Peacock, Detwiler can go.

    Not sure why we havn’t seen any signing news … we drafted a TON of college seniors who should be signing for pennies and getting their bags packed for Auburn. Short A season starts tomorrow!

    Todd Boss

    16 Jun 11 at 11:28 am

  7. Brian Olivers Twitter is reporting signings

    Konnor F

    16 Jun 11 at 1:45 pm

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