Nationals Arm Race

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

Nats Rotation Cycle #20: good/bad/soso


Is Livan Hernandez pitching his way out of the Nats rotation? Photo: AP

The All-star break comes in-between rotation cycles 19 and 20 for the squad.   At this halfway point, only two of our starters have made all 19 starts (Livan and Lannan).  Zimmermann missed a start when the Pittsburgh “rainout” in May and Marquis missed a start to serve out his suspension for the beanball series in Arizona.  Gorzelanny missed the first rotation through, then missed another 4 starts to injury (those being taken by Maya).  Lastly the rescheduling of Zimmermann’s missed start into a 4th of July doubleheader called for a spot start from Detwiler.  That’s 19+19+18+18+13+4+1 = all 92 starts so far this year.  You have to think that the consistency out of the rotation is one of the big reasons this team is doing so well.

The all-star break also gives the squad a chance to slightly re-order its rotation, since most of the guys will be on major rest.  You can’t take your #1 starter and have him become the #5 though b/c of days rest.  But the team does seem to be slightly modifying its order.  We’ll go out in the 2nd half with Livan, then Lannan, then Gorzelanny, then Marquis and with Zimmermann 5th.  The move of Zimmermann to 5th seems like yet another attempt to preserve his arm, despite what Johnson is telling the press.  He seems set to hit his 160 innings limit in mid-August now, by which point we should start seeing alternatives in the rotation.


  • John Lannan evened both his W/L record and the team’s season record to .500 with a 5 2/3 inning, 2 run outing against the Braves on Saturday 7/16.   It wasn’t the cleanest outing for Lannan (5 hits and 4 walks in less than 6 innings) but he worked around the baserunners and kept the potent Atlanta offense off the board for the most part.
  • Jason Marquis gave his team exactly what it needed on 7/18 (box/gamer): lots of quality innings to rest a bullpen that was shredded by Gorzelanny’s injury and (in my opinion) mismanagement by Davey Johnson (see bullet points below).  Marquis went 8 strong innings, giving up only 6 hits and striking out 9.


  • Livan Hernandez kicked off the 2nd half with an awful performance in Atlanta on 7/15 (box/gamer).  He only lasted 4 innings, giving up 8 hits and 6 runs (3 earned).  The Braves hitters were tattooing his pitches, which he regularly was floating over the plate.  As the TV announcers said, Hernandez is a guy who depends on working the corners and keeping his pitches under control.  Friday he was routinely hanging curveballs over the plate and missing his spots and it showed.   I wonder at what point the team gives up on the Hernandez experiment; his inconsistency on the mound has to be baffling and he’s now thrown enough lemons to make him the worst of our starters statistically.  I can see Livan getting moved for a low-end prospect and one of our promising starters from AAA getting plucked to finish out the season.
  • Jordan Zimmermann had an uncharacteristically bad outing on 7/19, getting touched for 6 runs in 5 innings against the lowly Astros to take the loss (box/gamer).  These are not the kind of innings we want out of Zimmermann before he gets shut down in August.


  • Tom Gorzelanny only lasted 2 innings in his 7/17 start (box/gamer) against the Braves before twisting his ankle on a play at the plate, putting the bullpen into all-hands-on-deck mode.  For the most part, the bullpen was ineffective, with Henry Rodriguez giving up the lead, Sean Burnett looking horrible, and Tyler Clippard striking out 4 in 2 innings but giving up a game-tying homer in the 8th.  It remains to be seen if Gorzelanny is going on the DL, but the injury didn’t seem that bad.

Starter Trends

Lhernandez    great,bad,good,bad,(break),bad
Lannan    good,good,bad,incomplete,(break),good
Gorzelanny    bad->dl,bad,good,good,(break),incomplete
Marquis    bad,great,bad,soso,(break),good
Zimmermann     good,great,good,good,(break),bad

Relievers of Note and other News

  • The JC Romero experiment didn’t last very long; he was released on 7/13 after putting up good numbers in AAA.  Goessling guesses that perhaps he had an out clause in his contract calling for his release unless he was promoted.  I’m surprised he wasn’t kept around a bit longer, given Doug Slaten‘s continued DL stint and Sean Burnett‘s troubles.
  • Ben Goessling reports on one of Chien-Ming Wang‘s latest rehab starts on 7/14, 6 shutout innings with zero walks and where he hit 94mph in Harrisburg.  I’m beginning to think that Wang’s actually healthy again and that the team may start looking to move Jason Marquis or Livan Hernandez sooner than later to make room for him.
  • Ross Detwiler looked nearly as bad in relief as Livan did during his start on 7/15, requiring 47 pitches to get through 2 innings.  This was a perfect opportunity to shut down an offense that perhaps wasn’t in need of scoring any more runs on the night (especially behind Tim Hudson) but he continued to allow the game to get out of control.  If Detwiler doesn’t put something together this season, the team is going to have a very difficult decision on its hands.  He’s out of options (Gee, thanks for the 2007 callup Jimmy Bowden!) and clearly would be given a flyer by another team (as a first rounder lefty starter who reaches 94mph).
  • Speaking of Detwiler, why exactly do we have him as the “long man” in the bullpen if he’s not available as that long man because the team wants to keep him on some sort of “every 4 days” starting-esque schedule?  The Long man needs to be available for exactly the kind of situation we faced on 7/17, when Gorzelanny came out after 2 innings.  Instead its all-hands on deck since Detwiler had pitched two days prior.  In this situation i’d far far rather still have Miguel Batista, who ably fit this role in 2010 and wouldn’t have cost a ton of money for 2011.
  • Chien-Ming Wang‘s next start will be in AAA, per Bill Ladson‘s published report on Sunday.  This should be the best test yet for Wang’s recovery.  He’s looking like a good bet to join the rotation when he’s done with rehab.

2 Responses to 'Nats Rotation Cycle #20: good/bad/soso'

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  1. Detweiler’s the real headscratcher here, not good enough to make the major league rotation, good enough for someone to grab off the waiver wire.
    Rizzo doesn’t like skinny pitchers; Detweiler is exhibit #1.

    Mark L

    23 Jul 11 at 7:38 pm

  2. You want to get really upset with Detwiler? Look at the 2007 first round and see who we *could* have gotten instead. . Just to name a few; LaPorta, Bumgarner, Heyward, Porcello.

    Of course, that’s completely unfair to the team; at the time Detwiler was ranked exactly where he went in the draft, and sometimes you get what you get. I think Rizzo likes power pitchers and doesn’t care what you look like; Detwiler can bring it 94 or so. Honestly i think the team is going to have to just release him next spring and he’ll get a shot elsewhere.

    Todd Boss

    24 Jul 11 at 12:01 pm

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