Nationals Arm Race

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

Nats Rotation Cycle #24: good/bad/soso


Wang looked as good in Chicago as he used to look in this uniform. Photo unknown via

The team went 3-2 in its last time through the rotation, taking a series from Atlanta at home before scuffling with Colorado in Denver.  This time through they finish off the Colorado series and move on to Chicago.


  • John Lannan deserved more than he got after throwing 6 shutout innings on 8/7 (box/gamer).  He walked the leadoff hitter in the 7th and his bullpen conspired to blow the lead and cost him the Win.  Another clear example of how “wins” as a measuring stat for starters is clearly overrated.  Lannan’s line: 6ip+1 batter, 6 hits, 4 walks, 1 run.  Lannan has clearly turned around his season and is putting himself squarely in the Nat’s future rotational plans.  He’s a perfect #4 pitcher and probably sparkles on a good offensive team.  (See notes below for comments on the managing and bullpen performance in Lannan’s start).
  • Chien-Ming Wang looked about as good as you could ask for his 3rd start back after 2 years out of the game, throwing 6 innings of one-hit ball (no-hitting the Cubs through 5) in Chicago on 8/9 (box/gamer).  His sinker was moving well, he kept his fastballs right at the knees, and he humped it up to 93 on occasion (if you believe the stadium gun).  He had 11 ground ball outs to 4 flyball outs and needed just 81 pitches to complete 6 innings.  Apparently Steve McCatty asked some prior teammates about Wang and discovered that he wasn’t throwing his sinker nearly as much now as he was back in the day, and convinced him to do so going forward (aside: how is it possible that a pitcher “forgets” what made him successful??)   Coincidentally, despite pitching so well I agreed with Wang’s removal; in the 6th inning he was starting to lose control of his fastball and it was rising up, exactly what a sinker-baller doesn’t want.  A great start though, and a great sign for the future.


  • Unfortuantely Livan Hernandez was scheduled for his “bad” outing in his continuing Jekyll & Hyde season, and his bad was pretty bad.  He gave up 9 runs (7 earned) on 9 hits in 3 and 2/3 innings to take the loss on 8/6 (box/gamer).  The Nats bullpen didn’t help much either with each of the relievers struggling in one way or another (see notes).  Perhaps we can just skip Livan’s “bad” outings?  Or, I’ve got a better idea; we can remove him from the rotation since he’s giving the team less than a 50/50 chance of even being competitive in games right now.  Ben Goessling reported on the same topic, surmising that Livan’s rotation spot is in serious jeopardy with the team wanting to see youth in September.  One of the Nats blogs  highlighted a fantastic stat; look at Livan’s splits in his Wins versus Losses: in 6 wins he has a 1.25 era and a sub 1.00 whip.  In 11 losses? A 5.84 era and a 1.6ish whip.  His performance in 7 No-Decisions looks almost identical to his performance in losses.


  • Jordan Zimmermann should have done better against the Cubs on 8/11 (box/gamer), giving up 4 runs on 9 hits, 2 walks in 6 2/3 innings.  He looked fantastic through 6, but gave up a single and back to back homers in the 7th to blemish his line and tag him with the loss on the night.
  • Ross Detwiler continues to look like he’s destined for the bullpen, giving up 3 runs on 7 hits and 2 homers in 5 innings on 8/10 (box/gamer).   The homers were cheap (Wrigley is a major hitter’s park) but 7 hits to go with 2 walks is just too many runners for a medicore-to-bad offense to overcome.

Relievers of Note and other News

  • Here’s your Washington Bullpen in the 8/6 game: Gorzelanny (4 hits in 2+ innings), Coffey (3 runs and 3 hits while retiring just one guy), Burnett (2 inherited runners, both scored), and Rodriguez (2 hits and 2 walks in one IP).  What are the odds that any of these four guys feature in 2012?  All four of them now feature ERA+ in the mid 80s (indicating their pitching about 15% worse than the MLB average) and they seem to be getting worse as the season rolls on.  The question fans have to be thinking about is Mike Rizzo‘s ego in these deals: Coffey was a 1-yr FA and won’t be missed, but the other three guys represent the bounty we have remaining from Rizzo’s 3 major trades since arriving here.  Will Rizzo admit that these moves didn’t work out and not force bad players to continue playing?  We’ll see.
  • Is it just me, or was Davey Johnson‘s pitcher management in the 8/7 game just ridiculous?  Lannan sits on 6 shutout innings and is allowed to bat in the top of the 7th.  He makes a feeble ground-ball out as expected.  Lannan goes back out to the mound for the bottom of the 7th, walks a guy and is yanked.  Why was he allowed to bat then!??  Clearly Johnson already had Lannan’s replacement warming up; why not actually, you know, try to score a run instead of giving a sub .100 hitter another at-bat?  Why do you have power bats on your bench?  Then, in a textbook example of a bullpen actively *trying* to blow a game; Mattheus promptly gives up a hit (yet earn’s a “hold” for his work !?), Clippard comes in and fails to cover 1st base on a grounder to Morse (yet somehow Morse is given the error on the play !?), then gives up another hit to tie the game.  Clippard’s reward for this performance?  The victory in the game.   A frustrating game to watch as a fan, and I can’t imagine what Lannan was thinking after throwing 6 dominant innings.
  • Stephen Strasburg‘s first rehab start review: 31 pitches, 26 for strikes, throwing mostly 4-seam fastballs with the occasional curve but apparently no 2-seamers and few changeups.  The opposing hitters caught on and tagged him for a few hits (including a solo-homer), but the hits aren’t that concerning (once it became clear in the opposing dugout that they could sit fastball, it becomes considerably easier to hit a guy).  He topped out at 98, sat in 96-97 range on the fastball.  He was quoted as saying his fastball “wasn’t there yet” but that he has to “start somewhere.”  Sounds like a good start to me.  His next start has been announced: Friday August 12th in Potomac.  Potomac has to be happy about (finally) getting a major Nats prospect to play there… Here’s the story from his 2nd rehab start: all good.
  • Wang’s no-hitter effort was eventually broken up by pinch hitter Tony Campana‘s sharply hit grounder to Morse.  But before that, he attempted a bunt and missed.  Breaking the unwritten rules of baseball, you say?  Bunting to break up a no-hitter is almost always a no-no … except that Campana is clearly a guy who bunts probably every third at bat.  If its part of your game, then its fair game.

2 Responses to 'Nats Rotation Cycle #24: good/bad/soso'

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  1. As a manager, Davey has to look at his bullpen and say “I have two guys I trust.” That leaves six who can only be used in throw away situations. Putting in a reliever who will allow a run every other inning pitched is sinking the bullpen, and the chances of finishing at .500. Rodrigues is the one that I can not avert my eyes from–can he ever gain control or is this just who he is? I hope that someone in winter ball will find the key to him.


    14 Aug 11 at 7:33 am

  2. Honestly I think you need more than just two reliable guys in your pen. You need 6. Really the only guy you can “get away with” being mediocre is the long-man/spot starter, since most of the time you’re putting him into games that are already out of hand and you don’t really care how badly he does. That and perhaps the loogy (a position the team really doesn’t have right now).

    We can’t throw Clippard and Storen every night. We need the 7th inning guys (Mattheus, Coffey, Burnett, Rodriguez) to be better, since every 3rd night they’re not just the 6th/7th inning guys but they end up being the 8th/9th inning guys. But I agree that the bullpen is declining as the season goes on.

    Todd Boss

    15 Aug 11 at 9:20 am

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