Nationals Arm Race

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

Nats Rotation Cycle #27: good/bad/soso

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We won't see Zimmermann again til spring training 2012. Photo AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Rotation #27 marks the final time we’ll see Jordan Zimmermann starting this year.  He’s scheduled to exceed the 160IP limit set for him by the team this time around.  We’ll see announcements presumably for his replacement later in this cycle.


  • John Lannan didn’t pitch badly on 8/25 (box/gamer), giving up 2 runs on 7 hits in 6 innings, but again his offense failed him and he took a loss.  His bullpen unraveled after he left, highlighted by Henry Rodriguez‘s 5 hit, 3 run debacle.
  • Chein-Ming Wang‘s 6th outing was decent, giving up one earned run in 6 innings in the Cincinnati bandbox on 8/26 (box/gamer).  He was wild (4 walks) and he didn’t work down in the zone as much as he usually does (10 ground ball outs to 6 fly outs) but he put his team in a position to win with the “real” quality start.  Through six starts and 33 innings Wang has a respectable 3.82 era and a slightly mediocre 1.33 whip.   I figure he has about 6 more starts before season’s end to prove to the Nats (and the league) what he’s worth in the free agent market.


  • Ross Detwiler may have gotten a quality start in his 8/27 loss against Cincinnati (box/gamer), but he still gave up 6 runs in 6 innings.  Rookie Chris Marrero‘s first major league start resulted in his booting two of the first three balls hit to him, and those errors turned into 3 unearned runs.  He was definitely around the plate all night (59 of 88 pitches for strikes through 6 innings) but too many of his pitches caught too much of the plate against a potent Cincy offense.  Still, he’s got a sub 3 ERA through 6 starts and his 5 relief appearances on the season so you can’t really criticize too much.
  • Jordan Zimmermann‘s last start of 2011 wasn’t the heroic winning sendoff people were hoping for on 8/28 (box/gamer).  He gave up solo shots to each of Cincinnati’s big hitters, then walked in a run in the 5th to force his early exit.  Final line on the day: 4 1/3, 6 hits, a walk and a HBP, and 3 earned runs.


  • Livan Hernandez gave the team one more excuse to remove him from the rotation when the roster expand, giving up 4 runs in 7 innings and taking the loss against Arizona on 8/24 (box/gamer).  It wasn’t the worst outing he’s had, but it wasn’t a quality start.

Starter Trends (2nd half only)

Hernandez has struggled lately, Lannan follows up a couple of poor outings with a good one, Wang maintains his decent to good trend, Detwiler has a rough outing that I may be judging too harshly, and Zimmermann takes a step back in his last appearance of the year.

  • Lhernandez:     bad,good,bad,good,bad,good,bad,soso
  • Lannan              good,good,bad,soso,good,bad,bad,good
  • Wang                  bad,bad,great,soso,soso,good
  • Detwiler             soso,soso,good,good,bad
  • Zimmermann: bad,bad,great,good,soso,good,good,bad->shutdown for season

Relievers of Note and other News

  • Ryan Mattheus‘s shoulder strain probably will cost him the rest of the season.  He’s been our 3rd best reliever the 2nd half of the season and looks like he’s definitely going to be a part of the 2012 bullpen.  He’s being replaced on the roster by 2007 first rounder Chris Marrero, who finally gets a debut after years of toiling and improving in our minor league system.
  • Stephen Strasburg did his 5th rehab start in Syracuse on 8/28 (gamer from Ben Goessling) and he was, well, dominant.  Five perfect innings, 7 ks while seemingly working solely on his 2-seam fastball.  He had 7 ground ball outs to just one flyball out and was “only” hitting 95-96 on the stadium gun.  I’m guessing that he was working on his 2-seamer and his off-speed stuff on the night.  Its hard to really analyze these starts in some respects; he blows through AAA hitters that mostly have MLB experience, yet he gets tagged in the bush leagues.  Its a recurring theme that the guys in the lower minors will “swing at anything” and often times the ball runs into their bats for hits, but this is the second time through the minors for Strasburg where he’s fared *far* better against AAA hitters than AA or A ball guys.  Odd.
  • Get your tickets now: the team announced Strasburg’s return as being 9/6/11 against the Dodgers.
  • Jordan Zimmermann’s  season ending stats: 8-11, 3.18 era, 1.147 whip.  124/31 k/bb in 161 1/3 innings.  Excellent 4.0 k/bb ratios, 0.7 homers/9 and a 120 ERA+.   Looking at more advanced pitching stats: his FIP was right on line with his ERA at 3.15, his xFIP a respectable 3.74 and his SIERA at 3.55.   All in all a great season and a promising one for Zimmermann’s future as Robin to Strasburg’s Batman.
  • Saw a blip in the paper today about how Livan wants to stay a Washington National, and that he’s willing to become a long reliever understanding that he may be forced out of the rotation by the rise of young arms.  That’s good news for the team frankly; if he stays at or near his current salary ($1m base, $2m with incentives) then he’s a very good, very cheap insurance policy in case one of our younger arms has a meltdown.  Livan may be finishing a frustrating on-again/off-again season, but he does put in a number of quality starts when given the chance.
  • The Nats pulled both Tom Milone and Brad Peacock from dominant AAA starts over the weekend, presumably for eventual callup to the majors.  Then on 8/30, Milone was announced as the Zimmermann replacement for the upcoming Saturday 9/3 game.  This will require a 40-man move, with alternatives mentioned in this space last week.

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