Nationals Arm Race

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

Nats Rotation Cycle #29: good/bad/soso

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The prodigal son returns. Photo via

After seeing last cycle’s debut of Tom Milone, this cycle will feature two interesting milestones for the team.  Livan Hernandez‘s final start of the season comes first, then the long anticipated 2011 debut of Stephen Strasburg.  Lastly, this cycle got cut short due to the Monsoon of 2011 (aka, Raingate?) and Ross Detwiler got skipped so as to keep the wunder-kid on his regular rest and home-grown schedule.  I wonder how that is playing in the clubhouse… Technically Milone took over the #5 spot in the rotation initially, but the insertion of Strasburg into the #3 hole made for one cycle of 6, that is until Detwiler got skipped.

So as of now the rotation is going Milone-Lannan-Strasburg-Wang-Detwiler.


  • John Lannan looked shaky at the beginning of his labor day 9/5 start (box/gamer) but settled down decently enough (aided by a 4 run, 3 homer first inning by his offense) and got the win against the Dodgers.  He only went 5 1/3, surprisingly getting yanked after giving up a 1 out single in the 6th.  He was high on the pitch count at that point (94 pitches) but it was still a quick hook in this opinion.  He gives up one run on 5 hits with 2 walks and a handful (4) of K’s on the day.  Lannan is an interesting case; he continues to be solid (3.48 era on the season) if not flashy.
  • Stephen Strasburg‘s 2011 debut on 9/6 (box/gamer) may not have been the amazing 14-K performance he showed during his MLB debut in 2010, but it certainly was as good as we could possibly expect.  See here for more details.


  • Livan Hernandez‘s last start of the season (and possibly his last in a Nats uniform), showed why his position on the team is really in jeopardy.  He put in yet another sub-par performance leading to an easy win for the Mets on 9/4 (box/gamer).  5 1/3 innings, 8 hits, 6 runs.  For a team that averages only 3.84 runs a game, you just can’t have a starter who gives up 6 in 5.  That being said, i’m definitely advocating the team keep him around for 2012.


  • Chien-Ming Wang put in another 6 inning start in the midst of the monsoon of 2010 on 9/8 (box/gamer), giving up 4 runs early before retiring 10 of the last 11 batters.  He was bailed out by the offense and got a no-decision.  Wang’s early troubles were chronicled by Adam Kilgore here, noting that since his surgery Wang isn’t warming up until he’s been on the mound for a couple of innings, leading to his frequent pattern of giving up early runs but finishing strong.  The team is eventually going to have to figure out which Wang they have when it comes time to decide whether to try to bring him back for 2012.

Starter Trends (2nd half only).  Livan ends on a bad note, but his up-and-down performances could have predicted it.  Lannan continues to chug along.  Strasburg was fantastic.  Wang is consistently mediocre, as noted.  Detwiler has slipped after a couple of good outings, and Milone needs to improve on his debut.

  • Lhernandez    bad,good,bad,good,bad,good,bad,soso,good,bad->shelved for season
  • Lannan    good,good,bad,soso,good,bad,bad,good,soso,good
  • Strasburg    great
  • Wang        bad,bad,great,soso,soso,good,bad,soso
  • Detwiler    soso,soso,good,good,bad,bad
  • Milone    bad

Relievers of Note and other News

  • “Negotiations” are already being talked about with Livan and the team for next year.  WT’s Amanda Comak does some good dollar/per win or /per inning research here, and comes to the same conclusion that I have had for a while; Hernandez is a total bargain on the FA market for what he can give … if you can put up with the occasional (frequent?) blowups.
  • Lots of 9/1 call-ups are came a few days after the actual September 1st date, with arms Stammen, Severino, Peacock, and Maya joining position players Lombardozzi and Brown.  Peacock and Lombardozzi require corresponding 40-man moves, and (based on past research) we may be seeing a DFA in the next couple days.  Update: I was almost correct with the required moves to make room for the new guys to the 40-man roster, with the Nats transfering Kimball to 60-day DL.  The team (finally, in the eyes of many) DFA’d Garrett Mock, a not-entirely unexpected move.  The surprise was the outright release of Adam Carr.  I thought at least the team would recall him and 60-day DL him, and the unconditional release is somewhat surprising.
  • Clearly Davey Johnson has been given an edict to “play the kids.”  But his use of “the kids” in the 9/6 game was, well, a bit frustrating.  He brought a starter in (Brad Peacock) for his MLB debut in a 2-on, one out debacle left by Doug Slaten.  He brought in a hitter (Corey Brown) for his Nats debut in a pinch hitting, bases loaded situation against a Dodger fireballer.  Is he setting these guys up to fail?  I completely agree with Capitol Baseball’s assessment of the situation, published here.
  • Kilgore and other beat reporters noted that Wang’s incentives are almost certain to kick in to the tune of an additional $1M by the end of 2011.

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