Nationals Arm Race

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

Nats Rotation Cycle #30: good/bad/soso


Brad Peacock gets his first turn in the rotation. Photo via

A reminder; the rotation is now Milone-Lannan-Strasburg-Detwiler-Wang after Detwiler got skipped when the last Dodger game was cancelled.   Plus we’ve found out that Brad Peacock will get a start at the end of this cycle, so this is a 6-man review.  We may be in a 6-man rotation the rest of the way as well.


  • Brad Peacock‘s debut mlb start resulted in 5 scoreless innings and a win on 9/14.  Here’s much more analysis on the performance.


  • An ugly loss on 9/10 (box/gamer) from John Lannan, the one remaining rotational hold over from the beginning of the season.  2 1/3 innings, 8 hits, 6 runs (4 earned) to raise his season Era from 3.48 to 3.65.  Luckily the team has about a dozen relievers to pick up the slack now, and 5 guys combined to finish the game.  Of those 5, only Collin Balester impressed, pitching two clean innings.


  • Tom Milone (or, as found out on Saturday, “Tommy Milone“) didn’t “appear” to be pitching badly in his 9/9 start (box/gamer), but by the time he got yanked in the 6th it seemed to be “death by paper cuts.”  He gave up 3 runs on 8 hits, had 3 Ks and (of course) zero walks in his tenure.  89 pitches, 64 of them strikes.  Pitch F/X is still struggling to properly classify his pitches, as were the Masn announcers, who routinely were claiming his cutter is the same speed as his fastball.  In reality he throws his four-seamer between 88-90 with good movement, and his cutter comes in at about 86.  He mostly as a 2-pitch pitcher last night, fastball and change-up, with five big curves thrown in and just a handful of cutters.  He really struggled to get his cutter on-target, but did get a great bat-snapping cutter for a weak grounder early on.  He worked the corners really well, but got punished when he missed over the plate.  A couple of guys flailed on curves and outside pitches for weak hits (hence my “paper cut” comment), and he was victimized each time a lead-off hitter got on base (3 innings with first batter retired?  0 runs.  3 innings with the lead-off hitter getting on base?  Scored each time).  Milone definitely works the corners well though, and throws a ton of strikes.  I continue to wonder if he will be a Greg Maddox-type pitcher (i.e., someone who doesn’t throw amazingly hard but has such great control and movement) or if he’ll flame out into a 4-A type starter, great in the minors but without good enough stuff to be successful in the majors.  We need more starts, more evidence.
  • Wunderkid Stephen Strasburg‘s 2nd start back was troubling against the Astros on 9/11 (box/gamer).  From the first pitch (a 94-mph fast ball) he clearly didn’t have the velocity that he featured in his first start (to say nothing of his 2010 velocity).  The Astros worked him for 30+ pitches in the first inning, and he was sitting at 57 pitches through 3 complete innings before getting the safety hook from the dugout.  He seemed to be struggling with the control of his 2-seamer and wasn’t throwing his curve nearly as much as he needed to.  On the plus side, his change-up was fantastic, and was directly responsible for 3 of his 4 Ks on the day.  And, he really only gave up one hard-hit ball (a liner to right field for an out).  Final line: 3ip, 3 hits and one run.  The next day, he talked about his lack of velocity, noting that his mechanics were “on and off.”  Lets hope its that and not something more serious.
  • Ross Detwiler looked great early on 9/12 (box/gamer), giving up just a hit and a walk through five complete, then getting the first two outs in the 6th before unraveling in the 6th.  Two quick walks and then two hits ended his night and spoiled an otherwise good looking night.  Final line: 5 2/3, 3 hits, 2 runs and 3 walks.  His ERA on the season now sits at 3.76, but his FIP stands nearly a point higher (though to be fair his xFIP is nearly in line with his ERA, a good sign for the longer term).  In any case, each decent start we see in September makes me feel better about the likely fact that Detwiler’s going to make the 2012 rotation.
  • Another start, another piece of the Chien-Ming Wang puzzle.  He went 5 innings on 9/13 (box/gamer), scattering 5 hits through 4 before giving up a 2-run single in the 5th.  On the night: 5ip, 9 hits, 2 runs.  The improvement this time around was the clean first inning (he had a 12.75 ERA in the first innings of his games this year).   He was only on 72 pitches when he was pinch hit for in the top of the 6th and could have easily gone 8 complete if the team had any sort of lead.
  • Sometimes its the little things that make a difference; apparently Sean Burnett‘s turn-around this season was due to changing his rubber location.  According to an excellent piece by Adam Kilgore, Burnett moved towards the first base side of the rubber about 18 inches.  Results?  As of July 19th he had a 5.67 era.  Since the move he has a 1.37 era.  Yeah, that’s a great adjustment.

Starter Trends

2nd half only:
Milone    bad,soso
Lannan    good,good,bad,soso,good,bad,bad,good,soso,good,bad
Strasburg    great,soso
Detwiler    soso,soso,good,good,bad,bad,soso
Wang        bad,bad,great,soso,soso,good,bad,soso,soso
Peacock    good

Relievers of Note and other News

  • The cancellation of the 9/8 Dodgers game means the team will flip-flop Wang and Detwiler’s next starts so that everyone continues on normal rest.
  • Wang, like every other FA that’s not necessarily entirely going to be in demand this off-season, has said he wants to come back to his current team.   See my thoughts on the team’s lack of a club option on him here.
  • Brad Peacock will get a start this week in NY, possibly putting the whole staff into a 6-man rotation.  Perhaps he’ll replace Lannan in the rotation to give the Nats a completely new rotation versus opening day.  More likely is that he’ll fit in between regular starters to give the team a 6-man rotation.  Can’t wait to see him stretched out to see his full arsenal of pitches.
  • Garrett Mock was outrighted to AAA after passing through waivers, meaning that he passed through waivers without another claim (similarly to what happened earlier in the year with Chico in December of last year).  On the positive; he stays in the system on the off chance that 2011 was a complete outlier and he can turn around the ship.  On the negative; a guy with a plus fastball but who has proven time and again that he can’t produce consistent results stays in the system to provide continual tempting of the club management (the leader of whom Rizzo has a soft spot for him, having drafted him while working in Arizona).  Lets hope he doesn’t take the job of someone more deserving.
  • Here’s Doug Slaten‘s 9/13 appearance: two batters, one walk and one HBP.  Is anyone surprised by this?  Why is this guy still getting the ball?  Hasn’t he shown enough failures as a loogy and in middle relief to show the team everything they need to know going forward?
  • Reverse draft standings update: As of 9/13 the team is projected to draft 12th overall in the 2012 rule-4 draft.  With a bad run of form we could easily rise to #8.  The 2012 draft is considered to be much weaker than 2011, but there’s still talent to be found.
  • 2012 preliminary schedules have been released and the Nats get the AL east next year!  Away to Boston and Toronto, home dates against the Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays.  I’ll predict now that the Saturday Yankees game will break the attendance record at the stadium.  Or come darn close to it.
  • About 5 questions into Keith Law’s chat on thursday 9/15/11 (insider only), someone asked him about Peacock and Milone’s debuts.  His opinions thus far mirror mine: Milone may be a 4-A starter and Peacock may end up a reliever.

5 Responses to 'Nats Rotation Cycle #30: good/bad/soso'

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  1. I think Milone’s ceiling is about a #5, or #4 at best. I think he could be a steady innings eater type. He definitely showed himself pretty well yesterday against the Mets, especially considering it was the 2nd time they had seen him.

    Peacock seems to me to have more upside due to the fact he definitely throws harder but it wouldn’t at all shock me if he ends up going to Jonathan Papelbon route and eventually ends up a high end closer. He seems pretty tough.


    16 Sep 11 at 11:20 am

  2. I havn’t typed up thoughts to Milone’s start last night, but I hope i’m wrong on my pessimistic view. Right now I’m projecting him as a 4-A pitcher, in the same mold as someone like JD Martin or Craig Stammen (or, unfortunately, Yuniesky Maya). He looked great yesterday absolutely, but the Mets lineup was significantly weaker than normal. By my count they had 4 regulars (Turner, Bay, Wright, Pagan) and 5 AAA callups (Tejada, Evans, Pascucci, Paulino and the pitcher) playing yesterday. I’d like to see him work through a better lineup before starting to change my thoughts about his ceiling. I hope i’m wrong, but usually guys who can’t throw 90 aren’t going to be successful unless they have 80 control. Clearly Milone has fantastic control, but is it Halladay/Maddux level?

    Todd Boss

    16 Sep 11 at 11:47 am

  3. Hopefully he won’t follow the same career path, but I see a lot of Bruce Chen in Tom Milone’s overall game. His “stuff” will always be what it is – average – but if he’s got the smarts and can maintain his aggressive approach on the mound, then he may succeed where Chen failed.


    16 Sep 11 at 1:59 pm

  4. I think the main advantage Milone has over Martin/Stammen/Maya is that he is left handed. Lefties who throw 89 – 91 are less of an issue than a righty who throws in that same range. That is the main reason I set him apart from the 4a guys and think of him as a 5th starter. I could be wrong but he seems like John Lannan 2.0 which is not a bad thing.


    22 Sep 11 at 12:11 pm

  5. I’m always combining my own opinion/observations with those I read from scouts who I respect. Both the leading minor league/scouting analysts out there (Jim Callis at Baseball America and Keith Law of espn) think Milone is not a mlb pitcher. Not enough velocity, not enough stuff to get guys out.

    Right now I’ve got Milone’s ceiling as a #5 starter. Slightly improved over the 4-A status I put him in after watching his first few starts. I hope i’m wrong; i hope he’s the second coming of Greg Maddux, a guy with 80 control even if he doesn’t have but a 40 fastball. Lefty means something for sure … but lefties still have to get guys out.

    Todd Boss

    22 Sep 11 at 12:58 pm

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