Nationals Arm Race

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

Nats Rotation Cycle #33: good/bad/soso.


31 and Done for Michael Morse, capping a fantastic breakout season. Photo Jacqueline Martin/AP via

This is it; the last rotation cycle of the season.  And it will be a shortened one; with just 3 games remaining.  But we do get one more start out of Stephen Strasburg as the team improbably has a chance to finish the season with a winning record.  To do it, they’ll have to go into the lion’s den and beat a Florida team that has had its number over the past few seasons.  Here’s the Nats record against Florida over the past few seasons:

  • 2011: 5-10 (not including last three games)
  • 2010: 5-13
  • 2009: 6-12
  • 2008: 3-14 (!)
  • 2007: 10-8
  • 2006: 7-11
  • 2005: 9-9

That’s a total (since moving to Washington) of 45-77.  This clearly needs to improve, especially since in 2011 the team beat or was even with the rest of their NL east opponents.


  • Stephen Strasburg finished off the season with a bang on 9/28 (box/gamer), absolutely dominating the Marlins over 6 innings.  Final line: 1 hit, 0 runs, 2 walks and 10 Ks in just 79 pitches.  Wow.  How’s that for a teaser for 2012?


  • Tommy Milone labored through 4 1/3 innings before getting an early hook on 9/26 (box/gamer), leaving it for later heroics (aka, Michael Morse’s 9th inning 3 run shot) to get the win.  The mediocre start caps off a pretty good September for Milone, who has certainly staked his claim for the 2012 rotation.
  • John Lannan‘s final 2011 start on 9/27 (box/gamer) wasn’t too bad; 6ip 3 hits and 3 walks resulting in 2 earned runs and a no-decision.  As has been typical in September he was yanked an inning too early (he sat on 89 pitches) and could have gone 7.  None the less, he caps off a great season, his best as a pro, and is clearly the #3 starter on this team going into 2012.

Starter Trends

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

Relievers of Note and other News

  • Mike Rizzo was quoted on 9/25 as saying the team was “an outfielder and a starting pitcher” away from real contention in 2012.  This could be an indicator of the off-season plans of the team (definitely a future blog post).  Adam Kilgore guesses the team could sacrifice some of its starter depth to obtain a center fielder (perhaps again going after someone like BJ Upton).
  • Bryce Harper will play all three OF positions in the AFL, and presumably next season, in preparation for positional flexibility once he arrives in the majors.  This makes sense to me; he’s athletic enough to play some center and has a big enough arm to play right.  Meanwhile Jayson Werth is in the same boat.  Only Michael Morse has positional inflexibility.
  • Stephen Strasburg probably will have a similar 160ip limit in 2012 that Jordan Zimmermann had this year, per various national reports.  What may be interesting is this; if this team, which has already won 78 games and surpassed most people’s predictions of between 72 and 75 wins, continues its improvement into 2012, they very well may be in the thick of the wild card race right at the time when Strasburg is set to shut down.  Would the team shelve him for a month to save innings?
  • With the 9/28/11 victory, the team officially dropped to the 16th draft pick in the first round (here’s your Reverse Standings).  Adam Kilgore commented on this same topic here.  This officially means the team had an unprotected first round draft pick for the first time since the team moved here.  This automatically and drastically changes the nature of our off season FA plans.  Knowing we have to give up the 16th overall pick (even if its a weaker draft) certainly will give pause to the draft-pick coveting front office.  Is CJ Wilson worth losing this pick?
  • Hey, here’s a shock; Doug Slaten blew another game for the Nats on 9/27  This time it was the 2nd to last game, giving up a walk-off homer to a lefty who nobody’s ever heard of to lose the game.  I don’t get it; why was Slaten even in the game?  Here’s his game-log for 2011; since returning from the DL he has had exactly ONE “successful” outing (a one-pitch, one out appearance against Houston).  Every other time he’s given up hits, walked the guy he was brought in to face, or otherwise disappointed.  Here’s hoping the team has learned all they need to learn about him and gives him his walking papers as soon as the season is over.
  • The team and Laynce Nix have “exchanged salary figures” for 2012.  Interesting; if the team locks up Nix for 2012, suddenly there’s one less outfield position available for the slew of guys potentially in the mix.  That most likely means the end of Jonny Gomes tenure here (one that probably was guaranteed by his poor batting average anyway).  The problem is that we likely won’t get the benefit of Gomes’ compensation pick now; he probably would accept an arbitration offering, sticking the team with the player for 2012 and locking up two backup outfielder positions.  Nix had a pretty good year, mostly working in a platoon situation against RHPs, and has some positional flexibilty to play LF, RF and 1B.  He’s also played CF in the past, though he seems too bulky to really be a Rizzo-preferred defender there now.

Now that the season is over, I’ll do a wrap-up of the MLB pitching similar to the other levels, and follow that up with projected 2012 positions throughout the entire system.

2 Responses to 'Nats Rotation Cycle #33: good/bad/soso.'

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  1. Michael Morse positional inflexibility???????? WTF are you talking about?

    Last time I looked Morse could play and has played:
    1. Right field.
    2. Left field.
    3. First base.
    4. Third base.
    5. Short stop.

    Can Werth or Harper even attempt that? The guy played short
    stop at the major league level. He’s extensively played all of those positions in AAA.

    C’mon dude! Can Fielder do that? Ryan Howard? Pujols? C’mon!


    2 Oct 11 at 4:17 pm

  2. Perhaps you need to check the record on Morse. Here’s his fangraphs page, with exact games played and innings, along with UZR/150 for his career.

    Last time he played any significant innings at Shortstop in the majors was 2005. third: never. Right field; he was full time there for the Nats in 2010 but his UZR/150 was an asoundingly bad -18.6. So yes I stand by what I said. Morse can play either First base or left field. And frankly he plays both of those positions pretty badly too (-8.2 uzr/150 at first base in 2011, -21.6 uzr/150 while playing left). Its great that he started out as a shortstop; clearly he’s more athletic than other sluggers out there and it helps him while playing first. But the fact remains that he’s a poor defender with a great bat. So you hide a guy like that at either left or first. I’ve continually said this fact; you sacrifice defense at 1st and LF in order to get a bigger bat into the lineup.

    Harper? Lesse: 96mph fastball, was a top-end catching prospect all growing up, now showing a plus arm in RF, played LF in the futures game and played a ton of CF this season in the minors. There’s no doubt in my mind he could ably handle a defensively unchallenging position such as first base. That’s a far more flexible defensive player than Morse.

    Werth? Covers right with plus uzr/150 (at least prior to this season), can play center (something Morse can’t do). If someone can play right well, they certainly can play left. So i’m not sure what you’re trying to say. What does Fielder, Howard or Pujols have to do with this conversation? They’re even more inflexible than Morse.

    The fact is this: both Morse and LaRoche are extremely limited in the positions they can play, along with guys like Marrero, Gomes and to a certain extent Nix. You can’t get an entire team of guys who can only play first and left field.

    Todd Boss

    2 Oct 11 at 5:33 pm

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