Nationals Arm Race

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

Tell me again why Holland wasn’t the game 7 starter?


Would game 7 have gone differently if Holland had thrown on full rest? Photo unk via

I know this is going to sound like a classic “hindsight is 20/20” post, but you can ask my wife (who listened to me ask this same question when Derek Holland came in to pitch relief in game 6 and Matt Harrison took the mound to start game 7) for confirmation that I was already asking this question prior to the outcome of last night’s game 7.

Why didn’t Ron Washington use the extra day off gifted to him by the rain delay on October 26th and use Holland on full rest as his 7th game starter?

I’m sure the answer you get from the old-school Washington is that Harrison did nothing to “lose” the opportunity to take his normally scheduled rotation spot, despite taking the loss in game 3 and giving up 5 runs (3 earned) on 6 hits in 3 2/3 innings.  However, in the post season you ride the hot hand and you go with your best arms.  That’s why Chris Carpenter was on the mound in game 7 on 3 days rest instead of Kyle Lohse (the starter opposite Harrison in Game 4 and the scheduled starter) and that’s why Washington should have gone with Holland (on a short leash) instead of Harrison.

Instead, we got a predictable result; Harrison knocked out of game 7 after a 4 innings and 3 runs and took another loss.  Washington had to go to his shredded bullpen early again, and it cost him.  Scott Feldman walked 3 guys, CJ Wilson forced in another run by hitting a batter with the first pitch he threw and the game was effectively out of reach.

Coincidentally, Wilson finishes off a post season where he was the “ace” starter yet issued a post-season record number of walks and had a 5.79 era.  He had one effective start and three awful ones.  Please, Mike Rizzo, think long and hard before throwing ace money at this guy.  I’ve said it in several spaces before; I think Wilson is a good, effective mid-rotation pitcher who will get vastly overpaid this summer (think John Lackey) and will fail to live up to the contract.  You can see this coming a mile away.  With one Nats player already fitting that contract description (ahem Jayson Werth), lets not saddle the team with another.

As for the series itself, I didn’t feel the need to write my own “Game 6 was the best ever” post after waking up and reading 20 others from every baseball columnist that I follow in RSS.  But i’ll say it here; Game 6 was the best baseball game I’ve ever personally witnessed.  Several times I stated aloud that the “game was over,” only to follow that up with an audible “wow” when the Cards hitters would reach back and get a clutch hit to tie the game late.  Game 7 featured more clutch hitting, with David Freese picking up right where he left off the previous night and keeping his team (and the crowd) in the game early.  You have to hand it to both teams; they slugged their way into the World Series and the series featured a ton of power, lots of clutch hitting, lots of offense and little in the way of clutch pitching.

Side note: I hate the trend of naming things that just happened or current players “the best ever;” we saw it when Albert Pujols hit 3 homers earlier in the series (despite their being relatively meaningless in the grand scheme of that blow out victory) and we saw it again within hours of the end of Game 6.  Does Game 6 stand up to the immortal World Series games played in 2001, 1991, 1988, 1986, 1975 or 1960?  We think so, but we won’t really know for years to come.  Why isn’t it enough to just say, “Wow, that was one of the best games i’ve ever seen” and leave it at that?

What does Texas take away from this World Series?  Despite having a great 7th-8th-9th inning set of relievers in Mike Adams, Darren Oliver and Neftali Feliz, their bullpen failed them badly this off season.  Ogando had an era in the 11’s for the post season.  So did Oliver.  Their bullpen blew THREE save chances in the infamous game 6.  All credit to the team for making it back to the World Series after losing Cliff Lee, but clearly the team needs a bit more starting depth to outlast a 7-game series against a quality team.  To that end, look for Texas to work long and hard on retaining Wilson, moving Feliz to the starting rotation and supplementing their bullpen for next year.

Welcome to the off-season!

7 Responses to 'Tell me again why Holland wasn’t the game 7 starter?'

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  1. Regarding what the Rangers need to do going forward, you can see why they are regarded as favorites in any Yu Darvish sweepstakes – although with a possible rotation of Ogando or Feliz (either or both could be moved to the rotation), Holland, Lewis, Harrison and Feldman it’s not like they would be doomed without Lewis.

    John C.

    29 Oct 11 at 3:19 pm

  2. The Rangers have all this local TV money coming in; surprised they’re not spending it. Maybe they’ll go balls-out for Sabathia (read that rumor somewhere) or spend what it takes to retain Wilson. Agree though that Ogando and Feliz in a rotation to go with the rest of their arms leaves them with a good rotation on the cheap. Losing Feliz out of the bullpen hurts … but then again he wasn’t really THAT good this year (and was pretty awful in the post season). There’s a gazillion closers on the FA market; sign one or two of them, replace your 8th and 9th inning guys in the bullpen, move Feliz to rotation and maybe even trade your starter surplus (Feldman?) for bullpen help.

    Agree they may very well get out of the Wilson bidding. Imagine that; they lose their #1 pitcher after 2010 and still return to the WS. Now they look to lose their #1 pitcher yet again but seem to be well positioned for 2012. That’s a good GM and a good organizational plan.

    Todd Boss

    29 Oct 11 at 3:48 pm

  3. Few points here:

    1. The whole “next day” analysis thing I completely agree. Here’s a barometer on whether it’s too much — tune into ESPN the next day. I am sitting at work now in a temporary spot (it is supposed to be a meeting room) until they build out our team room area in a few weeks as part of the restructuring here. The room is across from the kitchen which has ESPN running for a good four hours from 10-2. I must have heard 10 people interviewed/stories coming in and out on Game 6. So if ESPN is killing it, then write about something different. Good course of action. (Another topic for another day, is one of my theories on why the NFL is so boring anymore, is the ESPN takeover of the sport.)

    2. I think we (I know I have for a long time until recently, maybe it’s b/c I’m getting older!) tend to forget the physical nature of the sport(s), and seemingly these days it’s not always the BEST “team” that wins it all, it’s the good team that stays healthy and is in the best physical spot to win it all. The Rangers pitching was spent. Ogando was WELL beyond any reasonable reason to pitch anymore THIS SEASON, let alone in the World Series. Check out his IP: 2006: 34, 2007: 28, 2008: NONE!, 2009: 18, 2010: 71, 2011: 169!!! PLUS POSTSEASON!

    The Cards were the healthiest team when it counted the most (minus Wainwright.) I think the Cards deserved to beat the Phils in a 5-game set fair and square, and they were the better team. But sadly I liked the Phils chances in a 7-game series b/c of their pitching depth; had the Cards not been able to roll out Carpenter again, Phils win that series. Unfortunately we’ll never know. Not sure why they just don’t go to a 7-7-7 format. Anyway, the Rangers just ran out of gas. Now i’m blabbing…


    31 Oct 11 at 5:03 pm

  4. If the Rangers pitching was spent, you have to ask yourself why. It either implies that the starters were crummy and you had to go to the bullpen a lot (partly true), or it implies you have a completely over-managing manager who yanked your starters too early and burned out his Bullpen arms (more my point).

    Ogando’s usage was almost criminal; he’s candidate 1-A for the Verucchi effect (where young starters who increase their workload by more than 20% from year to year have a higher propensity for eventual arm injuries). They’ll probably have the same issue in 2012 when Feliz joins the rotation and goes from 75 to 160 IP as well.

    Its no guarantee Philly would have beaten STL even if the series went 7. Next two scheduled starters were Garcia and Jackson. Philly beat Garcia 3-2 but you lost to Jackson 5-3 earlier in the same series. The fact that the Cardinals made it as far as they did without their #2 starter all year makes it even more amazing. Take anyone else’s #2 starter away from them all season and they probably don’t make the playoffs.

    7-7-7 format means games get played into November. Just can’t have it.

    Todd Boss

    31 Oct 11 at 5:16 pm

  5. […] same rotation they announced at the beginning of the series (a point I made in this space, asking why Holland wasn’t recalled after his game 4 gem).  I understand what MLB was worried about (starting, stopping, rain-delays […]

  6. I’m a Johnny come lately, by several months, but am just now seeing these postings. Todd, you are dead on in your assessment! I, too, was screaming like a wild man at the bone-headed stubbornness of Washington. Holland was basically the only starter who had things going for him in the WS. CJ was a joke … even if he does think he was “special.” He choked so hard I could hear him back in San Antonio!

    I told my wife when Holland was brought in for Game 6 relief that Washington wasn’t going to use him in Game 7. I knew that Cardinals would bring Carpenter back to finish, and was hoping and praying that Wash would do the same with Holland. But, no, Washington ignored who had the hot hand and went with his schedule of who’s turn it was to pitch. As you said, forget the fact of how Harrison had pooched things in the previous game. Forget that during the regular season he occasionally did the same thing. (And we saw it again in his appearance in this year’s All-Star game … ugh.)” But, Wash is loyal to his players, even when it’s to a fault. I truly believe that even if he could see the future and knew that Harrison wasn’t going to come through for him and the Rangers, that he STILL would have started him. That blind loyalty has hurt the Rangers previously and will continue to do so. IMHO.


    11 Jul 12 at 5:56 pm

  7. Thanks for the read, even if it was 8 months after the fact 🙂 Its hard to pin the WS loss on the manager; I put it directly on the bullpen for failing to maintain three leads in game 6. But that decision was just damning to me.

    Todd Boss

    12 Jul 12 at 1:58 pm

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