Nationals Arm Race

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

June 2013 Monthly review of Nats rotation by Opponent



Jordan Zimmermann is quietly putting together a Cy Young season.  Photo Unk.

Jordan Zimmermann is quietly putting together a Cy Young season. Photo Unk.

Continuing a monthly series of look-backs at our starters (here’s Apr 2013 and May 2013), here’s a monthly glance at how our rotation is doing from a Starting Pitching standpoint. As with previous posts, we’ll have “Grades” per outing, the team’s performance per opposing starter sliced and diced a few ways, and other per-starter stuff that I like to track.

MLB Rotation Per-Start Grades

  • Gonzalez: A,C+,A-,A,B,A
  • Zimmermann: A,A+,D-,A+,A
  • Strasburg: A-,A+,B+
  • Detwiler: C-,D,F,C
  • Jordan: C-
  • Ohlendorf: A
  • Karns: D+,F->sent back to AA
  • Haren: F,D-,D,F -> d/l

Discussion: The team had to cover for injuries to both Stephen Strasburg and Ross Detwiler, and those spot starts were hit-or-miss.  Ross Ohlendorf and his 1920’s wind-up covered excellently, and he earned a longer look serving as Zach Duke‘s replacement.   Taylor Jordan‘s debut was mediocre, but he fared much better than Dan Haren did on the month, putting in poor-to-awful outings all month before mercifully being sent to the D/L. Only Jordan Zimmermann and (quietly) Gio Gonzalez maintained some form of consistency for the team, each putting in 4-5 excellent outings in June.

Performance By Opponent Starting Pitcher Rotation Order Number
A look at the opposing team’s rotation ranked 1-5 in the order they’re appearing from opening day.

Starter # Record Opposing Starter in Wins Opposing Starter in Losses
1 0-3 Hudson, Chacin (2)
2 4-3 Diamond, De La Rosa, Cahill, Harvey Maholm, Masterson, De La Rosa
3 2-3 Hefner, Kazmir Correia, Lee, Gee
4 4-2 Francis, Kendrck, Miley, Wheeler Gee, Kluber
5 0-2 Lannan, Corbin
5+ 3-0 Denudo, Oswalt, Chatood

There’s no shame in going 0-3 against other team’s “Aces,” even if they’re not exactly league-wide Aces.  But you HAVE to do better than 0-2 against the #5 starters on other teams.

Performance By Opponent Starting Pitcher Actual Performance Rank Intra-Rotation
A ranking of opposing teams’ rotations by pure performance at the time of the series, using ERA+ heavily.

Starter # Record Opposing Starter in Wins Opposing Starter in Losses
1 2-3 Harvey, Chatwood Correia, Lee, Corbin
2 5-3 Diamond, De La Rosa, Cahill, Kendrick, Wheeler Maholm, Masterson, De La Rosa
3 2-3 Hefner, Miley Chacin (2), Kluber
4 0-1 Gee
5 0-2 Hudson, Gee
5+ 4-1 Kazmir, Francis, Denudo, Oswalt Lannan

The Nats show pretty good success against the 2nd-best starters on other teams, but once again seem to have let-up against pitchers who are scuffling this year.  Note that Dillon Gee is listed as being the 4th best Mets pitcher at one point and then the 5th best at another; that’s because I do the starter analysis of each team at the time of the series and Gee’s standing changed over the course of the month.

Performance By Opponent Starting Pitcher League-wide “Rank”
A team-independent assignment of a league-wide “rank” of what the starter is. Is he an “Ace?” Is he a #2?

Starter # Record Opposing Starter in Wins Opposing Starter in Losses
1 1-1 Harvey Lee
2 0-2 Corbin, Hudson
3 3-2 Chatwood, Cahill, Wheeler Maholm, De La Rosa
4 4-3 Diamond, De La Rosa, Miley, Oswalt Masterson, Chacin (2)
5 5-5 Kendrick, Hefner, Kazmir, Francis, Denudo Correia, Kluber, Gee (2), Lannan

This table, as my frequent readers know, is the Meat of this analysis.  Here we see that the team somehow got a win when Cy Young candidate Matt Harvey was on the mound but other wise lost when league wide Aces and #2s were the opponent.  What is more concerning here is just how many times our Nats lost to league wide #5 starters.  These are near replacement-leve pitchers who a supposed playoff contender should be feasting on.  Maybe Gee isn’t a #5 starter, since he beat us twice.  But a career 90 ERA+ says otherwise.  You have to win the games you’re supposed to win.

Records by Pitching Advantage
Start-by-start advantages in my own opinion and then looking at the results.

Advantage Desc Record Matchups in Wins Matchups resulting in Losses
Wash 10-4 Stras-Corbin, Gio-Masterson, Gia-Correia, Stras-Kluber
Even 1-3 Karns-Denudo Gio-Hudson, Haren-Gee, Haren-Lannan
Opp 2-6 Detwiler-Harvey, Ohlendorf-De La Rosa

Perhaps the most damning evidence of the evolution of our .500 team is this fact: in April of this month I only thought our opponents had the clear starting pitching matchup advantage two times out of 27 games.  In June?  I gave our opponents this advantage 8 times out of 26 games.  The Nats managed to pull out a couple of these clear pitching dis-advantages when New York’s bullpen blew Harvey’s gem against us, and when Ohlendorf outpitched Jorge De La Rosa in his one spot start.

Matchup analysis
Looking at the opposing starter rank that our guys are going up against to see how their competition fares.

Nats Starters Opponents matchup analysis Nats Record under starter
Strasburg A #4, a #5 and a #5+ 1-2
Gonzalez One Ace, Two #2s, One #3, Two #4s 3-3
Zimmermann A #2, two #3s, a #4 and a 5+ 5-0
Haren Two Aces, a #4 and a #5 0-4
Detwiler Two #2s, One #3, One #4 2-2
Karns A #2 and a 5+ 1-1
Jordan A #3 0-1
Ohlendorf A #2 1-0
team ttl for month: 13-13

By June, our rotation is so jumbled that rotational order is almost meaningless.  Strasburg is clearly our “Ace” but is pitching out of the #3 rotational order by virtue of his D/L stint.  And you can see that other teams face the same issue.  The 0-4 record for Haren’s starts is pretty damning; this has to change when he comes back or we need to look elsewhere and eat his $13M in salary.


2 Responses to 'June 2013 Monthly review of Nats rotation by Opponent'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'June 2013 Monthly review of Nats rotation by Opponent'.

  1. I fear that if Haren comes back looking a bad as he did before, and/or Detwiler continues to turn in subpar performances (which shouldn’t be surprising given his Lannan-esque K/9 and BB/9 rates) the Nats are likely going to be a bubble team at the deadline unsure whether it would be smarter to not make a trade for a hired gun and further deplete an already-depleted farms system or disappoint their many newly found (bandwagon) fans by not making a trade and almost assuredly finishing out of the running.

    I’d hate to be in Rizzo’s shoes under that scenario, but he did bring it on himself in part by having no MLB-ready starting pitching depth (turned out there was a good reason no other team was falling all over itself to sign Chris Young, just as it seemed the Nats seemed to be bidding against themselves for Haren after the Cubs rejected trading even the godawful Marmol for him.


    5 Jul 13 at 3:14 pm

  2. I think, despite whatever happens, that the Nats will NOT be sellers. They’ve invested too much, traded away prospects to get “help us now” veterans, blew a ton of money (relatively speaking) on a short-term solution at closer, re-signed LaRoche instead of keeping in-house options (ahem Morse) plus blew $13M on Haren all in the name of one thing: making the playoffs this year.

    I’m already convinced that they’re going to be a “bubble team” even if Haren comes back looking great. Why? The offese can’t get it together. They get shut down by mediocre pitchers again and again. You can’t win games when you don’t score.

    Rizzo clearly made a mistake not having somebody better in the wings. He could have tendered John Lannan again and spent 6M to have him in AAA … (of course, Lannan’s been awful this year so even that back seat driver comment is not something I’d want). Yes Chris Young has failed but it isn’t like that was the make-or-break decision for 2013.

    Todd Boss

    5 Jul 13 at 4:09 pm

Leave a Reply