Nationals Arm Race

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

Nats Rotation Cycle #18: good/bad/soso

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Is Marquis hurting his trade value? Photo Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

The 18th Rotation cycle will be interesting; a day-night doubleheader, then two straight day games for a team that plays most of its games at night, may prove challenging for the Nats, especially considering that the Cubs are completely used to playing day games.  This review will include 6 games, since we’ll need an extra pitcher by virtue of the saturday double-header.


  • Livan Hernandez pitched a typically crafty game in the 7/2 day-game (box/gamer), allowing 2 runs on 6 hits in 7 complete innings with a couple of walks and 6 strikeouts.  He left with a ND.
  • John Lannan pitched pretty well in the 7/2 night-cap (box/gamer), going 7 innings, giving up 3 runs on 6 hits.  He walked no-one but only struck out one batter.  He sat at 80 pitches upon his removal in a Loss situation.
  • Ross Detwiler‘s first MLB start since last September went pretty well on 7/5 (box/gamer).  5 1/3, 4 hits, 2 runs (both on a 2-run homer in his final inning), 0 walks and 1 strikeout (he also hit a batter).   He was only at 78 pitchers mid-way through the 6th when Johnson went to his bullpen immediately after the 2-run homer.  The 3-2 lead held on for the win however.  For me a very good appearance for Detwiler (in contrast to Maya’s 4 starts up here).


  • Jason Marquis was shelled for 7 runs (6 earned) on 8 hits while only retiring four batters on 7/3 (box/gamer) and game more reminiscent of his performances in the beginning of last year pre-surgery.   After a fantastic May and early June, Marquis has now gotten more or less pounded in 3 of his last 5 starts and his trade value has to be plummeting by the week.


  • Jordan Zimmermann certainly wasn’t helped by some “questionable” defense, including a routine fly ball that fell to earth and scored two runs instead of ending an inning, in 7/4’s scorching win over Chicago (box/gamer).  The play in question is yet another piece of evidence why ERAs are misleading; instead of getting a quality start, Zimmerman’s line on the day goes 6ip, 8hits, 4runs, 1 walk and 5 Ks.   If that line reads 6ip, 7hits, 2 runs, 1 walk and 5Ks it looks a lot better right?
  • Tom Gorzelanny fell victim (again) to the long ball against the cubs on 7/6 (box/gamer), giving up 4 runs in 6 innings on two bombs given up to Carlos Pena and Aramis Ramirez.  Both were no-doubters on bad mistakes over the plate.    Luckily the cardiac kids pulled out a victory later on in the game.  Gorzelanny has now given up FOURTEEN homers in 77 innings over 13 starts.  One every 5.5 innings, or just about one per start.  The league average (per anyway) is 18 per 180 innings or one every 10 innings.

Starter Trends

Relievers of Note and other News

  • Chien-Ming Wang threw his 2nd rehab start on 7/2, this time in high-A for Potomac.  As Adam Kilgore reports, he pitched 4 scoreless inning, allowing 1 hit and 2 walks.  He reportedly hit 91mph, which is great news.  I pulled the Pitch f/x data from Wang’s 2007 season prior to his injury to try to get a feel for what he was capable of back then.  Here’s the data from June 6th, 2007, one of Wang’s best games that season.  Average fastball of 94, peaks of 97, with great separation between his fastball and his change-up.  I didn’t realize he threw that hard (if you believe the Pitch f/x data; it is spotty that early in the system’s history).  If the goal is to get his speed back to 94-97, he’s got a long way to go.
  • After seemingly turning the page on his struggles this season, Sean Burnett has failed in his last two outings, including blowing 7/2’s game with a poor 8th inning.  The team is in desperate need of lefty relievers through-out the system, so its doubtful that Burnett’s job is in immediate jeopardy.  However the acquisition of JC Romero last week plus the possible conversion of former MLB starter Matt Chico to a reliever (he’s currently rehabbing in the GCL and has been alternating between starting and relief appearances) seem to indicate the team is exploring its loogy options.
  • Tyler Clippard is the Nationals lone 2011 all-star (Pending Michael Morse‘s runoff vote), a validation of his dominance over the past couple years in a non-closer role.  Some may have an issue with Clippard’s selection, but in a league that mandates at least one representative from each team he’s as good as picking Morse, Storen or Espinosa in my book.
  • Not that he’s a National, but Kerry Wood certainly looked out of sorts on 7/4.  1ip, 3 walks, 3 Ks, a hit batsman, a wild pitch and a blown save.  Ironically, most of this was done without anyone warming up in the bullpen, and only after Wood walked in the tying run in the 8th did the cubs manager scramble to get someone up.  Awful managing on the day, frankly.  The first batter Woods airmailed 4 pitches to should have been enough evidence.
  • The day after his good spot start, Johnson announced that Detwiler would be staying on the MLB roster and replaces Collin Balester for the time being.  This is in line with Johnson’s previously stated desire to have a 6th starter/long man in the bullpen.  But the usage of Detwiler remains to be seen.  Per Zuckerman’s article, Johnson will try to use Detwiler only every 4th-5th day (as a starter would do) and perhaps use him in a single inning situation during his “throw” days in between starts.
  • Craig Heist of WTOP tweeted (h/t to Craig Calcaterra here) that the Yankees are interested in Sean Burnett.  This gives me an “a-ha” moment, since I was at the 7/4 game and ran into a Yankees scout who was trying to be incognito.   At the time, I couldn’t figure out who on either team the Yankees may have been looking at; the starters that day were Zimmermann (untouchable) and Coleman (replaceable). Our biggest trade chips are Marquis and a bunch of under-performing vets.  The Cubs are filled with overpaid, under-performing guys on large contracts. The Nats have almost nothing in the way of lefty relievers in the organization right now; we’d be hard pressed to move Burnett despite his struggles this year.  Would we be selling low on Burnett based on his struggles in 2011?

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