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Rating the rotation

Mar 1, 2010, 12:44 AM EDT


Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Scott Olsen should make the Opening Day rotation … if he's healthy.

VIERA, Fla. — For all the progress they made this winter in bolstering their lineup, overhauling their bullpen and improving their defense, the Nationals know it won't mean a thing if they don't get better starting pitching in 2010 than they got in 2009.

A unit that boasted only one guy with more than five wins (John Lannan) and one guy with more than 106 innings pitched (Lannan, again) needs to perform better if this club is going to approach respectability after two straight 100-loss seasons.

There's good reason to believe things will be better this time around. Lannan has another year of experience. The reliable Jason Marquis has been added to the mix. Scott Olsen appears to be healthy again, or close to it. Chien-Ming Wang and Stephen Strasburg should join the club sometime during the season's first half.

If all goes as the Nationals hope, this could have the makings of a legitimate rotation by midseason. But as we sit here today, five weeks until Roy Halladay and the Phillies arrive at Nationals Park, this remains the Nats' biggest question mark. Can Lannan take the next step? Will Marquis be a steadying influence on the young arms? Will Wang's shoulder hold up and allow him to recapture his form fromRead more »

  1. JMW4th - Mar 1, 2010 at 1:19 AM

    Nice!!!Thank you for this Mark.now one for the Relievers!! pretty please?Scott Olsen sounds scarily similar to John Patterson and Shawn Hill here…..

  2. Anonymous - Mar 1, 2010 at 1:30 AM

    I would love to know what happened to Shairon Martis. Are we supposed to assume that the 5-0 start was an aberration? And this is the first I've heard of weight issues with him… I'd love to know how he went from "great story" to an afterthought.

  3. Eric - Mar 1, 2010 at 1:33 AM

    Could Balester make the team as a reliever? He has two MLB-caliber pitches and the laid-back oddball personality that would serve him well in the bullpen.

  4. Anonymous - Mar 1, 2010 at 1:38 AM

    I got a total of 465%. That means there is a 35% that someone not mentioned in your post will get a spot.

  5. SonnyG10 - Mar 1, 2010 at 1:40 AM

    Excellent Mark. You really put this in perspective for me. Thanks!

  6. Andrew - Mar 1, 2010 at 1:41 AM

    Mark, good analysis, but this rotation can not be picked based on past reputation.Innings eaters are great but winnings leaders is what this team needs.I was not impressed by Livan last season and don't want to see him take a rotation spot from one of the younger guys that may out perform him. Hope this is a fair competition for the Opening Day rotation.

  7. Mark Zuckerman - Mar 1, 2010 at 1:48 AM

    You know, I used to be good at math. Then I went to journalism school and, well, it didn't seem so important anymore.Anonymous said…I got a total of 465%. That means there is a 35% that someone not mentioned in your post will get a spot.

  8. Andrew - Mar 1, 2010 at 1:57 AM

    Mark – I assumed your math was to add up to 500% (5 starters times 100%) and you were missing 35%. LOL

  9. Avar - Mar 1, 2010 at 2:18 AM

    Have to disagree that Olsen reminds me of Hill or Patterson. Olsen threw 3 years in FL and made 97 starts. 2 of those 3 years, his ERA was 4.2 or better. Hill and Patterson only dreamed of that kind of success. I think Olsen is a lock. But, he'll have to do well once the season starts because at least a couple of the young guns will tear it up in Syracuse, besides the one from SD State.Competition is great.

  10. greg - Mar 1, 2010 at 2:40 AM

    yeah, i'm with avar. there's no resemblance beyond "an injury" between olson and patterson/hill. patterson/hill had some "mystery" injuries and unexplained pains. olson had traditional "pitcher" injuries that were perfectly well understood. apples and oranges… apples and oranges.

  11. Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_is_Too_Pessimistic_for_Me - Mar 1, 2010 at 3:07 AM

    Garrett (3-10, 5.62 ERA) Mock as our fifth starter? Oh, pass the bourbon and Maalox. And it's only Spring training.

  12. peric - Mar 1, 2010 at 3:09 AM

    You can throw the other 35% to guys like Aaron Thompson and Chuck James? I see JD pushing ahead of Livo for the same spot. He has to know this is his last chance. Look how he responded the last time it was his last chance. That was last year in Syracuse. How long will it last? Possibly longer than Olsen, Chico, and Stammen. He won't beat out Detwiler if the guy ever does what he is supposed to do. George Mock? Sigh … Detwiler … SighFrom an "anonymous" lifetime MLB scout on ESPN's web site:"I don't pay to see games, but if I had to, I'd pay to see Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain of the San Francisco Giants. But if you give me the choice between Lincecum and Cain, I'll take Cain for the next six, seven years.""Cain can really pitch, man. Lincecum, he's a freak. He weighs 160 or so pounds. He's a max-effort guy with a bad delivery. Don't get me wrong — he punched out 261 guys last year and he might pitch forever. But it's just that Cain pitches with such ease. He won 14 games last year with a 2.89 ERA. Lincecum won 15 with a 2.48. See what I'm saying?"They really needed someone like Matt Cain.

  13. greg - Mar 1, 2010 at 3:40 AM

    "someone like matt cain"you mean, like strasburg? give it a couple of months. and most teams that aren't the yankees or red sox could need someone like matt cain.

  14. greg - Mar 1, 2010 at 3:41 AM

    (and it's garrett mock, not george)

  15. peric - Mar 1, 2010 at 4:10 AM

    No, someone like Matt Cain. Let's call Strasburg this team's Lincecum. Sorry … Garrett Mock.

  16. David - Mar 1, 2010 at 4:21 AM

    Mark,Here's a question of semantics, or maybe just personal preference. You mention it's not a question of will Lannan be on the roster it's will he be the "ace" or will he be the #2? My thought is that this team doesn't have an ace, at least not yet. Every team has a #1, but not every team has an ace and a few teams might have two. Is the #1 on every team generally considered an "ace" whether or not he's considered one of the elite pitchers in baseball? I think the ace designation should be left for the elite pitchers in the game. If that's not the conventional thinking, I'm more than willing to reconsider this, but it was just something I was thinking about the other day while I was bored at work.

  17. peric - Mar 1, 2010 at 4:43 AM

    Next big International signing … wonder when?

  18. peric - Mar 1, 2010 at 4:57 AM

    Guess we'll know more about the pitching staff and rotation by March 5th which I guess is next week. March 5th is when pitchers and catchers report for Syracuse Chiefs spring training … March 8th position players.

  19. Lintyfresh85 - Mar 1, 2010 at 7:05 AM

    Peric, sounds like that scout you quoted was pretty dumb."I don't pay to see games, but if I had to, I'd pay to see Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain of the San Francisco Giants. But if you give me the choice between Lincecum and Cain, I'll take Cain for the next six, seven years.""Cain can really pitch, man. Lincecum, he's a freak. He weighs 160 or so pounds. He's a max-effort guy with a bad delivery. Don't get me wrong — he punched out 261 guys last year and he might pitch forever. But it's just that Cain pitches with such ease. He won 14 games last year with a 2.89 ERA. Lincecum won 15 with a 2.48. See what I'm saying?"There hasn't been a single person that knows what to look for in pitching deliveries that has actually said anything bad about Tim. It's only scouts that think they know what they are talking about. Mark Prior and his perfect delivery say hi.I'd much rather Stras be a two time Cy Young winner than Matt Cain any day.In 2009 Lincecum had a QS% of 81%. Cain? 61%.I guess we'll have to wait 5 more years… but I don't think that scout could be more wrong.

  20. peric - Mar 1, 2010 at 7:11 AM

    I think the point the scout was making wasn't that Cain was better, I think he feels that because of his unorthodox delivery Lincecum won't last as long as Cain. Lincecum is the face of the franchise. Because of the $$ SF had to put out to sign him there is some talk that SF might have to let Cain go when he is arbitration eligible next year. Many teams will trade the player before that happens. The Nats I think really need someone like Cain in addition to Strasburg.

  21. UnkleWheez - Mar 1, 2010 at 12:09 PM

    My money is on Matt Chico. When he was healthy he was alright. I think the extra speed will do him really good.

  22. markfd - Mar 1, 2010 at 12:58 PM

    Mark – Thanks for the look at the rotation now that these guys have thrown a couple of bullpen sessions. From what I saw (besides Strasburg) I think the rotation rankings (likelihood of being in it come April 5th) as of right now are as follows:LannanMarquisLivoStammenMockChicoBatistaMartinOlsen (I do not think he will be ready for Opening Day but will be in the rotation at some point)It will be very interesting to see what happens to the rotation (whatever it looks like on April 5th) on May 1 and June 1 and July 31. Rizzo and his staff will have to make some tough choices as the season goes forward and that is only the rotation! I cannot wait to hear your assessment of the plethora of bullpen arms we have collected.Great meeting you and keep up the good work…time to head back home.

  23. Mark Zuckerman - Mar 1, 2010 at 2:21 PM

    The Nats have a Matt Cain clone: Jordan Zimmermann. Seriously, before he got hurt last year, I heard several baseball people make the comparison. Similar arsenals, similar body types, similar pitching mentalities.

  24. Steve M. - Mar 1, 2010 at 3:20 PM

    Mark Zuckerman said… The Nats have a Matt Cain clone: Jordan Zimmermann. I totally agree with you. I remember Joe Maddon of the Tampa Bay Rays facing Jordan in interleague last year and giving him accolades of a future All-Star and Maddon hasnt been the only one giving those remarks.Ask David Wright about Jordan Zimmermann as he talked about how he attacks a batter.

  25. peric - Mar 1, 2010 at 4:06 PM

    Mark,Even JZimm's doctors aren't sure if he will be able to pitch again after her recovers. Look at JD Martin (who probably would have been a Matt Cain clone), Sean Burnett … do you really believe that JZimm will definitely be able to come back as the same pitcher and be able to do 200 innings for the next 5 years? So the operative word is "The Nats HAD a Matt Cain clone." Last year they had one before the injury. They need a replacement.

  26. NatsNut - Mar 1, 2010 at 11:01 PM

    a previous post said Lannan may start saturday's game against the mets. the 5-day cycle would put him at opening day. i hope so. opening day should be his.

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
WASHINGTON 57 45 --
ATLANTA 57 48 1.5
MIAMI 51 53 7.0
NEW YORK 50 55 8.5
PHILADELPHIA 46 59 12.5
Through Sunday's games

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
MON: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
TUE: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
WED: Nats at Marlins, 12:40 p.m.
THU: Phillies at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
FRI: Phillies at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
SAT: Phillies at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
SUN: Phillies at Nats, 1:35 p.m.
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