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Who starts March 31 vs. Braves?

Sep 16, 2010, 1:56 PM EDT


Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Could John Lannan get a third consecutive Opening Day start?

Major League Baseball unveiled its 2011 schedule the other night, and once you got over the weirdness of a baseball season starting on a Thursday, you started wondering about other stuff.

Like: Who in the world is going be the Nationals' Opening Day starter?

This franchise doesn't exactly have an illustrious list of Game 1 hurlers. Livan Hernandez got the honors in 2005 and 2006. John Patterson did it in 2007. Odalis Perez(?!) threw the first pitch in Nationals Park history in 2008. And John Lannan took the ball each of the last two seasons.

For the most part, their counterparts were big-name, veteran starters worthy of such an assignment. Guys like Tom Glavine (2006, Mets), Tim Hudson (2008, Braves) and Roy Halladay (2010, Phillies). Jon Lieber (2005, Phillies) maybe doesn't rank with those three, but he was a solid starting pitcher for a long time. Dontrelle Willis (2007, Marlins) has seen his career fall to pieces, but at the time he owned a career 58-37 record. And Ricky Nolasco (2009, Marlins) may not be a household name, but he was coming off a 15-win season.

Point is, every Opening Day in Nats history has featured a pitching matchup that favored the opposition.

Ah, but that will finally change on March 31, 2011, because while presumptive Braves ace Tim Hudson may be a three-time All-Star,Read more ┬╗

  1. Anonymous - Sep 16, 2010 at 2:00 PM

    Carl Pavano? Javy Vasquez?

  2. jcj5y - Sep 16, 2010 at 2:07 PM

    Please don't let it be Carl Pavano. And I just read a piece yesterday about Vasquez's decline in velocity (fastball is now averaging 89 as opposed to 91) and command, strongly suggesting there's something more wrong with him than his move to New York.I agree that it should be Livo if they don't acquire anyone else. But I strongly favor making the best offer they can justify to Cliff Lee. I know the chances of him accepting are about as low as they were for Teixeira, but I don't think that ought to discourage the effort.

  3. ChicagoNatsGirl - Sep 16, 2010 at 2:14 PM

    Livo, hands down. I believe he's the least likely to totally humiliate us.

  4. Sec314 - Sep 16, 2010 at 2:17 PM

    Livo can handle the spotlight and he always starts strong.

  5. erocks33 - Sep 16, 2010 at 2:27 PM

    Brandon Webb. He'll sign a one-year, incentive-laden contract this offseason to prove to everyone that he's healthy so he can then sign a long-term deal after the 2011 season.

  6. natsfan1a - Sep 16, 2010 at 2:31 PM

    ¡Livo! (Did you seriously think I'd say anything else?) :-)

  7. Anonymous - Sep 16, 2010 at 2:31 PM

    It has to be Livo. Lannan has gotten shelled in his two opening day starts.

  8. Harper_ROY_2012 - Sep 16, 2010 at 2:32 PM

    Cliff Lee should get the ball for opening day 2011!

  9. markfd - Sep 16, 2010 at 2:33 PM

    Livo deserves it but if not Livo it should be Marquis.

  10. BinM - Sep 16, 2010 at 2:38 PM

    Barring an off-season trade or FA pickup, it's a tossup between Livo & Lannan.

  11. autobits - Sep 16, 2010 at 2:55 PM

    I'd put Livo there. Just because he shouldn't be the ace doesn't mean he isn't. He is the only guy on our staff who can handle that assignment without feeling the pressure. Definitely not Lannan. I would put him in the middle of the rotation and leave him there all year.Of course that all changes if we sign an ace, but does anyone really think that is going to happen?

  12. Steve M. - Sep 16, 2010 at 2:59 PM

    I think it is whoever steps up in Viera in the Spring should get the nod to start Opening Day.What is interesting is Mark Zuckerman, like most of us, has identified 4 of the 5 starters (Livo, Lannan, Marquis, JZim) for next year and it will just be a matter of seeing if Maya or Detwiler takes the 5th spot (in my opinion). Detwiler certainly has shown he can be a key lefty in relief and maybe long relief so he should be in the mix regardless.I just don't know if you waste any money on any front line starters in 2011 unless you can get a proven commodity as I agree with erocks33, Rizzo will go after his boy Brandon Webb in a Wang type of deal. Risky spending $2 to $3 million on another reclamation project. Do the Nats need it?The quality is so poor overall in Free Agency this year that I think a trade would be the best thing for the Nats in improving this team.

  13. Feel Wood - Sep 16, 2010 at 3:05 PM

    "What do you think? If you're Jim Riggleman, who are you handing the ball to on March 31, 2011?"The next guy in line at the memorabilia show where managers go after they get fired. Although it really is a stretch to think that anyone would actually wait in line for Riggleman's autograph, isn't it?

  14. Section 222 - Sep 16, 2010 at 3:21 PM

    I'll vote for Livo, even if we acquire another starter. Unless that starter is Lee which is not going to happen. Remember, Lannan got the call this year even though Marquis had been acquired, based on his performance last year. Livo's performance this year justifies being given the honor.

  15. sjm105 - Sep 16, 2010 at 3:24 PM

    I actually don't mind them risking their money on Webb. Can't be any worse than Wang who is not mentioned by anyone. If Wang does miraculously heal, he has to be considered as well. I agree it should not be Zimm and I like the idea of leaving Lannan in the 3/4 spot all season. Sooo it looks like Livo almost by default unless Wang or Webb surprises us in the spring. Still a lot better situation than last year. 1. Hernandez2. Webb/Wang (dreaming here of completely healed pitchers)3. Zimm4. Lannan5. Marquis6. which is really 5 because #2 is a pipe dream – Detwiller/MayaThe next question for this group to answer is who is batting behind R.Zimm next year. Sign Dunn!!

  16. Anonymous - Sep 16, 2010 at 3:50 PM

    Or we could have had this 23 year old:Dan Hudson2.58 7-2 73 1.07

  17. BQ - Sep 16, 2010 at 4:38 PM

    Lannan and if not him, then Livo. I doubt we would go after Lee.

  18. A DC Wonk - Sep 16, 2010 at 4:45 PM

    Steve M. wrote: I think it is whoever steps up in Viera in the Spring should get the nod to start Opening Day.I agree.I also agree that with so many "potential" starters, since a few might actually pan out, I can't see the Nats spending big bucks for yet another aging starter. (The young ones are locked up, no?

  19. Anonymous - Sep 16, 2010 at 4:57 PM

    Trade for Grienke and Garza. Try to sign Cliff Lee. After the offseason is over then revisit. But for now innings eaters and guys like Zimmermann and Detwiler who if anything have been inconsistent … NO.Maya could end up replacing LIvo as the staff ace … his stuff looks good enough … he just needs to acclimate perhaps work in Viera in the winter or in winter ball and have a good ST. He may be your opening day starter.

  20. cadeck13 - Sep 16, 2010 at 5:06 PM

    Livo!! He's earned it.

  21. Richard - Sep 16, 2010 at 5:08 PM

    I'd go with Livo. The man's earned it. And this post highlights — again — the mess of a rotation Riggleman was handed for 2010 — and Acto/Rigglemean got for 2009. Blaming Riggleman for the 2010 debacle is wrong and unfair.

  22. swang - Sep 16, 2010 at 5:11 PM

    Oh noes! AK scoops MZ. Nyjer reportedly out for 8 games (total). Which is about as good as could be expected, I guess

  23. Steve M. - Sep 16, 2010 at 5:15 PM

    sjm105 said… The next question for this group to answer is who is batting behind R.Zimm next year. Sign Dunn!! I can't say if it is real or psychological but when I watch Zim in a game where Dunn isn't hitting behind him like yesterday, Zim does nothing with the bat.THAT, should be the main reason Rizzo gets Dunn signed for the comfort level of the franchise player.

  24. NatsNut - Sep 16, 2010 at 5:16 PM

    Lannan and only Lannan.

  25. Steve M. - Sep 16, 2010 at 5:24 PM

    swang, they threw out the 7 game suspension from Philly for Morgan. Don't think they adjusted anything else.

  26. Mark - Sep 16, 2010 at 5:31 PM

    It should go to the staff ace who was Strasburg. Next in line is whoever shows they have the best Spring.So I agree with Steve M. And DC Wonk on this one.My prediction for best Spring is Jordan Zimmermann because he has ace stuff when he puts it all together.

  27. Harper_ROY_2012 - Sep 16, 2010 at 5:35 PM

    @Anon 1150 – Oh what could have been, Rizzo is kicking himself for not pulling the trigger on that one as I doubt any compensation we get for Dunn will amoout to anything.@BQ – much like when Tex was a free agent, the Nats will go after Lee because they have to, attendance is going to drop off significantly until Strasburg and Harper show up in 2012 so what is therer to lose you have to get the fans interested in something, so why not a great story line of the prodigal son returns to his home, the Expos/Nats franchise, even if he is here for only a year, he is 10 times better than all 5 of our current starters combined.

  28. ThrowsLikeSteveSax - Sep 16, 2010 at 5:38 PM

    Bryce Harper said he could take the mound.

  29. Steve M. - Sep 16, 2010 at 5:47 PM

    My apologies to Marquis and Lannan. About 3 months ago, I thought both of you guys were done, and happily you both proved me wrong. Nothing I write here is personal, it is my observations of what I see out there on the field. I love being proved wrong in the positive direction. I am sure some of the players read these sqawkings, and I hope Rizzo, StanK and Lerner read this too.My underdogs from Spring Training were Morse and Bernadina and both stepped up as valuable pieces for the future. If the Nats believe in Morse and help him with his weaknesses, he is a future Jayson Werth. If the Nats extend Dunn, this team will go into 2011 better only needing to improve the bench and add 1 or 2 to the bullpen and have a healthy Willingham back too.2012 will be the year to watch as Bryce Harper simply will terrify more pitchers than Heyward and Stanton, and with Strasburg back will look like a contending team. That is where the building points to, 2012 for the playoffs!

  30. citizen16 - Sep 16, 2010 at 5:48 PM

    From MZ's list, I'd go with Livo. He is experienced and has been the most consistent this year.I really think Rizzo is going to acquire another starter during the winter. As others have pointed out, the current list of starters for next year is better than what the team started with at the beginning of 2010, but it's still a work in progress. My guess is that Rizzo signs or trades for another pitcher like Marquis (veteran, innings eater, playoff experience). And I'm hoping the new guy will have the profile to be the opening day starter next year.

  31. Anonymous - Sep 16, 2010 at 5:57 PM

    @Natsnut, you must be confusing Lannan with Strasburg?? … he is still just a fifth starter … his ERA and ERA+ is the worst ever … Lannan's number of quality starts has dropped to 11 from 19 and 21 the last 2 years. Even with his resurgence he has shown a marked decline. At age 26? He's an innings eater when he's at his best not an ace.Livo, meanwhile has 20 quality starts to this point. Much better ERA and ERA+. But he too at this point is an innings eater?They need someone different from Lannan, Livo, and Marquis if they plan on improving next year. Or we could see a reversal.

  32. Anonymous - Sep 16, 2010 at 6:05 PM

    And Harper_ROY_2012? One shouldn't expect to see Harper before 2013. He has a long way to go and he is just starting at the end of 2011. Unless he hits well over .400 at every level they put him at …

  33. Nattydread - Sep 16, 2010 at 6:44 PM

    Interesting question.Six months ago, us Kool Aid drinkers were speculating that, come September, we'd be near .500 and our pitching staff would have lifted us like the cavalry.Unfortunately,Strasburg crashed and burned.Lannan lost it and spent 2 months in AA to get his stuff back.Marquis was $15M of damaged goods. Olsen flashed brilliance but provided equal measures of bad pitching and bad attitude.Zimmermann is taking longer than expected.The crap shot on Wang was just that — a crap shot.Only the gamble on Livo panned out.So we go back to 2011 with the same guys, a starter corps that could be the foundation of a .500 team. If. And only if…My bet is that they give the ball to Marquis. Money talks.

  34. A DC Wonk - Sep 16, 2010 at 7:04 PM

    Steve M wrote:My apologies to Marquis and Lannan. About 3 months ago, I thought both of you guys were done, and happily you both proved me wrong.And for the second time in this thread I'm complimenting your post.There's a big lesson in here, btw. Evaluating baseball talent is a extremely difficult, and, not only that, one has to have a *whole* lotta patience. Lots of folks here thought Bernadina would go nowhere. Lots of folks thought Morse would be an elite hitter, and then two months later thought he was a nothing. After Desmond got off to a slow start in the minors last year, folks thought he was overrated, too. Folks thought Pudge was almost his former self, then they thought he was completely over the hill, and yet he here is, still, with a higher BA than Dunn, Bernadina, and just .001 lower than Willingham. Morse and Desmond who both had extended cold streaks are now the only two guys on the team with a BA higher than .300 for the past 30 days.But the guys up close (Riggs, Rizzo), the guys who see them every day, the guys who really study them with their own eyes . . . probably have a better idea than we do about "up side", etc.And they sure have a whole lotta more patience than we do!!And so it goes. It takes a long time to figure out whether somebody's going to be good at the MLB level. Further, sometimes the smallest adjustment can render a good player awful, or vice versa.

  35. Anonymous - Sep 16, 2010 at 7:17 PM

    @Anon 205pm – If Harper goes to the AFL this year and excels I think he will be at Harrisburg in 2011 and the Opening Day RF in 2012 if he excels there. He is Jason Heyward only better!

  36. sjm105 - Sep 16, 2010 at 7:33 PM

    Several questions answered and some unanswered by the posters. Are we going to be happy if the Nationals get to 81 wins next year? I am thinking that would be a pretty nice achievement with this roster.Count me among the people that think Harper will be in the majors at 19. If we have Dunn, Espinoza, Desmond, R. Zimm, Ramos, in the infield and a decent group of starters it would seem the only positions to tweak are in the outfield. Are they discussing which outfield position they want Harper to play?

  37. Josh - Sep 16, 2010 at 7:53 PM

    It should be JZimm because with him we will have the best chance to win. Simple as that. Putting Livo out there and expecting him to repeat his '10 season is just like putting Lannan out there this year–it's making him a sacrificial lamb.

  38. Anonymous - Sep 16, 2010 at 9:36 PM

    A DC Wonk, Pudge is still over the hill and washed up. Who cares about his batting average considering that stat is pretty close to meaningless.

  39. Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me - Sep 17, 2010 at 12:22 AM

    Choosing from Mark's list is like trying to pick the 10th runner-up in the Miss Iowa contest (with apologies to Jose Bautista).

  40. Anonymous - Sep 17, 2010 at 12:42 AM

    I'm for Livan. And yes, Mark, you're right — something's wrong with this staff. No consistency whatsoever. So I say Livan.

  41. Samantha - Sep 17, 2010 at 1:04 AM

    Livo!

  42. Anonymous8 - Sep 17, 2010 at 3:06 AM

    I said it before the season started and while the season was continuing that Lannan is a #4 or #5 starter on a team that is competing for the playoffs.Livo has done an admirable job here but lets not fool ourselves in thinking he is a #1.The only player on that list that has ace stuff is Jordan Zimmermann although he hasn't earned Opening Day yet so I agree with Steve M., DC Wonk, and others that Spring Training results should decide who gets it.I also agree with the optimism on Bryce Harper. Hoping he gets to go to the AFL.

  43. Anonymous - Sep 17, 2010 at 3:12 AM

    Let's just see what Harper does in the Florida Instruction League first … then if they let him go into the AFL (needs to be his entrance is in the best interests of baseball) … He could end up not being able to hit a major league baseball like one fleet footed Justin Maxwell.

  44. Anonymous - Sep 17, 2010 at 4:00 AM

    Livo. Period. He is the Founding Father of the Washington Nationals. Livo.

  45. Anonymous - Sep 17, 2010 at 12:08 PM

    please note, we are talking about a big name free agent pitcher… or someone acquired in a trade… Carl Pavano nor Javy Vasquez can qualify for either title, even in their own household.

  46. Anonymous - Sep 17, 2010 at 12:20 PM

    If Zimm pitches well in spring training, then he's our ace and gets the start. It's his position to lose and rather than viewing it as adding pressure on him, I think it could be a huge confidence booster.

  47. Fake Miguel Batista - Sep 17, 2010 at 1:10 PM

    What am I, chopped liver?Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said… Choosing from Mark's list is like trying to pick the 10th runner-up in the Miss Iowa contest (with apologies to Jose Bautista). September 16, 2010 8:22 PM

  48. Ivo Planarian - Sep 17, 2010 at 2:43 PM

    There is no way to know who our starter will be in next year's opener. If I had to place some kind of bet I would guess Zimmermann, but it could be Marquis, or Livo, or Lannan again, or Detwiler, or Olsen, or Maya, or Wang, or someone who isn't even on the current 40-man roster.With so many guys coming off surgery we'll have to wait to see how they perform in spring training to make any kind of reasonably educated guess. Some will come back stronger, some weaker, it's all a crapshoot.

  49. Anonymous - Sep 17, 2010 at 3:51 PM

    Of the four listed, I'd say that I'm 60/40 for Lannan/Livo right now, and adjust that based on how they look in spring training. But who I'd LIKE to see start? Wang. If he's better.

  50. Anonymous - Sep 17, 2010 at 3:53 PM

    Uhn anon 11:51? They may release Wang and save some million or two.

  51. Anonymous - Sep 17, 2010 at 4:43 PM

    It doesn't make any difference what statistics you look at. If Riggleman is the manager, Lannan will start.

  52. Anonymous - Sep 17, 2010 at 4:45 PM

    I kind of like this cuban kid named Camilo Pascual

  53. hondo69 - Sep 17, 2010 at 7:22 PM

    Feel Wood and several others on this site, I'm just hoping and praying that on March 31 Riggleman is watching our opener on TV like most of us!!

  54. Anonymous - Sep 19, 2010 at 1:18 AM

    Dan Haren.

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