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Sorting out a suddenly overflow rotation

Feb 3, 2012, 12:00 PM EDT

Trivia time: Can you name the five pitchers who made the most starts for the Nationals in 2010?

If you said Livan Hernandez (33), John Lannan (25), Craig Stammen (19), Luis Atilano (16) and Scott Olsen (15), congratulations. You remember the painful history of this franchise far too well.

Was it really less than two years ago the Nationals trotted out that less-than-inspiring rotation? Have they really managed in such short time to go from that to this: Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, Edwin Jackson and either Chien-Ming Wang, John Lannan or Ross Detwiler?

Any one of the three guys now battling for the final spot in the 2012 rotation would probably have been good enough to start Opening Day inRead more »

213 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. Anonymous - Feb 3, 2012 at 7:57 PM

    For the same reason of the GM having a lust for a given player, BJ Upton is a realistic future Nats target. But TB does not need pitching. And the team needs at least one more lefty starter.The team cannot sustain control of these seven starters past spring training. So something is going to happen, and it is neither "Lannan for Cutter" nor Lannan to AAA.Upton is a FA in 2013. I think Rizzo wants to win the WS this year and my "fools" perspective is to think about how to use the surplus to get this team there, rather than to plug in a serviceable part for surplus starting pitching — which is one of the most important skill positions to stockpile. I think Rizzo is thinking stockpile to trade just as he was when he puled in Purke and flipped two LH starters months later.JMHOForensicMicForensicMic

  2. Anonymous - Feb 3, 2012 at 7:58 PM

    Eugene — nicely laid out, thanks. But, I'm still a complainer. The proposition was, I think, that the lineup order does not matter. What the stathaeads did was build a model to compare an optimized order as you said versus a traditional one; had they generated random orders and compared them to either the traditional or optimized and come up with the conclusion that there is not much difference between them that would prove the proposition. But, that's not what they did. The order matters. In addition to the per game examples you rovided so well, Ian Desmond's .295 OBP hurt the Nats more last year over the full season than it would have had he been hitting 8th all season, because he had like 600 AB's with that woefeul total (mostly at the top of the order) and it would have hurt less, presumably, had someone else making less outs been getting those extra AB's in front of the likes of Zim and Morse, and the club would have had more PA's and thus more chance to score (or so the optimized lineup theorists would say). No?Thanks.dfh21

  3. Anonymous - Feb 3, 2012 at 7:59 PM

    The Nats could potentially have 3 Aces to rival the best in the Majors and you want to break that up to fix centerfield?Read Rizzo's lips: He prefers proven major league talent even to high ceiling prospects with potential. PERIOD. So, of course he would NEVER do this. Stop playing fantasy baseball on Natsinsider? It comes across as stupid, which it is: S-T-U-P-I-D.Rizzo WILL however, trade a Purke, a Solis, even a Meyer to get what he needs positionally. They aren't major league proven. But he doesn't have to get his CF. That CF is named BJ Upton. Either Rizzo gets him via a propitious trade before the deadline as BJ Upton becomes a free agent next season. Or he signs him in the offseason. Either way Uption gets a big extension. That is what is next now that the Fielder fiasco is done. That, and acquiring a left-handed power bat : Joey Votto. If Cincinnati doesn't re-up that guy the Nats will be all-in for him.

  4. Anonymous - Feb 3, 2012 at 8:07 PM

    I don't think it's "stupid" to think that Jordan Zimmermann is available in the right trade. It would have to be a tremendous blockbuster, but as we learned with Gio, you have to give something (sometimes a lot) to get something.Zimmermann is now officially a major league proven top talent. Which in Rizzo's eyes makes him far superior to any prospect with potential and a high ceiling. All that is left is the 200 innings mark. Then he is golden. Rizzo trading Zimmermann would be unfathomable particularly given that they would not offer Prince Fielder what he was looking for? And didn't even look at Pujols? Its completely inconceivably and therefore really … honestly it is just fantasy baseball … and kind of stupid here. Sorry but there it is. Now, the arguments for Detwiler who hasn't really proven himself? Yes, they are valid even if unlikely since he is favored by Davey Johnson, is a left-handed power pitcher (left-handedness extremely critical), and under team control for at least 4 years. So yes for the right deal, and Rizzo is going to charge a whole heck of a lot … they would trade him and replenish the farm system again. I know I would.

  5. Anonymous - Feb 3, 2012 at 8:08 PM

    Eugene — nicely laid out, but the order matters. The statheads were comparing opimtized order based upon OBP or OPS versus traditional orders, not random order versus anything. Thanks.dfh21

  6. Anonymous - Feb 3, 2012 at 8:11 PM

    My earlier post vanished, so I hope this is in not redundant.In the same vein that EJax was coveted, BJ Upton may be targeted by Rizzo. But TB does not need pitching, so he is coming to the Nats only in a three team trade.The team has spent high to stockpile seven marketable starting pitchers, starting pitching being the most important commodity. We're not going to have a six man rotation, there will be no "Lannan for Cutter" dump, no Lannan to AAA, no Detwiler to waivers, and no pitching staff with both Gorzo and Det in the bullpen. This parallels the team history of stockpiling high end draft talent and paying dearly for Purke and Cole, setting the stage to flip quantity and quality for championship caliber talent.So I may be a "fool," but I think Rizzo is not trying to win the WS in 2013 with Upton, but to win it now with players that Davey Johnson can massage from spring training onward.Lerner isn't the only one who wants to win now and is getting old. Several months ago, we heard Davey question coming back. Remember why he said he did.ForensicMic

  7. BullpenCatcher - Feb 3, 2012 at 8:22 PM

    Anon @ 935Of course both JZimm and tras should have asterisks by their quality start numbers because they wererecovering from injuries, so if you take them away and go with the top 3 in that category this is your rotation:JZimmStrasGioEJDetweilerSo what do we do with Lannan and CMW?

  8. Theophilus - Feb 3, 2012 at 8:24 PM

    Lotta people been skipping their anti-stoopid medication. Jackson is clearly a one-year rental. Rizzo said plainly he didn't get interested until Jackson showed interest in a one-year deal; they are expressly prefacing the deal on the untested notion they can improve this guy (and justify $11MM) by "tweaking" his motion (and there is no reason to believe that, after 8 years in the majors this guy is suddenly going to become receptive to coaching and learning how to pitch). Yeesh! The Nats have long term control over their Top-3 pitchers. They don't want long term commitments to their 4-5 starters because two years from now (2014, at the latest) they're going to have cheap, long-term controllable options in those slots coming up through the farm system. Do you really — considering Jackson's record thus far — want to be paying $15 MM to your #4 starter when you could have Purke, Meyer or Solis in that slot for $400K? Jackson's highest and best use is to have a decent enough year that he leaves a compensatory draft choice behind when he goes.

  9. Section 222 - Feb 3, 2012 at 8:24 PM

    @Sec3, that's an interesting reaction about my 5 inning idea. The thing is that we'e always been told that the limit is 160 innings, not 26 starts, or 5 months. (@NatsLady, I know you're convinced it's based on the minor league season, but is there any evidence of that?) It's also not 2600 pitches. If the between starts routine, warmup pitches, or total pitches were significant, then you would think that if someone gets knocked out in the first inning that would be counted as more than just 1 inning toward the limit. But as far as I know, it's not.I've actually never seen an article based on knowledgable sources about the 160 inning limit, where it came from, how it's changed, how it's been interpreted, though I've seen lots of speculation or explanations here, many of which sounds perfectly reasonable. I'd love to see Mark dive into this and perhaps even ask Rizzo or McCatty about creative solutions other than the 6-man rotation which I think is the only idea that Rizzo has specifically dismissed. (@FeelWood, feel free to provide a link to other quotes if you have them.)Also, the idea that this solution would teach Strasburg to be a five inning pitcher, as suggested by a previous commenter, or that he needs to get used to pitching the standard 6 or 7 innings, is silly. I'm sure he can make an adjustment next year to pitch 6-8 innings per start, once his innings limit is gone, just as he made the adjustment when he turned pro to be an every 5 days pitcher instead of a Friday night only pitcher.

  10. blovy8 - Feb 3, 2012 at 9:01 PM

    Zimmermann is the type of guy the Nats are trying to acquire, not trade. One year of Edwin Jackson doesn't change what they have to spend going forward, it's just a matter of seeing a player that is undervalued who can help your team pitch the 1450 innings they have. I think if a better OF than Bernadina wants to play on the club for a few million for one year, he's going to get signed. The thing is, so many players left really can't even play right field, or probably want assurances that they'll play everyday in the hopes that 2013 will get them a better deal. While it's not ideal to have your depth taking up roster space, it's better than relying on Maya as the #7 guy.

  11. natsfan1a - Feb 3, 2012 at 10:02 PM

    Dang, did I miss the sock puppet show? Oh well, I'll catch the next one. :-)

  12. Neal - Feb 4, 2012 at 8:07 AM

    Here's a trade that might possibly happen and would make some sense for both teams (IMHO). Detwiler and Lombardozzi to the Twins for Denard Span. Last year when it was a Storen for Span possibility, the deal killer was when the Twins insisted on including Lombardozzi as well. However, with Span now apparently 100% and the possible surplus of LH arms this might work. Between, Lannan, Wang and Detwiler, Detwiler has by far the best trade value right now (upside, salary and team control). The Nats now might be willing to part with Detwiler and Lombardozzi to make this happen and I think that the Twins would also be open to it.The ironic thing in all of this is that if Harper really does force his way onto the opening day roster and this trade happens, then the Nats have to figure out what do with Harper, Morse and LaRoche. These are good problems to have, ones that contenders have to figure out, unlike the Nats of only two years years ago.Opening Day?1) Span – CF2) Desmond – SS3) Zimmerman – 3B4) Morse – 1B5) Werth – RF6) Harper – LF7) Espinosa – 2B8) Ramos – C9) SP

  13. realdealnats - Feb 4, 2012 at 10:26 PM

    Only time will tell but Opening Day:Lannan: #5Detweiler: out of the penWang: DL or Minors for arm strength?Prince O: AAA for a month or twoOn a separate note: Who do you realistically package This Year for Upton with a contract extension? Lannan-Flores-Bernadina? Or am I thinking like a homer?

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