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Will starters be allowed to go deeper?

Feb 6, 2013, 12:00 PM EDT

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Stephen Strasburg has never reached the eighth inning in 45 career starts.

As good as the Nationals' rotation was last season — it posted the NL's best ERA at 3.40 while yielding the league's lowest batting average at .240 — the unit was perhaps not as dominant as it could have been for one simple reason.

Davey Johnson rarely let his starters pitch deep into games.

Despite their fantastic numbers, Nationals starters actually threw only the 18th-most innings among all big-league rotations, averaging only 5.88 innings per outing. That's because Johnson let his starter take the mound for the eighth inning only eight times in 162 games.

And all of those starts were made by either Edwin Jackson (five times) or Gio Gonzalez (three times).

There was a clear method to Johnson's use of his staff. With soRead more ยป

  1. MicheleS - Feb 6, 2013 at 12:16 PM

    I can't wait until we get to see actual games.

  2. Joe Seamhead - Feb 6, 2013 at 12:20 PM

    With the combination of a good bullpen and somewhat of a shortage of starters ready to move up from the minors, the basic same strategy will probably hold true again, though a slight average IP increase from the starters seems likely.

  3. sjm308 - Feb 6, 2013 at 12:29 PM

    I hate to worry about anything but Tom Verducci does a pretty good job of looking at injuries to pitchers. I have read he doesn't like it being called the Verducci Effect but basically he produces a list each year of potential injuries, based on the jump in innings from the previous year. His success rate is pretty astonishing but not perfect. Guess who is on his list for 2013? Again, not sure if this is credible but I am pretty sure Strasburg will be watched closely and I am absolutely ok with that.Go Nats!!

  4. Sec. 3, My Sofa - Feb 6, 2013 at 12:33 PM

    This is assuming, of course, they don't get knocked out of games. Never assume.

  5. Gonat - Feb 6, 2013 at 1:05 PM

    It concerns me how pitchers like Verlander who pitch so many complete games fall apart in the playoffs.Is it the innings piling up or is it just choking?

  6. alexva - Feb 6, 2013 at 1:08 PM

    Sofa, from the previous post, Gil Meche voluntarily retired leaving millions on the table.

  7. SCNatsFan - Feb 6, 2013 at 1:15 PM

    With the lights out pen we have I imagine davey will pull guys the first sign of trouble after the 5th inning

  8. BigCat - Feb 6, 2013 at 1:28 PM

    In 1972-74 Nolan Ryan had 20,26 and 26 complete games with an astonishing 9 shutouts in 72. The 100 pitch stuff employed by a lot of today's teams wouldn't of went over so well with him. But with the money being thrown around these days, I think the careful approach to pitcher's arms is here to stay

  9. Donald - Feb 6, 2013 at 1:30 PM

    When he has a no-hitter going into the eighth, you may see Strasburg pitching a bit deeper sooner than you think.

  10. bowdenball - Feb 6, 2013 at 1:33 PM

    Gonat said…"It concerns me how pitchers like Verlander who pitch so many complete games fall apart in the playoffs. Is it the innings piling up or is it just choking?"It's neither, because it's not true. Verlander's career postseason WHIP and SO/BB ratio is only slightly higher than his regular season numbers, which stands to reason since he's facing better lineups on average in the postseason. Also as lot of his postseason numbers are from 2006, before he became JUSTIN VERLANDER. In 2011 and 2012 his postseason numbers were very impressive overall.

  11. baseballswami - Feb 6, 2013 at 2:22 PM

    Thanks for calling it like it is — that Davey did not LET them go longer. I have heard our pitching staff criticized for not being ABLE to go longer. The question remains for me though — is this just his style and has nothing to do with the age of the staff? He just seems to like bringing in that pinch hitter early for offense. If it's anywhere from inning 5 on, he will be tempted to pull the starter and pinch hit, no matter how the pitcher is doing. He also seems to like giving the opposing line up a different look after a couple times through. Maybe he won't operate any differently at all. Maybe our pitchers practice their hitting more because they don't want to be pulled – they actually are their own pinch hitters. I think I heard Haren is good with the bat, too.

  12. PChuck - Feb 6, 2013 at 2:29 PM

    Six more innings per starter would put the rotation in the top 10 IP in the majors.That's just six more innings over 30+ starts. Not too difficult.

  13. Rabbit34 - Feb 6, 2013 at 2:37 PM

    Everybody worries about how long starters should stay in. The game is nine innings. They get hurt? Well, they earn(?) enough to only have to pitch one year anyway. Bahhh.

  14. Tcostant - Feb 6, 2013 at 2:49 PM

    Look for Stras to be around 190 IP at the end of the regular season; Rizzo and Boone have both been on the radio resently indicating that they donn't like to ramp young pitchers up over 20% from the year prior.I think Zimmermann leads the staff in innings this year (just can't bet on Haren not missing any starts).I think Gio will be suspended, more and more links are there and the fact he came out strong with a statement, will work counter to what he hope as one link there makes him look like a lier.

  15. Ghost Of Steve M. - Feb 6, 2013 at 3:08 PM

    bowdenball said… Gonat said…"It concerns me how pitchers like Verlander who pitch so many complete games fall apart in the playoffs. Is it the innings piling up or is it just choking?"It's neither, because it's not true. Verlander's career postseason WHIP and SO/BB ratio is only slightly higher than his regular season numbers, which stands to reason since he's facing better lineups on average in the postseason. Also as lot of his postseason numbers are from 2006, before he became JUSTIN VERLANDER. In 2011 and 2012 his postseason numbers were very impressive overall.February 06, 2013 8:33 AM What are you looking at? Let's look at the most important number which is his ERA. Verlander the last 2 years in the regular season had ERAs of 2.40 and 2.64 in the regular season and 251 and 238 innings in those seasons to lead the Majors.In the postseason, in 2011 his ERA was 5.41 and in 2012 his ALDS and ALCS were great but then he got bombed in the World Series with 5 earned runs over 4 innings. He faced the A's twice in the ALDS and he faced the Yankees in Game 3 where they were shutout the game before and their offense was slumping and Jeter was out of the lineup.While its a mixed bag and small sample sizes, its still worth looking at piling on innings and the effect on overall pitching in the post-season.We saw the same thing with CJ Wilson in 2011 with the Rangers.

  16. sm13 - Feb 6, 2013 at 3:15 PM

    The extraordinary bullpen depth gives Davey the freedom to use the starters as he sees fit. Given his short leash strategy, we can expect to see lots of 5+ inning starts again this year. I'd like to see Jordan pitch into the 8th a few times, but my expectations are low.

  17. Theophilus T. S. - Feb 6, 2013 at 3:16 PM

    " . . . Davey did not LET them go longer." That conceals the truth. "Davey" didn't let them go longer because typically they were out of gas. Look at both the innings and the pitch counts — espec. Gio's. Count the no. of games where (A) he didn't go more than six and (B) was already over 100 pitches. Looks like the "pink cream" wasn't doing much for Gonzalez's stamina. Zimmermann, too; avg. about 5.5 IP in August and September. I'll give Strasburg a pass; Detwiler a partial one, because after his return the rotation, despite lack of experience as a starter, he went seven innings as often (six times) as Gonzalez over the same period. The rest of them just needed to hitch up their pants. Thankfully, Jackson is gone and Haren has proved that, when in good health, he's a gamer.

  18. Ghost Of Steve M. - Feb 6, 2013 at 3:19 PM

    I think they will try to keep Stras around 180 innings as you have to figure as the #1 he will pitch about 28 innings in the post-season and that takes him right around 200 total innings.

  19. Section 222 - Feb 6, 2013 at 3:23 PM

    Swami brings up a great point. Davey's quick hook is partly because he wants to protect the young arms and partly because we're in the National League and Davey plays aggressively in the late innings with his bench. It almost doesn't matter how well you're pitching, if you're behind after the 5th inning and your spot in the lineup comes up in a situation where something more than a sacrifice bunt is needed, you're going to get lifted. E-Jax is a good example. He pitched in the eighth inning in five games, four of them in NL Parks (he pitched into the 9th in Toronto on June 11). The Nats were ahead going into the 8th in three of them. The other game(May 18 against the Orioles at Nats Park) was tied. E-Jax batted in the bottom of the 5th, and his turn to hit didn't come up again until the bottom of the 8th, when Davey pinch hit for him.Gio's three 8 or more innings games were his two complete games and a game he lost against the Marlins on Aug. 3. One of his CGs was a 10-0 shutout of the Cardinals. In the other, he batted in the 8th against the Astros with the Nats ahead 4-2. In the game he lost, which was the second game of the home doubleheader against the Marlins, Gio batted in the 5th when we were head 1-0. His spot in the order didn't come up again until the bottom of the 8th.So once pitch counts and innings limits are less of a factor, whether a pitcher gets to pitch the 8th can also be determined by the completely random factor of whether it's a home or away game.

  20. bowdenball - Feb 6, 2013 at 3:33 PM

    Ghost Of Steve M. said… "What are you looking at? Let's look at the most important number which is his ERA"Well we can start with the fact that this statement is wrong. ERA is a fielding-dependent statistic, the most significant of its several faults. Then let's move on to the fact that you cherry-picked his stats. If the innings were piling up and wearing on him, why was he so incredible in the 2012 ALDS and ALCS? Sure, he had one bad start of his four, but that's a pretty typical rate. He literally had a game where he gave up 4+ ER in every single month of the 2012 season. In other words, he was exactly the same pitcher in the 2012 postseason as he was in the 2012 regular season. In the 2011 postseason he wasn't great, but a suspect a huge part of that is that he faced two of the best offenses in the league in all of his four starts (TEX, NYY). Those teams hit him pretty well in the regular season too, he posted an ERA around 3.5 and a K/BB ratio only slightly above 2 in his three regular season starts against them too.I don't see any evidence of a dropoff from Verlander in the postseason once you consider quality of opponent.And naming CJ Wilson as another example is just more cherry-picking. Why not other guys with more than 200 IP in 2012 who appeared in the postseason? Cain? Lohse? Sabathia? The results vary, because the sample size is small and performance varies. Overall I don't see any evidence of pitchers with 200+ IP in the regular season faltering in the postseason and more than guys with lighter workloads.

  21. rarumberger - Feb 6, 2013 at 3:36 PM

    Strasburg and Gio both had a tendency to use too many pitches to get through too few innings. Yes, their strikeout totals looked nice, but they both gave away too many pitches to get them (and in Gio's case, gave away too many free bases).Jordan Zimmermann had a tendency to fall apart later in games. He never made it to the eighth because he never pitched a good seventh. He'd cruise through the first five innings, start to weaken in the sixth, and if Davey let him pitch the seventh it was time to close your eyes and pray.The other problem, especially early in the season, when the staff was most dominant, was that the offense wasn't building large enough leads. It's hard to justify letting your pitcher hit in the seventh inning when you're tied or in a one run game, even if he's still going strong.Yes, Davey was cautious. Cautious enough to win us the division. I'd like to see longer outings too, but only if they actually give us a better shot at winning, which wouldn't have been the case last year.

  22. PChuck - Feb 6, 2013 at 3:45 PM

    And I agree. I've always thought Verlander pitched too many innings in the regular season. A complete game counts as one win, just as it would if he pitched 7 innings.The mediots trumpet those complete games, how great he is by throwing them…then he's not quite as good in the playoffs, after all those innings.

  23. Ghost Of Steve M. - Feb 6, 2013 at 3:50 PM

    Bowdenball, I don't want to hear FIP. Its big game time and Verlander blew up in 2011 post-season and the 2012 World Series.Aces need to step up in the biggest games.

  24. Section 222 - Feb 6, 2013 at 3:56 PM

    Yeah, give me Barry Zito over Verlander in the playoffs any day of the week.

  25. Ghost Of Steve M. - Feb 6, 2013 at 3:56 PM

    Bowdenball, it seems that Verlander hit the wall at 255 innings in 2011 and 2012. Maybe a coincidence or maybe there's something to it.Verlander and Strasburg are very similar power pitchers. I think its a study worth looking into the number of complete games with pitch counts and total innings thrown.Verlander has been the best starter in the regular season the last 2 years.

  26. Ghost Of Steve M. - Feb 6, 2013 at 3:57 PM

    Give me Ross Detwiler in the playoffs. Ice in his veins.

  27. 3on2out - Feb 6, 2013 at 4:06 PM

    Great research and analysis, 222. A good bench and a solid bullpen allow Davey to mix and match in the late innings. The right batter in the right situation and a variety of choices to slam the door after the starters begin to show signs of wear. I don't think Davey gives the smallest of damns about getting his starters complete games. Davey's goal is simply maximizing the team's chances to win…using whatever combination of starters, pen and bench that does the trick.

  28. MicheleS - Feb 6, 2013 at 4:08 PM

    I can't wait to see stras in the playoffs

  29. Section 222 - Feb 6, 2013 at 4:09 PM

    Ghost, I share your excitement over Det's development (and I was always uncomfortable with the criticism he received early in the season). But the guy has pitched one postseason game in his life. You're not seriously saying you'd rather have him on the mound in a big game than Justin Verlander, are you?

  30. JD - Feb 6, 2013 at 4:15 PM

    Bowdenball, For whatever it's worth I think you are right on the money. There is no doubt that Verlander pitched a bad game in the WS but I wouldn't take the leap of faith and conclude that 'he hit the wall. Ghost, Marco Scutaro was great in the post season but that still does not elevate him to anything more than a middle of the road, just above mediocre.

  31. sm13 - Feb 6, 2013 at 4:15 PM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  32. Tony - Feb 6, 2013 at 4:18 PM

    In order to hit the wall at 255 innings a pitcher first has to pitch 255 innings. Strasburg, Gio, Zimmermann and Det should be so lucky.

  33. Ghost Of Steve M. - Feb 6, 2013 at 4:18 PM

    Sect222, I still take Verlander. I just limit his innings to 210 to 220 in the regular season.When you look at Gio 2 starts, JZim 1, EJax 1, and Detwiler 1 and they all faced the same lineups, only Detwiler was effective. Small sample size but I like what I saw and didn't like Gio in either of his starts.

  34. sm13 - Feb 6, 2013 at 4:20 PM

    Agree about Nats starters and their high pitch counts. You hope that, as they mature,, they will trust their stuff more and stop nibbling. Those 30 pitch first innings are killers.

  35. JD - Feb 6, 2013 at 4:21 PM

    Sec222, Or Steven Strasburg or Jordan Zimmermann or Gio Gonzalez.

  36. Ghost Of Steve M. - Feb 6, 2013 at 4:23 PM

    JD, there are big game players. Gene Tenace was one. Marco Scutaro another. David Eckstein another.I thought Tyler Moore showed up big for the Nats in the little time he got in the post-season.I love Verlander. His post-season overall record stinks for his career 4.22 ERA over 12 games compared to the Ace he is in the regular season.

  37. Section 222 - Feb 6, 2013 at 4:29 PM

    JD, so let me get this straight. It's game 7 of the World Series. You'd prefer any of our starters (we'll leave aside Haren for now) over the universally recognized best pitcher in baseball. That's kind of shocking I have to say. But it's a free country.

  38. Ghost Of Steve M. - Feb 6, 2013 at 4:37 PM

    Nats got Micah Owings who is being transitioned to a 1st baseman from pitcher. Interesting.

  39. JD - Feb 6, 2013 at 4:37 PM

    My view on pitcher handling is as follows: 1) Young pitchers under the age of 25 should be ramped up slowly (20% increase a year, reasonable pitch counts). 2) After the age of 25 pitching coaches should not use innings numbers to manage pitchers but rather pitching effectiveness; signs of fatigue etc. 3) The 100 pitch limit (to pitchers over 25) is nonsense; coaches need to see if a pitcher is done based on loss of command, breaking pitches hanging and fast balls flattening. Using a 'magic' number assumes all pitchers are the same. This is not my theory but it makes a ton of sense and there is a lot of documented evidence which supports these theories.

  40. MicheleS - Feb 6, 2013 at 4:38 PM

    So.. BBTN will be in Viera on 3/5 and Schilling the will be there..ugh that could be ugly.http://espnmediazone.com/us/press-releases/2013/02/bbtn-goodyear-express-tour/

  41. JD - Feb 6, 2013 at 4:40 PM

    Sec222, no,no. I prefer our other starters over Detwiler at least based on their careers thus far.

  42. Section 222 - Feb 6, 2013 at 4:44 PM

    JD, Ah ok. I'm totally with you there. I really like Det, but one good post season start does not vault him out of the no. 5 spot in our rotation. If Stras lives up to his potential this year, he may very well move into the Verlander class of super aces. But "right now" as they say on MLB Net, I'll take Verlander notwithstanding his mediocre post season stats.

  43. JD - Feb 6, 2013 at 4:45 PM

    Ghost, Let's agree to disagree here. I mean Mark Lemke had a monster world series one year too. It doesn't make him a big time player; it just makes him someone who got hot at the right time. I agree with you that there are people who 'shrink' during big games; Nick Swisher has had a history of failing in the post season and there are those players who thrive in the post season but I think you are taking ultra small samples and drawing conclusions. I mean Tyler Moore hit a bloop single in 1 game which happened to be a game winner but if he takes the same swing and pops it up to 2nd we lose; in neither case can you extrapolate much.

  44. Ghost Of Steve M. - Feb 6, 2013 at 4:45 PM

    Michele, good to know and luckily Tim Kurkjian will be with Schilling. Not a fan of Schilling at all but Kurkjian is a Nats guy so the coverage should be good until Schilling talks about the Nats starters.

  45. bowdenball - Feb 6, 2013 at 4:47 PM

    Ghost Of Steve M. said…"Bowdenball, I don't want to hear FIP. Its big game time and Verlander blew up in 2011 post-season and the 2012 World Series.Aces need to step up in the biggest games."Translation: you want to cherry-pick stats and games. ERA only, but not FIP BB/K. All postseason starts were "big game time" in 2011, but only the one World Series start counts in 2012. Hard to argue with someone who distorts data to see what they want to see instead of looking at it objectively.

  46. JD - Feb 6, 2013 at 4:49 PM

    Sec222, I think people put such a microscope on the post season that they ignore common sense. Yeah, gimme Verlander any of the week and twice on Sunday.

  47. Ghost Of Steve M. - Feb 6, 2013 at 4:49 PM

    JD, we aren't disagreeing at all. Its a discussion. Some guys step up in the biggest moments and some are just bad on the big stage.Jayson Werth in Game 4, Tyler Moore in Game 1 were huge Nats moments and Detwiler pitching in Game 4. I think Mattheus turning that doubleplay in Game 1 with the bases loaded and 1 out was enormous and Jayson Werth robbing DeScalso of a HR in Game 1.

  48. JD - Feb 6, 2013 at 4:51 PM

    Bowdenball,'Hard to argue with someone who distorts data to see what they want to see instead of looking at it objectively.' Yeah; very.

  49. Ghost Of Steve M. - Feb 6, 2013 at 4:54 PM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  50. bowdenball - Feb 6, 2013 at 4:55 PM

    Ghost Of Steve M. said…"JD, there are big game players. Gene Tenace was one. Marco Scutaro another. David Eckstein another."David Eckstein's career postseason batting average, on base % and slugging % are all equal to or lower than his regular season numbers.Marco Scutaro's postseason OBP and slugging are both lower than his regular season numbers. His batting average is slightly higher.There is no such thing as a "big game player," in my opinion. Although Gene Tenance's postseason stats are so much worse than his regular season stats (/.158.338/.289 postseason vs. .288/.388/.429 regular season that I wonder if he's actually a counterexample. He was positively terrible at the plate in the postseason.

  51. Ghost Of Steve M. - Feb 6, 2013 at 4:55 PM

    Bowdenball, when you are in the postseason, I don't care about BB/K as a main stat. I care about controlling the game which is allowing Earned Runs. Over a full season, give me all the stats. I'm looking for Chris Carpenter types in the post-season. 2.00 ERA in 4 World Series games. Of course we'd all want Sandy Koufax in the post-season but we can settle for a player who rises to the occassion like Detwiler did but as JD says, one game doesn't make a career.

  52. Ghost Of Steve M. - Feb 6, 2013 at 5:13 PM

    NEW POST

  53. bowdenball - Feb 6, 2013 at 5:17 PM

    GoSM-Are you honestly telling me that if Carpenter was healthy and you were the manager of a team that had Carpenter and Verlander on the roster, you'd rather have Carpenter than Verlander starting Game 7 of the World Series for you?The praise of Carpenter as a postseason performer sounds a lot like the praise of Cliff Lee as a clutch playoff performer when the Phils picked him up. How did that work out for him? These guys don't do anything special in the postseason that they don't do in the regular season. They're great pitchers who mostly have great games and occasionally have bad ones. Whether those games come in the postseason is just a function of luck.

  54. John C. - Feb 6, 2013 at 5:59 PM

    @sjm. Don't worry about the "Verducci effect" – as Baseball Prospectus pointed out (https://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=19497), it's mostly BS. Or, to quote nicer language from the article:"The Verducci Effect is a case of speculation mixed with a really poor understanding of the scientific method, and that is a dangerous combination. It gives the illusion of knowledge, and that's more dangerous than simply not knowing something. It's tempting to want to grab onto the Verducci explanation, especially when a young pitcher with so much promise suffers such a large setback, because a wrong explanation feels better than no explanation. With that said, my findings are not a license for teams to go out and Mark Prior-ize their pitchers. You can blow out a young (or old) arm from overuse. It's just that the Verducci formulation isn't a good guide to figure out who is at risk. I'll suggest that the reason has to do with how Verducci defines his sample…. [extensive article destroying the Verducci effect; Verducci himself tries to finesse this sort of destruction, which has been done many times before, not by refuting it but saying that his observation is not meant to be scientific. Yeah.]So here's to hoping that I don't have to resurrect this column a year from now. It's time to just admit that the Verducci Effect doesn't hold water and move on."It mystifies me that, in 2013, Verducci still gets quoted and cited when his observations have been so thoroughly debunked. I guess his having a soapbox online and on the MLB Network trumps science.

  55. natsfan1a - Feb 6, 2013 at 6:22 PM

    hehe, that's when he's allowed to pitch in the playoffs, right? ;-)Section 222 said… Yeah, give me Barry Zito over Verlander in the playoffs any day of the week. February 06, 2013 10:56 AM

  56. natsfan1a - Feb 6, 2013 at 6:24 PM

    (No knock on Zito, btw. I like the dude.)

  57. Theophilus T. S. - Feb 6, 2013 at 8:18 PM

    Yeah, I think I'd take a healthy Carpenter over Verlander in a Game 7.

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
x-WASHINGTON 91 64 --
ATLANTA 76 79 15.0
NEW YORK 76 80 15.5
MIAMI 74 81 17.0
PHILADELPHIA 71 85 20.5
x-Clinched NL East title
Through Sunday's games

NL PLAYOFFS STANDINGS

W L GB WCGB
x-WASHINGTON (4) 91 64 --
y-LOS ANGELES 89 67 2.5
y-ST. LOUIS 87 68 4.0
-------------------------
SAN FRANCISCO 84 71 7.0 --
PITTSBURGH 84 71 7.0 --
MILWAUKEE 80 76 11.5 4.5
x-Clinched division title
y-Clinched playoff berth
Through Sunday's early games

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SUN: Marlins at Nats, 1:35 p.m.
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