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Point/Counterpoint: 20 starts for Detwiler in 2014?

Dec 20, 2013, 6:00 AM EST

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MARK ZUCKERMAN: While it’s tempting to say no, I’m going to display a bit of faith in Detwiler … and the Nationals, for that matter. When healthy over the last 2 1/2 seasons, he has been an awfully good major-league starter. The key, of course, is keeping him healthy. By all accounts, Detwiler’s back is healed and he’ll be good to go for spring training. If so, he’s easily the Nationals’ best No. 5 starter option. Perhaps Ross will also pitch with a little chip on his shoulder after a frustrating 2013 and recent suggestions he’ll have to compete with Tanner Roark and Taylor Jordan for a rotation spot. We’ve been waiting six years for this guy to rise to the occasion and realize his full potential. I say it happens in 2014.

CHASE HUGHES: Well, Mark, look at you in the glass half-full, holiday spirit. I honestly believe Ross Detwiler will be back in a big way in 2014, that he will stay healthy and be more like the playoff standout he was in 2012 than the ineffective DL-frequenter he was this past season. That said, I’m a firm believer in betting with the odds, and the odds simply suggest otherwise. Detwiler has made 20 starts in his career just once, in that memorable 2012 campaign when he held a 3.40 ERA. It hasn’t always been injuries that have gotten in the way; it’s been consistency. And the competition behind him, I think, is legitimate. Roark could force the issue, and they have prospects who are getting close. It is a tough situation for the lefty to break through.

MZ: Let me douse your holiday spirit with a bit of bah, humbug! I enjoyed watching Tanner Roark succeed late last season as much as anybody, but let’s not make this guy out to be something more than he really is. We’re talking about a pitcher whose ceiling, in all likelihood, is as a No. 5 starter. Detwiler’s ceiling? He could still blossom into a No. 2 starter. No, he hasn’t been able to put it all together over a full, 162-game season yet, but I think he senses the time has come. And I know the Nats would love nothing more than to see him do it. Which means: They’re going to give him ample opportunity come April.

CH: I agree Detwiler will get a great opportunity early in the season, as he should. They have to see if the 2012 version of Detwiler is still there. The problem is how much time he has left to prove himself. Detwiler will enter 2014 on a team that we expect to have a much greater sense of urgency, especially early on. If he doesn’t cut it through the first month, he’ll have guys like Roark and Jordan waiting in the wings. Rizzo openly saying there will competition for the spot is a message to Detwiler, and the pressure will be on. Couple that with him returning from injuries and only 71 1/3 innings in 2013, and Detwiler will need a strong start to the year. I think he can do it, but the odds are stacked heavily against him.

  1. Doc - Dec 20, 2013 at 6:50 AM

    Det has to throw a more complete repertoire of pitches to succeed this coming season.

    Even at his best, opposing batters started hammering Det’s FB after the first time through the order. Probably why Rizzo thinks that he’d be a good option for the pen.

    Apart from that, finally in 2014 there is going to be some good competition for that 5th spot in the rotation. Lot of guys are going to be chomping at the bit to pick up a shot at #5!!!!

  2. trochlis318 - Dec 20, 2013 at 7:22 AM

    I’m sorry guys i take the under, i feel like that Detwiler will get the shot at the beggining of the season and i see ~4.00 ERA and then he gets yanked for Roark/Jordan

  3. MicheleS - Dec 20, 2013 at 7:26 AM

    Ross needs to eat more cookies!! Dang, I want him to succeed. So stay healthy (and that goes for the entire team)!!!!

  4. natslifer - Dec 20, 2013 at 7:47 AM

    Mark/Chase –

    I love Det and read everything I can about him but… as a guy with a very bad back (multiple herniations, some stenosis), I keep hearing that Det is “healed” but don’t think I’ve ever read what exactly was wrong with him in the first place. If he’s got a chronic disc issue, there’s no “healing” it in the classic sense – the disc can stabilize but will be weaker than before and more likely to have an issue again. Granted I’m not 25 but I do a ton of core exercise to stabilize things but can’t throw more than about 20 minutes of BP to my team before it starts to get sore and I have to stop. With that in mind, I’m taking the under and hoping for the over.

  5. dgourds - Dec 20, 2013 at 7:52 AM

    I agree with Rizzo. Nobody has won that 5th spot. What has Det done in his career to be annointed the 5th starter? One big playoff win? Being lefty? He’s been inconsistent and fragile his entire career. He has one plus pitch. Period. IMO, Roark has shown way more promise. I disagree that Tanner is potentially only a number 5. People act like he’s some soft tosser. He CONSISTENTLY hits 94 with his 2 seamer. He locates. He’s got a filthy curve. He’s so composed out there. He had a sub 2 ERA last year. Why couldn’t he someday be a 2? Because he doesn’t throw 97? Neither did Maddox. The Nats are in a great position to have this much competition at number 5. I think Det will be way below 20 starts. I’m rooting for Tanner, but as long as Det earns the spot in ST, I’m cool with it.

  6. Hiram Hover - Dec 20, 2013 at 8:36 AM

    My heart takes the over, my head takes the under.

  7. scnatsfan - Dec 20, 2013 at 9:23 AM

    Like so many have said, its about his health. If he’s OK then he’s our best option at 5. Many here will be quick to bury him but I see a really good season for him. Can you imagine trying to pitch with back or leg issues at the major league level???

  8. sjm308 - Dec 20, 2013 at 9:58 AM

    First – this is an excellent topic and worthy of debate.

    I am with Hiram and lots of others here. I watch him dominate the first few innings and then fall apart the 2nd and 3rd time through and if natslady can post those stats, they are telling to say the least. So my heart wants to see him as our #5 because he truly has talent but if he does not develop a 2nd pitch I don’t think it can happen.

    I also worry about his mental makeup because he shows a lot of poor body language out on the mound. This is one reason I am not convinced his transition to the bullpen will be as smooth as some think. I hope Det will accept that role and not pout. He is out of options so its pretty much a lock he will be on our roster when we break camp. I think it would take a total flameout for him not to be the 5th starter the first few times through and do not think he will start the year in the pen, but I think that is where he ends up.

    People are talking about Roark but please don’t forget about Taylor Jordan. Rizzo shut him down because of the Tommy John surgery but I think he might have better stuff than either Det or Roark. One thing, there will definitely be a decent competition for that 5th spot. I still have nightmares about that one season when we brought about 25 starters into camp under Bowden just to try and find 5. Now we are looking for one guy. How far we have come.

    Go Nats!!

    • Eugene in Oregon - Dec 20, 2013 at 10:29 AM


  9. Ghost of Steve M. - Dec 20, 2013 at 10:06 AM

    So many of you sound like me 3 years ago. Detwiler has been an enigma. As soon as you think you have figured him out he changes.

    His success in the 2nd 1/2 of 2012 and the playoffs was amazing. Was any of that a fluke or is that what he can be or was 2013 what he is?

    Those are the questions that must be answered. I think his reliance on darting 90% fastballs is a problem that has to be changed to 80% with a refinement of his secondary pitches.

    For the Roark supporters, give it time to see what he really is as those sample sizes are too small to annoint him for anything right now. Then you have Taylor Jordan who is more Fister than JZim and is a work-in-progress who I believe has big upside especially considering his sinkerballer pitches like Fister are very reliant on the defense. Better defense yields better results.

    I think Detwiler goes in with the edge for the #5 considering Roark and TJord have options and Roark could be a great add tothe bullpen.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Dec 20, 2013 at 10:30 AM


    • Hiram Hover - Dec 20, 2013 at 11:14 AM

      Well said that Det goes in “with the edge.”

      I think what happens in ST is less an open or equal competition than a kind of try-out for Det.

      If Det shows up and stays healthy, and if he performs well in ST (I don’t mean in terms of #s in meaningless games, but what the coaches see in his mechanics, etc.) then the job is his, no matter what Roark or Taylor Jordan does.

      Det deserves the edge because of his seniority and track record. I wonder, too, how much having another lefty in the starting rotation counts. There are other lefty options for the BP, but none for the starting rotation, at least for the beginning of the season.

      Having said all that – I’m still somewhat skeptical that Det meets both of those conditions during ST, and that he stays healthy and successful enough to cross the 20 start threshold that Chase and Mark were debating.

      • letswin3 - Dec 20, 2013 at 1:31 PM

        Sure, I would like to know that the coaches are satisfied with his mechanics too. But I will still be watching his ST numbers…unfortunately pitchers get shortened stints in Florida, and Det has pretty much always been OK the first time through the opponents lineup. It’s the decrease in efficiency in later innings that has cost Det in the past. The new skipper made a comment the other day about targeting at least 7 innings, and into the 8th, for starters…well, that’s not been Det’s strength. He still looks, at least on paper, like an ideal long lefty out of the pen, and I would be comfortable with him in that role, knowing that he would still be an insurance policy for a starter who has a stint on the DL. But I’m also not saying that he shouldn’t be given every opportunity to win that 5th spot in the rotation…he’s earned that. Hey, maybe he’ll show up in February with another pitch or two to make his FB even better, or at least show a willingness to work on a second pitch.

      • Hiram Hover - Dec 20, 2013 at 2:15 PM


        I think you answered yourself about the ST numbers – they pitch so few innings, and esp. pitch so few long outings, that the ST #s really just don’t mean that much.

        In Det’s case, paying too much attention to the #s could even be counterproductive. Let’s say that in ST he does work on that 2d or 3d pitch that everyone’s clamoring for. He could easily get rocked, esp. at the beginning, and esp, if he throws it a high percentage of the time, just to get a feel for it. That would drive his #s through the roof, but if he and his coaches believe he’s successful with it by the end of ST, the #s don’t matter. Relying on his best pitch to mow down AAAA/split squad guys and put up sterling #s is not what we want him doing.

        A final point – while there’s plenty of fault to find with Det, remember, the Nats need him to be a #5 starter, not a #1. I don’t think Det has a high ceiling as a starter, but he has thrown 375 innings as a starter – the equivalent of almost 2 seasons – and put up #s good enough to be a #5.

      • letswin3 - Dec 20, 2013 at 8:01 PM

        Thanks HH. I get it. Let’s just hope that we hear (and see) that he’s working on some stuff.

    • Doc - Dec 20, 2013 at 12:10 PM

      Ghost, if Roark were to be traded to another team, he would be a #3, or maybe a #2—gotta give him some time to really prove himself.

      Don’t know where this guy came from (except in a trade for a used up SS, named Guzman) but as dgourds points out, and I have emphasized periodically, this guy had Maddux like control last year with a darn good curve.

      I’m kinda thinking that Tanner will be around the Bigs for a while. Rizzo, with all his small time trades, sometimes gets lucky—he certainly did with Roark!

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Dec 20, 2013 at 12:52 PM

        Doc, I’m cautiously optimistic on.Roark. 4 nice starts and 1 lousy start doesn’t project to anything you can predict unless you can do it consistently. Det has no options which probably means it’s a numbers game and Roark will have to wait for his next turn.

        Shairon Martis in 2009 started the season 5-0. He beat the Giants in a 1 run 7 inning gem and then he fell apart with inconsistency. His slider never slid and his other pitches looked like beachballs once there was a scouting report on him.

        Roark isn’t proven yet. He was a 3.15 pitcher in AAA over 105 innings in 2013. Within the same season he had vastly different results. If you tell me McCatty changed something in his mechanics then I might be a believer but 3.15 in AAA is what has me concerned.

        I can trust what I saw in Taylor Jordan and I said this many times in 2013. There’s a reason the Tigers wanted him and Rizzo turned them down. I truly believe that Jordan performed better than his stats and will perform better based on an improved infield defense.

  10. Ghost of Steve M. - Dec 20, 2013 at 10:40 AM

    Interesting that Pitch f/x has changed all of Detwiler’s breaking pitches to curveballs. They used to be prior to last year all categorized as sliders. I still think it’s more of a hybrid slurve, but the issue is Ross was throwing less and less in 2013 and relying on mostly fastballs.

    In the 2012 playoffs he threw almost 15% breakers and in April 2013 Ross threw less than 6% breakers.

    In 2012 the BA against Det’s breaker was .217 vs .323 in 2013.

  11. masterfishkeeper - Dec 20, 2013 at 10:46 AM

    Suzuki to the Twins:

    I wish him well.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Dec 20, 2013 at 10:55 AM

      On Zuk I thought $2 million would be his top end market and believe the money was going to dictate where he was going to go and $2.75 is a nice haul but an almost $4 million paycut. In actuality he was extremely overpaid at $6.45 million. He should get the bulk of the starts with Mauer at 1st.

    • Hiram Hover - Dec 20, 2013 at 11:19 AM

      +1 on the best wishes.

      It’s $2.75M plus incentives, which I’m guessing also makes the Minnesota contract look better than what he could get from the Nats, since he’s likely to get more playing time there.

  12. Section 222 - Dec 20, 2013 at 11:31 AM

    Given what happened last year, I’m totally fine with Det having to earn that No. 5 spot in ST. I very much hope he does it because if he can get back to 2012 form I think he’s a better starting pitcher than Roark or Jordan, at least now. Both of them will benefit from more seasoning and they have options. So it’s an easy choice if Det shows he can do that job.

    I’m afraid I’m pessimistic though. Just like I was pessmistic, and right, about the chances he would return to the rotation in the second half. Bowdenball, pay up! :-)
    (see comments at 5:45 and 6:05 pm).

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Dec 20, 2013 at 11:45 AM

      Good job 222. I spent most of my time on that same post debating Detwiler’s breaking pitch and JZim’s fastball and coincidentally above I posted Pitch f/x has now reclassified all of Det’s breaking pitches as curveballs. That is the type of stuff that I enjoy 😉 minutia!

      Now back to the Det ceiling!

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Dec 21, 2013 at 10:20 AM

        “Det ceiling”

        Good one!

  13. Faraz Shaikh - Dec 20, 2013 at 11:31 AM

    “We’ve been waiting six years for this guy to rise to the occasion and realize his full potential.” This sums up RD’s career to me. I am not willing to wait any more. He can stay in bullpen and jump into rotation if any of our starters don’t do well/are injured.

  14. Ghost of Steve M. - Dec 20, 2013 at 11:32 AM

    Hiram, probably a good choice for Suzuki. As I posted a while ago I believe there were discussions with Zuk’s agent and possibly along the same lines like Rizzo did with LaRoche last off-season that we want you back and here’s what we can pay and if you can do better, good luck, and in Zuk’s case he got a better deal.

    • Doc - Dec 20, 2013 at 2:15 PM

      Some great stats from you and others Ghost.

      Your money has always been on Taylor Jordan, mine on Roark. Both are late bloomers, Roark later than Jordan.

      Time will tell????

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Dec 20, 2013 at 5:19 PM

        Roark improved greatly from 2012 to 2013 on his AAA stats. Clearly something good is happening but I need to know if there is a cause/effect for the Cy Young stats from 2013 AAA to 2013 MLB. If there isn’t an explanation that has to do with mechanics, approach, deception then we should be concerned. Out of the bullpen he has enough to be effective.

  15. johnboccabellafanclubmember1 - Dec 20, 2013 at 12:16 PM

    What’s the best use of the pitching resources seems to me to be a better way to frame the question than Who deserves to be the best starter. Too many arms in the bullpen can lead to a lack of definition in roles but the Nats have enough question marks out there that it’s better to err on that side and gain flexibility. And Soriana, Clippard, Storen, Detwiler, Blevins and Stammen provides the possibility of a deep B+ pen with the possibility for substitutions if someone is faltering. I can’t help but think that, like Clippard, Detwiler’s talents fit better on paper with being a strong 1+ inning reliever than the perennially ballyhooed young starter with star potential. I’d love to see him start the year in the pen. A trade could change all the equations.

  16. sjm308 - Dec 20, 2013 at 12:21 PM

    I never really thought Suzuki would be back and I think the Twins give him an excellent opportunity with Mauer moving to more time at first base. Rizzo keeps things so quiet, you just never know what he is up to.

    I am still hoping for Buck.

    Great conversation on Det and to me, he obviously has to perform but the fact that he has NO options while the others can be sent down gives him a huge advantage. Again, I think he would be terrific in the bullpen but it doesn’t take a genius to understand that the real big money in baseball is with starting pitchers. When Dan Haren can make over 22 million for two years of mediocrity, why wouldn’t you prefer to start?

  17. sunshinebobby - Dec 20, 2013 at 12:30 PM

    I hate to be harsh, because I love the guy. But he’s starting to remind me of a left-handed Shawn Hill.

    For that reason and because he could have a bullpen future, I say not only doesn’t Det get 20 starts in 2014, I say he doesn’t get 20 starts in the rest of his Nats career.

    • sjm308 - Dec 20, 2013 at 12:33 PM

      you just sent his agent rushing out to buy more maalox & bourbon for the new year

  18. Eugene in Oregon - Dec 20, 2013 at 1:01 PM

    I gave a +1 to a couple of posts above mainly because they noted that Ross Detwiler needs to develop a legitimate second pitch if he wants to stick around as a major league SP. Whether you call it a slider or a curve or a slurve is less important than having it (an offspeed pitch with some break) in your arsenal and using it more than 10% of the time. A third pitch (change-up, most likely) would also help, but let’s not ask for too much too quickly. But the bottom line is that if Mr. Detwiler is going to throw some variation of a fastball 85ish% of the time, the Nats would probably be better off with him doing it from the bullpen.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Dec 20, 2013 at 5:22 PM

      Eugene, Det has a lousy changeup. They hit it last year for an OPS in the upper 800’s. That’s the pitch he has to improve.

  19. johnboccabellafanclubmember1 - Dec 20, 2013 at 1:45 PM

    Three young men competing for the 5th spot in the Washington rotation: a 24-year-old who went 7-0 with a 0.83 ERA and a .85 WHIP at Double A last year; a pitcher who came out of nowhere to post a 1.51 ERA and a .91 WHIP at the major-league level in a far-from-statistically-insignificant sample size; and a talented but inconsistent southpaw who posted 2012 numbers worthy of a middle-of-the-rotation starter. This for a team that had Livan Hernandez as its 2011 opening day pitcher and John Lannan in a similar role the year before. It’s a good time in Nats Town.

    • sjm308 - Dec 20, 2013 at 2:02 PM

      agreed and if you look further down the line, it is the one position where we are pretty well stocked for the future.

      Infield, not so much which is why I really need Mr. Rizzo to extend Ian today!!

  20. veejh - Dec 20, 2013 at 2:23 PM

    Detwiler has a ceiling to be a #2? No way. How many #2 starters in the MLB throw 95% fastballs? I doubt anyone. I hope he returns to his level of pitching in 2012 this year, but I have my doubts. Back issues really never fully heal and seem to linger for a lifetime. He’ll serve himself well by learning to pitch some other pitches than the fastball.

  21. David Proctor - Dec 20, 2013 at 4:23 PM

    In ex-Nat news:

    Todd Coffee is staging a comeback. Elijah Dukes was arrested again.

  22. jd - Dec 20, 2013 at 4:37 PM

    Nothing in Det’s numbers screams successful big time starting pitcher and at his age I don’t anticipate introduction of new not before seen pitches. I think he is who he is which is OK for a no. 5 starter (ALA John Lannan) but don’t expect him to turn into Tom Glavine all of the sudden.

    There are a couple of other elements to this equation as well:

    1) Det;’s career numbers(1st time through the order) indicate he can be a successful reliever and pitching 1 to 2 innings at a time can ad a couple of miles to the heater.

    2) Taylor Jordan seems to have decent upside and while I am not ready to reserve a spot in the HOF for him I like that he has had success at each of the levels he pitched at.

    3) I am less optimistic about Roark than most here simply because he has had several years of pedestrian results in the minors before exploding on the scene in DC. The cautious comparison to Martis and for that matter Atilano is reasonable. I strongly hope that Roark’s performance last year will be built upon and continued but I am not certain that it will.





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