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Roster preview: Ross Detwiler

Jan 31, 2014, 6:00 AM EST

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Age on Opening Day 2014: 28

How acquired: Drafted 1st round (6th pick), June 2007

2014 salary: $3 million

2013 Stats: 13 GS, 71.1 IP, 92 H, 37 R, 32 ER, 5 HR, 14 BB, 39 K, 1.486 WHIP, 2-7, 4.04 ERA, 3.66 FIP, 0.9 WAR

2014 storyline: For Detwiler it’s a bit difficult to project his 2014 season, as it currently depends heavily on how the fifth starter competition shakes out. He could find himself back in the Nats’ rotation, or in the bullpen as a long reliever.

Detwiler is more proven than his counterparts Taylor Jordan and Tanner Roark, but the latter two were more effective in 2013. Detwiler battled injuries and pitched just 71 1/3 innings. In 2012 he was just what the doctor ordered, but will that guy return? If he does it would be great for the Nationals who saw him pitch masterfully in the 2012 playoffs.

Best-case scenario: Detwiler showed two years ago what he’s capable of given a full season of health, but that was just a glimpse of his potential. There are plenty of reasons to believe the lefty can be even better if everything breaks his way.

The best-case scenario for Detwiler – a realistic ideal – would be 180+ innings and an ERA in the low-3.00s. If he could put together a season like that, he’d cement the Nationals’ rotation as the deepest in baseball and set himself up as an extremely valuable trade chip for a future offseason.

Worst-case scenario: Though 2013 was an unfortunate season for Detwiler, it can always get worse. His 4.04 ERA in the time he was healthy was actually pretty decent, considering. A worst-case scenario for Detwiler would definitely include injuries limiting him to less than 100 innings, and perhaps an ERA north of 5.00.

Most-likely scenario: Detwiler says he’s healthy and can’t wait to get down to Florida for spring training. You can tell he’s motivated and anxious to put last season behind him. Assuming health, the most likely result for Detwiler is to make the fifth starter spot, hold an ERA in the mid-3.00s and help the Nationals win a playoff series with several important relief appearances. He was perfect for his role in 2012 and that’s all the Nats need from him this season.

  1. Faraz Shaikh - Jan 31, 2014 at 7:05 AM

    Even when RD’s ERA was in 2s last season, before June his WHIP was 1.4+ and OPS against him .786. He may have been a bit unlucky in regards to hits and all but those numbers scare me. we have had this guy in our system since 2007. Except one solid season, he does not have a whole lot to show for it. as far as I am concerned, fifth spot is wide open. it may seem like an overkill or not, but I am liking the idea of signing Burnett to one year deal.

    • Joe Seamhead - Jan 31, 2014 at 7:22 AM

      Rumor is that the Phillies are trying to sign Burnett. I couldn’t care less. I have no use for the guy, but he would be an improvement for Philly’s staff. The Phillies are choosey who they sign. The difference is, the Nats can afford to be.

  2. MicheleS - Jan 31, 2014 at 7:43 AM

    Det needs to eat cookies this year! I am pulling for him, I have such a soft spot for him because he reminds me of my cousins.
    I don’t think we need Burnett. We have Taylor Jordan, Tanner Roark, Solis in the wings. Plus Ohlendorf/Stammen if a spot start is needed.
    I am so done with the 1 year Pitcher contracts.

    • sjm308 - Jan 31, 2014 at 8:13 AM


    • Sonny G 10 - Jan 31, 2014 at 10:28 AM


  3. Theophilus T.S. - Jan 31, 2014 at 9:14 AM

    Detwiler’s vulnerabilities are (A) injuries; (B) stamina. I think his one 150-inning plus season indicates he has the stamina to give them the 175 or so innings they need from a No. 5 starter. The bugaboo is the injuries. In addition to the obvious — days spent in the training room or on the DL — Detwiler’s injuries impair his command of his pitches and the strike zone, which can be precarious, because of his reliance on his fast ball. When he is “right” — physically — he can paint the outside corner and handcuff hitters in on the fists. There’s not that much a hitter can do w/ a perfectly placed 94 mph fastball. When his injured — which means when almost any part of his physique is of alignment — not so much. Fluke injuries, for example in running to first base, can be the death of his season.

    With that having been said, based on his talent, Detwiler should be the fifth starter. Taylor Jordan is not ready for prime time. Next year, probably, but not yet. The illusion of success last season was a reflection of the unpreparedness of the Nats system to go deep for replacement talent. Roark is intriguing but is inexperienced as a starter — much less experienced than Detwiler. Ohlendorf is similarly intriguing — and might turn out to be a success with a remanufactured motion and a restored arm. (Who imagined him averaging more than 92 mph?) But again, last year’s vision of a restored Ohlendorf is not enough to rely on at the beginning of the season.

    Detwiler may never be able to reproduce his 2012 season, if as some in the organization have insisted — for years — his pitching motion makes him prone to injury. But he’s the best option currently available and could — probably requiring some luck — have an outstanding season. In any event, there is plenty of depth.

  4. jd - Jan 31, 2014 at 9:24 AM

    If you look closely at Detwilers performance over a long stretch he’s really not better and not worse than John Lannan. It’s passable for a no. 5 starter but I really think Det can be a very good reliever based on the fact that he has a small repertoire of pitches.

    I think A.J Burnett is a definite upgrade over anyone we have for the 5th spot but he does come with some baggage. Still he is a very intriguing option .I do think there is a good chance Taylor Jordan will do well if given the opportunity but a year in AAA is not a bad option either.

    • Faraz Shaikh - Jan 31, 2014 at 10:36 AM

      what baggage? as far as I have read, he is one of those team leaders kind of guy, or he was in Pittsburgh at least.

      • jd - Jan 31, 2014 at 11:05 AM

        I read an article by Ron Cook (PPG) and he says that AJ had a few public blow ups with other players and coaches throughout the year and when he was bumped from a playoff start in St.Louis. Additionally, his time in New York wasn’t very good. Still he is a very talented pitcher and I would have no problem if Rizzo feels he’s the missing piece to a championship run.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Jan 31, 2014 at 11:34 AM

        he was never with St Louis. I remember he did not have a good time in New York, that’s true. I watched him couple of times with Posada (I think) catching him and he was made with both Jorge and the manager.

  5. Eugene in Oregon - Jan 31, 2014 at 9:26 AM

    Apart from not eating enough cookies and various injuries over the years, isn’t the biggest issue with Ross Detwiler that he’s essentially a one-pitch pitcher? Doesn’t that suggest a bullpen role over a slot in the rotation?

    Pitchf/x treats the fastball and sinker as separate pitchers, but other pitch-trackers combine them and suggest that Mr. Detwiler was throwing some version of a fastball almost 90 percent of the time last season. There also seems to be some difference of opinion about whether his primary off-speed pitch is a curve or a slider or a slurve, but whatever it is his percentage went down from 2012 (12.5%) to 2013 (8.2%), as did the numbers of change-ups he threw (depending on who’s counting, by nearly half, from about 7% to about 3.6%). I’d welcome the thoughts who know and understand pitching better than I do, but that pitch distribution doesn’t strike me as what you want from a starter.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Jan 31, 2014 at 9:29 AM

      Sorry: “I’d welcome the thoughts OF THOSE know…”

      • Eugene in Oregon - Jan 31, 2014 at 9:31 AM

        Jeez, now I have to correct my own correction: “I’d welcome the thoughts OF THOSE WHO know…”

  6. wearenationals - Jan 31, 2014 at 9:32 AM

    I like Det, but MZ’s most-likely scenario is a bit rosy for me. I see his ERA closer to 4 and his WHIP rising with summer heat. This will push him to the BP by mid-July and opens the #5 for Roark/Jordan again. I want Ross Det to succeed, as i did when Stammen found his niche in middle relief.

  7. sjm308 - Jan 31, 2014 at 9:57 AM

    I keep going back to something Natslady posted quite some time ago about Det’s performance the first – second and even third time through a lineup. He was truly lights out in his first three innings. Things got shaky in the next three and after 6 it was not pretty at all. I think this does go back to what Eugene has speculated, that he has one very very good pitch. I also am not able to judge this sort of thing, I am a fan, nothing more or less. I would love to see Ross as our #5 but if he can shut a team down for up to 3 innings, doesn’t he have more value for our club in the bullpen?

    Now there are several problems with this and of course the first and most important is how Ross sees things. If you feel you are a starter, it has to be hard to accept something less than that. Stammen has done it but it took several years of failure for that to happen. I do understand that the money is much much more for starters. Look at Ed Jackson and Dan Haren as examples of huge contracts for mediocre results. The second problem to me is that his issues have been back issues and those really never go away. He is one tweek away from us seeing the same thing as last year. You can increase muscle mass around your shoulders and even your knee but I believe his issue involves a disk and that just can’t be protected. (you can do a bunch of core work but the disk is still in jeopardy).

    Ross does not have any options left so it appears to me that unless he is injured (again) he will be on our roster. I just hope that if he is not our #5 he accepts that bullpen role and does not pout (ala Espinosa). It will be one of the huge stories this spring and I am looking forward to seeing how it plays out. My choice would be to see him in the bullpen just on the results of Natslady’s stats.

    Go Nats!

    • Eugene in Oregon - Jan 31, 2014 at 11:05 AM

      So, if you really wanted to mess with some baseball thinking, how about making the Nats’ 5th rotation slot be just ‘Ross’ (to capture both Ross Detwiler and Ross Ohlendorf)? Let the two alternate starts, but keep that day’s starter in the game only (a) until he’s gone through the opposing line-up twice (plus-or-minus; you take him out between innings), or (b) until he’s coming to bat a second time himself. You do this regardless of how well the starter is pitching (you can, of course, pull them early if they’re in meltdown mode). Then bring in the other one with an identical restriction. Whoever’s not starting the next game would be available out of the bullpen on the day he would normally throw a bullpen session. And, if the timings right (and the manager would have a bit of flexibility to make this work), you get a PH in the 9th spot relatively early in the game. Never happen, of course.

      • sjm308 - Jan 31, 2014 at 11:32 AM

        Of course it won’t but I love the outside the box stuff. This is what happens to people who live out on the Left Coast and teach in college. Nothing but radical thought!! Still upset I didn’t interview when the Willamette job came open in the 70’s.

      • Sonny G 10 - Jan 31, 2014 at 2:34 PM

        The problems I see with this is that you are taking up two 25-man roster spots for effectively one player. Means you’re going to be short function wise somewhere else on the roster.

    • Jw - Jan 31, 2014 at 11:08 AM

      I don’t get all this “Espinosa pouts” BS. Give me his “put me in coach I’m ready to play” attitude over Detwiler’s “la la la whatever” every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

  8. edshelton2013 - Jan 31, 2014 at 10:56 AM

    I agree with Eugene and sjm: Det appears to have one very good pitch. I’m surprised he’s gotten this far as a starter. Unless he develops a quality second pitch, his best fit is in the bullpen. He must know this by now and hopefully is working on something else.

  9. micksback1 - Jan 31, 2014 at 11:04 AM

    I posted last year that I felt Ross could have been a 20 game winner. The only thing holding him back is himself. This where conditioning coach John Philbin can have an impact on Ross. If he can stay healthy, he can be a 20 game winner. If he cannot, it does not matter if he is a starter or in the BP, if your keep getting injured it does not matter, remember, all pitchers have their protocol in that they are throwing significant pitches on off days.

    • jd - Jan 31, 2014 at 11:08 AM


      I don’t know what you base your feelings that Det could be a 20 game winner. I hope he does but nothing in his resume implies that this is where he’s headed.

      • micksback1 - Jan 31, 2014 at 11:15 AM

        I base it on several factors, but let me state off the top, they are all void if the young man can not get over the ouwies and constant nagging injuries that I think are caused by a lack of good training and conditioning.

        For one, he has great command of the strikezone and his pitches when healthy
        secondly, his size is perfect for a big time hurler
        finally, he has developed mental toughness as illustrated in game 4 of the 2012 playoff game

      • Jw - Jan 31, 2014 at 11:47 AM

        Mick may be talking about Det being a career 20 game winner. He’s only 2 short.

    • sjm308 - Jan 31, 2014 at 11:36 AM

      Mick – couple things, Not sure Philbin can do a damn thing about a disc issue. He can work on his flexibility and his core but that disc can go at any time. Its probably more important for the pitching staff to work on his delivery and make that as smooth as possible but the game of baseball is all about sudden starts and stops. He could strain it making a lunge back at a ball hit to his right, he could tweak it running to cover first base etc etc.

      Second thought is 20 wins is a whole lot tougher then what I see from Ross. He is all over the place, throws way too many pitches and gives up way too many baserunners to be a consistent winner and that is what you need to win 20. I like him as a #5 at best and my preference is still the bullpen.

      • micksback1 - Jan 31, 2014 at 12:37 PM

        you may be right coach. good flexibility can help alleviate the type of injuries Ross is prone too. I agree with you about the disc.

  10. jd - Jan 31, 2014 at 11:14 AM

    In 2012 which is considered Det’s only ‘good’ year he had a 5.75 to 2.85 K to BB ratio which is pretty bad and only posted a decent record because of a .263 BABIP which implies that he was very lucky. in 2013 was .344 which produced the anticipated lousy W – L record.

    I still think – Reliever.

  11. Theophilus T.S. - Jan 31, 2014 at 11:21 AM

    I don’t see why Detwiler’s reliance on his FB is a problem so long as he throws it where they can’t hit it. Elrod Hendricks said Jim Palmer threw “85-90 percent fastballs.” I think the issue — potentially related to what happens third time through the lineup — is that any little injury or tweak (including fatigue?) throws off his mechanics and his location. Whether the FO people like his motion or not, he and Gio have the smoothest throwing motions on the team — no violence with either of them. He should be able to sustain it and throw six-seven innings every time out.

    • Faraz Shaikh - Jan 31, 2014 at 11:53 AM

      I am sure there is a difference between Jim Palmer’s fastball and Ross Detwiler’s fastball.

    • jd - Jan 31, 2014 at 11:57 AM

      The problem with the reliance on the fastball shows in the fact that hitters square him up the 2nd and 3rd time around, that’s established history. I don’t think he runs out of steam because his fastball is not losing velocity, I think hitters get a read on him and he doesn’t have enough weapons to do something different the 2nd and 3rd time around.

      • letswin3 - Jan 31, 2014 at 5:53 PM


  12. micksback1 - Jan 31, 2014 at 11:22 AM

    maybe so JD, but if he can not get over injuries, he will face those problems in the BP as well

    • jd - Jan 31, 2014 at 11:58 AM


      What I am saying is that injuries are a secondary problem. talent level is the main issue.

      • micksback1 - Jan 31, 2014 at 12:39 PM


        I do not disagree with you. Perhaps 2014 is the make or break season for Ross and it may determine if his future is in the BP, or not





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