Monday, April 25, 2011

Starters earning their manager's trust

US Presswire photo
Jason Marquis talked his way into finishing the sixth inning yesterday.
PITTSBURGH -- There's a stat about the Nationals' pitching staff -- how their starter has gone at least five innings in every game this season, something no other rotation in the majors has done -- that keeps getting cited. (Full disclosure: I'm one of the ones who keeps citing it.)

It's not an entirely meaningless stat. If nothing else, it shows you the Nats have yet to receive one legitimately sub-par outing from a starting pitcher this season. But it also leaves out an important point: Just because they're lasting at least five innings doesn't mean they're pitching deep into these games.

Indeed, only six times in 20 games has a Nationals starter thrown even one pitch in the seventh inning. Livan Hernandez (to the surprise of no one) has three of those six starts. Jason Marquis has two; Jordan Zimmermann has one; John Lannan and Tom Gorzelanny have yet to do it.

Jim Riggleman has talked about the need for his starters to go deeper in games, but the manager's actions suggest he still doesn't have complete faith in all of his starters to do it, particularly the younger guys like Lannan and Zimmermann.

During yesterday's game, though, Riggleman allowed Marquis to talk himself into at least finishing the sixth when things were beginning to look a bit hairy.

The Nats led 5-3 at the time, but with two outs and the dangerous Andrew McCutchen at the plate with a man on first, Riggleman walked to the mound ready to remove his starter. Marquis quickly convinced his manager to leave him in.

"He wanted no part of coming out of that game," Riggleman said. "Had a couple opportunities where maybe he could have said that's enough for the day, but he was adamant: 'I feel good, let me get this next hitter.'"

Marquis got McCutchen to ground into a fielder's choice to end the inning and preserve the lead. Afterward, he expressed thanks to Riggleman for trusting him to pitch out of the jam, while admitting he had to live up to his end of the bargain.

"Obviously if he does [leave you in], you've got to go out there and be productive and get that guy out, or get that extra inning under your belt, which will allow him to give you a longer leash as the season goes on," Marquis said. "What it basically comes down to is: Be true to yourself. Be true to your manager. Try not go outside your capabilities. If you're tired and you feel like you can't get it done, be honest."

Marquis may have earned his manager's trust yesterday, enough to allow him to go deeper in future starts. Lannan and Zimmermann may still need to earn it.

20 comments:

LoveDaNats said...

I am happy to see Marquis doing so well this year. After his struggles last season, it's great to watch it begin to turn around.

Harper_ROY_2012 said...

Kudos to the guys who have given us plenty of quality starts this season...HOWEVER...it is crazy to believe that the bullpen will not burn out before the All-Star break if they have to pitch 4 innings per night, medicore starters get through 5, good starters get through 6, exception starers get through 7, aces get through 8 and 9 innings.

Stranded_in_Philly said...

I'm ok with Lannan, Livo, Gorzo, and Marquis all going deep into games. I've generally been displeased with Riggleman's willingness to hook Livo, in particular, the moment he gets into trouble. Extend the leash with him a little bit... because there's no reason to kill the bullpen in April.

As for J Zimm... no reason to push him. We'd rather him have more, short starts than fewer, longer ones. This is his first year back from TJS, afterall.

Anonymous said...

Stranded_in_Philly said...

I'm ok with Lannan, Livo, Gorzo, and Marquis all going deep into games. I've generally been displeased with Riggleman's

This 100 hundred pitch imaginary count is the switch that seems to turn off in pitchers, pitching coaches, and managers. Instead, for some it should ideally be 120 - 130 pitches. For Livo, Marquis, Gorzon, and Lannan it should be the later. Tired arms make for better sink and will make them effective in later innings. To constantly keep this 100 pitch limit as the switch retards the entire bullpen. Except for that guy in Houston, MLB has been brainwashed with 100 and done...


UNTERP

JD said...

UNTERP,

I agree with you. The switch shouldn't be a number but when a pitcher becomes tired and ineffective. There are tell tale signs a pitching coach should look for which tell him when a pitcher should be relieved; fastballs beginning to stay up; breaking pitches which stay straight etc.

On another note; the bullpen would be fine if we don't use the big 3 every night. Sam made a great point yesterday that you shouldn't have to use Storen with a 3 run lead in the ninth. Someone retorted that he doesn't trust anyone outside the big 3 but if you can't trust a major league pitcher to get 3 outs before giving up 3 runs they shouldn't be in the majors.

sjm308 said...

Also agree with unterp that it is not a number. I am hoping there is communication and that the athlete is being honest with how he feels and that Riggs and McCatty are staying in touch with the starter.

As to the bullpen, I am going to be in the minority but I don't believe we will be burning them out, even at this pace. These guys are pros and paid to play the game. We will only have so many games that we honestly need to use Clip, Store and Burn and if that results in a win, well how great is that. We have 8 guys in the bullpen and there will be games where our big 3 will not be needed. We had just lost 3 games in a row and I see no problems with going for the win with a 3 run lead. If it was 5 runs then in goes Gaudin, Broderick, Coffey etc. but when we have a chance to win and lets be honest, for the Nationals each win is a huge deal then I say go for it. Again, I am probably in the minority but right now its working so I say don't change anything.

Peyton Dowdy said...

I think part of using Storen yesterday was to keep him fresh. He hadn't pitched since the 20th. Thats a bit of a lay off and I'm not sure why people are mentioning over use with him. He has only appeared in 2 games in a week. I think he should be more than good to go again today if they need him.

The same goes for Burnett. It has been 5 days since he pitched in a game and he has only appeared 3 times since April 12th.

I don't think I really see where all of this overuse talk is coming from.

The one guy who is leaned on too heavily may be Clippard but even he has only pitched 3 times since the 17th and has only pitched in back to back days once this year.

Bowdenball said...

"If nothing else, it shows you the Nats have yet to receive one legitimately sub-par outing from a starting pitcher this season."

Either we have really really really low standards, or you missed Livan's outing on Saturday night. 7 runs (4 earned) in six innings with a WHIP over 2.00 for the outing and only two strikeouts?

I don't hold it against him- Livo's feast or famine nature has been well documented, so you know these types of games are coming and you take the bad ones knowing the good ones will likely outnumber them. But that almost certainly qualifies as a subpar outing.

JaneB said...

Bowden all, it was also poor warmup, which wasn't his fault.

JD said...

Bowdenball,

You are right of course but the point is that he still gutted out 6 innings. Do you remember how many times we had to get the starters out in the 1st couple of innings because they weren't getting anyone out?

Anonymous said...

For anyone hoping to see Tim Lincecum with four games against the Giants, not. He pitched Saturday and is scheduled to pitch again Thursday against Pittsburgh.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

For anyone hoping to see Tim Lincecum with four games against the Giants, not. He pitched Saturday and is scheduled to pitch again Thursday against Pittsburgh.


Oops, this could be wrong. Actually, he is probably slated to pitch Friday against Nats. Giants are off today.

Kevin Rusch, Section406 said...

just a thought to the people talking about 100 pitches as a mythical limit. The reason to consider that limit, regardless of how he's doing today, is that the injury risk and weakened effectiveness shows up a couple starts later. I'm not saying NEVER do it, I'm just saying that it's not as easy as "if he's still getting guys out, then leave him."

Kevin Rusch, Section406 said...

"Someone retorted that he doesn't trust anyone outside the big 3 but if you can't trust a major league pitcher to get 3 outs before giving up 3 runs they shouldn't be in the majors. "

Oh, like "they shouldn't be in the majors" kept anyone off the Nats roster in the last 5 years.

Dan said...

Peralta is off to a good start with Tampa Bay and might have provided the Nationals with some more bullpen depth. The Coffey for Peralta switch is one that still leaves me scratching my head. I recognize that Triple A is not the Majors, but think that when someone like Peralta or Brian Sanches posts truly impressive Triple A stats (Sanches also did this in an earlier incarnation with the Nats), they should be given a chance to prove or dis-prove themselves at the bitg league level.

masnstinks said...

I was kind of hoping we would NOT see Lincecum, actually. And what's up with Sheinen and his yankee-drool in the wp fish wrapper. NOT interested. Oh - and in case I may have missed a day-- Matt Stairs MUST GO. Be a class act, man up and retire before you further embarrass yourself!

Anonymous said...

"The Coffey for Peralta switch is one that still leaves me scratching my head."

The Nats offered Peralta a one year deal, but he made it clear he would not take less than a two year deal. So the Nats moved on, and then late in the game Peralta took a one year deal from TB. Basically, Rizzo called Peralta's bluff and turned out to be right in the end.

Anonymous said...

>>>Basically, Rizzo called Peralta's bluff and turned out to be right in the end. <<<

No he didn't because we ended up with the worst pitcher.

Wally said...

Just back from a spring break trip with the family, so catching up on things. Looks like the pitching is still holding up, although a little more wobbly than before.

But what is going on with the defense? 3rd from bottom in errors and fielding %, towards that in UZR. It can't all be Desmond. I worry that they will start to fall off significantly if the D doesn't turn around.

JamesFan said...

Anyone notice that Dunn is hitting .145 with 2 homers? And we are complaining about our guys.

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