Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Midseason report card: Pitching

US Presswire photo
Jordan Zimmermann pitched much better than his 5-6 record indicated.
Earlier today, we graded out the Nationals' lineup and bench. Now it's time to evaluate how the pitching staff performed over the season's first half.

Obviously, the staff as a whole was the best in baseball. Individually, there were a number of fantastic pitchers, both starters and relievers, along with a couple of significantly sub-par performances. (And you can't mention a lot of these guys without complimenting their ability to deliver at the plate; the entire pitching staff boasts a .199 batting average, two homers, 10 RBI and seven doubles.)

Here are the grades for each pitcher on the Nats' roster...

Picking up right where he left off late last season, the lefty was dominant as Davey Johnson's primary setup man. His numbers would have looked even better if not for a rare, three-run meltdown in Sunday's first-half finale.

Setup man. Fireman. Closer. It didn't matter what role he served, he got the job done time and again. And he was so good in the ninth inning, he'll likely remain as closer even after Drew Storen returns from the DL.

The Nats went out of their way to make sure he made the Opening Day rotation, and he mostly justified that decision. He still needs to learn how to sustain success into the sixth and seventh innings, but he's made impressive strides.

Is anyone complaining about the four prospects Mike Rizzo gave up for him anymore? Didn't think so. The lefty is tied for the NL lead with 12 wins, second in hits per nine innings and fourth in strikeouts.

The veteran lefty was signed to a minor-league deal in May and quickly wound up in the big-league bullpen. He's been very effective against left-handed hitters, holding them to just two hits in 20 at-bats.

Unable to win a rotation spot, he's done a mostly nice job transitioning into a long relief role, though sometimes he's susceptible to the long ball. Only Chien-Ming Wang and Henry Rodriguez have served up more home runs per nine innings.

If not for his first-inning bugaboo (17 earned runs allowed in 16 starts) he'd be among the most dominant pitchers in the NL. As it is, he's still a durable workhorse and the best No. 4 starter in the game.

The right-hander has given up earned runs in only five of 29 appearances and has shown a propensity for pitching his way out of jams.

When he's on, he's as dominant as any reliever in the game. When he's off, he's as combustible as any reliever in the game. Unfortunately, he's been off way more than he's been on.

Who knew this former starter's sinker would translate so well into the bullpen? The right-hander was brilliant through the season's first six weeks, and though he's had a few hiccups recently, he's become a valuable asset for Davey Johnson.

The Nats had high hopes for their young closer after he saved 43 games last season. A bone spur in his right elbow, though, required surgery. He's expected to make his season debut Friday, though he'll probably do so as a setup man to Tyler Clippard.

Any lingering questions about the state of his arm post-Tommy John surgery have been quashed. The only thing holding him back now is the Nationals' plan to shut him down at some point in early September.

A freak hamstring injury in spring training derailed his latest comeback attempt, and he's battled all kinds of mechanical issues since. He's back on the DL with a hip issue, but his window of opportunity has just about closed for good.

He doesn't get the attention or praise that Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez do, but he's been every bit as good as his rotation mates. The only hangup: He doesn't get much run support, leading to a 5-6 record that doesn't accurately reflect his performance.


Doc said...

Not much to disagree with here, although I'd give CStam a solid A!

Mike Hall said...

i really don't get it about zim with the extra n. he's got the lowest era on the team and has been like an ace, but the word "snub" never seems to got with the word "all star" when it come to him.

terpman33 said...

I totally agree with the grades here, although I probably would've give Gorzo a C-. Im going to make a prediction here: Stephen Strasburg will become only the 2nd pitcher in MLB history to win the NL Cy Young Award pitching less than 160 innings. Can anyone guess who the other pitcher is? Here's a hint: He won it in 1984, and is currently on the ESPN Baseball Tonight crew. Here's to the Nats making the playoffs in 2012. GYFNG!!!!!

Ron In Reston said...

Mike, that's because people still put too much into a pitcher's W-L than his peripherals. He's also not a big strikeout pitcher like SS or Gio, and it's that kind of flash that gets you to the ASG. I'd rather his non-flash get us to the postseason instead.

joemktg said...

Put a fork in Wang.

Shoshana said...

A few comments:

-It would have been 3 HR for the pitching staff if not for 3 more feet. Jackson gave that ball a ride on July 4th!

-If not for being a workhorse otherwise, I would compare Jackson to Stammen. I seem to remember that when he was in the rotation that he would have bad first innings and then shut them down.

-Re Zimmermann. In an interview on MLB Network, Gio and Stras were asked who on the team also deserves mention and Gio immediately mentioned J-Zim and how overlooked he is. ZNN just can't catch a break. He'll pitch beautifully, play great defense, and drive in a run, but it is still not enough!

-I feel bad for Wang but he has ceased to pitch. He is just slinging the ball most of the time and hoping that it is in the strike zone and the batter doesn't make contact (or hopes that it gets fielded by a teammate for an out).

Gonat said...

If not for his first-inning bugaboo (17 earned runs allowed in 16 starts) he'd be among the most dominant pitchers in the NL. As it is, he's still a durable workhorse and the best No. 4 starter in the game.

Where have I read that one before. Also, he may have to step up to the being the best #3 in the game if they don't find an Ace to replace Stras.

I still contend that EJax is an Ace if he can warm up longer in the bullpen and come out as if he is throwing the 2nd inning when its really the 1st inning.

Gonat said...

Shoshana said...
-Re Zimmermann. In an interview on MLB Network, Gio and Stras were asked who on the team also deserves mention and Gio immediately mentioned J-Zim and how overlooked he is. ZNN just can't catch a break. He'll pitch beautifully, play great defense, and drive in a run, but it is still not enough!

That's great stuff. JZim has really progressed in attitude and mound presence this year. His pitch to contact has cost him in a few HRs which hurt some of those obscure metrics, but his ERA is the best on the staff for a reason which is consistency.

Once his team scores runs for him, he will be a 20 game winner.

Gonat said...

terpman33, tough competition for that Cy Young. If Dickey regresses and Cain has some bad outings, maybe.

Strong competition from Gio and JZim too.

Theophilus T. S. said...

Mark --

My (minor) complaint is that you appear to be grading according to expectations not performance. For performance, Detwiler, Mattheus and H. Rodriguez need to be marked down a half grade, and E. Jackson a full grade. Jackson is consistent only in his mediocrity. With about two exceptions he's been a Lannan who throws hard and gets paid twice as much. You can't expect to win a lot of ball games if you have to dig yourselves out of a whole starting with the bottom of the first every time out.

Gonat said...

Theo, you speak the truth on EJax but his upside is there. No doubt about it. His late life on his fastball allows him to make mistakes.

His problem is clearly 1st inning control. If the Nats can't fix him, its a darn shame. A 2.64 ERA after the 1st inning is Ace numbers. Unfortunately we have to count those 17 1st inning runs he has given up.

JaneB said...

Who leaves the pen to make room for Storen? I wish it could be Wang, but being on the DL himself means he isn't actually taking up the slot we need to clear. So far. But if we end up keeping Wang, when he's rehabbed, instead of someone more productive, that'll be too bad.

Gonat said...

JaneB, my money is on Mattheus and only because its a numbers game as he has options. Worse case is he will be back September 1st. That will mean HenRod will be back on the hot seat.

rarumberger said...

You said "he's been off way more than he's been on," but as you can see from the game logs that's patently false. It would be more accurate to say that his meltdowns outweigh his shutdowns, which is probably true, but to suggest that he's melted down more often than not is not supported by the actual data.

The big problem here is that everyone remembers the few really bad appearances and forgets the good and ok ones. He needs work, and he's nowhere near reliable enough right now, but the truth is he's allowed 13 runs in 27 appearances. Through those 27 appearances, he has a 1.2 WHIP. That's not dominating, but it's not bad. If he can reign in the WP (9 so far this year, some of which would have been blocked by any catcher not named Wilson Ramos), he'd be looking a whole lot better.

Also, he's allowed 3 HR, which I believe is an anomaly. He allowed only 1 HR all last year.

Basically, I don't think you're being fair to him.

Theophilus T. S. said...

Gonat --

"Upside" is a word that should Jackson only with restraint, nuance and qualification. He's been in the majors for almost nine years and at some point you have to say, "He is what we thought he was."

The two-hitter (or was it three?) was an eye-opener as to what he could be but, other than that, meh. I've had hopes for him on a couple of occasions because, unlike previous seasons, he really seems to be enjoying himself and there's absolutely no pressure on him to give an ace performance every time out. But then he gives up a Big Fly or guns one into the dugout and the pepperonis are running around the pizza again.

Unless he gets some positive consistency I won't be sorry to see the Nats get another rent-an-arm guy for that spot next season.

Theophilus T. S. said...

Rumberger --

Unfortunately, relief pitchers don't have to be really great pitchers. Mostly, they just have to get through an inning. Simply because H. Rodriguez has a few innings in which nobody crossed the plate doesn't qualify him for the Cy Young or any other award. On the other hand, when they implode, the usual result is that the team loses. The best outcome from the implosion is that some other pitcher has to do the job the first one muffed. Last September looks like the anomaly. This year he's done his best work posing for statuary.

JamesFan said...

If the Nats get deep into the post-season, my prediction is that Gio is the Nat candidate for Cy Young. Stras seems to be struggling in the heat. I think that both JZmn and EJax will have great second halves.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Theophilus, there is a disconnect with EJax. Sadly as you said, not really an upgrade...yet.

His issue is easy to fix. Have him pitch a simulated 1st inning in the bullpen. It may shorten his overall innings he can make in his starts however it will make him more effective and maybe we will see this 2.60 ERA.

JD said...


If it were that simple..........

Drew said...

We're now 48 hours from Friday's 5 p.m. deadline to sign Giolito. Tick-tock...

MLBTR reports bad news for two former Nats. Cubs release Mike MacDougal, Chisox release Scott Olsen.

Theophilus T. S. said...

Jackson has described his first inning problem as concentrating too much on mechanics and not just (I paraphrase) "letting it go." This is a cop-out. Does he think he can succeed w/out good mechanics? Does he believe he can have good mechanics without thinking about them? When does thinking get in the way of mechanics? He performs like a guy w/ a dollar arm and a ten-cent head. Throwing a "simulated inning" in the BP isn't going to help him. In all probability he's already throwing 30-40 pitches before taking the mound in the top of the 1st. (Note that he's had as much if not more trouble in the top of the 1st inning at home as in the bottom of the 1st on the road.)

"Old school" solution would be to work more on his mechanics between starts. "New age" might be to hypnotize him or feed him adderall so he doesn't get an adrenalin rush that turns his brain to spaghetti.

It isn't because he's tipping his pitches. (Either it never was or it got fixed.) Whether Jackson improves is on him. He's had enough coaching.

mick said...

joemktg said...
Put a fork in Wang.

your probably right, but I would like to him get 1 more shot

mick said...

Agree with Mark's grades

Gonat said...

Corey Brown coming up to bat for AAA All Stars

Unknown said...

Looking forward to the 2nd 1/2, what do you think the Nats should do to prepare for shutting down Strasburg? Do they have anyone in the wings that they could bring up? Free agent they might sign to an extended contract? A trade they could make? I don't like their statements about not wanting to rent someone to fill that gap because it might just cost them a pennant or post-season victories.

ehay2k said...

Corey Brown strikes out swinging at a high fastball. Yep, he's a perfect fit! ;-)

ehay2k said...

I'd give Henry a D+ because the one thing he was asked to do which we know he cannot is pitch more than one inning. That always ends in disaster. But is there anyone on the entire staff with more upside?

Whatever the grade, this may very well be Henry's last year to prove his mettle.

Otherwise, I'm fine with the grades, although I believe the hitting component has not been given enough weight. These pitchers can hit!

ehay2k said...

Another strikeout for Brown, this time a slider in - and almost in the dirt. Looks like a mini-Ankiel!

OK, just kidding, I'm sure he's just excited.

baseballswami said...

How is his arm?

ehay2k said...

It's a mini version of Ankiel's -'in terms of power, anyway.

I see Johnathan Albaladejo is closing out for the PCL. All things considered, I'd rather have Clippard.

Firm Possession, My Gorsehacken Sofa said...

If the Nats get deep into the post-season, my prediction is that Gio is the Nat candidate for Cy Young.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe they vote on awards at the end of the regular season.

ehay2k said...

On another topic (can you tell I am BORED with no Nats to watch?), can we fire the Scheduling Coach? Because really, this is too much to bear. They should be playing tonight. This is the PRIVATE JET AGE people - you can fly anywhere in the lower 48 from KC in under five hours.

Let's get it together and get the team back in the field. And fire the scheduling coach so this doesn't happen next year!

Drew said...

Jonathan Mayo of says the Nats saved $687,700 in signing their other top 10 picks, so they should be able to slightly top $3 million for Giolito.

Slot is the low 2s, so I hope 3 bills gets it done.

Joseph said...

What we need is for those 3 bills to turn out to be worth it.

Joseph said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brian Hernandez said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brian Hernandez said...

Drew -

The slot amount for that pick is: $2.125 million. Since the Nats have saved the $687,700 elsewhere, with the other top-10 picks now signed, I believe, they have $2.8127M to sign him with no penalties or taxes, and can go up to about $3.1M with just paying taxes. Any more than that and they start losing #1 draft picks.

BTW, we have three highly-rated HS kids that we drafted around rounds 25, 26, 27. I would expect that, if Giolito refuses $3.1M, then different portions of that $687K get offered to those HS prospects to sign by Friday. I don't see the Nats giving up future draft picks for Giolito. Question: how much does he love UCLA? We know that his (well-off) family doesn't NEED the money, but still, $3.1M is hard to say no to.

Am eager to hear anything more about the negotiations from any knowledgable sources...


NatsLady said...

An article about switch hitters who "un" switched. Remember Nook ("where was he going") Logan?


NatsLady said...

Pay attention to this, little Gio:

Last Friday night, Washington Nationals 2012 third-round pick Brett Mooneyham made his professional debut in Auburn, New York, against the Hudson Valley Renegades of the New York-Penn League. For those not familiar with the plight of the 6-foot-5 lefty, he initially spurned a seven-figure offer from the San Diego Padres prior to spending four years at Stanford battling inconsistency and injury. In the end, Mooneyham not becoming a top college starter may have cost him upwards of a million dollars. ...Had this been 2008 and not 2012, Mooneyham’s profile as a top prospect would have been much higher.

Also, there's this:

Eventually, the Nationals capitulated to more of Crow's demands. At 10:30 p.m. ET on Friday, they offered Crow a Major League contract with a $3 million bonus, which they later upped to $3.3 million. At 11:59 p.m. ET, Washington verbally went to $3.5 million...

As we know, Crow didn't sign. Eventually he got a $1 million bonus from KC. He's now a reliever. He was KC's representative in the 2011 ASG, though he didn't pitch. Because he didn't sign, the Nats got an extra draft pick the next year and took Drew Storen.

Tcostant said...

I remember Crow getting a little more than the Nationals offered. Not that waiting a year was worth it, but the money seems wrong to me. BTW - Crow was a 2011 All-Star, so don't say reliever like it's a dirty word...

Tcostant said...

I pulled the Royals deal, it was a lot more than the $1M noted above.

$3 million guaranteed money. If he spends the duration of the deal (which runs from 2010-12) in the major leagues, he’ll earn just short of $4.5 million.

SonnyG10 said...

Boz has good article in WP on how well Nats are using their pitchers.

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