Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Do the Nats need another starter?

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PHILADELPHIA — Baseball's trade deadline arrives three weeks from today, and as far as the Nationals are concerned, there's one lingering question that must be answered before July 31: Do they need to acquire another starting pitcher?

Mike Rizzo shot down whatever speculation there might have been on the subject earlier this week, suggesting his trade for reserve outfielder Scott Hairston filled the only significant hole on his roster.

"You never stop trying to improve your club," the general manager said. "But with that said, we feel like we like the club that we have. We're certainly playing better, and we'll see where it takes us from here. I don't see any type of big splashy moves that are remaining."

Any acquisition of a starting pitcher would have to be classified as "splashy," so Rizzo seems to be saying he's not in the market for rotation help.

This, of course, could be a well-designed ploy on his part, not wanting to tip off the rest of the baseball world on his true intentions. And the Nationals, like every contender this time of the year, have scouts dispatched around the country filing reports on potential trade targets, especially pitchers.

The question, though, is whether they actually do need pitching help. So let's look deeper at the current construction of the rotation.

The Nationals obviously have three elite arms at the top of their rotation in Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, and those three have carried the staff through the season's first month. The Nats' record in games started by the big three: 33-20. That's a .622 winning percentage, which over an entire season would equate to 101 wins.

The problem comes after Zimmermann, Strasburg and Gonzalez. When anybody else starts a game, the Nationals are 13-24. That's a .351 winning percentage, which over an entire season would equate to an abysmal 57 wins.

How does that compare to last season? Well, in 2012, the Nationals had a staggering .696 winning percentage when Zimmermann, Strasburg or Gonzalez started, equating to 113 wins over a full year. When anybody else started, they won at a .486 clip, the equivalent of 79 wins.

So, they're not as successful this season behind the big three, but they've certainly been successful enough. They haven't been anywhere close to successful enough when anybody else starts.

Thus, the Nationals need to win more games pitched by their No. 4 and No. 5 starters. Can they do that with the current selection of arms? Only if Ross Detwiler gets healthy; he had a 2.53 ERA in seven starts before straining his oblique in mid-May, a number that has skyrocketed to 6.28 in six starts since. And only if Dan Haren gets better; the Nats haven't won a game he started since May 9, a stretch during which his ERA is 6.66.

What are the odds of both positive developments taking place? Well, the Nationals hope Detwiler's current stint on the DL (with a lower back strain) cures this problem once and for all and allows the left-hander to get back into his peak form. They're also hoping Haren recaptures his form of previous years and becomes the stalwart they expected all along. That, though, seems less plausible a scenario.

What about other in-house options? Taylor Jordan has acquitted himself well in his first three big-league starts and has impressed teammates with his raw talent, though opposing hitters seem to be figuring him out once they get a few at-bats against him.

"I think when new pitchers come up, they have the advantage the first couple starts at least, because there's not much video on him and nobody knows what they tend to do," third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. "This league, there's a reason why it's hard to stay around. Because there's so much information that if you can't adapt or adjust to what the league does to you, it's tough. But I think he's got the stuff to do that. I don't see why he can't."

Counting on Jordan to hold down the fort as the Nationals' No. 5 starter the rest of the season, though, is a risky proposition at best. Remember, the 24-year-old is in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery, and though the club hasn't made any public declarations about it, he's on an innings limit, probably around 140. (After last night's start, Jordan has thrown 106 innings this season.)

After all that, the conclusion seems fairly obvious. Can the Nationals get by without acquiring another starter? Only if Detwiler and Haren collectively can improve at least enough to win 50 percent of their starts.

The acquisition of another, more reliable starter to fortify the back end of this rotation seems like a safer bet.

75 comments:

Tcostant said...

They do need another starter. Enough said.

MrsB loves the Nats said...

Yes.

Tcostant said...

If they want to make the playoffs they do. This is very well written, it's to much to hope for that both Haren and Det improve, a lot. Go get another starter and hope it's enough to get you into the playoffs, where our top three starters should be a major advantage.

SCNatsFan said...

If they continue to throw Haren out there every 5th day it is a clear sign the Nats have run the white flag up

MrsB loves the Nats said...

Haren actually looked decent his last outting out... He gave 5 solid innings (or was it 6)... besides that first inning...

He gave us a chance to win... the offense faltered.. we will know if Haren 'really' was injured i am guessing by his next start....

Tcostant said...

Phil Hughes`might be an upgrade over Haren and also cheap...

http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2013/07/10/astros-promote-mark-appel-to-join-fellow-no-1-pick-carlos-correa/#/2013/07/10/the-yankees-are-shopping-phil-hughes-joba-chamberlain/

Section 222 said...

The numbers Mark uses are right in line with the Wonk Theorem -- win 2 of 3 games pitched by our big 3 and 1 of 2 from our 4 and 5 starters and we're in good shape. The three amigos are holding up their end; numbers 4 and 5 are not. I hear a whole lot of *hope* that they'll do better from Rizzo, but there's very little evidence that will happen. We need both No. 4 and No. 5 to pitch reasonably well. Otherwise you're depending on Det to become another ace, and that's not going to happen. (He did, however, pitch well until he was injured as Mark noted.)

Mark's analysis is spot on. If Rizzo wants to win this year, we need another pitcher. Paging Mr. Rizzo, Mr. Mike Rizzo. Please take your call at the white courtesy phone.

Section 222 said...

Haren looking decent is not enough.

mick said...

I still think Jordan is their future 4th pitcher... having said that, as far as 2013 goes... it depends on 2 items;

1) what is Det's health? If he is OK, then he is number 4

2) Haren's next start has to be as good as his last, if it is not, then clearly Nats MUST get another starter,

I think Ghost explain it well why Jordan can not be the 5th starter this year due to TJ surgery

MrsB loves the Nats said...

222 - You're, no it isnt enough... But that alludes to the 'hope' you see Rizzo referring too...

But as I said above, lets see him his next start and then maybe we will know something...

James Joyce said...

Haren may come around but Jordan, even if he ptiches well, will be shut down and Det is a question mark. It is time to go bold and get another high quality guy beofore they risk falling out of the NL East race.

Also, leaning on unproven guys in the pen like Abad and Krohl (though they have pitched well), along with an iffy Storen, is pretty risky. Might be a good idea to get another late inning guy. K-Rod or Henderson from Mil maybe?

baseballswami said...

Haren and Det are soooo iffy. If they both perform well and stay heatlhy we are good to go. If one of them doesn't we can patch it together. If they both don't - we are screwed.

A DC Wonk said...

Off topic tidbits of today:


- MLB HR leader Chris Davis is batting .107 this month

- In the same game where Dayan Viciedo hit two homers, Adam Dunn got an infield single (!!). (And Alex Rios got six hits and 2 SB).

- Alfonso Soriano has eight HR's in his last 11 games -- during that time, his slash line: .400/.417/1.022/1.439

- Cubs: 4th place in NL Central, 8 games under .500, 14 games out of first, and a positive run differential

- 35 year old Marlon Byrd just before the ASB: 14 HR, SLG .500

Section 222 said...

I thought we were seeing one last start before he was "injured" and placed on the DL. The guy has way too many lives and he keeps dying. The fact that he barely survived this last time out doesn't really change that.

Now, if he had given up those two runs in the 6th, I might be saying that Davey just needs to wake up and pull his 4 or 5 sooner, before they blow up. But Haren gave up 2 in the first and was lucky not to give up several more in the next few innings. With the Nats' inconsistent offense, that's just not good enough.

DWS said...

Haren's making 13 million. He'll get a couple more.
As many have pointed out he has really never had a lead to speak of.
Detwiler (assuming healthy) will also be there.
Offence has to click.

mick said...

good point swami

James Joyce you make an interesting point that most are over looking...I think the team's middle relief is very questionable...Abad, Stammen and Ohlendorf I am just not sure about.

assuming Matthues comes back 100% he could solve a lot of issues, but the middle relief is what should really concern the team

mick said...

A DC Wonk said...
Off topic tidbits of today:


- MLB HR leader Chris Davis is batting .107 this month


true, but I can not believe he has 33 HR's and 85 RBI's

that is sick!!!

Get Your Re(n)d On said...

There's been exactly one time when Detwiler came through when the Nats really needed him to. Game 4. Probably not a good idea to be counting on him too much now.

bowdenball said...

Get Your Re(n)d On said...

"There's been exactly one time when Detwiler came through when the Nats really needed him to. Game 4. Probably not a good idea to be counting on him too much now."

Really? Just that one time? Guess you were on vacation for all of April 2013. Where did you go? Probably somewhere exotic, since you couldn't even get a hold of box scores. Sounds like fun!

Mickey Vernon said...

40% of our starting rotation has been performing poorly for too long. If we truly want to make a run at the Braves, we need to act NOW to acquire at least one solid and healthy starter to replace Haren. Replacing Det as well by trade seems impracticable, and he's shown enough promise in the past to gamble on him as #5.

ChapJim said...

A bit off the main topic but exactly what hole was it that Scott Hairston plugged?

I thought we had that sub-.200 right-handed goon squad guy slot pretty well covered.

Mintwood Nat said...

Hmmm. Haren with a 6.66 ERA. Where have I heard that "666" thing before?

Section 222 said...

85 RBIs by the ASG is definitely insane. It also shows how well the guys in front of him have been getting on base.

His OPS+ this year is 187! That's in Barry Bonds territory. He has three games of 5 RBIs and 20 multi-RBI games. The O's have played 90 games and Davis has an RBI in exactly half of them. Yikes.

sjm308 said...

I hate to be cautious and like our prospects but if we can get an established pitcher and not give up the future I am for it. My problem is, I don't see anyone out there who gives me confidence. Yes, maybe a tad better than Haren but not for what teams probably want. Norris got rocked in his last start. Garza will probably cost way too much. Boz is probably dreaming since the Rays are now thick into the AL race so the Price trade is never going to happen. The pitcher I would really like and who will cost us a bunch is throwing tonight against us. I realize the Phillies won't deal either so again, who is out there to really upgrade that #4 position?

mick said...

Section 222

good point on the gys in front of Davis

Is Davis on pace to possibly beat Hack Wilson's 191 RBI in 1930??

that would be something

sjm308 said...

Remember Mick that Hack hit those 191 in just 154 games. Since the season is over half way through, my math tells me that he is on pace for 160+. I honestly doubt if he hits 50 homeruns or gets 140 rbi.

baseballswami said...

Agree about the rotation and somewhat about the middle relief. However - I am more concerned today about the middle and late relief of our opponents -- quite weak in most cases. Had we knocked John Lannan out sooner, don't you think we might have started gearing up offensively? He went eight, leaving us no time left. The Phils have terrible relief pitching, which, even though we are worried about ours, seems to be a theme around MLB. We have just GOT to get those starters out of the game sooner! Just look at what our starters having short outings does to us -- conversely, look at how much better we are when our stronger pitchers go long. A number of times recently, we have lost or almost lost games by pulling the starter, who might have given up one, and putting in a middle reliever, who gave up 3 or 4. It does not seem to be much different with a lot of teams right now. I feel that it needs to be a goal, I don't care where you are in the order or even if you are a pitcher, to make that starter throw as many pitches as possible to get to those weaker pitchers as soon as possible. Then you beat up on them. The Padres did that to us -- forced our starters out - and it had an effect. Had Lannan and Hamels been out of those games sooner, I really think we could have gotten to their relievers. And so with our team -- we need to try to keep our starters IN the game or hope our middle guys( usually failed starters) can hold on.Our late relief has been pretty solid. Lots of experimentation going on this season in the middle. I just think some of our hitters make it too easy on the opposing starter. I wish they would make them work much harder.

mick said...

good point coach about the 154 games, now that was something back then

160 RBI's would put Davis tied with Sosa at 18th all time...

mick said...

swami...good points

this may all come back to lack of run production... we all have to hope that this team now with the line up intact will take off... my gut says it will

I also think the Phillies beating the Braves 2 of 3 shows that they are better than their record. Having said that, Nats really need to split this series

Mickey Vernon said...

Continuing to start Haren will be demoralizing. Indeed, it already has been. How much it "too much" to replace him? I submit finishing a distand second or even third is "too much."

mick said...

Mickey

I think Haren's next start will decide for Rizzo and Davey what to do next

Get Your Re(n)d On said...

Exactly, bowdenball. In April the Nats were counting on Detwiler to step up and be the #4 guy for the season. He barely made it out of April in that role. Detwiler Fail.

JD said...


sjm308,

Norris - Houston
Peavy - CH.Sox
Gallardo - Milwaukee


Also, I wander what the heck Javy Vazquez is doing these days. He must be over his surgery by now. no?

Mickey Vernon said...

MIck -- I think (hope) Rizzo and Davey have already decided and are acting unconcerned for bargaining purposes.

mick said...

I still think Det could be very good. If i was his coach, i would do two things in the off season

1) I would get him hitting the weights, he is 6'4 and still has room for more upper body strength

2) I would get him a personal trainer who can deal with exercises and stretches that can diminish his proneness to injury

those 2 things could be all Det needs to be an 18-20 win guy

MrsB loves the Nats said...

Okay - for a second there - I though Mick changed his name to Mickey Vernon...

I was about to say - why is Mick talking to himself... lol

sjm308 said...

Just my opinion but I really don't think every start Haren makes will have that kind of pressure on him that if he doesn't pitch well its his last start. I can't imagine that being the kind of atmospher they want. Baseball is a long season, Haren will start several more games. Some will be decent, some will probably stink. He is our #5 starter. Now, if his next two or three are horrible I don't think they wait but again, this is not a time to over react and make a trade that could cost us in the future. Again, just my opinion and I realize lots of you are not on board with this.

mick said...

MrsB loves the Nats ha ha

we are not the same

but, I do from time to time talk to myself

lol

sjm308 said...

By the way, just seeing the name Mickey Vernon brings a huge smile to my face. god it was great seeing him play and even though we were horrible, he was a class act.

JD - I like all 3 but not if we give up a bunch. Norris got rocked in his last start but he does pitch in a horrible park. I thought Gallardo was going to be a star and he has fallen on hard times. Peavy is coming back from injury so I might be afraid of that. Any of them would be fine depending on the price

mick said...

I will say this for Haren...his last outing was the first time he consistently kept his pitches low and there were no home run balls...that is significant and i hope is a good trend for him

sjm308 said...

Off to the gym - you people have fun with this topic.

Book of Mormon tonight, can't wait!!

sjm308 said...

Mick - that's the play at the Kennedy Center, not Bryce's reading material (just in case you were confused)

mick said...

coach

lololo

enjoy your night!!

nats guy said...

Trade for Alfonso Soriano. Get a hitter and at least they will start scoring some runs against better than bad teams.

bowdenball said...

I've noticed that a lot of these "trade for Player X" posts don't mention who you think we'd have to give up to get Player X. Pretty sure those guys don't come for free.

Our farm system is already pretty barren. I'm not sure I want to pillage it even further just to get a guy who would be a marginal upgrade at the #5 starter spot at best. And make no mistake- unless you're willing to deal Rendon, a minor upgrade is the best we're gonna do in a trade.

The other 29 teams aren't in the business of making the Nationals better. The sellers are gonna want maximum return for their assets, and the other buyers are gonna try to get quality assets too. And most of those buyers have far more to offer in the minors than the Nats do right now.

Eugene in Oregon said...

Mark Zuckerman essentially answers his own question in the affirmative. As do most of the commenters here. I've got to believe -- at least I'd like to believe -- that Mike Rizzo and his staff are equally observant and have come to the same conclusion, GM-speak notwithstanding. Just as with the earlier decision to swap out 2B, my biggest concern isn't so much that it will happen, but that they make the move soon enough to make a difference. Because as flawed a team as the Braves are, they continue to post come-from-behind victories. If the Nats are going to make a real run, they can't afford to be indecisive about plugging the hole(s) in the rotation.

Section 222 said...

Eugene in Oregon said...

+1

JaneB said...

Haren settled down and was good from in the second. If we had had bats going that night, it would have been okay. So it's a combination problem. That said, if Dan continues to be iffy or worse, and we continue tomtake a few series (keeping us in the hunt) I would like to see a new pitcher. If our bats were better lately, more consistently, I'd be even more in favor of it. I'd be shocked to see the April's deal Lee to anyone in the NL-east though.

As for K-Rod in the pen, he's not got the "make up" they will want for this team. Not even close.

nats guy said...

Bowdenball

I was being sarcastic. Lighten up. They are a .500 team and will finish about that record. They could acquire the entire 27 Yankees and would still finish out of the running at about .500. They are what they are at this point in the season. I am enjoying the occasional blow outs against bad teams. They are at least fun to watch.

JaneB said...

Damn auto correct! Phillies, not "April's". Sheesh!

Manassas Nats' Fan said...

It would be nice to have more pitching at the starting area, but that is not the biggest problem.

We need to score more runs. ONly 2 teams have scored less in the majors than the Nats. To co

Mickey Vernon said...

Well said Eugene. Mrs. B: Mickey Vernon replaced Joe Kuhel as the Senators' 1B the first year I became a fan.

A DC Wonk said...

mick asked:

Is Davis on pace to possibly beat Hack Wilson's 191 RBI in 1930??

that would be something


Not even close. Which helps put Hack Wilson's record into good perspective, no?

A DC Wonk said...

ChapJim said...

A bit off the main topic but exactly what hole was it that Scott Hairston plugged?


Well, he's hitting about .150 higher as a pinch hitter than Tyler Moore.

bowdenball said...

My comment wasn't aimed at you, nats guy. There's a lot of posts here saying the Nats should make a trade without accounting for the other side of the equation. Including Mark's original writeup.

So maybe you should lighten up?

A DC Wonk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A DC Wonk said...

sjm @ 12:05 & bowdenball @ 12:52 -- that's exactly right.

We all want another starting pitcher. Problem is, there's not too many too be had, and about 15 other teams want another starting pitcher, too.

Which means: the price is going to be fairly high. Look how much Gio cost. I don't think we have enough to do that again.

As bowdenball put it: you have to account for the other side of the equation

Not a lot of plausible options here.

Ronald Fogg said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Manassas Nats' Fan said...

I have tallided alll games with the amount of runs we scored and how many the opponents scored. My conclusion doesn't change. It is the lack of scoring that is our bigger concerned.

Here is the results first our score.

when we score 0 we are 0-9

1 1-13
2 4-12
3 6-5
4 0-3
5 9-0
6 10-2
7 7-0
8 4-0
9 1-0
10 52-0
11 1-0
13 1-0

Bottom line

score 3 or les we 11-39
score 4 0-3
5 or more 35-2

ON the allowed end we are

0 5-0
1 10-0
2 9-9
3 5-7
4 7-7
55-4
6 3-4

7 2-3

8 0-5

9 0-2

10 0-1
13 0-1
15 0-1


So when we give up 3 or less we are 29-16 .

16 losses when giving up three or less runs is not a good sign.

Rus are are problem not lack of pitching.

Manassas Nats' Fan said...

10 runs is 2-0 not 52-0.

Manassas Nats' Fan said...

Ibe kast thing the last rotation earned runss given up

Gio 3
Zum 3
Stras 4
Haren 2
Jordan 3

Small sample size, but I pretty sure Haren took the most heat for giving up his 2 and the others took almost no heat for theirs. (I relize the history was the cause).

Knoxville Nat said...

A couple of days ago a poster asked NatsLady if she couldn't do a blog on the subject of just what an "average" 4 or 5 starter looked like, presumably meaning statistical measures. I'm really interested in that myself as I suspect that an average 4 or 5 probably doesn't have a won-loss record much over .500 nor does an average 4 or 5 starter win more than 9-12 games per year. At least that is the guess off the top of my head. Interesting to think about.

Sec. 3, My Sofa said...

Trade for Alfonso Soriano. Get a hitter and at least they will start scoring some runs against better than bad teams.

Actually, that's pretty much what they got in Hairston, only a lot cheaper, and IIRC for only this season. Hairston has had more power this season, but really excruciatingly bad luck on balls in play (something like .135, which is cartoonishly unsustainable). Let's hope it works.


Sec. 3, My Sofa said...

*more power than Soriano (in terms of HR/PA--Soriano's slugging % is a little higher).

JD said...


Bowdenball,

There are 2 reasons a team trades a veteran starter. One is to get prospects or players but the other is to shed salary. You don't always have to satisfy the 2nd objective if you are willing to take on a 'bad' contract.

The Marlins traded Nolasco to the Dodgers for 3 non prospects precisely because the Dodgers were willing to take on his entire salary and because LA also gave money to the Marlins for their international signings pool.

Sec. 3, My Sofa said...

There's no such thing as too much pitching, so sure, better starters would be nice, but losing 2-0 instead of 6-0 won't help.

ExposedinDC said...

Sell sell sell....Larouche, Haren, Suzuki and possibly Clip, restock the farm and keep the core intact....make your run next season with a new skipper

hiramhover said...

While it's true that a team needs someone to go out and start every 5th game, it's not true that they need a single #5 starter--that is, a guy who will make that 5th start ~30 times in a season.

More typically--because of injuries, skipped starts, etc--the "#5 starter" even on a playoff bound team turns out to be 3-4 different guys over the course of the season: a mix of mediocre veterans, minor league call ups (prospects and AAAA guys), long relievers making spot starts, etc.

In other words, what the Nats are doing now.

Problem is, they're doing it with both their #4 and #5 slots.

bowdenball said...

That's a fair point, JD.

Who else is out there that can be had for middling AAA talent and a willingness to take on salary? Anyone else? I kind of doubt it. And I doubt that the Marlins would have dealt Nolasco to a division rival in that kind of deal.

Sec. 3, My Sofa said...

There's always somebody available, especially if they're willing to take on contracts, but the problem is knowing who that is. IIRC, about this time last season, Dan Haren was on the DL, and probably available for a rental, cheap. As it turns out, he pitched fairly well in Aug. and Sept., certainly much better than he's pitched this year. But there wasn't any more reason to expect that then, than there was to expect this year, over the winter.

Point being, it's really hard to know, but the GM has to take his best shot. GM is a hard job. That's why so many get fired, ultimately. Not as many as managers, but still.

A DC Wonk said...

Trade for Alfonso Soriano....

The 37 year old who's guaranteed to make $18M next year? The one who, the last time he hit above .270 was 2008?

That one?

Sec. 3, My Sofa said...

As I was saying ... no, the other one, Hairston.

Manassas Nats' Fan said...

Once our hitters start scoring on a regular basis, we have the division in the bag.

No selling needed.

Manassas Nats' Fan said...

Marlins lead 4-1 after 4

m said...

Pitching is not the problem. They need hitting. They need to improve the bench in order to create competition for playing time. In the future take some of the 13mm wasted on pitching and get a bench like Ibanez, Morse , etc. They lost the last two games, where our 4th and 5th pitchers pitched, not because of pitching but because of hitting. Come on Rizzo et al focus.

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