Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The curious case of Garrett Mock

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Garrett Mock didn't help his cause for a spot in the rotation today.
"We feel pretty confident right now that we are going to put Lannan, Marquis and Mock out there, and the other names are competing for the other two spots." -- Jim Riggleman, March 22, 2010.

JUPITER, Fla. -- Boy, how quickly things have changed at Nationals camp.

Only eight days ago, Garrett Mock looked like a sure thing, a lock to open the season in Washington's rotation. Today, following his worst outing of the spring, the right-hander's status is very much up in the air.

After watching Mock give up six runs (four earned) on seven hits and five walks in only 4 2/3 innings against the Marlins -- and needing a whopping 96 pitches to do it -- Riggleman's evaluation was decidedly less-glowing.

"The outing speaks for itself," the manager said. "I can't say much about it. You saw it. He was good for two or three hitters in a sequence, and then he would throw to a couple of hitters and leave some balls up in the zone to be hit."

Not exactly a ringing endorsement for Mock as the Nats' No. 5 starter to open the season, huh?

The manner in which Riggleman, Mike Rizzo and other club officials raved about Mock all winter and through the first month of spring training seemed puzzling at times. What exactly prompted such positive reviews?

Then again, it's not all that difficult to understand. Mock has good "stuff." He's the kind of pitcher who looks great throwing in a 10-minute bullpen session. Or during live BP with hitters who are just picking up a bat for the first time all year. Or even in a two- or three-inning exhibition start, when the sample size remains relatively small.

The real Mock never seems to show up until he's asked to pitch more innings in more game-like situations, forced to face the same opposing hitters multiple times in one start. That's where he tends to falter.

Mock has started 18 games in the major leagues over the last two seasons. You know how many times he has lasted more than six innings? Once.

Club officials talk about the progress Mock made late last season. But do you know what his stats were over his final 11 starts? 3-6 with a 5.04 ERA.

And with his latest outing today, his total Grapefruit League numbers for the month read like this: 0-4, 5.30 ERA, 31 baserunners allowed in 18 2/3 innings.

Mock has insisted all along he pays little attention to numbers or results. He's been more concerned with building up his arm strength, aggressively attacking hitters with his best stuff. He feels like he's accomplished his primary goal this spring.

"Regardless of what the line score says, I know the purpose of this is to be ready for the season," he said. Later, he added: "If I go out and just get bent over and spanked, I mean, that's the way it goes. If I go out and have a great game, well, that's fine too."

It may not be fine enough to ensure a place on the team charter to Washington Friday night. You get the sense the Nationals would love for someone else (namely, Scott Olsen or J.D. Martin) to step up and convince the club he deserves the last spot in the rotation.

"We know we're going to pick between [Mock], J.D. and Olsen," Riggleman said. "They're all doing OK. None of them are grabbing the job, you know?"

No, none of them are. Martin pitched in a minor-league intrasquad game today in Viera along with Livan Hernandez, the result of yesterday's rainout. Olsen, meanwhile, is slated to start Friday against the Red Sox in Fort Myers.

Technically, the Nationals don't have to make this decision for almost two more weeks. They don't need a No. 5 starter until April 11, so they could play the season's first five games with an extra bench player or an extra reliever and then make the move. All three pitchers have options, so they can be sent down before Opening Day, then recalled in time to make that start.

It's pretty remarkable, though, that the Nationals now find themselves in this position. Only a week ago, they all but declared Mock a member of the club, even if the right-hander never bought it.

"Pretty much every outing I've been asked that, and I've said it from the get-go," he said. "I'm not going to feel comfortable with anything until I see my name on a lineup card and it says I'm pitching that day. It's out of my control."

That's the problem. Mock had a chance today to take control of his own destiny, to come up big when he needed to most and convince the front office he deserves a job.

Instead, he only left this picture murkier than it was when the day began.


peric said...

He'll be shopping at Wegman's buying some of my cousin's cakes.

Anonymous said...

I think it's so nice that Peric lets Mark post here just so he can comment constantly.

Brandon said...

LOL @ Anon 5:53

peric said...

Your most welcome completely anonymous and afraid to be anything else 5:53PM.

peric said...

MLB Trade Rumors posted this chart on rotation spending.

Yankees - $63,157,650
Cubs - $50,775,000
Red Sox - $42,263,500
Mets - $38,087,500
White Sox - $36,200,000
Cardinals - $35,925,000
Giants - $33,850,000
Tigers - $32,670,000
Phillies - $31,805,000
Braves - $31,467,000
Angels - $29,965,000
Royals - $25,110,000
Reds - $24,700,000
Astros - $23,916,000
Rockies - $23,500,000
Diamondbacks - $22,008,925
Dodgers - $21,679,000
Mariners - $20,550,000
Brewers - $18,565,000
Indians - $17,115,500
Padres - $15,355,000
Rangers - $14,181,090
Orioles - $13,668,125
Athletics - $13,210,000
Twins - $12,790,000
Nationals - $10,224,000
Pirates - $10,013,500
Marlins - $9,645,000
Rays - $9,473,333
Blue Jays - $4,085,000

Anonymous said...

The idea that any of Mock, Martin or Olsen is in the running to be our fifth starter would be laughable on most other teams; Mock's a headcase, Martin doesn't look any better than Mock, who can at least strike people out, and even an improved Olsen isn't all that great. The fact that our best pitcher is languishing in the minors right now doesn't make the situation any less frustrating, nor does the fact that by the end of the year I doubt that more than two of the current starters will still be in their rotation. It's for the last reason that I say the Nats should still give Mock a chance--no reason to pay Olsen the big bucks to start ten times and then vanish when we bring up Strasburg.

Jaxpo Nat said...

Of the three, I'd have to say Martin, but F.O. needs to quit rationalizing Strasburg not making the rotation and wake up. He is currently our best SP and he is in Harrisburg. Everything else they say is just a B.S. excuse to cover up the fact that they are merely trying to delay arbitration years and/or free agency.

Anonymous said...

Delaying arbitration years is a very valuable thing. The FO is playing this just right.

peric said...

"nor does the fact that by the end of the year I doubt that more than two of the current starters will still be in their rotation. "

One can only hope that you are right and that might happen sooner rather than later. I don't see taking a chance on Wang and not taking one on Olsen ...

But if Thompson, Detwiler, Strasburg, J Zimmermann, Storen, English, and who knows who else is ready? Unless they are competing for a playoff spot why would Batista, Hernandez, and even Marquis continue to be in the rotation? There are also some sleepers that some predict to suddenly vault forward?

Is the team rebuilding or are they just fooling themselves and us?

Anonymous said...

It's not that I don't think keeping Strasburg in the minors is the right thing from both a managerial and long-term team perspective. I even think that it might be beneficial from a player development standpoint for Strasburg to get comfortable with AAA hitters (seriously, raise your hand if you expect him to stay in AA for more than a few games) so he can thoroughly dominate them before he moves on to major league players, a la Bryce Harper and college pitching. The problem lies in the fact that, as a Nationals fan who has been told to wait for long-term results for years now, the knowledge that we could solve a lot of our pitching problems in the short term but won't remains incredibly frustrating. Even a seasoning-less Strasburg is better than the best in our current rotation--just not as good as he COULD be. So, while logically we all realize that using Strasburg like, say, Mark Price was used and watching him burn out in a year or two would be a complete waste for the team overall, emotionally, it would still feel really good to know starting in April of this year (not in June or 2011 or 2012, or 2016 for that matter), every five games, we would have something spectacular to look forward to. Maybe, just maybe, we could even catch a glimpse of a bright, potential future, one where we dominate the opposition and see .500 as a disappointment. Instead, we'll be trying not to cringe as one of Mock, Martin or Olsen gives up yet another run. So sorry if we're a little bitter.

Anonymous said...

peric: Marquis is there for experience, not to win games. The postseason thing obviously isn't going to apply to the Nationals. Hernandez, as always, is there to eat innings and save our younger arms--he has a clear purpose within the organization during a rebuilding year, and the fact that he's pitched remarkably well this spring is really just an unexpected bonus. Besides that, we need pitchers in reserve for the inevitable injuries as the season progresses. It's foolish to believe that ALL of the promising young arms will pan out. As for Batista (and other semi-veterans in the bullpen), our young pitchers can't get wins if the bullpen keeps collapsing on them--as we saw last year, that can be incredibly demoralizing and certainly won't help deal with the culture of losing that's permeated the Nationals. Which, I think, is my final point--both fans and the team itself want to WIN games, or at least show some signs of improvement.

peric said...

Mark, on Ben's live thread someone, (maybe Ben?) said that the reason Mock is still in the mix for a rotation spot was because of politics. Because he was one of Mike Rizzo's guys in AZ. And scouts have a hard time giving up on their prospects.

What's your take on that? And the "politics" associated with Dukes release? Making Hernandez and Batista starter and spot starter at advanced ages with younger arms stacked so deep in the minors. Given that if you look at the performances of Mock, Martin and now Olsen compared to Marquis? The three still look a lot better.

Anonymous said...

Mark Price? Is he any relation to David Price? You're (not your) welcome, peric.

peric said...

de minimus preoccupatus anonymous.

Anonymous said...

peric: Marquis has had other bad spring training outings, but he's backed them up with solid play throughout the season. The same cannot be said for any of the other three you mentioned.

Anon: I meant Prior, thanks for catching the typo.

peric said...

@bitter anonymous,

I think at this point the Mariners would happily claim Olsen should the Nats decided to release him. They are stuck waiting for Cliff Lee and Bedard to return from injuries? Olsen might be better than Bedard when everything is working right. The Mariners are projected to win their division and then some this year.

Anonymous said...

I'm not saying that with a little luck Olsen couldn't be a decent fifth starter. I'm just saying that what the Nats organization has right now is a glut of potentially decent fifth starters, a few bright prospects in the minors, and a lot of pitchers on the DL. I don't understand how Olsen adds long-term value to the club, even $750k worth.

Unknown said...

So when do they turn Mock into a reliever so he doesn't have to face a lineup more than once? Seems to be the logical solution to me...

Ken said...

One thing that we should remember in regards to Mock, is that early during spring training he was facing more than a few AA and AAA players. As spring training progressed, the weaker hitters get sent to minor league camps and now he's facing the better Minor League hitters and Major League players.

The last three weeks of spring training are always more important for a pitcher then the first three, because of the quality of players he's facing.

BinM said...

The team has tried Mock as a reliever in past years (see early 2009 as an example); He's not much good there either. The kid's got a million-dollar arm, and a penny-arcade head, imo.

Anonymous said...

I truly believe the only reason the FO "pitched" Mock as a lock-in for the rotation was for the express purpose of building credibility to enable trading him. Mock + Gonzalez + anyone else for a half-decent RFer.

BinM said...

Anon @8:29:
You could be onto something there, but that's just the tip of the iceburg, imo. Mock, AGonz, Bergmann, Burnett, Guzman, Nieves, even Harris, Stammen, JD Martin & others will probably be floated in trade deals over the next week (and possibly beyond) for 'missing piece' to the puzzle.

Anonymous said...

Souldrummer says -
Can we just start calling this the Strasburg spot? We're kind of looking for whomever gets this spot to be able to shift to the bullpen when Strasburg gets called up. My vote is for Martin because he has overcome a lot just to persevere to this spot and he throws strikes. These godawful walks are intolerable!

Steve M. said...

Mock and Maxwell had starters jobs there for the taking and neither could take advantage of their good fortunes.

With the injury to Detwiler and the release of Dukes, both of these players had a great opportunity.

Stammen is the one guy who saw an opportunity and stepped up.

So how did Livo and JD Martin do in their intrasquad game?

Anonymous said...

Did somebody really post that "Marquis isn't here to win games"? If so, I hope nobody tells Jason.

Anonymous said...

"Mock + Gonzalez + anyone else for a half-decent RFer."

why would anyone give you a half-decent RF for those guys?

fans love to try to package a whole bunch of not-quite-mediocre crap for something half-decent. GMs rarely love that (only the bad ones and they don't last long).

i.e., if you take a whole bunch of mediocre and package it together, don't expect to get anything but a bunch of mediocre back.

Jaxpo Nat said...

Pick a name people. Easier to follow this debate without all the anonymity.

Wonder if the Lerners realize Marquis isn't really here to win games... just a gloriously overpaid coach I guess. LOL

noirelune said...

I think the Nats should get rid of Bergmann and give English a spot in the bullpen. English is the surprise of the ST and Bergmann is a big deception. I also think the Nats should quit with Mock.

Nats fan in NJ said...

Anon's post at 12:37 hit the nail on the head. Nobody is going to give us anything worthwhile for the guys we'd be willing to give up on (Mock, Gonzalez, etc).

At this point, we have to accept that our #5 pitcher would not be the Angels or Yanks or Phils #5 pitcher. It is a process, one that maybe shouldn't have taken as long as it has, but still a process. Strasburg and Storen will be here by June, and if 1 or even 2 of Detwiller/Wong/Zimm return to form, then this pitching staff looks much better in August than it does now. And who knows what we really have in English and Martin - they could be nice surprises.

What we really need is to see some improvement from the older kids (JD Martin, Stammen) or cut them loose after this year, as well as the younger arms at the A and AA level (Thompson, etc) so they progress and we can see them as Major Leaguers in '11 and '12.

This year is about improvement, but there is a long way to improve so there may still be smelly parts along the way.

Pete said...

Paging Mr. Wang. Paging Mr. Wang. Please report to the starting lineup stat.

6thandD said...

Mock in relief.

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