Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Who replaces Lannan?

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Craig Stammen nearly threw a no-hitter in his last start at Syracuse.
John Lannan's demotion to Class AA Harrisburg yesterday leaves the Nationals searching for another starting pitcher, one they believe will give this team a better chance to win right now than Lannan did.

But who will that pitcher be?

The Nats don't have to make the decision right away. Thanks to Thursday's scheduled off-day, they can get by with only four starters (keeping everyone on normal rest) for a little while. Luis Atilano goes tonight against the Royals, with Stephen Strasburg pitching tomorrow's series finale. J.D. Martin, Livan Hernandez and Atilano will start in Baltimore this weekend, and Strasburg will take his traveling rodeo to Atlanta on Monday.

So the Nationals won't need a fifth starter until one week from today (June 29) against the Braves. They'll go with an eight-man bullpen in the interim.

Once the time comes to make another move, Mike Rizzo appears to have three options: Craig Stammen, Matt Chico and Ross Detwiler. Let's take a closer look at all three...


The right-hander was optioned to Class AAA Syracuse on June 6, the unfortunate soul who had to be removed from the roster to make room for Strasburg. Stammen had been highly inconsistent during his two months in the rotation, but he ended on a high note, allowing just one run on seven hits and needing only 66 pitches to get through 6 2/3 innings against the Reds that afternoon.

How has Stammen done since the demotion? Quite well. His first start at Syracuse was a little more typical of his average start in the majors (four runs, eight hits allowed in 6 1/3 innings) but his second start was fantastic. Pitching the first game of a doubleheader -- they only play seven innings in the minors in these cases -- he came within one out of recording a no-hitter against the Gwinnett Braves. Stammen wound up allowing two hits and one walk. More importantly, he recorded 12 of 21 outs on groundballs, a good sign his sinker was working.

"Stammen worked on a few things when we sent him down to Triple-A," Rizzo said yesterday. "He was throwing much cleaner innings, much better sinker, much more effective breaking balls. Got back to trusting his stuff, pounding the strike zone. The reports on his couple outings were very, very positive."

Stammen is scheduled to start tomorrow against Charlotte. He could easily slide into the Nats' vacant rotation slot by taking one extra day of rest after this next start.


The Nationals summoned Chico to the majors last month when they needed a spot starter, and he did an admirable job, holding the Marlins to two runs over five innings. The left-hander has been pretty consistently effective at both Harrisburg and Syracuse this season, posting a combined 3.51 ERA in 13 starts and holding opponents to a .267 average.

Chico also is coming off his best outing of the year, holding Gwinnett scoreless for 6 1/3 innings on Saturday, striking out four while walking none. He's shown good command, issuing more than two walks only once in eight starts at Syracuse.

Like Stammen, Chico lines up well to take over Lannan's rotation spot. He's next due to start Thursday and could start next week in Atlanta on normal rest.


Of the three candidates, Detwiler easily has the most upside, and the Nationals are itching to get their 2007 first-round pick back in the big-league rotation again. But the left-hander still hasn't made a complete recovery from the hip surgery that derailed his season. He's perfectly healthy now; he just hasn't built up his stamina and arm strength yet.

Detwiler made three starts on a rehab assignment, one at Potomac and two at Harrisburg. He's allowed only one run in 10 2/3 innings, striking out 10 and walking three. Impressive numbers.

Still, he has yet to throw more than four innings at a time this season. Obviously, that's not enough. So even though he was reinstated from the DL yesterday, Detwiler was immediately optioned to Harrisburg so he can continue his progression. It may not take long, though, before he's ready. Perhaps two more starts in the minors, and he'll be good to go six innings in the big leagues.

"We want to see him get a little more arm strength, get his velocity up to where it needs to be for him to compete successfully up here," Rizzo said. "Once he's ready, we'll certainly consider him to come up."


NatsJack in Florida said...

I was at that Sunday afternoon game against the Reds when Craig pitched so efficently. It was a game he should have won. Aside from giving up two hits to Bronson Arroyo (there's those opposing ptchers again)he pitched great.

I don't have any problems with Matt Chico, either. I believe both have the capability to be back end of the rotation starters.

I'd be more inclined to leave Ross in the minors for two more weeks until his stamina and velocity improve.

On another note, I'm making my third trip north for the San Diego, San Francisco series and actually have a spare ticked for the Friday nite Giants game (Stasburg newly scheduled start).

Anonymous8 said...

My choice is Matt Chico for one or two spot starts until Detwiler is ready.

I find it hard to believe that Stammen has worked out his issues so quickly. My issue with Stammen is the way the hitters figure him out so quickly and if he is off, the game is over quickly. I think the bullpen is a better place for him.

Jim Hoy said...

whatever happened to Shairon Martis?

Mark Zuckerman said...

Jim Hoy: Martis is 4-5 with a 4.09 ERA at Syracuse.

Anonymous said...

I really hope it's Detwiler, because the other two candidates have had a few too many failed opportunities to prove they were major leaguers for my taste.

David said...

I second the Matt Chico idea. I don't think one superb start in the minors qualifies Stammen as having "figured" out his problems. I would think seeing an average after 5 or 6 starts would be a better judgement. Matt Chico, however, is ready to provide a spot start when we need him.

Pete said...

So the options are crap, junk, or slop. Awesome.

Unknown said...

The Nats really have 3 rotation spots to fill, not just he immediate 1. I'm betting on Stammen getting called back for the 29th and then Martin & Atilano are do to be replaced as Detwiler & Wang become available.

Any word on Wang starting a rehab, if he's really targeting a mid-July return to MLB he should be on an assignment already.

court said...

With the 8-man bullpen, I think Miguel Batista could be an option. Hopefully he won't be needed too much against the Royals and O's and could save the team a roster move. I also think Atilano is on borrowed time. Big start for him tonight. If he falters, we'll need someone for the 27th too.

Maybe Batista (if needed tonight) comes back to start on the 27th and then whoever does better in the next couple of days between Chico and Stammen would go on the 29th. Then Detwiler would take Atilano's spot starting on the 4th with whoever comes up for the 29th staying in the rotation.

My gut tells me Chico gets the call. He hasn't had a real shot yet (as opposed to Stammen) and has a better track record than anyone else.

My post-break rotation prediction: Livan, Detwiler, Martin, Chico and Strasburg (I put S'K'S last since I expect him to be skipped whenever possible coming down the stretch). Stammen and Martin could switch out until Wang or Marquis is ready.

alexva said...

@Pete - come on now, no need to defile the Nats #8,9 or 10 starters. Think back only a couple of years ago and you'll feel much better.

They are all marginal MLB starters but they are at least that.

alexva said...

FWIW, Since Detwiler is not ready I'd go with Chico. After watching him battle all of 2007 including the game in the last week of the season on national TV against the Philthies, I'm a fan for life.

Anonymous said...

Yep, Martis has to be considered an option too. He is the best starter in Syracuse right now.

Chico's edge would be the left-handedness. As with Detwiler plus the
potentially huge upside.

Anonymous8 said...

The problem with these "fringe" soft-toss starters is they all need an "out" pitch.

Strasburg has 4 of them. Jordan Zimmerman has 2 of them. Livo has his curve ball. Olsen has his 4 seam fastball with movement.

Lannan at one time had his sinker. Stammen at one time had a breaker. Atilano had a slider.

It's about hitting your spots, changing speeds and decepting the batters. If you are trying to pitch to the corners and pitch to contact, the results are going to be 2008 all over again.

Amazing that Rizzo only has some soft tossing, pitch to contact pitchers in the wings right now.

Anonymous said...

Any word on Wang starting a rehab, if he's really targeting a mid-July return to MLB he should be on an assignment already.

Wang: late September call-up perhaps, more likely 2011 spring training. Stop with the where is "Wang" please? The guy had similar if not worst surgery than Scott Olsen. Where is Olsen now? I am certain Rizzo has seen that and will not rush him. Which is smart. He is behind TJ recovering Jordan Zimmermann. The only reason Zimmermann isn't in the rotation right now (he's way ahead of schedule) is because they don't want to rush it as a precaution. Sheesh, people!!!

JD Martin is here to stay. Get used to it. ONE WALK against 19 strikeouts in his starts? Sheesh, its like Morse ... what does it take to convince you?

Anonymous said...

Why doesnt Rizzo just bring Lannan back? Yah, that is as smart as bringing Stammen back. One big lovefest.

They need Olsen back sooner than later. Martis has had 4 nice starts in a row only I think he is not a long term solution the Nats could get a few spot starts from him.

Anonymous said...

They probably really should pick Martis. He is the "youngest" and is still barely a prospect.

Anonymous said...

They need Olsen back sooner than later.

Is next spring early enough for you?

Anonymous said...

Stammen and Martin could switch out until Wang or Marquis is ready.

You are assuming that Marquis and Wang could beat out Stammen and Martin. Wang had two horrific years up to his surgery. He has not been effective in over three years. Let that sink in. You saw Marquis. I don't think he is better than either Martin or Stammen. Now, if you bring in Cliff Lee or Jordan Zimmermann that might be a different story.

Otherwise they are **ALL** pitch to contact, location sinker guys. Right now Martin has 19 strikeouts against only 1 walk. And you are going to swap him out, he's the third best starter in the rotation right now?

Sec3 said...

"It's about hitting your spots, changing speeds and decepting the batters."

Isn't that supposed to be "deceptionalizing"? Deceptionating? The deception that proves the rule?

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one less worried about this and more concerned about how Strasburg will fare in the high heat and humidity tomorrow?

Bowdenball said...

Tough call. Stammen is certainly handsomer. But Chico provides far greater material for creative headline writing and 70's detective show-related jokes.

Seriously, I'd be happy to see either of them get another chance. Put a gun to my head and I guess I'd go with Chico, but both deserve another shot.

Which I think is good, because I have a sinking feeling that we're gonna be calling for both after a few more Atilano starts. A 1.54 WHIP and a 1.0 K/BB ratio suggests that his 4.77 ERA is not long for this world.

alexva said...

@Anonymous(not really) 12:16 - I would hardly consider 8-2 with 4.07 ERA horrific for an AL pitcher. It's fine to beat the drum for JD, he's deserving of staying for a while, but don't distort the facts to make your case.

Steve M. said...

Sec3 said...
"It's about hitting your spots, changing speeds and decepting the batters."

Isn't that supposed to be "deceptionalizing"? Deceptionating? The deception that proves the rule?

Deception is a lot more than a mere change of speeds and location. Strasburg knows deception :*). It is also mixing up your pitches and changing the eye level which the a great catcher like Pudge understands.

Kind of like a Nats pitcher throwing 3 lazy fast balls to the opposing pitcher in the same spot only to see it pounded up the middle. When is McCatty going to school his pitchers so the Nats will stop leading the league in opposing pitcher Batting Average.

NatsJack in Florida said...

I actually ran the numbers and opposing pitchers are hitting .262 for the season and .354 for the month of June! 3 friggin 54!!! Opposing PITCHERS!!!

Anonymous said...

Wang is throwing 94mph in Viera so I do not think we are talking Spring 2011 as some here might think. I think Stammen replaces Lannan (for the rest of the season), Detweiler replaces Atilano after tonight, and Wang replaces Martin August 1st.

Wombat-socho said...

Linked at Beltway Baseball.

Wally said...

I think that it has to be Stammen, and there are arguments to suggest that he was somewhat unlucky in his earlier stint. He had decent peripheral stats like BB/9, K/BB and FIP/xFIP (xFIP was 4.17, as opposed to an ERA of 5.4), and was victimized by a jump in BABIP and LD%, which are considered some of the stats that pitchers have less control over (ie luck, to a degree). All of which suggest a reversion to the mean that would show up positively in his traditional stats like ERA. The guy is no stud, but of all the 'soft tossers', I think that he is the best. I would put JD Martin next.

Atilano, on the other hand, I am not sure how he got this far. I would say the same about Livo, but, well, he is Livo, I guess. He seems to throw up these kinds of stretches every once in a while.

SO I think it is Stammen first, to replace Lannan, then Chico to replace Atilano after the AS break, unless Detwiler is ready. At some point, i think that they give Lannan another shot. I am also in the camp that we won't see Olsen or Wang this year, barring a September run to gauge progress for next year.

Wally said...

Anon at 2:30 - where did you hear that Wang is throwing 94? That is very encouraging.

NatsJack in Florida said...

I'll take a ride over to Viera this week end and check on who knows what about Wang. Maybe I'll even see him throw.

Steve M. said...

Why is there only 3 options for pitchers?

What about Roy Oswalt from outside- and inside I looked at Martis numbers and they look good over the last month.

I agree with most about Stammen. Shouldn't even be in the 3 names presented. Another great guy along with Justin Maxwell and John Lannan that have to earn their way back. Seriously, add Lannan's name on the list so he can make a quick U-Turn back.

This is my rub with Rizzo. Many of his boys are losing their luster and the rust is starting to show.

Rizzo chose to go with Lannan and Stammen and Mock and Marquis and Livo and look where it put this team.

Remember, they didn't even have Olsen in the starting rotation on Opening Day and he had performed better than that entire group except Livan until his injury.

So we are 38 days away from Jordan Zimmermann hopefully joining Stephen Strasburg and with some luck Olsen will be healthy then. I like what I have seen from JD Martin and Livo can use a rest no matter what anyone says. I think Livo should have been pulled after 6 innings last night and Riggles go lucky.

So on August 1st:

1) Stras
2) JZim
3) Olsen
4) Livo
5) JD Martin/Atilano/Detwiler

Bonnie Jo said...

So...if this is the Strasburg traveling rodeo, who are the clowns?

Mrs. Z. said...

Bowdenball said: But Chico provides far greater material for creative headline writing
C'mon, of all the pitchers in the Nationals organization, Matt Chico is not the best headline material. The best headline material is, apparently, throwing 94 mph in Florida. :-)

Scooter said...

Oh, Bonnie Jo, even the great Bacsik never grooved a fastball so delicious. I won't even swing, for fear of irritating my compatriots down here in CommentLand; I'll just watch it go by and marvel at its beauty. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Tom B said...

I saw Detwiller pitch against Bowie. His fastball was mostly in the mid 80's. He hit 90 only once. His control was not good early in the game. He doesn't appear to be ready yet.

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