Monday, July 26, 2010

Strasburg and Livo and ... ?

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Craig Stammen, like several Nats starters, needs to make a better case for himself.
There's the ace, who has assumed that role only nine starts into his career, though deservedly so. And there's the wily old vet, who continues to prove he's got more left in his right arm than anyone ever thought.

And then, there's ... what? After Stephen Strasburg and Livan Hernandez, what exactly do the Nationals have in their starting rotation? From what we've seen so far, not much. The Nats are 18-11 in games started by Strasburg and Hernandez. When anyone else pitches, they're 24-46.

So the line around NatsTown these days goes something like: "Strasburg and Livo, the rest get the heave-ho."

(Sorry, I couldn't help myself.)

It should be noted that among the plethora of issues facing the Nationals over the remainder of the season, none may be as significant as the continued attempt to fill out a rotation that looks less established with each passing day.

This wasn't supposed to be the Nats' biggest question mark, not at this stage of the year. By now, they were supposed to be fielding a starting quintet of Strasburg, John Lannan, Chien-Ming Wang, Jason Marquis and one more fill-in until Jordan Zimmermann was ready to return from Tommy John surgery. That was the rotation that was supposed to give this organization reason to believe it could contend in 2011.

It's entirely possible that group will emerge next spring and take the National League by storm. But it's not likely. Wang, whose surgically repaired shoulder still hasn't progressed to the point he can appear in an actual minor-league game, may never pitch for this club. Lannan, who was shipped off to Harrisburg a month ago and has yet to discover whatever it is that eludes him, may never return at this rate. Marquis, who got two years and $15 million to serve as a stabilizing, veteran presence in this rotation, should return from his elbow surgery within a couple of weeks. But who knows what to expect from him at this point. Certainly, you can't just assume success.

The Nationals are pinning a lot on Zimmermann, who after the long and lonely path following Tommy John surgery has nearly made it all the way back. His return sometime in mid-August could be as significant a development for this franchise as Strasburg's arrival nearly two months ago. This is the only other true power arm in the Nationals' pipeline, at least among those starters who can make an impact on this club in the next year or two. Club officials have already penciled him in as the No. 2 starter next season behind Strasburg.

If that all works out, great. It would be a wonderful story of perseverance for the young right-hander, who was headed on the right path one year ago before his elbow blew out. But you can't just assume it's all going to work out. As many Tommy John success stories as they are these days -- Josh Johnson immediately comes to mind -- the success rate isn't 100 percent. Some pitchers come back stronger and better. Some come back but aren't the same pitcher. And some never make it back.

Even if Zimmermann takes the Nats by storm and becomes Strasburg's trusted sidekick, the rest of the rotation still looms as a huge question mark. It seems obvious at this point that Hernandez will be back; he's just too valuable right now. But who else figures into the picture?

There are no shortage of candidates: Lannan, Marquis, Wang, Scott Olsen, Craig Stammen, Ross Detwiler, Luis Atilano, J.D. Martin, Matt Chico. In theory, only two of those pitchers need to pan out and assume the final two spots in the rotation.

But what's your level of confidence in any of those guys right now? Who's the surest thing in that group? There isn't one. Every one of them either hasn't established he can stay healthy or that he can consistently get big-league hitters out. They've all had their moments. None has managed to sustain it.

(Edited to add: I forgot to include Yuneski Maya, the Cuban right-hander the Nats are on the verge of signing. Mike Rizzo said he could be ready to pitch in the majors within weeks, though he still must secure his visa and pass a physical before the signing is complete. If that happens, he certainly figures into the plan moving forward.)

After a brutal, 3-7 road trip -- all three games were won by either Strasburg or Hernandez -- the Nationals returned home last night. They'll open a tough homestand against the Braves and Phillies tomorrow, hoping their two effective starters can do their job right off the bat and then hoping the rest of the bunch can somehow finagle another win or two the rest of the week.

But if the Nationals are going to take a true step forward and give people a reason to believe there are brighter days in the not-to-distant future, they can't get by with two quality starting pitchers.

Eventually, a couple more guys from the pack have to make a case for themselves to join that duo. And if they could do it over the next 63 games, the Nats would greatly appreciate it.


David said...

I think Chico deserves another chance, at least until Zmann is ready to come back.

Anonymous said...

"[Zimmermann's] return sometime in mid-August will be as significant a development for this franchise as Strasburg's arrival nearly two months ago."


Sam said...

Livo is really walking a tight rope right now. If he starts giving up home runs at a normal rate, he could be due for an implosion. He has done a great job so far this year, though.

Anonymous said...

What is the status on Maya? He seems like he could be a huge addition to the rotation, but I haven't heard anything more about him since the rumors came out that he had agreed to terms.

Anonymous said...

What about the Cuban they just signed? Isn't Rizzo touting him as being ML-ready within weeks as a mid-rotation type guy?

HHover said...

Just last week, Kasten was crowing in a radio interview about how the Nats had their pitching solved and were maybe just 1-2 pieces away from a contending team.

That seemed silly at the time and even sillier now, as Mark reminds us.

Mark Zuckerman said...

Sorry, I should have mentioned Yuneski Maya, who a few days ago Rizzo said could be MLB-ready within weeks. He still needs to secure his visa and pass a physical, but we could certainly see him in the Nats' rotation before season's end.

NatsJack in Florida said...

After reading the Rizzo-Ladson interview on the Nats website, Rizzo has absolutely no credibility
with me anymore.

I still like him, I just don't believe anything he tells anybody.

That said, results need to improve over the last 60 games and I mean his results, not the players. We have to find out if Morse can really play, we need to find out if Bernandina can be our everyday center fielder, we need to find out if Alberto Gonzalez can hit and play, preferably short stop, and we need to find out if Chico is really back from his TJ surgery.

Kevin Rusch said...

NatsJack: I pretty much agree with your assessment. We also need to see if there's a fielding coach who can lower Desmond's errors. That's just getting out of hand. (literally).

Anonymous said...

I think that this article brings into focus the point that it's really all about the starting pitching; for all the discussion about our lineup and it's shortcomings I propose that it's still a better lineup than say San Diego yet they are in first place and we are in last.

This is my take on our starters:

1)Strasburg - He is the ace but don't be surprised if he has some ups and downs in 2011 and he will still be on an innings limit in 2011.

2)Zimmermann - could be excellent next year but the probability of him being healthy and effective all year is still somewhat iffy; he will also likely be on an innings limit in 2011.

3)Marquis - should return to his normal level in 2011 which means he should be a reasonably effective no. 3 or 4 starter.

4)Detwiler - big question mark; if he approaches his potential he should be the no. 3 starter; that would be a big bonus for the Nats; he could just as easily be a bust though.

5)John Lannan - The nationals really need him to at least return to what he was before this year; not a top of the rotation guy but definitly a solid no. 55 starter.

6)Livon - Great year this year but the probability is that he will regress to his normal numbers ( I am assuming he stays); that would be ok if 1 - 5 work out.

7)Wong - if he returns to anywhere near what he was with the Yankees that would be a bonus; I wouldn't hold my breath.

8)Chico - May be John Lannan at best; could be useful bottom of the rotation guy.

9)Maya - unknown but would be a great bonus if he pans out.

10)Stammen, Martin, Atilano - If any of them are in the rotation next year - not good.

There is potential for a decent rotation next year; but many risks exist. I like the potential for 2012 better when Strasburg and Zimmermann are off innings limits.

Sam said...

@NatsJack in Florida: I agree that we should see those things, but we have no idea if those things are on Rizzo's agenda. Rizzo probably has no intention of stripping Morgan of his starting CF job or inserting Morse into the lineup. Lastly, I really don't think Chico is good enough to hold a roster spot. He had two really bad years with the Nationals (-0.4 WAR total) and one good the long term, he probably isn't good enough to be in the Major Leagues. Although, he's probably just as useful as Stammen or Atilano right now.

Doc said...

Mark, what's the skinny on pitcher Brad Meyers rostered at Harrisburg? Seems like he has significant ML potential. He also appears to have some DL stuff.

Sam said...

@Anon 11:27: It's not ALL about pitching. It's just that we have really bad starting pitching and San Diego has really good starting pitching (and a really good bullpen). Pitching is 1/2, or maybe 1/3, or maybe somewhere in between, of the battle. Right now, our team is inept at pitching, which is why we are in last place.

Maybe you meant that for US, it is all about starting pitching. That I would agree with.

markfd said...

After Strasburg, Livo and Maya, I hope JZimm comes back strong but after him I think the next best guy in the "potential rotation pool" may be Oslen. Olsen is a guy I even doubted but I think he might have the inner fire to be one of the guys we can rely on.

Anonymous said...

Two thoughts on our pitching staff:
(1) I would enjoy if I never saw another sub-90s fastball again. Which means I hope to never see Lannan, Martin, Atilano, Chico/etc (I can grant an exception for Livo) pitch for us again.
(2) Why exactly were we not in on Haren? Considering all it took was a number 5 starter and a couple of non-top-10-in-the-organization prospects (the kind of pitchers we specialize in), it seems like we certainly could have used him, esp. since he's under control for 3.5 years.

Sam said...

Probably because their non-top-25 prospects are nearly equal to our top-10 prospects.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Anybody who remembers 2007 knows Chico is every bit as good as Lannan and certainly better than Atilano, Stammen, or Martin when healthy.

He was our only consistent starter on a bad ballclub and deserves a chance.

Mark Zuckerman said...

Doc: Brad Meyers has been dealing with a foot injury nearly all season. He pitched great for the one month that he was healthy (1.47 ERA in 6 starts at Harrisburg) but he's been on the DL since early-June.

hleeo3 said...

Yeah, I agree with NatsJack on Chico. Chico deserves a chance over the other AAAA pitchers. At least, he was remotely a major league pitcher and his AAA numbers indicate some success up here. Not to mention his back-to-back 7 inning shut outs indicates he is getting the job done.

Anonymous said...

I'd give Detwiler another look before we say that he's no good. Yesterday's start was ridiculous! Before he even threw a pitch I predicted that he would lose because they set him up to fail. He's still rehabbing and they pitched him on 3 days rest. You don't pitch your regular guys on 3 days, unless it's Livo and that was a 1 time deal. I'm not expecting Detwiler to be the new #2 guy, nor blow folks away, but he could be another name before having to cringe at the starting rotation.

Anonymous said...

I think Chico deserves another chance, at least until Zmann is ready to come back.

Strongly disagree. He still hasn't mastered either AAA or AA. His stats are not on par with JD Martin's during his time in Syracuse. Exactly why Shairon Martis is still here. They haven't advanced and will look terrible in the majors ... as usual. At this point Chico is not an option.

Sorry, I should have mentioned Yuneski Maya, who a few days ago Rizzo said could be MLB-ready within weeks. He still needs to secure his visa and pass a physical, but we could certainly see him in the Nats' rotation before season's end.

You really should change your top article as well Mark. This is the guy who will be penciled as #2 if not #1 if he matches his reports. With Zimmermann #3. He literally could be the difference between another miserable losing season next year and .500 and above ... that a new manager.

Steve M. said...

I still have hope in the pool of guys in the system.

Jordan Zimmermann has shown in his rehab that he has his fastball and at least against "A" opponents can dominate. His test will come obviously as he faces better competition.

Detwiler has the tools although pitching him on 3 days rest and Willie Harris as his bumbling 3rd baseman replacement on Sunday could make an old man cry. Not a fair debut to fully assess him on.

Olsen is another with the tools and is a matter of his health.

I don't know squat about Yuneski Maya so I don't know why anyone would pencil him in so soon until we see him against at least AA or AAA competition.

So at this point, Mark is dead on. 2 pitchers (Stras & Livo) and some strong ifs (JZim and Olsen and Detwiler) and a lot of question marks!

Anonymous said...

Considering all it took was a number 5 starter and a couple of non-top-10-in-the-organization prospects

The pitching prospect was a B+->A, that would be Storen and Strasburg for the Nats. They do not have any others. The prospects cupboard is bare where the Nats are concerned, it may look a lot worst (this year) before it gets better.

This is why Rizzo (who was interested in Haren) apparently lowered his sights to Edwin Jackson who still has upside but is having an off year in spite of his no-hitter.

Anonymous said...

I don't know squat about Yuneski Maya so I don't know why anyone would pencil him in so soon until we see him against at least AA or AAA competition.

Does Livan Hernandez ring a bell? It should he was the best right-handed pitcher in Cuba ... just like Yunieski Maya was in 2009 just 1 year ago. And, yes, perhaps enough to make him the #1 starter over Strasburg if he pitches as advertised. He is a veteran pitcher who has pitched at the highest possible levels, in the WBC and in Cuba.

That said, you are dead on when you say they have to see how he manages AAA/AA pitching. I should think he will look a lot better than what they have now. But we'll see won't we?

TimDz said...

Regarding Detwelier: I agree that he was set up to fail (pitching on three days rest while you are still rehabbing? Seriously???).

All things considered, he initially struggled with control, but would have had a 1-2-3 first inning, of not for Willie "Ole'" Harris butchering that ground ball. That set Ross up for a 45 ptich first inning.

Jim Webster said...

If Livo can do it, why not El Duque too? Maybe it's genetic.

Anonymous said...

If Livo can do it, why not El Duque too? Maybe it's genetic.

And Yunieski Maya may be related as well? Just need 4 more and the Magnificent Seven will ride again to a Nats World Series victory!

HHover said...

ESPN's Jayson Stark is reporting that the Nats are considering a three team deal that would send Dunn to the White Sox and bring Edwin Jackson here. Two related questions:

A) There must be more involved for the Nats, right? This can't possibily be the major compensation for Dunn that Rizzo says he's demanding.

B) Isn't Jackson just another bottom of the rotation guy, if a somewhat more certain one? He's young (26) and dependable (30+ starts in the last 3 yrs, and on pace for that again). But he's also a 4.72 career ERA in 130 starts. (Tho some are inclined to make excuses for his 5.01 ERA this year, it's not really that far off his career average).

Tedv15 2 said...

Whatever happened to Garrett Mock?

Jaxpo Nat said...

Please God, PLEASE GOD let the Edwin Jackson rumors be false. The last thing we need is another 5+ ERA project. Now I hear it might be in exchange for Adam Dunn (three-team deal). Can Rizzo really be that stupid?

NatsJack in Florida said...

Garrett Mock... herniated disk issues aren't easily fixed.

Old Guy said...

Reminds me of the old Boston Braves chant: "Spahn and Sain and pray for rain." Saw them both pitch at Braves field in Boston. In 1945 they were 67 and 85, but three years later they won the NL pennant.

NatsJack in Florida said...

I have a hard time believing Edwin Jackson is the only part of this deal. Rizzo said that someone would have to propose something "that knocks our socks off".

Oh, that's right. I said I don't believe anything Rizzo says at this stage of the season.

hleeo3 said...

Its part of a GM's job to lie in public. I usually disregard what GM's say when it comes to future moves. Pretty much like poker.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Now if the trade is Edwin jackson and Gordon Beckham, I'd be looking for my socks.

Anonymous said...

Edwin Jackson might not be that good but remember whoever is trading for Dunn is renting him for a half season so you are not going to get market value of a full season for him. EJ is better than Mock, Chico, Lannan, Stammen, Martin and Martis combined so rather than get questionable prospects, which is what the white Sox are offering, I would take EJ in a heartbeat!

Sec3MyAnonymous said...

But keep in mind that the White Sox would offer Dunn arbitration to DH, he'd turn it down because he doesn't want to DH, and they'd get two (2) high picks for their trouble, so it's not just a rental--it's trading two guys now for one guy now and two guys later. Nevermind that the whole reason they want to do the deal in the first place is because they think they can win. If they do so with Dunn, the draft picks are gravy. Really good gravy. With biscuits. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm...

Anonymous said...

and "heave-ho" was *my* line.

blog prince said...

I've been a fan of all the Rizzo has done. But if they trade Dunn for just Edwin Jackson, he's officially an idiot. I can't believe that to be the case. Dunn for Jackson and Stephen Drew, perhaps. Or Justin Upton. Or Quentin or somebody from the Sox. If they get rid of Dunn, they need to get a BAT and a pitcher in return. Because Prince Fielder isn't going to be signing in Washington in the off-season. And there aren't really any offensive first basemen with decent defense available. I disagree with anon about Jackson being better than his list of pitchers. Not true in the least. Jackson is terrible, no better than any of the current options on the roster, and certainly not the kind of guy that's going to improve this staff whatsoever. Fortunately most of these rumors prove to be false. And hopefully Rizzo's demands will be too high for the deal to go through.

Brian said...

If Maya is as good as advertised, then why did he sign with the Nats and not the Yankees or BoSox, who presumably would (and maybe did) offer more money if he was a major-league ready possible ace of a staff? It can't all be because of his relationship with El Duque and Livo, can it? Could it be that some scouts say he's not as good as some of the above commenters would want to believe?

That's an actual question, not a slap at anyone.

NatsJack in Florida said...

It most certainly can be because of Livo and his 1/2 brother.

Remember, the Nats were the ONLY team to offer Livo an opportunity and do you really think our minor league teams need a 40yo+ spanish speaking mentor?

N. Cognito said...

Buster Olney or Jayson Stark. Might as well be MLB Trade Rumors - they're all crap.

court said...

Who cares why Maya signed, he (apparently) did. I also think it's ridiculous for some of you to completely discount this guy because you've never seen or heard of him. He was Cuba's #1 starter on a rotation that included Chapman. He was dominate in the WBC (see the scouting video against Japan). And he's a polished product with good stuff and experience. Both Livan and his brother had relatively immediate success after coming over to the US and I'm cautiously optimistic that Maya can have the same impact. He's definitely a contender for the #3 spot in the rotation after Stras and Jordan.

NatsJack in Florida said...

With NFL training camps opening, MLS soccer, the WNBA, and no Tiger Woods playing golf this week, the MLB trade rumors are all ESPN has. This could be a very long week.

court said...

As for the Dunn for Jackson rumors... if such a trade is being discussed, I'm sure the Nats would get more than just Jackson. By every account out there, Rizzo is asking for a ton in return to move any of most valuable pieces, so rest assured that if Dunn or Willingham (and to a certain extent Capps) are traded, then the deal will be worth it. Rizzo is trying to buy low on Jackson, who has great stuff, so he's not going to give Dunn away to get him.

Relax people.

Brian said...


I'm not discounting Maya. I was just asking how the Nats signed him when other teams presumably would offer a potential 1 or 2 starter a lot more money than the Nats would. Perhaps he's not a sure thing? I don't know; that was intended to be the subject of my post.

Maybe I'm reading a tone into your post that doesn't exist, but it seems rather adversarial. Are you Maya's mom?

NatsJack in Florida said...

Am I the only one who doesn't understand promoting a pitcher that has a 7.27 ERA as a middle releiver in AAA? (Colin Balester)

Feel Wood said...

Although Balester's ERA was 7.27 when they promoted him, that includes time he spent as a starter in AAA when his ERA was over 10. Therefore, he is considered to be improving since they converted him to relief. Not sure I believe that, but time will tell I suppose. Never been overly impressed with the guy myself.

court said...


I am not, in fact related to Maya (that I know of) and I didn't mean to come off as adversarial towards you. It just seemed like a few posters are completely writing this guy off without really knowing his deal. My feeling on his signing is that we gave him the money he was looking for, as well as a better chance to make a MLB rotation quickly. Perhaps the Yankees and Saux offered less money and instead played up the "prestige" of playing for them. Who knows. Bottom line: I really like the signing and I hope the visa stuff gets worked out quickly and we get a look at him this season.

NatsJack in Florida said...

This season? How about this week. They won't bring uo Jordan Z. for a couple more weeks and they refuse to let Chico show whether he can pitch in the ML again so who replaces Martin?

Hope his visa stuff clears immediately.

Anonymous said...

'Dunn for Jackson and Stephen Drew, perhaps. Or Justin Upton. Or Quentin or somebody from the Sox'.

You are not getting Drew or Upton or Quentin for a Dunn rental; here is the situation:

The Nats can :

1) Sign Dunn and by all accounts this is what they would rather do but if his agent sticks to 4 years at 15 mil per they have 2 other options.

2) Trade Dunn for to the highest bidder and at this point it looks like its something like 2 B+ prospects give or take.

3) Let him play out the year; offer him arbitration and if he walks take the 2 draft picks.

I happen to think that signing Dunn to 4 years is a mistake; he is very likely to be on the down side of his career in years 3 and 4; 2 years at 15 mil per makes a lot of sense. Options 2 or 3 are also fine because you can then reallocate the money elsewhere.

Richard said...

Right on time re Mark's point, J Zimm had a rough outing for Hagerstown today ....

Anonymous said...


so what? I think we look at things through a microscope too much. He pitched 5 innings and as long as his arm is healthy I,m not worried.

David said...

Anon @ 11:53. I'm sorry but I strongly disagree with you. Did you watch the 2007 season? Chico was our best pitcher that year. Even with his 4.63 ERA. I'm not saying he automatically deserves a spot for the whole season but if he comes up and goes about three quality starts in a row, I'd give him a spot for the year. Let him prove it. The way our AAAA starters have been going, I think he should get another chance. I just looked at his game log from 2007. In 25 of 31 starts (80%) he gave up 4 earned runs or less, five starts with 5 runs, one 6 run game, and one 8 run game. I'd say that he was pretty consistent, and has been even more consistent in AAA this year (couldn't find a full game log for him at AAA this year). I'd say if you raised the judging criteria to 3 earned runs or less per start in AAA this year, you'd get the same 80% ratio. This shows improvement over 2007, in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

There are definitely questions about our staff next year, but there is also great potential. If Zimmermann could fully recover, he can be a solid #2 behind Strasburg. We shouldn't give up on Detwiler because of yesterday's game. He could have pitched 4 shutout innings with better defense. Even if you considered the outing poor, so what, its one outing & he was going on 3 days rest. We have to give the guy some time. Also, I'm very excited about Maya. Obviously, you can't count him as a given, but from everything I heard, I'm excited. Then there's Olsen. If he could only stay healthy, he be a great fit for the rotation. Two or three of these guys need to live up to expectations and we will be just fine. Then we still have Hernandez, Marquis, Lannan, Chico, Stammen, etc. as choices to fill out the back-end of the rotation. If Hernandez pitches strong for the next 2 months, I would think he has to be back. To me, Stammen has been frustrating. He's better than he's pitched and I think he did better last year, when he was pitching hurt. There is still potential there. Chico's did Ok in '07 and is doing fine for AAA. I think he should be given the chance on Friday. I still wonder if Lannan's hurt. I thought he was going to be a solid 3 or 4 for this team, but now I don't know. Finally, I have questions about Marquis, but his history indicates he should be a solid 4 or 5. As for Wang, I hope I'm wrong, but I wonder if we'll ever see him pitch in the majors again.

Anonymous said...

Isn't Jackson just another bottom of the rotation guy, if a somewhat more certain one? He's young (26)

He definitely has top of the rotation potential. He's a power pitcher like Zimmermann and Strasburg. He is still young, still learning the ropes. Not all are immediate aces like Strasburg.

Wily Mo Peterson said...

2011 Nats Rotation (baring any trades:
1. Strasburg
2. Zimmermann
3. Marquis
4. Wang/Olsen (one or both wont be with the Nats next season)
5. Livo

2011 Syracuse Rotation (in no particular order:
Tom Milone

Future is in the bullpen:

Best Poker Listing said...

Your tips are remarkable. I regularly read your blog and its very helpful.

Post a Comment