Saturday, August 14, 2010

Marquis' cloudy future

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Another poor outing leaves Jason Marquis' status unclear moving forward.
The Nationals can try to figure out why Jason Marquis is wholly unable to get big-league hitters out, but that's not the real issue right now. No, the bigger issue is what to do with the least-effective pitcher in the majors moving forward.

Can the Nats really send Marquis back to the mound Friday night in Philadelphia? In that bandbox? Against that lineup? With an 0-5 record and 14.33 ERA?

It wouldn't be fair to subject Marquis to that inevitable shellacking, and it wouldn't be fair to force the rest of the Nationals to stand there and watch it all unfold before their eyes. This may not be the greatest roster ever assembled, but it deserves to take the field on a nightly basis believing it has a chance to win.

And right now, if Marquis is on the mound, the Nats have no chance of winning.

Perhaps that's why Jim Riggleman was noncommittal tonight when asked whether a change could be in order.

"Well, obviously I wouldn't say that here. I'll talk to Steve McCatty and Mike Rizzo before we make a decision like that," Riggleman said. "I'm anticipating him going back out there, but it's a results-oriented business. We've got to get better results."

The results are pretty clear: Marquis has been disastrous. He's made five starts this season. He's failed to make it through the fifth inning in any of them. He's put 44 men on base in 16 1/3 innings. He's allowed 30 of them to score.

Check out opponents' offensive numbers against Marquis this year. They're batting .405 against him, reaching base at a .489 clip, slugging .703, producing an OPS of 1.192. In other words, every guy who steps to the plate against him is the greatest hitter of all time.

"It's tough, obviously," Marquis said. "No matter whether you're a year in the big leagues, 10 years in the big leagues, you want to go out there and compete, give your team a chance to win and not embarrass yourself. It's tough. It's eating me alive inside."

As was the case in April when Marquis was getting lit up, the question of health automatically arises. But he says he's fine. His surgically repaired elbow isn't an issue at all.

"Physically, I feel great," he said. "Obviously, I went through what I did with the surgery. But with the rehab, I feel good. I feel like my velocity and life is back on the ball."

So, what's the problem?

"I'm just not making pitches, not putting them where I want them."

Specifically, Marquis can't keep the ball down in the zone. He's a sinkerballer, and his ball's not sinking. Just about every hit he surrendered tonight came on pitches up in the zone.

If Marquis was 26 years old, the decision would be easy. Send him to the bullpen or demote him to Syracuse. That's what the Nationals did with Craig Stammen and John Lannan when those guys struggled (far less than Marquis, it should be pointed out).

But Marquis isn't 26. He turns 32 next week, and he's making $7.5 million this season and another $7.5 million next season. Are the Nats going to eat all that money, or pay him that much to be a mop-up man?

Rizzo has generally been praised for the moves he's made since taking over as GM last year, but it needs to be said: Marquis has been a disaster so far. There's still time for this to change, but at the moment, Marquis is the recipient of the worst contract the Nationals have given anyone since arriving in town. Worse than Austin Kearns' three-year, $17.5 million deal. Worse than Dmitri Young's two-year, $10 million deal.

Can Marquis recover from this and become the reliable rotation stabilizer Rizzo envisioned when he signed him? Perhaps. But it would certainly be nice to see a sign, any sign, he's up to the challenge.

There's no doubt Marquis -- a prideful guy who has posted double-digit wins the last six seasons and has pitched for a playoff team in each of his 10 big-league seasons (til now, of course) -- is agonizing over this.

"I'm sure he's upset, because he's pitched in the big leagues for a long time," McCatty said. "And he knows he's better than what's going on right now. It is what it is."

It is what it is. That's not good, for the Nationals or for Marquis.

The question now becomes: Where do they go from here?


phil dunn said...

I was sitting right behind home plate tonight and I can truthfully say that Marquis had absolutely no movement on any of his pitches. It was like he was pitching batting practice. If Riggleman sends him to the mound again, he's crazy.

Anonymous said...

Marquis is a joke! Rizzo, eat the salary and -- at least for now -- put Stammen back in the rotation or bring up Jordan Zimmerman. Maya, Zimmerman, Strasburg, Olsen and Livan look pretty good for next year. But, the Nats need to spend $$$$ -- sign Dunn for 3 more years, of course sign Harper and get a free-agent rightfielder and free-agent second baseman (or, maybe that's Espinoa. If any money is left over, trade or sign an innings-eating veteran pitcher for 2011.

Anonymous said...


Marquis is teh terribad.

swang said...

Anon - There is no "at least for now" solution other than faking an injury. Rosters hasn't expanded yet, you don't want to DFA him. (I don't think he has to report.) What are you going to do?

I get that you like these other pitchers, in fact I do too. But you still need to give a workable option...

Evan S said...

A risky play would be to option him to Syracuse or lower. He would almost undoubtedly (although given his play, possibly not) reject the assignment and become a free agent. Problem is, we would have to eat his salary until he is signed by a new club, which given season might not happen, BUT his track record would warrant at least a minor league deal.

Anonymous said...

If Marquis is a real pro, he'll accept assignment and go to Syracuse to work out the kinks.

Anonymous said...

Marquis has to be the happiest guy in the world right now. Collect $15,000,000 for nothing, buy a yacht, sit back and enjoy! I wish I could win the lottery and do that! You just gotta love baseball and a pros non-production salary. Really, they should be paid FOLLOWING the season based on production numbers. What a racket.

Grandstander said...

I have to believe he's going to the Disgraceful List. That way we can hide him until the rosters expand and maybe he can make some rehab starts in A ball to see where we're at. At this point though, I don't see how he takes a major league mound again until he can show movement on his pitches.

Doc said...

Even when Marquis located the ball down last night, they still hit it! If it were my $15 million, I'd be suing somebody.

I smell a rat(s) here. Let's see Rizzo talk his 'due diligence' way out of this one.

JaneB said...

Anonymous at 7:25: I think if you give it another thought, you'd see that no one who is a high performer wants to disgrace his name and record. If he could get that ball down, he would. These guys get paid well but they love the game. They signed a contract, and baseball gets the best end of the deal as often as a player does: Just look at how inexpensive ZImmerman was his first seasons here ( and I know I'm talking "inexpensive" in relative terms). Marquis is not trying to get over anything or anyone. You wouldn't either. much as you may think getting paid for "non-production" might suit you.

Todd Boss said...

Marquis will get one more start, then the Nats will invent another "soft tissue" injury to DL him for the rest of the season. I see an "elbow strain" or "loose bodies in the elbow" injury announcement.

And that's fine. Marquis needs to Write off the 2010 season, start fresh in spring 2011 and get it back. He's still in the plans for 2011 and mentally needs to regroup.

Anonymous said...

I think that the club is destined to have only two reliable starters at any one time this year. Livan and a pitcher to be named later.

Mississippi Snopes said...

Marquis has more sense than to reject a minor league assignment. If he's physically sound, then he needs to work on his mechanics and the minors are the only place the Nats are going to let him do that. We'll see Marquis in Syracuse or Harrisburg by Tuesday. For Marquis to refuse that would send a message to the management of thirty MLB clubs of stunning selfishness and stupidity.

Faraz Shaikh said...

I would give Marquis another shot, against Phillies next but at the same time, keep Stammen rested and ready in the bullpen. If Marquis shows signs of a blown up game again, just pull him out and use Stammen as long reliever/backup starter for that game.

Nattydread said...

"In other words, every guy who steps to the plate against him is the greatest hitter of all time."

Ouch. Nice one.

Anonymous said...

Todd Boss,

Good post; you are right on the money. Everyone who is bashing keep in mind that Marquis has a track record in the majors; look it up. He is coming of an injury and is obviously not on track. Having said that you can't just throw him out there if he doesn't give the team a chance to win.

I think he will accept a trip to the minors if he is really healthy; as JaneB says he is a pro and he wants to perform.

Incidentally; I think that Olsen's position is more tenuous than Marquis because they don't have a financial commitment to him for next year; in fact I think he's as good as gone.

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