Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Rotation decisions looming

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Craig Stammen starts tonight, but what happens after that?
PHOENIX -- Yesterday's affirmation by the Nationals that Stephen Strasburg -- barring any setbacks -- is scheduled to return from the disabled list Tuesday is good news for everybody who works or roots for the Nationals. Well, everybody not named Craig Stammen.

You see, it's Stammen who would otherwise be lined up to start Tuesday against the Marlins. But if Strasburg's ready to go that day, Stammen obviously gets bumped. It wouldn't matter if Craig throws a no-hitter tonight against the Diamondbacks. Nobody bumps Strasburg.

Which isn't to say Stammen is guaranteed to lose a spot in the rotation. Certainly, he's pitched well enough at times to deserve more opportunities; he's got a 2.60 ERA over his last three starts. But something's got to give when Strasburg returns, and that's only going to force the first of several tough decisions for Jim Riggleman, Mike Rizzo and Steve McCatty in the next couple of weeks as some high-profile starters return (or, in one case, arrive).

Jason Marquis is healthy again and ready to come off the DL. Jordan Zimmermann probably is ready, too, but the Nats are going to stick with the cautious route and have him make at least three and possibly four starts at Class AAA Syracuse before bringing him back. And Yunesky Maya, currently headed to the Gulf Coast League to begin his American baseball career, expects to pitch in the big leagues in the next month.

The Nationals need to get a good look at all three of those guys before season's end. Marquis, of course, is signed for another $7.5 million in 2011. The Nats need to know if he's going to be OK so they can figure out how he fits into next year's rotation. Zimmermann projects to be the club's No. 2 starter behind Strasburg, but he hasn't faced a big-league hitter since July 2009 and needs to get his feet wet again this season before making his full-fledged return next spring. And the Nationals just signed Maya to a four-year, $6 million, major-league contract because they believe he can help this club in the immediate future.

So where do they find the rotation spots for all of these arms, plus the guys currently on the staff? Ross Detwiler needs to continue to pitch in the majors so the Nats can find out if he's part of next year's plan or not. Stammen would seem to fall into the same category, though the Nats have talked in the past about using him as a long reliever; they could give that a try now. Scott Olsen has been pretty good when healthy. John Lannan needs a chance to establish who he really is: the reliable workhorse of 2008-09 or the struggling lefty of 2010. Livan Hernandez has been this club's best starter all season. He's not getting the boot.

Someone, of course, has to be the odd man out. Actually, several guys need to be the odd men out. These are not going to be easy decisions for Riggleman, McCatty and Rizzo. They've got to strike a balance between putting pitchers out there who give the Nats a chance to win the rest of this season while also doing what's best for the franchise long-term.

What do you think? If you had to pick five starters right now to finish out the season, who would they be?


Unknown said...

I think Lannan is the guy who get the first hook. He'll pitch again on Friday, but that is probably it for him. Stammen is probably more in line w/ Marquis return. If Marquis pitches well in AAA on the 7th he'll line up to start the 12th (Strasburg & Detwiler start the 1st 2 games of that series) meaning Stammen is either headed for AAA or the Pen, and really - I don't care about his "amazing" fill in for Strasburg vs Atlanta - there is no reason for Batista to still be on the roster.

Anonymous said...


Sorry Lannan, Stammen, Detweiler

JayB said...


That is the best stuff on the roster right now.

Lannan, Stammen, Livo, Martin are all known quantities and do not have the strike out stuff a winning team needs long term.

Put Lannan and Stammen in the Pen for Bally and Slaten who can go back to AAA.

Livo can be the spot starter as needed until Zimmnn etc are ready and take Batista's spot once all are up. Batista should have been traded by now but might still get something in a waiver deal.

Anonymous said...

(1) Livan.
(2) Stammen replaced by Strasburg with JZimm taking his spot when Strasburg is shut down.
(3) Detwiler
(4) Olsen replaced by Marquis
(5) Lannan replaced by Maya.

The fourth or fifth slot is dependent on whoever (Olsen or Lannan) is pitching better. As a Nats fan, can you believe we are discussing our surplus of starting pitching. This conversation excludes CMW, Martin, and Atilano. The times they are a changing.

Nervous Nats Fan said...

I disagree on Batista - earlier this season, I was ready to DFA him (well, wish that he got DFA'd) everytime I caught a glimpse of him on the TV.

But he really has shown his value this year, in that whenever you need a guy to go out and pitch, no matter the situation, no matter whether he's had 45 minutes to warm up or 3, no matter whether he needs to throw 5 or 100 pitches, he's there. You don't have to worry about burning him out, etc. I think he's been a real asset in the bullpen.

That's not to say that I wouldn't like to see Stammen as a long reliever - he's one of my favorites.

JayB said...

Ops Ross D....back to AAA to build his body and his arm....he still looks like he is missing a fastball to me. He should have a 94-96 MPH pitch and he does not have it yet.

Nate said...

Why not pick 6? Half of these guys are on innings limits, or coming back from injury, or both. Giving everyone an extra day between starts isn't ideal, but it might be the most logical solution.

My six: Strasburg, Zimmermann, Marquis, Detwiler, Lannan, Hernandez. Let Stammen and Olsen work out of the 'pen. We're going to need extra relievers anyway.

Bowdenball said...

I don't really see that much of a numbers crunch here. If Strasburg comes back Tuesday, he'll be pretty close to his innings limit by the time Maya and Zimmermann are ready, right? And given his recent arm flareups, I wouldn't have a problem with them coming in under that limit.

Livan, Strasburg, Detwiler, Stammen, Olsen for the next week. Marquis gets the spot of the worst performer after that. Zimmermann and Maya take the spots of Strasburg and the next-to-worst performer at the end of the month, although injuries and whatnot may sort that out too. Lannan finishes the year in AAA with the understanding that if he does well and looks good in spring training, he'll get a shot at the rotation in 2011. We know what we have with him- the trial time is far more important to the other guys.

JayB said...

Atilano....never should have been in the big leagues...just took advantage of the Rizzo's failure this past off season to sign another Vet starter.....he is the definition of AAAA stuff.

jason202 said...

What about Wang? Is it now safe to assume that we won't see him pitch in a Nationals uniform before next spring?

hleeo3 said...

Olsen still has something to prove, I'd take Livo over Olsen right now.

The other Zimmermann
Marquis and everyone else

Really whoever pitches consistently gets the #5 spot but I think Marquis would win by default because of that contract. I am optimistic about Maya but realistically he may not pan out so I really wouldn't want to get rid of any of our pitchers until we start winning and not lose any of them to the DL.

This is a very difficult situation to be in right now for Nats management. The only guarantee right now for our rotation for is Livan and Strasburg. Everyone else has to prove that they can do the same without getting hurt. Maya and Zimmermann are almost as good as a guarantee but baseball isn't know for its predictability.

HHover said...

Got to agree with some other commenters that this isn't *that* much of a looming decision.

Strasburg, presumably, bumps Stammen who then bumps Lannan. But otherwise, these moves are further off and conditional on good progress in the minors: Marquis could be up in the next 2 weeks, but Zmann and Maya look to be 3-4 weeks off.

By then, it will be time (or almost time) to expand the roster anyway, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the Nats carry a few extra SP for long relief and spot starts, given the certainty that Strasburg Zmnn, and maybe some of the others will be innings-limited anyway.

In other words, I'm not sure there will be anything that looks like that much of a stable 5-man rotation for the rest of the season.

JayB said...

"Olsen still has something to prove".....That is the point isn't it....he has shown the stuff to be in the rotation....he hit 93MPH last night several times...that is about 4-5 MPH better than last year and as high as he has been since 2006. We know what we have in Lannan, Stammen and Livo....It is what it is and that is #5 starter next year at best.

Avar said...

I think 1:23 pretty much got it right. Have to take Detwiler over Olsen because he is still unknown. Olsen is known at this point. He's a #4 starter on a good team. I think he probably doesn't come back next year. Too expensive for what he can offer.

Speaking of next year; Lannan, Chico and Olsen are all due for arbitration. I already covered Olsen but what do they do w/ Lannan and Chico? Also, what do they do w/ Livo? He's a FA and makes $900k this year. After a career year, he'll get a raise but is he worth the risk that he will better next year than the alternatives?

Really tough off-season for Rizzo. Even tougher than the Aug/Sep rotation I think.

Anonymous said...

It's still mostly quantity and not so much guaranteed quality.

1) Strasburg - sure thing but with innings limit for 2011 and the predictable sophomore bumps.

2) Zimermann - Almost a sure thing but with innings limits in 2011 and coming off surgery.

3) Livon - Having a great year but history says that his career numbers project more like a no, 5 starter than top of the rotation; may be a good idea to 'sell high'.

4) Maya - Too unknown to project; if he succeeds as a 2 or 3 it will be a tremendous boost.

5) Detwiler - I'm not convinced about him one way or another yet; agree with JayB that he needs to bulk up some and add a few MPH to his fastball.

6) Olsen - doesn't miss enough bats; needs a lot of luck to succeed; not sure if he will be in the plans for 2011.

7) Marquis - projects well as a 3 or 4; should bounce back with a good year next year.

8) Wang - who knows?

9) Stammen, Martin, Atilano - if any of them are in the rotation next year we will have another losing season.

As you can see I am talking about 2011; I don't think that this year is an issue because SS will be shutdown and many of the others are coming back from injury and can pitch in the minors if necessary to accumulate innings and build up arm strength.

If enough of the projections work out positively and we don't have to use AAA pitchers in the rotation we can be a .500 team in 2011 and there is potential for much better beyond 2011 when the young pitchers can go all out without limits.

Anonymous said...

Oh and Lannan - needs a lot of luck as he doesn't strike anyone out; I like him but always thought that he walks to much of a tightrope to succeed long term.

Avar said...

Oh yeah, this is my rotation hope for next year:
Livo/Olsen/Detwiler/Lannan/Chico (lots of lefties)

court said...

Detwiler must stay. He's always been a 90-92 guy, not a 94-95 guy. And he's always been skinny. I agree he needs to continue to build up stamina (not necessarily arm strength), but he must do it in the bigs so we can get a better look at him. Marquis is ready now, not in two weeks, and we need to see what he has to get a better idea of next year. Lannan didn't show me anything that says he deserves to stay, so I think it's a no-brainer to send him back down - to AAA this time. Stammen moves to the 'pen and Balester goes down. I would then throw Marquis in Lannan's spot (with Strasburg taking Stammen's turn).

Zimmermann takes Strasburg's place and Maya takes Olsen's spot with Olsen going to the 'pen taking Slaten's place. So I would have it:


Olsen and Stammen to the 'pen replacing Balester and Slaten. Lannan to AAA.

This of course assumes everyone comes back before September and corresponding moves must be made. Detwiler, Marquis and Maya all need the innings, so they must all start. Olsen and Stammen can move to the 'pen (where they will probably be next year anyway). Zimmermann takes over for Strasburg (or maybe they alternate starts). Lannan becomes the minor league pitcher he's always been, as do Balester and Slaten.

I also think there is a good chance a pitcher is moved thru waivers (maybe even Livan) which helps to sort this out. But bottom line, we have to give priority to the young, rehabbing and/or Cuban.

JayB said...

Detwiler was drafted with a 94-95 MPH fastball. He lost it over the past few years with injury and Randy SC mechanics change ....If he is not going to get it back then what we have is Olsen at best.

JayB said...

Yup Ross D was at 94-95 just last Sept in a start against the Dodgers.

PFX in Gameday at for that games last year vs this year shows his fastball is not the same as last year. I like him but he is not ready yet. Send him down and let him get stronger.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with JayB that Detwiler needs to have the ability to throw the ball past the hitters; when you constantly let the hitter put the ball in play the odds are that you will eventually get hurt; few pitchers (Derek Lowe) are good enough to force a steady stream of weak hit ground balls; ask John Lannan.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Scary but I also agree with JayB... Detwiler needs a full season of AAA work to 1. build his innings count and 2. Prove that he can go every fifth day and consistently win.

I've lost all hope for John Lannan, not that I had that much to begin with and Livo definitely needs to be considered the #5 on any staff we put together. I'm not enamored with Marquis as I believe he signed his contract knowing he was damaged goods so that leaves me with Strasburg, J Zimm when he's ready, Maya when he's ready, Olsen and Livo.
Stammen and Marquis can fill in till the others are ready.

Anonymous said...


You may not love Marquis but we owe him 7.5 mil for next year so you know he is the rotation; not so sure about Olsen.

Slidell said...

Stras/Zimm, Livan, Marquis, Maya, Stammen. All of these guys carry at least 1 big question mark, physical or otherwise. If they all meet or exceed expectations, we will truly have something to look forward to in 2011. I am doubtful they all will. I think that the others will have more opportunities before it's all over.

SilverSpring8 said...


Move Stammen to the bullpen. Release Balester.

David said...

lost all hope for Lannan? all he has to do is regain his location, and he'll be effective again. i thought he was fine against philly. striking out the side, the heart of the phillies order in the raining 5th, to keep us in the game with two and no outs was impressive. hopefully that helped his confidence.

JayB said...

Lannan is a fine #5 but that is can not have a rotation of soft toss lefties and win anything. Olsen is better than Lannan is better than Chico but the organization is full of #5 type soft tossing left handed pitchers......

Anonymous said...

JayB said 'just took advantage of the Rizzo's failure this past off season to sign another Vet starter'.

Tell me which starter who was on the market this past off season should Rizzo have signed?

Share your off season plan with us; who else specifically should we have signed and what should our payroll budget have been?

blog prince said...

This is admittedly a little crazy, and they'll never do it, but when the rosters expand in September, they should go with a 10 man rotation and give each guy three guaranteed starts to see where they stand. Strasburg, Zimmerman, Maya, Detweiler, Olsen, Stammen, Lannan, Marquis, Hernandez, Atilano or maybe bring up Thompson and give him a shot. On their 5th day when they don't pitch, have 'em throw a simulated game.

Anonymous said...

This is a nice problem to have!!

blog prince said...

Oh, and Chico! Instead of Atilano/Thompson.

Anonymous said...

Lannan looks the least effective. If Stammen goes seven tonight Lannan and Balester are off to Syracuse and get swapped for Marquis and Zimmermann.
They can release Harris to get another bullpen guy until the rosters expand. Riggleman can't have both of his man crushes when the team needs to evaluate starting pitching for next year.

Anonymous said...

Trade Livan. Trade Marquis if you can. Move Stammen to the pen. See what the young guys (or in the case of Maya, the new guy) can do. Problem solved.

Anonymous said...

My first move would be to have Strasburg replace Lannan. Then when Marquis is activated I would go with a 6 man rotation. Based on what Mark has written and what I've read on Nationals Journal, neither Zimmermann nor Maya sound like they will be up until late August. If need be, you send down a player with options until 9/1 and then recall them. Then you continue with a 6 man rotation. At that point, you let Strasburg get his innings provided he is healthy and I believe you have to give Zimmermann, Detwiler, Maya, and Marquis an opportunity to stay in the rotation. That leaves Olsen, Stammen and Hernandez, of which 2 would need to move to the bullpen. Despite being our most consistent pitcher all season, you know what you have in Hernandez, so I would move him to the pen and choose between the other two. Keep in mind Zimmermann is only going to go 5 innings, so you could use one of the guys in long relief behind him. Kinda crazy, but I think it could work and would leave us in a better position to make some decisions for next season.

Tegwar said...

Marquis makes 7.5 million and does not have options he will pitch when he has to come off the rehab assignment. Livo will continue to pitch this year and unless he blows up he will be signed next year to mentor Maya something Rizzo really likes to do in case you weren't paying attention this year. Maya will pitch if he is any good and Zimmerman will pitch this year very late August and will start next year so that leaves Olsen, Lannan and Stammen all of which I think still have options although I'm not sure if Olsen does or not. As for next year I think there is a good chance Stammen goes to the pen and that Olsen is low balled a contact before arbitration and the same may be done for Lannan except I think Rizzo likes Lannan which should help him a little. So this year until September

with options and the pen playing they most important part of the Lannan, Stammen, Detwiler decision.

Maya will replace Strasburg and Zimmerman will come up in September.

Next year
Livo and Maya are a pair if Maya pitches well Livo will make the rotation.
Marquis if they are unable to trade his salary.

Stammen may be in the pen otherwise his options will have him sent down to AAA.
Olsen if they can sign him before arbitration will be in the line up if Marquis is traded otherwise Maya and injuries will decide his fate.
Lannan signs before arbitration then he is first or second to come up after injury.

See its simple:P.

Wily Mo Peterson said...

2011 Rotation:


Olsen is gone, Livo thanks for the memories but their is no room at the inn, Stammen to the bullpen, Detwiler Chico Martis Atilano and Aaron Thompson make up AAA rotation.

Wily Mo Peterson said...

Oh and if Wang is healthy he takes Atliano's spot in Syracuse, if he dominates we bring him up, if he blows we cut our losses and move on.

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