Thursday, September 2, 2010

What happens to Olsen?

File photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Scott Olsen is 1-6 with an 8.72 ERA since coming off the DL.
There have been plenty of highlights of last night's game on television today, and not only from the usual suspects. Even The Today Show had a clip of Nyjer Morgan charging Chris Volstad. When's the last time people watching NBC at 7 a.m. were treated to highlights of a Nationals-Marlins game?

All of the focus has been on the bench-clearing brawl, and rightfully so. But let's not forget one major reason things escalated up to that point: Scott Olsen's terrible start.

Say what?

That's right, Olsen's disaster of an outing (nine runs allowed in 1 2/3 innings) turned this game into a blowout right from the get-go. And remember, the reason the Marlins got so upset and felt the need to throw at Morgan a second time was the fact he stole two bases after getting hit the first time with his team trailing 14-3.

Whether you believe that was a breach of baseball etiquette or not — and the majority of people not employed by the Marlins seem to agree it was not — it would have been a moot point had the Nats only trailed by a handful of runs at the time.

Which brings us to Olsen, who was as upset at himself after the game as Wes Helms was at Morgan.

"I got absolutely killed today," he said. "That's just how it was. I made bad pitches, and they hit them all."

As the future of the Nationals' rotation begins to take shape -- Stephen Strasburg won't be a part of it in 2011, but Jordan Zimmermann, Livan Hernandez, Jason Marquis and probably John Lannan will be -- Olsen has all but pitched himself out of a job. Since returning from the DL in late-July, he's 1-6 with an 8.72 ERA.

Is his surgically repaired left shoulder still hurting? Olsen insists it's not. He repeated said "I feel fine" after last night's game.

This has been a bizarre season for Olsen. He's had some downright dominant starts, especially early in the year before going on the DL. But he's had more downright terrible starts, especially in the last month. The lack of consistency leaves the lefty frustrated.

"As a starting pitcher, getting into a rhythm of every five or six days, I would say it's more difficult to come off the DL, be up and down, do all this stuff," he said. "By no means is that an excuse. When I'm out there, I'm out there. I'm feeling fine. I've just got to be better. It's just the bottom line."

So what happens now? It seems obvious a change is about to take place. Yunesky Maya made what GM Mike Rizzo said would be his final start for Class AAA Syracuse last night, allowing one run and six hits over 5 1/3 innings. He will be promoted and he will be a member of the Nationals rotation the rest of this season.

Olsen's next scheduled start would be Tuesday against the Mets. Look for Maya to take his place and make his big-league debut at Nationals Park.

That leaves the Nats rotation the rest of the way as Hernandez, Zimmermann, Marquis, Lannan and Maya. And that leaves Olsen on the outside looking in.

Last December, the Nationals non-tendered Olsen, then re-signed him to a smaller contract with incentives based on games started. They've now paid him $2.3 million to go 3-8 with a 5.88 ERA in 15 starts this season.

Look for another non-tender this winter. But don't look for it to be followed by another incentive-laden contract.


Jeeves said...

Mark, I believe Deitweiler has better stuff than any pitcher you mentioned, other than Zimmermann. And the last time he was healthy (last September) he pitched very well. Why is he never mentioned as one of the main possibilities in next years rotation? When I say better stuff, I'm referring to Marquis and Lannan. I don't know about Maya.

P. Cole said...

Olsen should return the $100,000 he earned last night.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Detwiler needs to prove he can pitch a full season and that should be at the AAA level.

We have to let these guys progress and accumulate innings of experience before getting to the big club.

Doc said...

Earlier in the year Olsen had a totally dominant slider. I mean it was wicked. After coming back from the DL, it seemed to have disappeared.

Only a guess, but I kinda thought that the hard slider was too difficult to throw with his recovering shoulder. Its too bad. Maybe he'll have some better stuff next year. He's still young enough to continue with a career, but probably not with the Nats.

Rachel said...

For the record, I really don't think he *sucks* at all but I do think he's lying about being in pain. His "recovery" from shoulder surgery was just too quick.

BinM said...

Mark Z: You may well be right about an off-season non-tender for Olsen, but his previous three starts were good for a 1.41WHIP & 4.23ERA over 17IP. I'll grant you that all three starts were losses, but were against three quality teams (ATL, PHI, & StL). Kilgore @the WaPo played to this hype in his AM lede as well - Last night was "Circus of the Absurd", not baseball, imo. Try not to be so quick to 'kick him to the curb' just yet.

Steve M. said...

This has to be the end of Scott Olsen in Washington. They took a chance on him and saw some of the good, the bad and the ugly replay too many times.

Depending on how Maya does the Nats may have their 5 favorites going into Spring Training.

1) Livo
2) JZim
3) Lannan
4) Marquis
5) Maya

I think Ross Detwiler, JD Martin, and a few others will get a look as well as any chance to get a good Free Agent as Marquis and Livo are only signed through the end of 2011 and the Nats need some longer term solutions so let's hope someone in the Minors can step it up.

I have to say, I have been impressed with the way Lannan clawed back so he might be a keeper. It still sickens me to look at projections of the 2011 rotation without Stephen Strasburg at the top!

Steve M. said...

I sure like that rotation better than the 2010:

1) Lannan
2) Marquis
3) Stammen
4) Mock
5) Livo

Then all the shuffling began with Marquis and Mock out and add in Atilano and Olsen.

Its amazing that going into May 14th the team opened at 20-15. How can you bottle that up?

lesatcsc said...

Wes Helms is simply a stupid man.

Stew Magnuson said...

Not to be cynical, and I'm NOT saying this is the case with Olsen, but when you have such an incentive laden contract, there is a clear monetary incentive to be less than truthful about any pain or discomfort you feel. Probably not a wise idea if you do some real damage that screws up your arm permanently. Of course, players with the competitive fire will lie in such circumstances as well.
Anyway, the performance on the field for Olson has been bad enough to warrant management turning off the money spigot for good this year. I'm thinking $2.3 million will tide him over to next spring.

a tribe called PINK said...

What is happening with Wang? He has fallen off the radar completely.

TimDz said...

Not sure how comfortable I am seeing the words "Wang" and "fallen off" in the same sentence...

Steve M. said...

I went back to a Post from one of the best afternoon's in Nats history. The Nats were on a 93 win pace after the win the night before with a 20-15 record and then after that, slowly started to unravel.

Pudge and Zim were both killing it. Capps was saving it and Rizzo never found a way to fortify the outfield and pull off a trade.

Heck, I was calling for a Dunn extension back on May 14th!

Steve M. said... This is why Rizzo has to pull the trigger on ADunn for a 2 to 3 year deal now to lock him up to keep the pieces together.

May 14, 2010 2:24 PM

To dream of what could have been. On May 14th, you could sense Strasburg coming and only helping. To me, the turning point was that June 1st disaster in Houston as the team fell 1 game under .500 and the rest of June spiraled down to last place finishing June at 34-45.

Nervous Nats Fan said...

Not to be too harsh, but can Livo really be counted on next year to be anywhere close to as good as he's been this year?

BinM said...

Steve M.:
A fair guess, but predicting starting rotations for next season in September is like choosing the 2012 Academy Award winners for at this point; Too many unseen possibilities.

It might be better to group pitchers instead. For the sake of argument, group them as Top of Order, Middle of Order, Bottom of Order, and Unknown / Unproven. What follows is my two-cents worth, based on both current staff, and my premise...
Note: (DL)= Disabled list; (LH)= Left-hander; (NR)= Non-rostered.

Top of Order[2]: Strasburg(DL), J.Zim.
Middle of Order[4]: Livo, Lannan(LH), Marquis, Wang(DL).
Bottom of Order[8]: Atilano(DL), Chico(LH), Detwiler(LH), JD Martin(DL), Martis, Mock, Olsen(LH), Stammen.
Unknown / Unproven[8]: Jaime(DL-NR), Maya, Milone(LH-NR), Brad Peacock(NR), Roark(NR), Rosenbaum(LH-NR), Tatusko(NR), Thompson(LH).

If either one or two of the Bottom Order / Unproven pitchers 'break out' in spring training, all is good. If not, then life is hard, for Nationals fans at least.

NatsJack in Florida said...

If Livo learns to stay in shape, he can be the next Jamie Moyer.

JaneB said...

Nervous Nats Fan:

Yes. Yes he can.

BinM said...

@Stew Magnuson:
Olsen's prior three starts weren't nearly as horrific, even though they resulted in losses. 3GS, 17IP, 4.23ERA, 1.41WHIP. Not great by any stretch of the imagination, but servicable.

Given the bonus situation, I could see the rationale, if the FO were to 'shut him down' as a Starting Pitcher.

Anonymous said...

In truth it's not reasonable to expect Livo to give us what he did this year; he has a track record and will probably regress back to where he normally is (Lots of innings; lots of hits bottom of the rotation kind of pitcher).

On the other hand we should get much more out of Marquis; Lannan and JZim with Maya and Detwiler as the big unknowns; I think there is reasonable expectation of a 10 game improvement year over year.

I think that it would indicate big problems if any of: Atilano, Stammen, Martin, Chico etc are in the rotation

HHover said...

Nervous -

Can he? Sure.

Will he? Probably not--because he's significantly outperforming his career #s; because he'll be a year older; because his peripherals this year (BABIP, xFIP) suggest he's lucky in ways that probably won't continue.

That said, barring a real implosion, he'll still probably be more than good enough to pencil into the weak (or shall we say, uncertain) rotation the Nats have shaping up next year.

Todd Boss said...

I had the same sentiments about olsen ...

I think you're seeing the 2011 rotation when Maya makes his 9/7 debut. AAA rotation goes Detwiler, Atilano, Mock, Martis, Chico.

Raff said...


Thank you for your terrific list of potential starters. Mark Z said he'll do an in-depth look at this in the off-season, but it's quite helpful to have a list at our fingertips now. (Yes, I actually printed out your list: nothing like having resources available when watching the game and hearing Bob C. talk about the future.)

Steve M. said...

Wow, Tood Boss, what are you doing with JD Martin?

The Great Unwashed said...

Olsen is the latest in a long line of Nats reclamation projects that didn't work out. We've seen this movie before and the ending is never good. Hopefully last night was Olsen's final start for Washington. The FO has to get away from signing pitchers who've lost favor with another team in the hopes they'll somehow put it together for the Nats.

Anonymous said...

They just might land Cliff Lee and then they wouldn't need Olsen ... and Lannan still has to prove his soft tossing is the better left-handed choice over Detwiler. And vice-versa. They now have Solis in the wings if he pans out he could be the next lefty starter in 2012 - 2013, plus Milone has been more than effective in AA.

I wouldn't put too many eggs in Olsen's, Lannan's or Detwiler's baskets.

JamesFan said...

Olsen should be cut free as soon as legally possible. Too fragile and inconsistent and I think he's become an attitude problem.
-Livo is probably as old as Moyer right now.
-Wang is a fantasy. Virtually no chance of winning a game for the Nats.

Anonymous said...

I think you're seeing the 2011 rotation when Maya makes his 9/7 debut. AAA rotation goes Detwiler, Atilano, Mock, Martis, Chico.

Milone may win pitcher of the year for the organization. So, its not just Martin.

Milone is definitely going to be a left handed starter for that staff. Chico is now past the prospect stage. Martis is also a starter still young enough ... Atilano, Mock less so ... Mandel?

Mark said...

Glad we are discussing other topics as NyjerBrawl is not news until Rizzo DFA's him.

Thanks to SteveM and BinM for their rotation analysys.

Steve said...

I will be glad when Olsen is gone. He, like Morgan, Harris, etc. is just the kind of "marginal" player only poor teams have job openings for.

I think Wang's going to come back and be really good - as a reliever and, perhaps, as the surprise 2011 closer while Storen matures.

Anonymous8 said...

30 days ago people were ragging on the Lerners for possibly -not- playing Olsen to save $100,000 per game so you have to decide when he is considered "marginal" because 30 days ago nobody was calling him "marginal".

We can all play the Dibble hindsight 20/20 game and point out all the failures.

You name Morgan and Harris too but the Nats had no star outfielders except Josh Willingham and Morgan was playing at near All Star CF stats for the Nats in 2009. Nobody saw this coming, just like few thought Bernadina and Morse would play better than expected.

I think the team has for 2011 LF Willingham CF Bernadina and RF Morse unless they sign a better Free Agent.

Doc said...

The most exciting play, for me, in last night's game was Espinosa doing his impersonation of Pistol Pete Rose and stealing a double from the Marlins INF & OF--even Hanley Ramirez was impressed!!

He has some power too, but we may not see the full extension of that for a few years. Gooooo Nats!

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_for_Me said...

Anonymous 8:01 writes: I think the team has for 2011 LF Willingham CF Bernadina and RF Morse unless they sign a better Free Agent.

I think Riggs really thinks of bernie as a LF. That moves Willingham to RF with Morse more likely to take over for Dunn at 1B. That still leaves Nyjer, providing he is still a free man after Bob Watson and F. Robby get done with him, in CF.

We have to think in terms of replacing Dunn at 1B. No way the Lerners to pop for the $45 million or so it will take to keep him here. I'm not convinced Morse is an everyday anything, but I think he deserves a shot at 1B. So if he moves to first, we still need a CF. I think Nyjer stays...

Sunderland said...

Sunshine, I don't relish the thought of Morse at 1B next year, but I do think you're looking at this the right way. (although I would think Willingham stays in left and Bernie and his stronger arm goes to right?)

The more hopeful possibility is that we do sign a solid bat this winter. If it's a 1B, then perhaps we do get Bernie in CF with Morse and Willingham flanking, and Morgan off the bench or released.

If it's an outfielder, then perhaps the starting OF is Willingham, Bernie and new guy, and again Morgan comes off the bench or is released.

Either way, if we add a bat, and I think it's a 50 / 50 possibility, I would think Nyjer would be battling Maxwell and Harris for the 2 reserve outfield spots.

Wow, that last sentence is a bit depressing, huh?

If we sign two bats, Dunn plus and OF, everything looks so much better, with Bernie and Morse platooning. But the odds of that seem slight at best.

A DC Wonk said...

above was written The FO has to get away from signing pitchers who've lost favor with another team in the hopes they'll somehow put it together for the Nats.

I don't think that was a bad plan in years past, considering what condition the starting line was a year or two ago. We had a bunch of not-ready-for-prime-time minor leaguers supplemented with reclamation projects. But, you sign those old guys, because sometimes they pan out, and because there aren't other good alternatives. Remember: the Nats were panned for signing washed-up Livo, and justified it by saying he was an "innings eater" (which translates to: mediocre but has endurance). Livo turned out well -- and perhaps Marquis might.

But that's what you do when you don't yet have a Straburg, and JZimm was having TJ surgery, and Detweiler was injured, and on and on.

Bottom line: last year, the team ERA was 5.02, dead last in the NL. This year, team ERA of 4.23. That's quite a jump in one year. And it seems that we have a lot more upside than downside for next year.

Anonymous said...

Why don't the Nats start making up for the 3+ years they've been foisting a AAA pitching rotation on us and sign a proven major league starting pitcher in the off-season? Kastan figured from Day 1 that two or three of the stiffs he rolled out there would turn into Smoltz and Glavine. He got so lucky in Atlanta, and that type of combination probably won't be replicated for several decades. I know it's cheaper to let your talent mature, but the only way to win in MLB is with proven major league pitching talent.

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