Saturday, September 27, 2008

Strasburg Sweepstakes: GAME ON!

Yes, I'm still rooting for the Nationals to win every game, but there's nothing wrong with rooting for the M's, right? And finding the silver linings in defeat?

The M's finally won again last night, beating the also quite awful A's 10-8. The A's, who threw in the towel at the trade deadline, are 24-40 in the second half, just one win better than us. We're now a half game back (or up, depending in your perspective). Should the M's win out and we split with the Phils (or should the M's split and the Phils sweep), we get that first pick.

Incidentally, thinking about starting pitching for the future (yes, that was non-sequitor dressed up as a segue), after last night's conflagration by Balester (too bad really--he's going to have that 5.51 ERA on the back of his baseball card for life), here are the season ERAs of all the Nationals pitchers who started at least one game this year, from best to worst:
  • John Lannan: 3.86
  • Garrett Mock: 4.02
  • Odalis Perez: 4.27
  • Tyler Clippard: 4.35
  • Tim Redding: 4.95
  • Jason Bergmann: 5.09
  • Collin Balester: 5.51
  • Shawn Hill: 5.83
  • Shairon Martis: 5.89
  • Matt Chico: 6.19
  • Mike O'Connor: 13.00
Take all that with a big grain of salt, of course. ERA is a flawed stat with a lot of noise in there from events outside a pitcher's control, and there are some tiny sample sizes in there (Clippard, 10 IP; O'Connor, 9) but if you had to guess that list, is that what you would have come up with?

I suspect a lot of fans would be surprised to learn that Bergmann was better than Balester or Martis and barely edged out by Redding. I suspect few if any would have had Mock so high up there. And did Matt Chico really pitch for us this year? And I'm also not sure fans realize how bad our starting pitching really was this year.

Finally, I was glad to see this in the Post this morning: "The team will prefer to have Martis back in the minor leagues next year, especially because fellow youngsters Collin Balester and Jordan Zimmermann figure to pitch in the majors while still developing. Said Manager Manny Acta: 'We are going to be cautious of having so many of those guys at one point.'"

As you know, I don't think Martis is ready. But this reflects an awareness that to develop young pitchers, you need a veteran innings-eater or two in the mix to make sure you don't burn the 'pen and have to force a young guy to go longer than you'd otherwise want to, thereby risking injury or their confidence. I'm probably reading too much into it, but if this is what they're thinking, that's good.

This statement also implies that we'd be looking to add another veteran arm to replace Perez, because if we don't, it'll be Redding and four 'still developing young guys'--and that's assuming Redding is offered arb and resigns, which I'm not sure is a no-brainer.


JayB said...

Starting Pitching was the problem going into this season just like all the ones before it. Interesting after all the problems of the 2008 season, starting pitching is still the biggest issue (aside from poor coaching).

Once again we see the annual call for Vet pitching and innings eaters. When does this cycle finally end? I do not see anything at the MLB level this year that looks like a solution other than Lannan. That is not a very good success rate over 4 years of building. I think time will show that Mock, Baslester, Martis, Bergman, and Chico are all just place holders.....for who......With Jimbo drafting and signing (or not) pitchers, what does the track record tell us about Ross D and Smoker et al? Oh never mind….I know the answer……man this organization sucks……it did not need to be like this.

Steven said...

"Innings eater" I think is an unfairly disparaged term. Sometimes, a crappy pitcher gets sold as an "innings eater." That's Livo, circa 2008. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about a guy who can reliably provide 200-220 or so league-average innings, keeping his team in the game start in and start out while keeping the 'pen rested and available. Those guys are incredibly valuable to the team.

They are also very important to the development of young pitchers into major-league stars. If and when the Hamels or Prior type ace is breaking into the big leagues (whether that's Zimmermann, Strasburg, Lannan, or someone else), you'll want to shield them from the kind of abuse Dusty Baker and Charlie Manuel dish out.