Saturday, June 27, 2009

Shouldn't Olsen Have to Earn his Way Back?

Scott Olsen has completed three rehab starts and by all accounts he's ready to rejoin the Nationals rotation.

Here's the problem. He's not as good as the guys who have replaced him. His 5.50 fielding independent ERA is worse than Shairon Martis (5.25), John Lannan (5.09), Craig Stammen (4.28), Ross Detwiler (3.94), and Jordan Zimmermann (3.56).

In his rehab starts he hasn't been any better. In 12.6 innings with Syracuse, he's allowed 19 hits and 6 walks against just 9 strikeouts. His 5.25 fielding independent ERA in AAA translates to a major league-equivalent of 7.08, according to Minor League Splits.

In fact, if the team wants to promote someone from AAA, Olsen isn't even the best pitcher in Syracuse. Collin Balester's fielding independent ERA is 3.68. J.D. Martin's is a shiny 2.66. Marco Estrada, 3.73.

Now, I'm somewhat torn on this issue. As much as I don't like Olsen, I would like to see some of these young arms, especially Detwiler, get work outside the glare of MLB. He's had some success, and this would be an easy time to ease him back down without affecting his confidence.

Rizzo's plans to shut down Zimmermann, Martis and Detwiler before the end of the season means that we'll need most of those Syracuse arms for the last month or so of the season.

And there have been more reports that Olsen's velocity is back (although we hear this every month, so I'll believe it when I see it).

Still, it just seems like before the team just hands Olsen his old job back, he should have to show he can pitch at least as well as the guys they're farming out to make room.


dcbatgirl said...

That had crossed my mind.
(See also: Hanrahan, Joel, and Milledge, Lastings)

Anonymous said...

The CBA pretty much requires that they bring Olsen back after he completes his rehab assignment, which is time-limited and not indefinite. The only alternative would be to release him. So the only way he could "work his way back" would be to go to the bullpen. Is that what you are suggesting?

Detwiler and Stammen OTOH can be moved freely between the majors and the minors since they have options left. That's why it makes sense to let Olsen come back and start so a decision can be made on whether or not he's worth keeping. Detwiler or Stammen can continue to start at AAA and learn there.

Steven said...

They could sit down with him and ask him to accept the assignment. Or they could put him in the bullpen. Or they could "find" another injury and DL him again, which teams do all the time. Run an MRI on anyone and you can find something. Push comes to shove call it anxiety disorder.

I'm aware of the limitations, but it seems like the presumption is that he's entitled to a spot in the rotation and he shouldn't be.

Steven said...

Or, of course, they could just release him. I'm on record supporting that move since the minute the trade went down.

Hendo said...

The case for keeping Olsen around is kind of shaky (so much for my optimism last winter), but every start he gets is one that spares his young teammates' arms and gives us a chance to see whether he's really got it back.

You could stick him in the bullpen, sure, but know that whatever work he gets would be displacing innings from two of the unluckiest relievers (Colome and Hanrahan) in the history of Organized Baseball. Maybe it would be worth it just to spell one or both of them some, but you've still got to send somebody down and who would it be? Clippard? Really?

Anonymous said...

Rumors are that the Nats were going to trade Milledge to the Pirates for Nyjer Morgan, but the deal fell apart because the Pirates wanted Stammen too. Maybe if Olsen comes back and has a couple of halfway decent starts he can substitute for Stammen in possible trades like that one. Where's the problem with that?

Ben said...

I think Hendo has the right of it. Olson is a big league pitcher, all be it a dreadful one, and should be played as such. Detweiler is a diamond in mid polish. Minor leaugers throw fewer pitcher. Let him go back, work on what he has learned, rest a little and be ready at the end of the season.

Olson can go in and be a punching bag so that when Detweiler comes back he can replace someone with a high pitch count.

I think Steve this comes down to, who do you figure to be a long term piece. Probably Detweiler, maybe Stamen if he learns his lesson about facing good teams, almost certainly not Olson. Therefore you figure out your strategy based on how best to get these guys to where they need to be.

Steven said...

I agree with protecting Detwiler. But then I'm just also noting that there are other guys in Syracuse who have pitched better than Olsen.

Bottom line, I'm not at all convinced that Olsen is a legit major leaguer. If his velocity really is back in the low-90s, then it's a different story. Otherwise, he's really no better than Cabrera.

Will said...

Holy crap, these Nyjer Morgan rumors better be false. Lastings Milledge is currently Morgan and his career .721 OPS (Milledge's is .726). Except Morgan turns 29 this week! I cannot fathom how/why the Pirates held up making this deal. I don't know who's stupider, the Nats for offering it or the Pirates for asking for Stammen! Truly the two idiots of the MLB.

Olsen should not start. He's got a ridiculous WHIP just shy of 2.00. If he can't get minor leaguers out, he sure as hell won't be getting Chase Utleys, Hanley Ramirezes and Chipper Joneses out.

Ben said...

Will, the only difference is that Morgan can stand in the outfield without making a total ass of himself.

This is a classic scrap fro scrap trade.

Hendo said...

Milledge is the guy the Nats would be trying to deal for (rightly or wrongly) if they didn't already have him. Dealing him for Morgan, whose upside is ridiculously limited, would be insane.