The Nationals’ Search For Pitching

Now that they’ve traded for Gio Gonzalez and signed Edwin Jackson, the Nationals’ projected rotation looks significantly stronger than it did in 2011. Last year, Washington’s rotation included Livan Hernandez and Jason Marquis, along with Jordan Zimmermann, John Lannan, Stephen Strasburg and Chien-Ming Wang. I wasn’t overly impressed with GM Mike Rizzo’s offseason additions at this point last offseason. 

“It's a passable rotation, but the Nationals had hoped for more,” I wrote on January 31st, 2011. “If and when they start winning, luring free agent arms to D.C. will likely be easier, but Rizzo has a challenge before him until then.”

One year later, the Nationals have upgraded their rotation in a meaningful way by adding young, hard-throwing pitchers with upside. Hernandez was 36 last year and Marquis was 32. In their places, the rotation now features Jackson and Gonzalez, who are entering their age-28 and age-26 seasons, respectively. Hernandez’s average fastball was just shy of 84mph in 2011 and Marquis’ average fastball checked in at 89.3 mph. Jackson and Gonzalez are among the game’s hardest-throwing starters, as are Strasburg and Zimmermann (all four had an average fastball of at least 92 mph in '11).

The Nationals’ rotation posted respectable numbers in categories such as ERA (3.80, 11th in MLB) and walk rate (2.6 BB/9, 8th in MLB) last year. But it was below average in other categories, such as strikeout rate (5.7 K/9, 29th in MLB).  

Only two teams obtained fewer innings from their starters than Washington in 2011, and no Nationals starter threw 200 innings. As Rizzo noted yesterday, six of the eight 2011 playoff teams had at least two starters reach the 200 inning plateau. Jackson has averaged 200 innings per season since 2008 and Gonzalez has completed 200 innings in both of the past two seasons, so the Nationals added more than youth and velocity to their starting corps — they added durability without sacrificing upside. 

The Nationals were linked to Mark Buehrle before he signed with the Marlins for $58MM and to C.J. Wilson before he signed with the Angels for $77.5MM, so it’s worth noting that Jackson’s deal is for only $11MM. Considering that MLBTR ranked Jackson just behind Wilson and ahead of Buehrle at the beginning of the offseason, the deal seems like a particularly good one for the Nationals.

34 Responses to The Nationals’ Search For Pitching Leave a Reply

  1. Phillies_Aces35 3 years ago

    THIS is the way to go about “Taking Back Our Park.”

  2. JST1331 3 years ago

    Rizzo, Rick Vandenhurk is now available.

  3. I think the Nationals will be vastly improved in 2012. They have a solid rotation, a very good bullpen and an improving line-up! If everyone stays healthy, they will be right there for October!
    As a side note an associate e-mailed me an article today to advise me about the new “Out Of Towner” ticket policy. It has a special emphasis on Phillies fans.  They don’t want them in their stadium this year.
    The Washington Post says starting today, if you try to buy single-game tickets for the Phillies series in Washington in early May, you must pay with a credit card that is linked to an address in the District of Columbia, Virginia or Maryland
    Also, an additional quote from their COO: Frankly, I was tired of seeing it,” Nats COO Andy Feffer told the Post this week. “Forget you, Philly. This is our park, this is our town, these are our fans, and it’s our time right now.”
    Now while I can where it’s a bit annoying to have a cheering Phillies fan next to you when your team is getting skunked, but their money is as good as anyone else’s, plus it bring revenue to the economy. I know local business dig having an influx of revenue, I know I sure do. So it’s my opinion this new policy is a bit short sighted or obtuse if you will!  They should get rid of this idea and nip it in the bud. Imagine if the Orioles did this? The Phillies are invading our humble little home in June this year.  I say the more the merrier.

    • WolandJR 3 years ago

      I would rather have an empty park than being surrounded by obnoxious Phillies fans. You can literally fill up the next 5 comments on the theme of ‘disgusting things Phillies fans do’.

      • Phillies_Aces35 3 years ago

        When you have a bad team… that’s what happens. The Vet and CBP used to get filled with Mets fans… and trust me they’re just as bad.

        Citizens Bank Park STILL gets filled with 50/50 Red Sox/Phillies fans when the Red Sox come into town. A lot of it has to do with the difficulty of getting tickets in the venue you TRULY want to go to but there’s usually a reason that venue [in this case Nationals Park] is easy to get tickets for.

        • WolandJR 3 years ago

          I am not saying that I don’t understand it, I just hate it. The Nats have been so very, very bad…

          Can we all agree that we hate the Red Sox fans the most?

          • Brad426 3 years ago

            Every team has some obnoxious fans. I have to say in my experience the Red Sox fans on this site tend to be the non-obnoxious type (with some notable exceptions) and some of the most knowledgeable. Also Blue Jays fans, which I find surprising since my preconceived notion was they were all hockey fans with pet moose. Or is it mooses?

          • Infield Fly 3 years ago

            No doubt that every fan base has its jerks & wackos, but this is more about which team has them by the ton.

            I won’t go so far as to say which team has the worst, but I can say that I have witnessed entire sections of Phillies fans ejected from a ballpark on several occasions, just as I have witnessed Phillies fans (guys) go out of their way to start fights (including with women) on numerous occasions (even had to break one up). All of this was uncalled for and goes beyond the usual “duds” that every fan base has.

            Have I met cool Phillies fans? Without a doubt, and even they admit that a lot of their fan base is kind of “hostile on principle” (their words, not mine). Clearly those fans deserve the moniker of “phightin’ Phills” as well.

            Go Jays [fans]!

          • JohnKruksWaistline 3 years ago

            Single sections hold hundreds of seats. Maybe you’ve seen a row or two cleared before from a large group, but saying you’ve seen sections is out of hand.

          • Infield Fly 3 years ago

            You may not like it but stating exactly what one saw is never “out of hand.”

            To be clear, on at least two occasions I saw an entire section of the upper tank occupied by Phillies fans ejected. I’m talking from 1st row to last (26+ rows) and from aisle to aisle (at least 20 seats across). During one such mass ejection there were some pretty terrific fights between Security and the fans. It was pretty stunning to see the whole section vacated like that so I will never forget it.

            I also remember running into the chief of security a few days after one particular instance. He was pretty banged up, to say the least.

          • michael hughes 3 years ago

            I believe it’s meese.

          • YanksFanSince78 3 years ago

            I endorse this statement.

        • Andrew 3 years ago

          As an Orioles season ticket holder and a regular attendee at Nats game, QFT.

          Phillies fans were seemingly well behaved in the RF upper deck last year, probably because it was a sea of Philly fans booing the hell out of Werth.  Hard to cause trouble if there’s no Nats fans to create friction.

      • GlassJawn 3 years ago


    • I no longer bring my young children to Nats games when the Phillies are in town.  Truly obnoxious fans — too many drunken f-bombs with a three-year-old sitting right next to them.  

      For that, I will always loathe the Phillies fanbase.

      • Roberto Rivera 3 years ago

        Exactly. When I signed up for the partial season-ticket plan, I asked the salesman if I could bring a taser to games versus Philadelphia.
        Seriously, the problem is that a lot of the obnoxious ones arrived on charter buses — the lot on 6th and M was full of these buses — so they could really tie one on without having to worry about DWI.

        Like other posters, I don’t so much fault Phillies fans as I do Kasten and his whole “come on down” message. It was a big middle finger aimed at Nationals fans that said “we care about your money and little else.”

      • michael hughes 3 years ago

        Man that sucks. As a Braves fan, I’ve got to agree that Phillies fans are the worst generally, not every fan is bad of course but as a whole ugh… I’ve never seen a fanbase turn so quickly on it’s own players either.
        To be fair though I’ve never gone to any games in New England and I know Red Sox fans have a reputation, but I’ve never experienced it.

        • GlassJawn 3 years ago

          “I’ve never seen a fanbase turn so quickly on it’s own players either.”
          I’m sure Jeff Francoeur and Derek Lowe greatly disagree.

          • michael hughes 3 years ago

            I don’t remember them getting booed in the stands every time they took the field. I remember Pat the Bat getting boos back when he was in Philly, and Adam Eaton getting booed during the world series ring ceremony.

          • JohnKruksWaistline 3 years ago

            Adam Eaton got booed because he took 24 million dollars, sucked, wasn’t kept on the WS team, and still got a ring. Burrell was here 9 years…getting booed over that time frame will happen.

          • michael hughes 3 years ago

            What was he supposed to do, refund their money and refuse to accept his world series ring? Sure he sucked but the Phils should have known that when they signed him, he was never any good. 
            I just thought it was a spiteful gesture on what was supposed to be a celebratory day. Still, I’m not saying all Phils fans are bad, but they have more obnoxious fans than most clubs in my experience.

      • Phillies_Aces35 3 years ago

        I hate generalizations regarding the Philadelphia Fanbase, and I’ve been to Nationals Park many times. The sections I’ve been in, there’s never been any obnoxious Phillies fans. (and I was at opening day 2010 which was probably the worst Phillies/Nationals expierences for the fan base).

        … It’s a minority that seems like a majority that act like that.

        Not excusing that kind of behaivor by any means… I just hate how people act like Philadelphia is the only city with bad fans… and we do have a lot of bad fans. I hate going to Eagles games because of the obnoxious fans.

  4. Donny Holmes 3 years ago

    Now, if Rizzo can flip Lannan or Wang or Gorz for something they need (I hope Gorz gets a shot to start for the Nats as his stuff is solid when he’s on) — top of the order table setters, then the Nats will have made huge steps forward. 

  5. Pawapuro 3 years ago

    Both that walk rate and that K rate will likely go WAY up in 2012.

  6. FacelessGeneralManager 3 years ago

    Interesting the Nats got the second fewest innings from starters yet they were the last team in MLB to have a starter removed before 5 innings. And i think they went like 7 more games than the team that was second to last.

  7. Andrew 3 years ago

    The previous plan is called the Susan O’Malley plan to alienate a fan base, which is what she did when she was at the helm of the Wizards during the “come see star X” play season ticket plan days.  I get that DC lacks an installed fan base for everything but football, but try not to rub it in everyone’s faces.

  8. AlKelz 3 years ago

    I think the best way for the Nationals to silence Phillies fans would be to sign Cole Hamels in the off season. That’s another reason I like the Jackson signing. It’s only one year. They get their 200 + innings , protect the arms of Strasburg and Zimmerman and when the contract is up they can upgrade the rotation to something that would rival the Phillies . Living well is indeed the best revenge 😉

  9. The Phillies have the best rotation in the NL East, but I think the Nats are number 2. Their youth and power will push them to the wildcard

  10. YanksFanSince78 3 years ago

    Not a Nats ffan but I might become one soon. I like the way this team is being put together and can always appreciate a team committed to trying to win and not just be average and passable.

    • michael hughes 3 years ago

      I agree with you completely. It might seem odd because I root for the Braves but I’m glad they’re trying to put together a winning ball team. It’s exciting for any fan of the NL East to watch the whole division get stronger. I prefer games that are competitive even if it means the Braves are going to have to face better opponents.

  11. LUWahooNatFan 3 years ago

    Amazing the job Rizzo has done in D.C… In four years(took over ST of 2009) he’s turned this team into a legitimate contender.

  12. FS54 3 years ago

    you are right. I think we were the last team where a starter did not last five innings. It was pretty impressive in comparison to 2010 when Lannan, Olsen, and Marquis would get lit up regularly in the beginning of the season.

  13. Natsfan89 3 years ago

    They had a winning record against the Phillies last year and split the season series with the Braves. They greatly improved the rotation, get Strasburg back (though he’ll be shut down in September which hurts), and should have a better offense with Zimmerman and LaRoche returning for whole years and Werth bouncing back (hopefully).

    They can compete with the Braves and Phillies.

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