Nationals Baseball: T-minus 4 (3?) and couting

Thursday, August 11, 2011

T-minus 4 (3?) and couting

Jordan Zimmermann starts tonight in what is not more than his 4th to last start of the year. We've heard that he is going to be capped in his innings somewhere in the 150 to 160 range and right now he sits at 138.33 (can I take a moment here to tell you how much I hate the shorthand 138.1 and 138.2 type of numbers for pitchers? I hope so, because I just did) If he starts 4 more times and averages 6 innings a start (a bit low for Jordan but I imagine they'll be looking for quicker hooks) that'll put him at ~162 innings. It'll also take him right up into September call-up time, which is a convenient time to replace him in the rotation with someone brought up in the expanded roster.

(For the sake of info - the 17th vs Reds, 22nd vs D-backs, 27th @ Reds)

The end could come a start earlier though. Jordan had two of his worst starts of the season in the past month, and while he's bounced back from those another one might signal to the team that his arm is getting a bit tired. The last 3 starts are during one long stretch of games, meaning no chance to give Jordan an extra day of rest. Plus that last game is on the road, if they shut down Jordan early then he doesn't necessarily have to come along with the team, maybe stay behind and work on his season cool-down, I guess. I don't know.

How as Jordan been? Fantastic.

He's 16th in the majors in pitcher WAR. 6th in the league in K/BB ratio. 4th in walks given up. While some things have gone his way a little bit, other things haven't and the fancy stats like FIP, XFIP, tERA all agree that his ERA (23rd in the majors) is no fluke. He's legitimitely been a solid #2 guy this season at 25. He's got time to get better and while he could be injured again it's likely not to happen in the next couple of critical seasons.

Zimmermann has come back from injury and basically given the Nats the type of season they hoped for from him when healthy. If Strasburg can duplicate ZNN's return - that means the Nats will have a 1-2 that can rival nearly any teams next year (at least starting in mid to late May. Why starting in mid to late May? Because if they think they have a shot at the playoffs they are going to make sure that Strasburg's innings count doesn't force him to be pulled from the rotation during the stretch run. Of course a win in April is the same as a win in September, but try telling that to a fan who's watching Maya give up 6 runs in Strasburgs spot the last week of the season with the Nats 2 games out of the Wild Card.)

Taking another look at my 2012 rotation post - you could even say Lannan is covering that 3rd spot in the rotation. Believe in him or not - he's gone under 3.90 in 3 out of 4 seasons and the 4th one he was injured. I will note that the ERA for a Top 5 NL rotation has dropped a bit to 3.70 but given the little bit better ZNN will likely be than the 3.30 I wanted from the #2, it's quite feasible the Nats could get this Top 5 rotation with a couple of mediocre performances from the #4 and #5 guys. Maybe you can get that from what they have right now or a low-priced FA signing. Which is good because the 2012 class is weak in pitching. The 2013 looks to be stronger and it's a big signing then, with full season Strasburg and maybe another pitcher developed, that could push the Nats to legit NL East contenders.


cass said...

I've been worrying about the Strasburg playoff problem next year. I'm assuming they don't mess with his schedule and simply let him pitch until September. If they're still in contention, then the rest of the team should be good enough to continue without its best pitcher.

It'll surely be odd to be in the playoffs without their best pitcher, but what other choice do they have, really? I wonder if a similar situation has ever happened before. I can't think of one.

Harper said...

well chances are that they don't make a big signing or change anything in the offseason and do as you say. By Sept 1 they'd probably be a few games over .500 but also a few games out of the WC with a couple teams in between so it'll be a tough but not heartbreaking.

If they do make a big signing/trade then I think they do what I said - put him on the 60 day DL, have him go through an extended ST and have him come back to the team toward the end of May. Is it silly? Kind of but you've gotta find a way to balance his health and the team's playoff chances.

Donald said...

A slightly different way to look at the rotation is individually, rather than as an average of all 5 starters. Ideally, we'd be in the top 5 in all spots so that a really great #1 doesn't negate the need to have a really great #5.

I think Strasburg has the ability to be a top 5 #1 and Zimmermann the same at #2. Lannan might not hurt them as a #3, but he'd be average at that spot. I'd rather see him as one of the better #4s in the league. I think a prospect (Millone, Peacock, Detwiler,etc.) could end up being great as a #5. I still think we have a gap though, in that we need a great #3. As unlikely as it is, I'm crossing my fingers that Wang can fill that role in 2012. That, or Millone or Peacock does better than expected and fills that role, allowing Wang or Gorzelanny to fill #5.

Lee said...

Nats may have a chance to make a splash this offseason. Buehrle, Oswalt, and possibly CC will be free agents this offseason. I have to imagine it will be on Rizzo's to-do list since he failed there last year.

Maybe the Werth signing could finally pay dividends (b/c it hasn't on the field yet). These guys may see Washington as a team on the rise. A team worth finishing their careers with. And a team that will take them to the bank.

It's a giant assumption, but if we land one of those guys it's a killer staff.

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7 said...

Harper, you almost made me swallow my coke--"Maya giving up six runs in September with the NATS two games out of the WC." Too funny and so right!

Harper said...

Donald - You can look it at that way but then you're really putting together the best or second best rotation in the NL, not simply a Top 5 one. I think that's the eventual goal but I think he team would be better served doing that by getting a 1a / 2a guy next offseason and making a truly formidable 1-3, then grab someone who might be a great #3 next season but maybe not going past then.

Lee - Anything is possible but I don't see the Nats landing CC (Yanks NEED him) or Buerhle (seems to be a WSox or Cards shoe-in). Oswalt I suppose is possible but he will be 34 next season. for 2013 you have Matt Cain (at 28), John Danks (28), Greinke (28), Hamels (29), Haren (32), Hudson (ok he'd be 37), Marcum (29), Shields (31) and the prize Weaver (30). Plus a couple guys who could bounce back to very interesting starters if they have a strong finish and 2012 like Liriano and Carmona and Anibal Sanchez. (and whoever might be up for FA after 2013 that you could get in a deal at the end of 2012).

Section 222 said...

Zimmermann has now pitched 145 innings and made 23 starts. That's an average of 6 and 1/3 inning pitched per start. Looks like he can make two more starts if they are serious about the 160 inning limit.

Assuming Stasburg Suppose SS is also on a 160 inning limit, and given the possibiity of the Nats contending for a WC spot next year, how about looking to average 5 1/3 innings instead of 6 or 7? Or put another way -- shoot for 20 starts of 5 innings and 10 of 6 innings instead of 23 starts of 7 innings. Is an extra inning and two thirds per game really worth losing seven starts -- about a month of pitching? This strategy might require having a a few guys in the bullpen who can actually pitch 2 or 3 innings instead just one. (I'm looking at you Detwiler and/or Maya...) But it seems to me that the possibility of having a leg up on seven more wins and the possibility of pitching a month later in the season would be will worth making this adjustment.

Or does Boras get pissed because he wouldn't be getting the all important "quality starts"? At least five innings is enough for a "win."