Entering the 2011 season, many felt the Nationals dropped the ball over the winter in a rather public attempt to sure up their starting pitching rotation. Mike Rizzo made it no secret that he was out to get another Major League level starter, and when he failed to sign even one of his targets, many were worried about the rotation the Nats had to offer.
Quite surprisingly though, the Nats starting pitching has actually been a bright point for the club as they enter their 21st game of the season with one of the more successful rotations in baseball. A large part of that has been due to the return of Jason Marquis to his previous All-Star level, the emergence of Jordan Zimmermann, and the surprising success of Tom Gorzelanny.
Of course it’s still early, and the argument can easily be made that the current staff is overachieving and will fall back to their career averages. Time will only tell if this is the case, but for now all of the club’s fall back plans are working splendidly.
Here’s what the Nats targets have done for other teams this season.
Matt Garza – 0-3, 4.11 ERA, 1.25 FIP, 12.03 K/9
Chris Young – 1-0, 1.46 ERA, 2.55 FIP, 8.76 K/9
Brandon Webb – Has Not Pitched
Justin Duchsherer – Has Not Pitched
Cliff Lee – 2-2, 4.18 ERA, 2.79 FIP, 10.86 K/9
Carl Pavano – 202, 5.12 ERA, 4.34 FIP, 4.83 K/9
Jeff Francis – 0-2, 4.06 ERA, 4.07 FIP, 4.65 K/9
Jorge de la Rosa – 3-0, 3.00 ERA, 3.17 FIP, 7.50 K/9
Javier Vasquez – 1-2, 5.12 ERA, 5.73 FIP, 5.12 K/9
Zack Greinke - Has Not Pitched
(Stats through 4/26)
On the surface it seems that none of the Nats targets have done exceptionally well this season, aside from Jorge de la Rosa, who was a long shot for the Nationals from the start. If you dig a little deeper though, looking at FIP instead of ERA, guys like Matt Garza and Cliff Lee have been amazing early on. That was to be expected from Lee, but Garza has reinvented himself as a pitcher, striking people out at ridiculous rates. He's easily the best 0-3 pitcher in the league.
Garza, de la Rosa, and Lee were the "safe" bets in that group. They were the pitchers who were expected to do well, while the other guys represented low risk, high reward gambles. So far it seems like the only gamble which has paid off is Chris Young, but he has still made just three starts and got hit pretty hard by the Nationals last night. Webb and Duchsherer have both proven to be not healthy, and Carl Pavano and Javier Vasquez may have turned the page towards the final years of their career as they are struggling to make outs like they once could.
Zack Greinke was a slight risk, as his lackluster 2010 numbers led some to wonder if his 2009 Cy Young performance was a fluke, however he has not been able to take the mound yet to prove one way or the other. He injured himself in a pick up basketball game in spring training and has missed all of his starts so far this season as a result. Meanwhile, the Nationals swept the Milwaukee Brewers last week, just months after Greinke refused a trade to Washington because he wanted to go to a winning team.