It’s no secret that the Washington Nationals’ starting pitching rotation is really, really good. But this weekend when Edwin Jackson’s ERA dipped below the three mark, something truly incredible happened: the Nationals became the only team whose qualified starters all sport sub-three ERAs. Thirteen major league teams can’t say that they have even one qualified starting pitcher with an ERA that low, let alone that they have a whole staff of them.
Stephen Strasburg (2.60), Gio Gonzalez (2.78), Jordan Zimmermann (2.89) and Edwin Jackson (2.91) are now all members of the under-three club. Ross Detwiler is the only outlier with a 3.52 ERA, but this week he will have just 11 starts to their 15 and is not yet considered qualified. Combined, the five pitchers’ ERA is a league leading 3.04, and in a quick shout out to the bullpen, which has been holding up their end of the deal as well, their overall team ERA also leads the majors at 2.98.
At the beginning of the season, it was easy to regard the Nationals’ insane pitching numbers as a fluke. No one can sustain numbers that low for long, right? Wrong. The Nats have done it, and as we approach the All-Star break, it is becoming undeniable that the Nats have the best starting rotation in baseball this season.
Being the best always warrants comparison, and the Nats can stand up against any measure of statistic juxtaposition.
There are only five teams with multiple qualified starters with ERAs under three (six if you give the New York Mets’ Johan Santana’s 3.00 ERA a tiny bit of leeway). From those teams come the top five starting rotations in the majors so far this year.
Ranked by starting ERA, those teams are:
- Washington Nationals (3.04)
- Los Angeles Dodgers (3.33)
- San Francisco Giants (3.44)
- Los Angeles Angels (3.52)
- New York Mets (3.58)
Note: The Chicago White Sox is the sixth team that has two qualified starters with sub-three ERAs (Jake Peavy 2.84, Chris Sale 2.27), but due to the struggles of their other starters, they find themselves with a 12th-place 3.94 starter ERA.
What distinguishes the Nationals from the above teams is that their first-place ERA isn’t the only stat they can boast about. Those other teams may have one or two shiny stats, while their others fall lower in the rankings, but the Nationals are leaders across the board. The Nats’ starters not only have the best ERA, but they also have the least home runs allowed (36), the least hits allowed (365), the lowest opponent batting average (.227) and the lowest WHIP (1.14). Of those four teams, they have walked the fewest batters (132) and have struck out the second most (408). And, they are just three strikeouts away from overtaking the Mets in that category.
The numbers don’t lie. The hype surrounding the Nationals’ pitching staff isn’t just coming from enamored fans of a historically bad ballclub who aren’t used to having exciting, talented players to cheer for. With nearly half of the season under their belt, the Nats are beyond exaggerated hype. They are really that good.
The hype surrounding the Nationals’ pitching staff isn’t just coming from enamored fans of a historically bad ballclub who aren’t used to having exciting, talented players to cheer for.
And we're just two rotation turns away from having completed half a season, so you can't say that this is an anomaly.