Adam Kilgore tweeted today that an MRI revealed that Nationals starting pitcher Jason Marquis has loose bodies in his throwing elbow. While he will get a second opinion tomorrow, it is likely that he will miss time. The local beat reporters have suggested that Luis Atilano will earn the start in Marquis place on Friday. Atliano is 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA in two starts this season with Syracuse.
"For the clubs biggest winter investment, something has to be wrong. Marquis threw 28 pitches this afternoon, reaching a maximum speed of only 89.2 MPH. His bread-and-butter pitch, his sinker, was only averaging 87.95 MPH on the day, and his fastball was only averaging 85.9 MPH. It appears his release point has slightly raised while his velocity has dropped. The result? Clearly Marquis is having trouble getting batters out...But still at the age of 31 his sudden poor play isn't likely do to an early decline, however it leaves some to speculate, does Jason Marquis have some sort of lurking arm injury?"
The second opinion tomorrow will reveal how bad this injury is, but it's very possible when it's all said and done this could be a huge setback for the right-hander and for the franchise.
Washington Nationals top prospect Stephen Strasburg pitched five strong innings today allowing only one hit. The righty struck out six and walked only one batter. So far on the season for AA-Harrisburg he has pitched 12.1 innings, allowed one earned on seven hits and three walks...he has also struck out 17 batters.
"He's doing the things he needs to do to progress to the next level. You can see from the stretch he's gathering himself a little more, and not losing any velocity, which is something we were worried about. He's about 1.24, 1.25 [seconds to home plate], which is where we want him to be. He also handles the bat. Offensively, he knows what he's doing.... The stuff is solid, and the little nuances he's getting a feel for. The changeup has come a long way, even since spring training. That's a real weapon for him now."
Analysis: He should be up in Syracuse soon. It's becoming evident to just about everyone that he is only in the minors for financial reasons. Hopefully when he finally does make it to Washington they will still be somewhere near .500 and he can help them compete. If he can't be in the majors right now, Strasburg needs to be pitching in AAA, not AA. He isn't gaining anything by pitching against players who are slightly above college level talent.
After 12 games, the Syracuse Chiefs find themselves atop the International League North Division with a record of 8-4. A number of players have stood out for the Chiefs in this young season. The offense has been paced so far by second baseman Chase Lambin, who has hit a scorching .367 with a .441 on-base percentage and .567 slugging percentage in nine games. Just behind him are Kevin Mench (.351/.435/.459) and Roger Bernadina (.333/.375/.500). On the mound, starters J.D. Martin and Luis Atilano have been very impressive. In three outings, Martin is 1-0 with a 2.95 ERA, while Atilano is 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA in his two starts. If these two continue to post numbers like this, it remains entirely possible that they are called upon to plug the gaps in the Nationals' underperforming rotation.
Well that one got out of hand fast...Just as the Nationals did the game following Livan Hernandez's stellar four hit shutout, Washington allowed 10 earned runs early Tuesday night to the Rockies following Craig Stammen's eight inning performance on Monday.
Olsen's start was disappointing to say the least. The left-hander had a solid outing in his first start against the Phillies, pitching 5.2 innings, allowing only five hits and four earned runs with five strikeouts. For a guy who was disappointingly left off the opening day roster, it was good to see him assert himself after only a few weeks in the minors. Yesterday, however, we saw significant regression from a pitcher who has seemingly only regressed since his strong rookie campaign for Florida in 2006.
In the past Olsen's success has lived and died on his slider. In 2006 and 2008 when he had above average seasons the pitch has ranked a 12.1 and a 13.2 respectively on FanGraphs pitch type value scale. In 2009 it was only average and he struggled to get batters out with his well below average fastball. In his first start against Philadelphia on Apr. 15 he threw the slider 20 times for 15 strikes, including 5 swinging strikes, making it easily his most effective pitch on the night. Last night however in Olsen's short start he threw 17 fastballs, 27 change ups, and not one slider according to PitchFX. Not...one.
What can we make of that? Apart from his curious pitch selection his release point also seemingly dropped and he threw way more two-seam fastballs than four-seam fastballs. Regardless, the catcher, Ivan Rodriguez, was the same, the opposing line-up was less potent, and this time he was at home. So where did the slider go?
Olsen struggled early and often in the 10-4 loss. In just two innings on the mound he allowed six earned runs on seven hits and a walk. After a quick first inning where he retired the side in order, he allowed two in a shakey second before failing to record an out in the third before getting yanked. The Nationals attempted to mount a comeback in the fifth and sixth innings but even with a two-run homer from Ryan Zimmerman and two runs singled in by Desmond and Guzman were only able to raise their win expectancy to 2.6%. The Nationals simply build too big a hole for themselves, and despite extending their streak of scoring at least four runs in 10-straight-games.
The Nationals were able to stop the bleeding after the third, not allowing a single run in the final six innings. Jesse English, Brian Bruney, Sean Burnett, and Tyler Clippard each pitched a scoreless frame combining to strike out four and allow only two hits.
At the plate Cristian Guzman had himself a great night going 4-5 with a run and an RBI. Zimmerman followed closely behind going 3-5 with a two-run homer, and Ivan Rodriguez and Justin Maxwell both had two hits each.
To help us better know our current opponent the Colorado Rockies, I sat down to talk to David Martin from Rockies Review, one of the best Rockies blogs on the net. Here is what he had to say.
TNB: Tell us a little bit about the no hitter last week and what went through your mind as you watched it?
Rockies Review: For anyone who has been a long-term Rockies fan, the emotions were incredible. It was another confirmation that the club's "build from within" mentality is paying off in a huge way. There were some tough years for Rockies fans, for those fans who made it through those years seeing the team accomplish something like a no-hitter is an amazing feeling of vindication.
TNB: What has Todd Helton meant to the Rockies franchise, and to you as a fan, throughout his career?
RR: Todd Helton is the Rockies franchise. He is everything that sports fans today want in their hero. In the middle of the rebuilding process, he could have easily told the club that he wanted out. There were plenty of clubs that would have loved a 1st baseman who has a career average above .325, but he stayed. He said that he loved the fans, and loved Colorado and did not want to go anywhere. He is not a guy who likes the spotlight, but still does things that many athletes only do when the cameras are on. I talked to a college student in St. Louis, who was in the hospital five years ago with cancer. Helton came and visited her, never telling her who she was, only asking questions about her. She didn't find out that he was a baseball player until she turned the game on later that night and saw him on TV. There is no ego with Helton. His leadership sets the tone for the Rockies. Many players have said that his "team first" mentality is a huge reason why the Rockies have such a tight-knit clubhouse that plays well together.
TNB: Do you think the Rockies will make the playoffs again this season?
RR: I think that the Rockies have the most talented team that they have ever fielded. However, winning in the National League West is no easy task. While the Dodgers didn't do much to better themselves in the offseason, they still have a powerful lineup and two great starting pitchers. The Giants have a starting rotation that is as good as anyones in the league. If the Rockies can do the little things right like playing good defense and attacking the strike zone on the mound, they have a good chance to win their first ever National League West title.
TNB: Tell us about a Rockies prospect we will see coming up this season.
RR: The Rockies have several prospects in their system that are worth watching. Jhoulys Chacin (pronounced JOE-lease Shasheen) made one start for the Rockies last season after being promoted from Double-A. He has the stuff to be a front-line starter in the big leagues. His slider is as good as anyones in the league. To be effective, the 23 year-old needs to be able to command his fastball so that he can set up his slider.
TNB: What does Jim Tracy bring to the table that Clint Hurdle didn't?
RR: I loved Clint Hurdle. I think he was the perfect fit for the Rockies when they were young and finding their way. However, as a hitting coach for most of his professional coaching career, I don't think that he understood how to manage pitchers. Guys in the bullpen never had set roles and starters were essentially pulled after 100 pitches, regardless of the situation in the game. On the offensive side, Hurdle was too discipline oriented. Slumping hitters would often take seats on the bench, not because a day off would help them, but because they were being punished. It got a little ridiculous in the end. Jim Tracy brings stability and allows players to know where they stand. I think he brings a calming nature to the clubhouse.
TNB: The Rockies are known for having some great commercials, what's your favorite?
RR: The Rockies marketing department is phenomenal. Their commercials never get old, even after150 games on TV per year. There have been several commercials that I really like, I think the Twitter commercial with Todd Helton and Dexter Fowler might be my favorite...that or 2009's "product endorsement" commercial featuring Ubaldo Jimenez saying "If Ubaldo...try Hair Be There."
Following a start that saw him only pitch 1.1 innings and allow seven earned on seven hits, it's safe to say that sophomore starting pitcher Craig Stammen had been waiting anxiously for his start last night. The 26-year-old made the most of it, tossing eight innings of five-hit baseball, striking out five while allowing only two runs en-route to a 5-2 Nationals victory.
The righty dominated the game, never giving Colorado a chance to come back. Following Willie Harris's second inning home run (.211 WPA), the Rockies never had a win expectancy higher than 35.8 percent. Colorado's best chances came when Ian Stewart and Clint Barmes hit back-to-back doubles (-.144 WPA) and scored a run, a rally quickly extinguished when Stammen retired the next three; and when he loaded the bases on a walk, a double, and a single, but only allowed one run on a fielders choice to remain unscathed.
Despite going eight strong innings Stammen tossed an efficient 94 pitches in the outing, 63 for strikes. It was by far his most controlled outing of the season, which reflected far and away the best results. In his first two starts Stammen struggled to find control of a new pitch that he has been trying to implement this year, a slider. Last season he only threw his slider 1.7 % of the time but this year he has thrown it with 23.6% of his pitches. The problem though has been commanding the new "nickel-curve." In Stammen's first outing he tossed it 18 times for six strikes, in his second outing he tossed it 12 times for only seven strikes, in this outing, however, Stammen attacked the strike zone with the slider, tossing it 26 times for 18 strikes.
The result of an effective slider was noticeable. When a pitcher can't throw a breaking pitch for a strike batters will simply ignore it and not swing at it, and then destroy the fastball when it crosses the plate. This is evidenced by Stammen only registering five swinging strikes in his first two starts combined. However, with command over his breaking pitches he had 13 swinging strikes last night alone (eight of which came off his slider). The ability to locate the slider also makes his other pitches better. By creating a threat out of the pitch, it makes it that much harder to anticipate which pitch will come, therefor making his fastball and curveball more dangerous.
Not only was his performance important for the Nationals who improved to 7-6 on the young season, it was important for a young pitcher who projects to be, at best, a third starter on a winning ball club. While the Nationals rotation is slim-pickings now, by the end of this year he will be competing with Stephen Strasburg, Ross Detwiler, Jordan Zimmermann and Chien-Ming Wang for three spots in the Nationals rotation. The first three of those starters have projected top of the rotation talent while Wang is a former ace of a playoff ball club. If Stammen wants to be on this team come September, he needs more outings like the one he had tonight.
-Adam Dunn got on base three-out-of-four plate appearances with two walks and a hit. He scored two runs.
-Willie Harris drove in four runs on two hits.
-Miguel Olivio tossed out two of the faster runners in the game in Nyjer Morgan and Willy Taveras, both attempting to steal second base. Justin Baxwell was picked off first by former National Joe Biemel.
-Matt Capps pitched a scoreless frame to earn his MAJOR LEAGUE LEADING sixth save of the season.
When the Braves lose, they lose BIG. It is hard to believe that despite losing 17-2 in San Diego and being no-hit by the Rockies Ubaldo Jimenez, Atlanta came back to take the last two games to win the series. It is so easy for a team, especially this early in the season and with such a young team, to throw in the towel and give up but they somehow overcame these devastating loses to win in sometimes dramatic fashion. This may be a blessing in disguise by giving this young Brave team a huge boost of confidence knowing that they can put any loss in the past and come out the next day knowing that they can win. Having a short memory is so important in baseball not just with pitchers but for teams as well, and there is no better team at this right now than the Atlanta Braves.
I have always envisioned Maybin as a leadoff hitter and I think that is where he will eventually belong in the league so maybe this is the first step. He is young, athletic, fast, and finally finding a way to get on base, which prompted Florida manager Freddi Gonzalez to make the move. If Maybin does succeed in the leadoff spot, he has the potential to have a "Jose Reyes" type impact on the bases with his speed, which Coughlin could use to his advantage if Gonzalez decides to utilize the hit and run option. At this point it may be Maybin's job to lose, if he flourishes in the role there should be no reason why he would ever be stripped of the duty. So now the question is will he be able to continue his impressive start and at what point would Gonzalez feel it necessary to pull him out of that role?
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times for those fans in attendance at Nats park this weekend. On Saturday, fans were delighted to watch an absolute pitching gem by a pitcher who belongs to a significant part of the franchise's brief history in the District. The following day, those same fans watched their prized offseason acquisition implode on the mound for the second start in a row. In the rubble of destruction from the failure of his first three starts, that pitcher left many unanswered questions as to his future role in the organization. Examining these two pitchers, Livan Hernandez and Jason Marquis, side by side presents an interesting and stark contrast.
Entering free agency, Mike Rizzo and the Nationals had the stated goal of improving the pitching of a team that at one point during the 2009 season featured four rookie starting pitchers and John Lannan, the team's ace by default. Their first move, in what ended up being a relatively busy offseason, was to sign the former Colorado pitcher Jason Marquis to a two year, $15 million contract. The contract would become their most expensive move of the season for the Nationals and Marquis would be touted by the front office as an innings eater and a guy that could serve as a mentor to the young pitchers on the team with similar pitching styles. Marquis made the All-Star team for the National League last season, but then suffered a decline in production during the second half that should have served as a warning sign to the next team that signed him. His ERA jumped from 3.65 to 4.56 and his WHIP went from 1.31 to 1.48. Things got so bad, that the Rockies even decided to leave him out of the NLDS rotation.
Lost in the shuffle of the various signings made by the Nationals this offseason, was the resigning of veteran pitcher Livan Hernandez to a minor league contract. Five years earlier, when baseball returned to Washington D.C., Livan had been the team's stopper. Pitching 246.1 innings with a 3.98 ERA and 15 wins to his name, Hernandez was a large part of the Nationals push for a wild card spot in 2005. He was later traded in 2006 to the Diamondbacks for Matt Chico and Garrett Mock, two players that he beat out in spring training to make this year's team. After getting traded from the Nats, he bounced around to different teams until he resigned with the team last season as they shut down some of their younger pitchers who had reached their inning limits for the year. For his part, Livo, who has not been as sharp as he was for the Nats in 2005, claims that he injured himself by pitching too much late in the season for the team as they made a push for the playoffs. It should be noted, however, that he was not angry about it and also said this spring training that it was the first time since the injury that he was at full strength. In retrospect and based off of early returns, it appears that the Nationals may have offered the wrong guy the guaranteed contract.