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Early Returns On A Green Rotation

Going back five days -- or one turn through the rotation -- the Nats have used starting pitchers who are 23, 22, 24, 25 and 22. Four are rookies. The oldest was making his major league debut. Between them, they now have 67 career starts.

Perhaps Washington's season is beyond salvation, but the organization is depending on the young arms to provide any silver lining.

Though it coincides with a week when Washington's bats have finally started to cool -- a predictable regression, after weeks of backbreaking labor -- the full-blown youth rotation has delivered encouraging results the first time through. You never want to get over-excited by early returns, especially when it comes to pitchers with one career start. But their relevance to this team's long-term future translates relevance to every start they make, as our understanding of their potential increases.

A quick recap of the recent week...

May 18, Ross Detwiler -- 5 IP, 4 H, 2 ER. He threw strikes (61 of his 84 pitches), struck out six and didn't walk anybody.

May 19, Shairon Martis -- 6 IP, 5 H, 5 ER. Martis let up three of his runs in the first, but didn't allow a hit after the third. The recovery kept the Nats in the game.

May 20, John Lannan -- 7 IP, 7 H, 1 ER. Perhaps the sharpest start of the lefty's season. He threw more curveballs on this night than in his previous starts combined.

May 21, Craig Stammen -- 6-1/3 IP, 4 H, 4 ER. Almost perfect for six innings, Stammen only ran into trouble the third time through the lineup.

May 22, Jordan Zimmermann -- 7 IP, 6 H, 2 ER. His best start of the season.

Before this week, Nats starters had gone seven innings only four times. Now, in five games, they've gotten such a performance twice. This group, in its previous five games, has pitched 31-1/3 innings. The best part? They've combined for just six walks. They threw a combined 455 pitches during this span -- in other words, 14.5 per inning. Especially for Stammen and Detwiler, the challenges will toughen. Both got their first starts against the weak-hitting Pirates in a near-empty stadium. Detwiler gets start No. 2 tonight. Stammen will start next on Tuesday, at Citi Field. The Nats' next two road opponents, New York and Philadelphia, might have the most imposing lineups in the NL. The Mets lead the league in hitting. Philadelphia is second in runs. Plus, rookie pitchers often run into difficulties the more they pitch; opponents collect video, learn more about their tendencies, and make the right adjustments.

But for far?

"It's good," Manager Manny Acta said, "that these younger guys have set the tone."

By Chico Harlan  |  May 23, 2009; 9:41 AM ET
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Next: Tonight's Lineups


Got new posted

Went to the game last night. This loss is clearly on our hitting, not the bullpen. Wells pitched two innings, 20 out of 28 pitches were strikes. He just got snakebit, although he bears some responsibility for Baez's hit. Everyone seems to think that no one had a play on that ball, but if Wells had stayed away from it and let Zim charge it, Zim might have made the play. If you watch the replay, you can see Zim back off because he thinks Wells is going to pick it up and throw to first. Perhaps Baez would have beat it out anyway, but Wells should have at least let the best fielding third baseman in the league take a shot at it.

Nonetheless, Wells pitched decently, as did the entire bullpen. But when you get one hit in the last eight innings, you're going to lose. At least this time, we didn't lose because of errors, wild pitches, or walks. That sure was a nice change.

Thanks to Chico for the reporting about RZnn's preparation for the game. Someone asked Acta about that in the post game interview and he blew the question off, saying something like, "well, he got hit in the second inning rather than the first, so I guess it didn't matter much." Lame.

Posted by: Section222 | May 23, 2009 9:47 AM | Report abuse

"Thanks to Chico for the reporting about RZnn's preparation for the game. Someone asked Acta about that in the post game interview and he blew the question off, saying something like, "well, he got hit in the second inning rather than the first, so I guess it didn't matter much." Lame."

1 walk and a game ERA of 2.57 w/ 7 K's. I would say it did matter!!! Great game Jordan Zimmermann!!!

Have you noticed when Guzy isn't getting on base, the offense just doesn't click.

Posted by: dmacman88 | May 23, 2009 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Timely piece, Chico - thanks.

Still a small sample size for Detwiler & Stammen, but at least the team should feel like they have an honest chance for a win every night with the current rotation. Here are some more numbers for all you 'seam-heads'...

Current SP staff: 26 starts, 152 IP, 15.7 P/IP, 1.43 WHIP, .247 BAA, 4.56 ERA, 9-4 W-L. If you include Olsen & Cabrera's numbers, it still isn't horrible, but shows how much damage was being taken by the #2 & 3 starters: 42 starts, 232.1 IP, 16.6 P/IP, 1.64 WHIP, .281 BAA, 5.27 ERA, 10-13 W-L.

The bullpen is another story for another time.

Posted by: BinM | May 23, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Section 222;

I totally agree than Manny Acta's comments about J Zimm were lame. He's got to be feeling the heat -- I mean a picture of one of the owners and a chicken can only get you so much time.

Manny is frustrated because he's in over his head. He's clueless because his formulas don't tell him what to do.

But like you said. J Zimm pitched a pretty good ball game. Manny can go suck eggs and start rummaging for empty card board boxes for all I care.

Posted by: randy_boyd | May 23, 2009 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Chico's caution about other teams having a better shot at our young starters once they have video and scouting to work with is important. If I remember correctly, Balester had some pretty good starts when he first came up last year, and Johnny and Ray thought he was the second coming.

Posted by: Section222 | May 23, 2009 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Can I just say, as we gear up for his start tonight, how much I liked watching Detwiler the other day? I don't mean how many hits or walks or runs he gave up; I just mean watching him. Something about that long, thin frame and his delivery -- he just looked like he was pouring the ball into the strike zone at what, 94 mph? Really just beautiful.

(A pretty delivery isn't nearly enough to succeed in the bigs. It's just an observation. I didn't get a chance to say it before, so I'm mentioning it now.)

Posted by: Scooter_ | May 23, 2009 11:16 AM | Report abuse

The Nats have fielded better lately, and I do not think it a coincidence that they have pitched better too. Not the whole story, but a big and often undervalued part of the equation. Maxwell/Harris helps quite a bit in center (although I would still have Langerhans there so Max can get his ABs in the minors to develop properly)

I am glad that Detwiler pitched well in his first start, but he needs to go back to the minors to continue to reinforce his mechanics outside of the limelight. His potential is too high for them to chance a real setback for him if he tries to do that here at the MLB level. He really has only had a couple of starts where he has pitched like this. The age of this staff is ok (in other words, I do not mind such a vigorous youth movement with the expected ups and downs), but they need to have some veterans to fall back on if/when these guys falter so that they don't leave them in there getting their heads bashed in. That can really derail a young pitcher's progression.

And since Manny gets bashed here quite a bit, let me say that I really liked how he took out Bergmann as soon as he gave up that walk (4 pitches, I think). It reinforces to Bergy what is important (throwing strikes), and also prevents an implosion by Bergmann, which has been his history as soon as he hits a rough patch. Now he mostly has a scoreless inning in his mind to build upon, with a reminder to throw strikes.

Posted by: Willy2 | May 23, 2009 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Who's pitching tonight? I'm going and will be screaming from 314. If you don't like Screaming, well then you shouldn't be AT the game.

By the way, I haven't been to a Sunday game. How are the autograph lines organized? A little input please.


Posted by: CALSGR8 | May 23, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

I've been to lots of Sunday games. What's an autograph line?

(And it's Detwiler tonight.)

Posted by: Scooter_ | May 23, 2009 11:43 AM | Report abuse

The team site says Detwiler and Uehara. I've been to Sunday games but haven't tried the autograph lines so I can't help there. Hope somebody else will know. Have fun and do some screaming for me!

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 23, 2009 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Here's your cola, Scooter....glug glug glug...

They have an autograph session before Sunday games with designated players. I think that it's around the Miller Beer Pen area (or whatever it's called) but don't quote me on that.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 23, 2009 11:48 AM | Report abuse

hmm, no posting allowed on the latest Baseball Insider, evidently due to site maintenance. So, I'll have to complain bitterly and post here instead. ;-)

Baseball Insider mode on: What, no Planes, Trains, and Automobiles clip? Best...Road Movie...Ever. IMHO. Have a good trip, CJ and Cameron!: Baseball Insider mode off.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 23, 2009 12:04 PM | Report abuse


Last year the autograph lines before Sunday were set up on the third base side, down at the first row. They had two or three players at a time, each separated by a couple of sections and each with their own line. They were there for about 15-20 minutes, and if you got there early enough, you might be able to get 2 autographs.

Posted by: ramgut | May 23, 2009 12:35 PM | Report abuse

@willy2 -- I think Bergmann was pulled last night after one batter in the 10th mainly because the O's sent up a left handed pinch hitter and Beimel was available. I wondered about that move because the pinch hitter was going to bunt anyway. And Bergmann had been sharp in the 9th -- 7 pitches, all strikes. The really interesting thing was that later in the inning the Nats intentionally walked Jones to get to the left handed Markakis. Luckily it worked out. Well kinda.

Posted by: Section222 | May 23, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

MLB Trade Rumors:

Earlier today, we heard that the Nationals had offered Nick Johnson to the Red Sox in exchange for Manny Delcarmen. WEEI's Alex Speier is reporting that the Red Sox have officially turned the offer down.

According to Delcarmen's agent, Jim Masteralexis, the trade was "immediately shot down." Both Delcarmen and Johnson are having fine seasons, but it looks like the Nationals will have to try something else in order to improve their bullpen.

Posted by: Imjustlikemusiq | May 23, 2009 1:17 PM | Report abuse

All I have to say is thank goodness. We need more for NJ than Delcarmen.

Posted by: Imjustlikemusiq | May 23, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse

The thing about trading NJ is who is going to play first base? We don't have a strong 1st base prospect. We can't put Dunn there from a defensive standpoint.

I'd still do the deal though of Delcarmen for Nick. For Nick Johnson, I'd want a proven middle reliever who is an upgrade over Hanrahan to take our closer spot. Delcarmen has pitched 19 innings with a .95 ERA, is a young arm, and has postseason experience. It could work for both teams by around the trading deadline.

I'd still like to see Tyler Clippard and Zinacola given a shot at the bullpen. The plan should be to move Nick around the deadline if we've exhausted all options for middle relief help or we see a reliever on the rise that we can't refuse.

Any ideas about what's in the Mets system? I've heard they're interested in Johnson as well.

Posted by: souldrummer | May 23, 2009 1:42 PM | Report abuse

I am firmly in the trade Nick Johnson camp. But not for relief pitching. Belliard gets you a relief pitcher. Johnson gets you a young starter or 1st baseman or centre fielder.

Posted by: soundbloke | May 23, 2009 1:43 PM | Report abuse

"Any ideas about what's in the Mets system? I've heard they're interested in Johnson as well."

The guy I'd go after on the Mets is Parnell. He's their best MR. I don't know if they would trade him for NJ though. Depends on whether they wanna stick Murph at first, which seems to have been working out.

If NJ gets traded, I see Eldred getting called up to play 1st.

At this point, I'm firmly in the trade NJ camp. Earlier this year, he had little value, now, he has some value, and when, not if, he gets injured, he'll have no value. So lets get rid of him now, because at the end of the year he's gone anyway and we have a more pressing need for a solid reliever.

Posted by: grandstander | May 23, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

I know there's incentive to trade NJ, but can't the FO make at least a token effort to sign him instead? It's a crap shoot, given his injuries, but anybody could get hurt. Without him, the Nats would need a competent first baseman, and none of the trade speculation indicates they'd solve that problem. Eldred is not the answer.

It's Dunn the Nats ought to try to move -- to an AL team in need of offense. It would be reasonable to expect a good return for him. Throw Kearns in with him for a box of balls or a couple of bats.

Posted by: nats24 | May 23, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse


NJohnson, given his age (30), occaisional gap-power & propensity for injury might get the Nationals a ML middle-reliever or a minor-league SU-CL at this point in the season. He's an injury-prone 1B, with moderate power - Don't "pull a Bowden" and over-value him.

Posted by: BinM | May 23, 2009 2:18 PM | Report abuse

NJ is a tough one, since as many people have said, it is all about the injuries with him. If you knew that he would stay healthy, I would like to resign him for a few years. Although it seems like he came up with the Yankees a million years ago, I think that he is only 30, and should perform at a comparable pace for another 2-3 years, and he is not blocking anyone for the next few years (best case). And although he is youngish, he is a veteran who seems to stabilize everyone, particularly Zim. Even though they are building from the ground up, they shouldn't be young at every position. They need a few leaders who can produce on the field, too. On this team, it is NJ and Dunn only. So, since other teams usually have a few of these kinds of guys, I think that he actually has more value to the Nats than another team.

But more than with most players, you don't know that about Nick. So I think that I would discuss extension with him while I was talking to other clubs. If the extension was reasonable (2 yr/$8m with some upside for games played?), I would be inclined to do it. If I was wowed by a trade offer, I would do it (and DelCarmen would be close, as would Bobby Parnell, the name that I have seen associated with the Mets). And if I had the sense that he wasn't interested in reupping, I would take the best offer, whatever it was. I doubt that he is a Type A or B.

Posted by: Willy2 | May 23, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse


Good call on Parnell, but I'd ask for more from the Mets (Omar [the franchise killer] Minaya is still their GM, yes?) for NJohnson. From anyone else, a solid relief pitcher (or two prospects) might be enough to get a deal done.

Posted by: BinM | May 23, 2009 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Additionally, if Nick Johnson gets traded, I'd think that Eldred finishes the year at 1B for the Nationals. The other option would be DaMeat, if the FO & Team mgmt. thinks he is ready to go in a starting role.

It may be that the FO is laying back for DaMeat being close to ready before moving NJohnson.

Posted by: BinM | May 23, 2009 2:47 PM | Report abuse

>NJohnson, given his age (30), occaisional gap-power & propensity for injury might get the Nationals a ML middle-reliever or a minor-league SU-CL at this point in the season. He's an injury-prone 1B, with moderate power - Don't "pull a Bowden" and over-value him.

It's mainly the fact that he's a free agent this year. They'd have to sign-and-trade if they wanted to get anyone decent at all. You just have to find a team that can carry a singles hitting first baseman. I guess he's got more power than someone like Varitek or Youklis though.

Posted by: Brue | May 23, 2009 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Lineups up. ^

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 23, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

What about Dunn for Lars Anderson, the stud Red Sox 1B

Posted by: Imjustlikemusiq | May 23, 2009 5:21 PM | Report abuse

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