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Nationals pitching and the wrong kind of change

I don't know what the exact point of this post is, other than to add some sort of perspective to what's going on with the Nationals pitching staff. Like any stat at this time of the season, the disclaimer is that the sample is awfully small.

Anyway, here goes. Here's a comparison between the Nationals' pitching through eight games, last year and this year:

2009: 56 runs, 82 hits, 30 walks .305 average against, 6.95 ERA

2010: 58 runs, 85 hits, 44 walks, .305 average against, 7.30 ERA

Okay, now here are all of the pitchers who contributed to that mess in 2009:

John Lannan
Julian Tavarez
Wil Ledezma
Steven Shell
Mike Hinckley
Scott Olsen
Joe Beimel
Joel Hanrahan
Daniel Cabrera*
Saul Rivera
Shairon Martis

*Do you realize he was the THIRD starter last year?

And now here are the 2010 pitchers so far:

John Lannan
Jesse English
Miguel Batista
Jason Bergmann
Sean Burnett
Brian Bruney
Jason Marquis
Matt Capps
Tyler Walker
Tyler Clippard
Craig Stammen
Garrett Mock
Livan Hernandez

So the Nationals constructed a complete overhaul of their pitching staff from the beginning of last year until now -- Lannan, as you can see, is the only one who threw a pitch the first week both last season and this season. Everything has changed except the results.

Obviously, the overriding circumstance this season is that five of eight games have come against the Phillies, perhaps the best lineup in the major leagues. But still, there's a difference between taking some lumps against a great hitting team and an unmitigated disaster. Not to panic eight games into the season, but it sure seems like the Nationals are tilting closer toward the latter.

By Adam Kilgore  |  April 15, 2010; 11:45 AM ET
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Next: Nationals place Garrett Mock on the disabled list


Meanwhile, the Senators pitched 11 scoreless innings in a loss before giving up a run in the 12th.

How about bringing up Harrisburg's entire pitching staff and sending all our guys now?

Free Storen!

Posted by: cassander | April 15, 2010 12:12 PM | Report abuse

"There are different road maps for building a team. But on any compass, starting pitching will be magnetic north. We don't have to go out and get it. It's here."

--Stan Kasten, March 13, 2010

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | April 15, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Phillies or not, no way you stake Stammen to those two leads and he can't even get out of the second.

Tired of our basing our view on a couple of good starts by these guys; at some point we need guys who can take the ball and give us hope. Sad when Livo is the guy that is giving us hope 1/5 starts for us.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | April 15, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Im freaking out

Posted by: Cartaldo | April 15, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Its mostly the starters ... although Bruney looked terrible last night. And although Clippard threw strikes they did manage some good hits against him. Burnett was terrible. Batista pitched the ninth but by then the game was over.

Posted by: periculum | April 15, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately, I remember/realize all to well that Cabrera was a third starter last year.

Posted by: NatsFanNYC | April 15, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

"There are different road maps for building a team. But on any compass, starting pitching will be magnetic north. We don't have to go out and get it. It's here."

--Stan Kasten, March 13, 2010

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | April 15, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse


Well, there's the problem there. Stan Kasten's plan for traveling up didn't adjust for declination.

Posted by: Section506 | April 15, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

This whole "pitch to contact" philosophy is completely wrong unless you have a great sinker or a 95MPH fastball with some serious movement. I doubt Livan is "pitching to contact" and you best believe Greg Maddux didn't either. No one philosophy fits everyone's talent. Any professional organization should know that. Time to adapt the proper pitching philosophy for each individual pitcher according to their strengths.

Posted by: Kolchak | April 15, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

DFA for Bergmann, per Zuckerman.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 15, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

The Lerner's and StanK either need to pony up at least the league average in payroll or sell and get out.

This low budget, bottom 5 payroll, signability picks in the draft, bare bones scouting staff crap, has got to end.

Put up the money for this team to have a chance at being successful or get the hell out.

Posted by: Section505203 | April 15, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

"This whole "pitch to contact" philosophy is completely wrong unless you have a great sinker or a 95MPH fastball with some serious movement."

It's not wrong, it's just that somehow our pitchers missed that it's "pitch to contact low in the zone", and not waste high and down the middle.

Posted by: Section506 | April 15, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Kilgore scooped by Zuckerman. Bergmann DFA'd.

Posted by: NatsNut | April 15, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

The lack of talent is painful to watch. Bergmann didn't have a good enough pitch to put Ruiz away and ultimately just gave up, and everything went downhill from there. Batista doesn't belong on a major league roster, and that is probably true of Bruney and Capps and maybe even Burnett. As to the starters, they need to send a strong enough message by demoting someone -- anybody but Hernandez -- to Vermont if not lower -- to re-learn the fundamentals of the game, e.g., the strike zone.

Posted by: TheophilusS | April 15, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

I think Boz sums it up nicely:

Recently I walked with a top executive of a MLB team all around Nats Park. He said it had one of the "five best upper decks in baseball." But he was worrified by the red tent on top of the gargage in leftfield thjat blocks lots of views and was amazed that the Lerners had put it up there on purpose. Also, he said, "What is that one building beyond leftfield that blocks the view of the Capitals from so many seats in the upper deck."

I said, "That's the Lerner's own office building (20 M Strtett). They thought that lots of others would get built, so it wouldn't make a difference. But nobody else built. Anmd now that office building is empty."

He just shook his head.

So, I'd just say that there would be about three times as many views "of the Capital lights at night" if the Lerners themselves hadn't blocked them. And continue to do so with the garage tent (to high-end fet season ticket holders), that blocks about 800 Gallery level seats.

Posted by: dclifer97 | April 15, 2010 1:21 PM | Report abuse

of all our glaring problems, it's our inability to get the opposing pitcher out that really shows our pitchers must be clueless.

Why are you getting behind to a pitcher? It's not like he'll hit it if you do put it over the plate, so stop pussyfooting around and throw the darn ball over the plate already. It's a frakin' free out, take it and move on. sheesh!

Posted by: Rogueone | April 15, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

8 games in we are beter than last year 3-5 vs. 1-7. Last year we would not have taken 2 out of 3 from the Mets. Let's hope that Olsen gets the job done tonight and the bats stay hot.

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7

Posted by: adhardwick | April 15, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Actually, Adam tweeted the Bergmann news at the same time that Zuckerman posted on his blog. Ben G. tweeted that Bergmann was in Riggleman's office. Ladson tweeted that the Nats were set to option English but changed their minds after last night's performances. Adam's latest tweet is this quote from Bergmann:

Bergmann: "I got fired from my job today. This is probably the worst day of my life right now."


I used to hate Twitter, but now I'm addicted.

Posted by: Section222 | April 15, 2010 1:33 PM | Report abuse

so, if you have a team and farm system full of pitchers unable to last more than 5 innings, would it be possible to simply build a rotation where the 'starter' goes 4, then the 2nd 'starter' goes the next 4, and your relief/closer comes in for the 9th? could it be any worse that it is now?

forget situational pitching, just find 8 guys who can throw for 4 innings, that covers at least 4 games, then one or two normal starters who can go 7 (right now, we'd be limited to Livan i think, how sad).

Posted by: Rogueone | April 15, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Good luck to you Jason. I hope they don't trash you in the media as they did last year to some of the pitchers when the firings started. Most of these guys have played the game all of their lives and a DFA is hard to take. This pitching staff is not much better than the 2009 why not look at the builder of this mess for once. Most people were pretty quick to blame Bowden last year. Again good luck Jason. Truly wish the best for you.

Posted by: fanofnats | April 15, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

"How about bringing up Harrisburg's entire pitching staff and sending all our guys now?"

The whole point of this blog entry ought to be that just because you change the cast of characters doesn't mean you get a better performance.

You're certainly not going to improve matters by promoting a bunch of AA pitchers to the major league level.

Posted by: Fairfax6 | April 15, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

A cross-post, in the hope Jason Bergmann sees it:

I wish Bergmann well. I was going to say I hope he passes through waivers and goes to Syracuse, but perhaps I hope instead that he is claimed by an AL team, and finds the success we hoped he'd have here.

Jason Bergmann is a class act; maybe there is yet another chapter to be written.


Posted by: kevincostello | April 15, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse

Seems like last season, the Nats had whole bunches of low-salary pitchers (starters and relief) and just held season-long tryouts until, somewhere in the second half of the season, the staff settled down some. Not that they were good, but they became less awful (and enabled Riggleman to be viewed as an improvement over Acta).

Because that strategy worked last season (at least financially), the Nats are doing the same this season. If you have low baseball expectations, you can still make a nice profit by getting 20,000 fans to watch the games and pay MLB prices. Hey, it's business!

Posted by: EdDC | April 15, 2010 2:06 PM | Report abuse

"I think Boz sums it up nicely:"

Ya gotta wonder about Boz. He tells two flat-out lies to some clueless out-of-towner and then has the gall to use the guy's response to try to bolster his own point. The lies? (a) That Lerner office building was pretty much finished by the time they bought the team. (b) That building is not empty now, it's 70% sold. So they didn't build an empty building just to screw their own fans. And it's also a fabrication to say that "nobody else built." The truth is that others did try to build, but were foiled by the economy. I guess that out-of-town executive didn't notice the ginormous hole in the ground across the street from the stadium and ask what was up with that?

The only reasonable point in that whole Boz screed was the red tent complaint. But even there, the only view it really screws up is from the $5 seats and the landing next to them. Everywhere else in the upper deck you could barely see the Capitol even before they put up the tent, because the construction cranes were blocking the view already. And those cranes were just placeholders for the buildings that sooner or later will go up and block the view. So the complaint if anything should not be that the view is blocked - because it was going to be blocked sooner or later anyway - but that the stuff blocking the view is ugly. They really need to do something to make those garages look better (the banners are pretty dirty now in addition to being ugly) and they really need to put something in that spot above the Red Loft where the giant baseball was supposed to be. That's the view from the seats that's screwed up, not the view of the Capitol which the architects never intended in the first place.

Posted by: nunof1 | April 15, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

You can't make the LF garages prettier. They need to come down. What about several layers of townhouses with old-time street lamps and curved streets, with kids playing ball on the front lawns and barbeque parties (with folks watching the games from their front steps and us watching them between innings)? The streets could be tiered in an interesting way. You could have parking below, underground.

Here is the story on the hideous garages. Not exactly the Warehouse at O's Park, is it?

Posted by: EdDC | April 15, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse

My main complaint on the tent on top of garage A is that if they put the tent on garage B it wouldn't block the view from LF. And the view from RF is already blocked by the existing buildings...

Posted by: comish4lif | April 15, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

As a fellow Rutgers alu, I'm sad to see him go - as a Nats fan, I'm sadder that he didn't pitch well enough to keep his job.

Posted by: comish4lif | April 15, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Jason "I haven't pitched a scoreless inning in 3 years and I was still in the majors" Bergman? Gimme a break -- it is wanting to keep Class A players like him and their low salaries that hurts this team. He should have been cut 2 years ago if not before. Maybe that constant shell-shocked look on his face appeals to some, but there was a well-earned reason for it.

Posted by: grclarkdc1 | April 15, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

grclark, Bergmann's last scoreless outing of more than two outs was on October 3 last year, when he allowed one hit and no runs in one and two-thirds innings, with one walk and two strike outs.

Since then he's pitched 2.2 innings (a third of an inning was on Oct 4, 2009), with four runs on three hits, and one walk, three strike outs, and two home runs.

Posted by: Section506 | April 15, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

"My main complaint on the tent on top of garage A is that if they put the tent on garage B it wouldn't block the view from LF."

If they put the tent on top of the other garage, the scoreboard would block the view of the field for people inside the tent. That has to be the reason they chose to put it on the LF garage. Remember, the whole point of selling any seat in the stadium - including the space inside the tent - is for the ticket buyer to be able to watch the game. They're selling baseball, not Capitol view sightseeing, after all.

Posted by: nunof1 | April 15, 2010 2:57 PM | Report abuse

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