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Luis Atilano's importance

On a list of the reasons for the Nationals remaining above .500 roughly one-fourth of the way through the season, Luis Atilano, tonight's starter against the Mets, may not surface near the top. But after Jason Marquis's disastrous start to the season, Atilano has played a primary role in holding the Nationals' rotation together.

Marquis has not pitched since April 18, long enough ago that it's easy to forget the impact the Nationals expected Marquis would have. He was their biggest free agent signing this offseason, a veteran to add to the front of their pitching rotation. If the Nationals knew Marquis would allow 19 earned runs in 8 1/3 innings over three starts and then miss two months because of elbow surgery, they would have probably assumed their pitching rotation would be in tatters.

But it is not, and Atilano is the main reason. In five starts, Atilano is 3-0 with a 3.90 ERA. The Nats have won four of his starts, the only loss coming Saturday in Colorado on an eighth-inning error. He's quietly helped absorb Marquis's wreckage. The pitcher throwing in Marquis's spot is 3-3 with a 7.75 ERA, certainly not what the Nationals wanted but hardly the disaster it could have been.

"He's been huge," Manager Jim Riggleman said. "The word that I mention with him over and over is composure. He was composed from when he took the mound that first day. He continues to pitch with composure. He's given a chance to win each game he's started."

How much longer will Atilano be with the Nationals? When Stephen Strasburg makes his debut, likely on June 4, his addition, barring an injury between now and then, it will mean someone falls out of the Nationals.

Atilano is probably the leading candidate. His WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) is 1.55, and his strikeout-to-walk ration is 0.88. Neither suggests dominance or tremendous continued success. Even if Atilano may have just two starts left, credit him for helping salvage what could have been a ruinous situation.

By Adam Kilgore  |  May 20, 2010; 1:41 PM ET
 
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Comments

Amen. Are there any rumors that the Nationals are interested in Yunesky Maya? The cuban defector might find a home with Livan Hernandez and as a 28-year old with experience competing at high levels, he might be a nice building block.

Posted by: Juliasdad | May 20, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

By the way, Atilano pitched in relief during the spring, so he could slide into the bullpen and the reduction in force might come there.

Posted by: Juliasdad | May 20, 2010 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Atilano has certainly been a pleasant suprise, covering what could have been a gaping hole when Marquis went down. His peripheral numbers may not translate well for use in the bullpen, but who knows what things will look like come June.

Posted by: BinM | May 20, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

Doesn't look like it, Juliasdad:
www.mlbtraderumors.com/2010/05/maya-unblocked-yankees-interested.html

He's said to be looking for a job as a big-league starter right now, which means he'd bump someone here now, about the same time SS does the same, with Detwiler right behind him. Both NY teams and both Sox are said to be interested.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | May 20, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

and of course, the other takeaway here is ammo for the "free agents? who needs 'em?" side.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | May 20, 2010 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Keeping him has to be better than 39 year old Miguel Batista and his 5 home runs (grand slam in there), Batista's 1.57 WHIP, 6.04 ERA? How is it that he can hide in Batista land and no else can?

Posted by: periculum | May 20, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

With Craig Stammen's 5.86 ERA, how can you rationalize keeping him in the rotation and booting Atilano?

Riggleman said he's interested in results. Atilano's results plainly are better than Stammen's.

Posted by: Drew8 | May 20, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

With all due respect to Luis, Stammen is a much better looking dude. Not that I notice that kind of thing, of course.

Kilgore has mentioned several times now that Strasburg is "likely" going to pitch 6/4. There has been plenty of speculation about that series, and it all makes sense. But is there something special about the Friday (as opposed to Saturday 6/5) game? I know they'd like to get him in twice during the homestand, but with six games and an off day, couldn't they start him Saturday and the following Thursday? Sorry to turn this into yet another Strasburg question, but I'm flying back into DC on the morning of Saturday 6/5.

Posted by: bryc3 | May 20, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

As much as I love Livan, I do not see why we do not trade him to a contender down the stretch for some prospects. Even though he is doing great this year, he is not the future of this franchise. We need to keep prospects coming up through our minor league system.

Posted by: Tom8 | May 20, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

bryc3: If SS pitches on 6/5 he presumably wouldn't pitch on 6/10 because there isn't a game scheduled for the intervening Monday. Keeping a 5-man rotation would place him to pitch on the first away game. Pitching him on 6/4 and then again on 6/10 gives him two home starts in front of a likely very friendly crowd (including one against a weak Pirates squad).

Posted by: combedge | May 20, 2010 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Stammen goes first, perhaps to the bullpen for long relief at the expense of Batista or Walker (less likely), or perhaps to the minors.

Then Wang, Detwiller, etc. can perhaps replace someone else if they're not performing.

http://forums.realgm.com/boards/viewforum.php?f=124

Posted by: CJArlington | May 20, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

@Bryc, Combedge: In addition to the reasoning laid out by Comb, pitching SS on 6/4 guarantees two full houses for Nats management on the homestand. As well as they've been playing, attendence continues to be lousy...

Posted by: outsider6 | May 20, 2010 2:48 PM | Report abuse

>>Atilano's results plainly are better than Stammen's.Posted by:Drew8

Amen Bro. I'd take Ati over Stammen anyday. If anything stick Stammen in the pen.

Posted by: dovelevine | May 20, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Barring something unforeseen, I think you can ‘book it’ for SS making his debut on FRI 6/4.

Posted by: gonatsgo1 | May 20, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Thanks guys.

Man, what are the odds? I've been to just about every 'important' game since we got the team, including all the home openers. Now I'm going to miss the debut. Airline wants $180 to cut my trip short one day. And knowing my luck, I'd do that in advance and it would rain.

Posted by: bryc3 | May 20, 2010 2:57 PM | Report abuse

I agree with those that would prefer to keep atilano above stammen and then move him (CS) to the pen, aside form his last start, it was the second and third at bats against guys that were killing him, seems like he'd make sense in the pen, although there's something I just plain don't like about him, not sure quite what

Posted by: bford1kb | May 20, 2010 3:05 PM | Report abuse

>>although there's something I just plain don't like about him, not sure quite what Posted by: bford1kb

Too funny. Said the exact same thing to my kid.

Posted by: dovelevine | May 20, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

On the date Strasburg pitches: Its probably 6/8 against the Pirates.

If something really good happens as in the Nats winning tonight sweeping or winning the series at home against the O's, and winning 6 to 7 out of the 10 games when they swing out west at the end of the month. Especially against SF and SD? Then I think Rizzo has already said he would want Strasburg in the rotation sooner if it looks like they might be winning. Then June 4th.

Posted by: periculum | May 20, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Everyone, please take a moment to exercise your rights as citizens and vote NO on Steinberg's "Should the Nats play 'Sweet Caroline'?" poll.

Posted by: Bethesdangit1 | May 20, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

I hope at the end of another two weeks they make the roster move on results and not on who they think should be better. You have three guys who can start or be long relievers. At this point, I think you DFA Batista and pick Atilano for the rotation over Stammen. But there's a lot of ball left to be played until June 4.

Does anyone know if Bruney and Taveras elected free agency or will join Syracuse soon?

Posted by: Jeff_Jackson | May 20, 2010 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Just noticed that the rest of the N.L. East is in action this afternoon. Here’s the latest:

Reds over Braves in the 7th and Cards over the Fish in the 6th.

And the Cubs just tied it up with the Phillies (4-4) in the 8th. C'mon Cubs.

Sweep!

Posted by: gonatsgo1 | May 20, 2010 3:19 PM | Report abuse

I'm thinking maybe July 6th on Strasburg. They can continue to limit his innings that way and then let him pitch-out the rest of the year.

For fun, I like to see him brought up for the White Sox series. They could invite the President back and he could watch the decimation. (That would teach him a lesson in appropriate headgear).

Posted by: lowcountry | May 20, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Anyone who things Atilano is better than Stammen needs to look a little closer and understand the concepts of luck and small sample sizes. Stammen has far, far better numbers under any advanced statistical analysis. Better K rate, far better walk rate, lower HR rate, far better fielding-independent pitching numbers. He's just a vastly better pitcher.

Some here may not see it, but I promise you that anyone who works in the game sees it, including presumably those in the Nats front office. That's why Strasburg will replace Atilano in two weeks. Frankly, by the time Wang is ready I think the prudent move will be for him to replace Livan, not Stammen. No slight against Livan's magic- Stammen is a solid, major league level starter.

Posted by: Fozzie1 | May 20, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

I wouldn't put Stammen in the pen. He takes too long to get going, gets hit early in the game. If anything, have him skip his first inning and go directly to his second or third! (We could use this impossible strategy a lot, by the way).

Posted by: poncedeleroy | May 20, 2010 3:29 PM | Report abuse

I took the time to vote "yes" on Sweet Caroline, because I don't care a flying Robert Fick what they play on the loud speaker. Seriously, between innings and pitching changes are for buying beer and entertaining kids while you go off to buy beer. I'm there for the baseball.

Posted by: Section506 | May 20, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Fozzie...that was pretty funny man. I would absolutely not call stammen a "solid major league level pitcher" right now. he has a career ERA of 5.33 and his WHIP this year is 1.4.

Posted by: nami322 | May 20, 2010 3:46 PM | Report abuse

506, I opted not to vote because my choice ("I really don't care") was not available. I think I understand the objections -- apparently, some people associate the song with another team -- but don't share them. (Some folks, I'm sure, just don't like the song. I do.)

Posted by: Scooter_ | May 20, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Stammen's era may look worse but if you dig a little deeper you see he's actually the better pitcher right now. Stammen's FIP is 3.84, better than league average. His whip is about league average and his k/bb ratio is pretty good (2.5 to 1). And he's been a little unlucky when looking at BABIP (.323).

Atilano has more walks than strikeouts, a balooning FIP 5.23 and a slightly lucky BABIP .273. He'll regress to the mean and start losing games.

Either way, both are goners from the rotation when Strasburg and Detwiler show up. Unless Lannan's last start is the aberration and not the rule.

Posted by: tboss | May 20, 2010 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Ohhhhhhkayyy then, 506. Just trying to have a little fun. I'll try not to interrupt your superior fandom any more.

Posted by: Bethesdangit1 | May 20, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Agree that both are goners in the not so distant future.

Posted by: nami322 | May 20, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Well, I'm there for the baseball too, 506, but, I mean, "Stop With the Noise and Let Me Watch the Freaking Game" wasn't a choice in the poll. Given that, circle me NO for Sweet Caroline, which does nothing but give Red Sox fans an excuse to lecture me.

Posted by: Section220 | May 20, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

>>Stammen.. takes too long to get going, gets hit early in the game. If anything, have him skip his first inning and go directly to his second or third!Posted by: poncedeleroy

Maybe they should have him pitch an inning or 2 early in the bullpen on his pitching days to warm up.

BTW just purchased my Stras tix for the 4th. Got in just in time. Almost sold out.

Posted by: dovelevine | May 20, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Fozzie beat me to it, a closer look at numbers favors Stammen over Atilano. You don't even need to be a seamhead to see it. For example, Stammen's WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) is 1.40 whereas Atilano's is 1.55. And Stammen's WHIP was 1.29 over 105 innings last year and would be better than that this year if not for a single bad outing on April 13 when he gave up 7 hits and a walk in 1.1 innings. Atilano has made a grand total of 5 starts in the majors and, while he hasn't had a stinker yet, his next start could easily put his ERA above Stammen's. In fact, if he were to give up 6 runs in 3 innings in his next start, his ERA would be a cool 5.86. Would you rather have the guy with 25 strikeouts against 10 walks or the guy with 14 strikeouts against 16 walks? That's right, you'd rather have Craig Stammen. Nothing against Luis, he's been able to fill the hole and hopefully will continue to improve and be an asset in the future. At the moment, however, Stammen is the surer thing and the better pitcher.

Posted by: BobLHead | May 20, 2010 4:00 PM | Report abuse

"Stop With the Noise and Let Me Watch the Freaking Game"

And now, in Section220, I have found my soulmate. The answer I *should* have been looking for.

Posted by: Scooter_ | May 20, 2010 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Sweet Caroline at Nats Park = Abomination

I have voted. Take the song (and the silly usher on the dugout, too)…please.

Posted by: gonatsgo1 | May 20, 2010 4:02 PM | Report abuse

>>BTW just purchased my Stras tix for the 4th. Got in just in time. Almost sold out.


And if they switch dates, looks like me and about 45,000 others will be enjoyin a nice Friday evening at the Paak against the Red Legs.

Posted by: dovelevine | May 20, 2010 4:04 PM | Report abuse

I just never feel confident that Stammen will pitch well enough for the team to win. I don't remember any times where he has gotten himself out of trouble. He does pretty well and then he gets in trouble and can't get out of it. At least that's how I feel from watching him pitch.

Posted by: nami322 | May 20, 2010 4:04 PM | Report abuse

ARRRRR! I just threw a lamp across the room! How dare bethesdaangit interrupt my superfandom! Now I'm stomping on a miniature model of the city! Feel my wrath!

(by way of excuse, I spent the morning chatting with Phillies fans)

Posted by: Section506 | May 20, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Listen I'm not crazy bout Atilano even though I saw him win his debut against the Blue Dodgers. Just don't like Stammen. And like some1 else said, not sure why.

Posted by: dovelevine | May 20, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

>>


Good point. And it occurs to me that the Reds weekend could set some sort of paid attendance record for a 3-game series at the Park – especially if SS gets bumped over to the 6th. Although, I imagine the Bosox series from last summer will be tough to surpass.

Posted by: gonatsgo1 | May 20, 2010 4:09 PM | Report abuse

N.L. East scoreboard watching:

Holy crap! The Braves just walked off the Reds with a grand slam in the bottom of the 9th with 7 runs total scored in the inning.

At one point the Reds had an 8-0 lead. Heckuva pen there, Cincy.

Posted by: gonatsgo1 | May 20, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

nami322, looks like tboss and Bob.L.Head did my replying for me. Stammen has solid underlying numbers, just hasn't been lucky with the BABIP, plus there was that one disastrous outing- and no matter how bad you are on any one day, you can't lose more than one game for your team.

It's pretty clear to me Stammen's a far superior pitcher to Atilano. Glad to see others agree. In fact I think Stammen might actually be the second-best starter on the 25 man roster right now going forward, after Olsen. I have all the respect in the world for what Livan has done, but there's no way his good fortune with men on base can continue. Stammen's really coming into his own, and could easily be a back end starter in what is shaping up as a potential superstar 2011 rotation, or at worst some fantastic trade bait.

Posted by: Fozzie1 | May 20, 2010 4:16 PM | Report abuse

FYI the Braves just scored 7 in the bottom of the 9th to knock off the Reds. Wow.

Posted by: dovelevine | May 20, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

There's the old 506! And, you spent your morning that way because ... you lost an ill-advised bet?

Posted by: Bethesdangit1 | May 20, 2010 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Worse! I was being paid to do it. It just makes me feel cheap and so very dirty.

Posted by: Section506 | May 20, 2010 4:30 PM | Report abuse

You were paid. Dirty, yes. Cheap, no. (I hope.)

Posted by: Section220 | May 20, 2010 4:32 PM | Report abuse

I got my tickets for the 4th, 5th and 6th so SS can debut anytime he wants during that series!

Posted by: markfd | May 20, 2010 5:11 PM | Report abuse

I got tickets for the 4th, 6th, 8th & 9th! He better pitch one of those days!

Posted by: CALSGR8 | May 20, 2010 6:41 PM | Report abuse

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