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Having beaten the best, will Luis Atilano stick around?

Morning roundup

Luis Atilano remains quiet and composed, but he can be proud in his own innocuous manner. In his past two starts, he has beaten Tim Lincecum and Roy Oswalt. He's not bashful about it.

"Oh, yeah, I know who," Atilano said. "I've been watching baseball a long time and you know all the guys, have been watching them, all that. But I try not to pay attention at game time. I just try to get my pitches. That's why I think I've been successful."

On Monday, Atilano received an avalanche of run support, but he still contributed a quality start, allowing three earned runs in 6 2/3 innings on six hits and two walks. He earned his fifth win, most among Nationals starters, not bad for a rookie who spent the season's first three weeks in Class AAA Syracuse and had to oppose two of the game's enduring aces.


"I don't know who's next," Atilano said. "The good thing is, as long as I'm on top of my game like today and last start, I think I'm going to be able to compete with anyone."

His next competition could be both indirect and his toughest of all -- Stephen Strasburg. With the Nationals having announced Strasburg will start June 8, the Nationals know for certain one of their five starters will be sent down. Scott Olsen's health may determine what happens -- he played catch Monday without a trainer overseeing him, a sign he's on the right track for a quick return.

But Atilano knows no matter how well he pitches, his youth, inexperience and the fact that he has options remaining make him a likely candidate to head back to Syracuse. And he's okay with that.

"I'll do whatever the team wants me to do," he said. "If I stay, I'll stick around. If not, I'll go down there. I've got options, you know? But I'm feeling good. I think I'm doing a great job. That's the organization's decisions. I can't go over those things."

Atilano will receive at least one more start; his next day to pitch would be Saturday against the Reds. Until then, he can savor toppling another pitching giant.

"It's always good to win against those type of pitchers," Atilano said. "They've been in the big leagues a long time. They're great."

Atilano paused, a wide grin spreading on his face.

"It's great to beat them," he said.

FROM THE POST

Oh, you didn't hear? Stephen Strasburg is starting June 8 against the Pittsburg Pirates. Let the countdown begin.

With Nyjer Morgan batting second for the first time, the Nationals exploded in a 14-4 thumping of the Houston Astros. Morgan had maybe his best game of the season as Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman -- and Carlos Maldonado -- came up big.

Sheinin tells the sweet story of Wil Nieves and his wife starting a family in Barcelona.

NATS MINOR LEAGUES

Syracuse 7, Buffalo 4: Pedro Lopez went 3 for 4 with a home run and a double. Boomer Whiting went 3 for 3 with a walk. Jeff Mandel allowed two earned runs in six innings on six hits and two walks.

Erie 11, Harrisburg 9: Bradley Coon went 3 for 5. Jhonathon Solano went 3 for 5 with a home run and a double. Chris Marrero hit a homer. Aaron Thompson allowed seven runs on 10 hits and two walks in 5 1/3 innings, raising his ERA to 6.15.

Potomac 4, Winston-Salem 3: Stephen Lombardozzi went 3 for 3. Derek Norris returned to action as a DH and went 0 for 2 with two walks and a run. Robert Jacobsen went 2 for 3 with a home run.

Hagerstown 4, Greenville 0: Paul Demny allowed no earned runs on three hits and two walks while striking out seven. Kyle Morrison and Rob Wort completed the shutout, with Wort striking out all three batters he faced. Jeff Kobernus went 2 for 4.

FROM AROUND THE WEB

The Nationals can feel good about where they're at after a tough schedule, Capitol Punishment writes.

Past a Diving Vidro wants the Nats to take a look at trading for David DeJesus to improve outfield production.

Bernado Fellas of the Houston Chronicle has the low down on a depressing day for the Astros.

By Adam Kilgore  |  June 1, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
 
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Comments

A month in AA, a month in AAA, June 8 vs. the Pirates--I like the way the Nats are prepping Stras for MLB competition.

Posted by: CapPeterson1 | June 1, 2010 8:49 AM | Report abuse

"The Nationals evened their record at 26-26. If they lose 35 consecutive games, they'll be 26-61 -- the record that got Manager Manny Acta fired last year at the all-star break."

That sentence alone from the gamer makes my day. (To think what we endured last year...)

Posted by: natinbeantown | June 1, 2010 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Will the June 8th game be on local network TV? Or possibly national?

Posted by: chillsonic | June 1, 2010 10:18 AM | Report abuse

5 reasons Luis needs to stay here.

1. He is 21st in wins with 5.

2. Out of the 21 pitchers ahead of him he has the fewest games started and played with eight.

3. His 4.70 era (most of that came in the two blow ups against the Mets and Braves) is better than Gallardo, Lackey, Hochevar, and Lannan.

4. He has fewer base on balls(21)than U Jimenez, Buchholz, Lowe, and Price.

5.Hitters have 46 hits off of him fewer than Lester, Hughes, Buchholz, Halladay.

http://mlb.mlb.com/stats/league_leaders.jsp?c_id=was&Submit=Submit&sortByStat=W&baseballScope=mlb&statType=2&timeFrame=1&timeSubFrame=2010

Posted by: hansenjo | June 1, 2010 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Luis get over yourself, your 5-1 by the magic of the offense not your pitching. Yesterday your pitching against what is probably the worst hitting team in the game and you trade runs in the first inning. Had Oswalt not gotten tossed who knows if the Nats would have plated anymore runs, but I'm pretty sure you would have let the Astros stay in the game. Like Dibble said, you should be pitching like your life depended on it. Looking back on the last 2 games, both the Giants and Astros have had trouble all year scoring runs so please hold the boasting till your next start against the Reds. If you can hold the Reds ( a good hiting club) close for a full 7 and keep people off the bases then you can talk.

To the Kool-Aiders, outside of Hernandez and we are starting to see some leaks, this is a staff of soft-tossers who nibble around the corners, don't attack the strike zone and have a mindset that they are still pitching a High School 7 inning game. You want to win, sure everyone does but that means sticking to your best pitch thru the first cycle, attacking the strikezone and pounding the plate with movement, if your offense gives you runs do everything possible to not trade runs in the very next inning and stop thinking that you only need to get to the 6th. Its the major leagues baby!

Posted by: TippyCanoe | June 1, 2010 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Adam, when he does get sent back down to Syracuse, please ask Atilano to extend a big NatsTown hello to Shairon Martis for us.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | June 1, 2010 10:29 AM | Report abuse

Well, that was juvenile, but I"m sure you're a huge achiever that can sneer at a minor league pitcher, even though he's probably earned enough money to live comfortably for the rest of his life.

Posted by: fischy | June 1, 2010 10:35 AM | Report abuse

fischy, you missed the point.

I, on the other hand, apparently missed the memo explaining how this is the first blog about pro sports where fans are required to be reverential towards all professional athletes. Can you send me the link? thx!

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | June 1, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse

So when do people think Strasburg's Second and Third HOME Game will be?

Posted by: Y2kob | June 1, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse

I am happy for Luis just like I was happy for Martis, Stammen, Martin, Chico and all those 4-5 starters who at least got a chance to have a run in the majors. When the team is good enough to be a contender, I hope they still have a role (middle relief) but we won't have more than one of them

Posted by: sjt1455 | June 1, 2010 11:04 AM | Report abuse

I guess I could start a rumour but I wouldn't want Barno1 to go out and buy $500 worth of tickets and weep all over these boards again.

Posted by: Natstoyou | June 1, 2010 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Will be interesting to see if one of the current starters is switched to middle relief, or if they send them down to get a start every 5 days. Not the overriding factor but Syracuse will need to get another starter from somewhere.

Posted by: shanks1 | June 1, 2010 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Reposting... need some math help, here...

Ok, maybe I'm the idiot, but can someone explain this to me?

"Using Strasburg's innings from college, instructional leagues and the Arizona Fall League, Strasburg's target innings for this year, minors and majors combined, comes out to about 160.

Strasburg, again, has thrown 50 1/3 minor league innings with one start to go. That would leave him about 95 innings to pitch in the majors."

So they're planning on him pitching 14 2/3 innings in his final AAA start?

Posted by: fuglynats | June 1, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Atilano appears to be this year's lucky rabbit's foot, like Martis was last year. Against all odds and no matter how he pitches, the Nats manage to pull out a win whenever he starts. Therefore the Nats need to keep him around until all his mojo is worn off, then they can discard him. Was not discarding Martis last year until he had three losses messing up his 5-0 start a case of Rizzo not realizing that his good luck mojo was all used up? Did he blow that call? We'll never know, will we? Likewise with Atilano. How many losses will he need to have before it's clear that the lucky rabbit's foot has been wrung dry?

Posted by: nunof1 | June 1, 2010 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Who to send down when SS comes up is a tough one. But, isn't it a 3-way battle between Atilano, Martin and Stammen? Martin's first start was good so would like to see more, and I would say Stammen has been a little better than Atilano despite the wins. Wins have a huge luck factor. Very overrated. I would pick Atilano to go down right now. And I think he'll have a hard time getting back with Olsen, Marquis and Wang all looking to get in the rotation fairly soon.

Posted by: Avar | June 1, 2010 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Reposting... need some math help, here...
Ok, maybe I'm the idiot, but can someone explain this to me?
So they're planning on him pitching 14 2/3 innings in his final AAA start?
Posted by: fuglynats |
---------------------------
No, it's not you. The reporter lost 10 innings somewhere in his calculations. Or mis-reported the number of innings already pitched. Clearly there is a problem with the numbers.

Posted by: shanks1 | June 1, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Atilano is an interesting case. He could actually turn out to be pretty good. He seems to be mentally ready to compete, and he could improve with more experience.

Check out his splits.

With bases empty, BAA is .370 and WHIP is 1.90. These are not good, a ticket to AAA is in order, or even worse.

But with Runners On Base, his BAA drops to .229 and his WHIP drops to 1.21. Respectable, we can work with this.

And with Runners In Scoring Position, BAA is down to .174, WHIP down to 1.12.

And with RISP and 2 outs, BAA is a mere .143, WHIP a stingy 0.71.

He clearly has a head to deal with situation and pressure. He knows how to pitch and he can hit his spots or he wouldn't be successful in those situations.

He's got promise, more promise I believe than most of our other AAAA guys.

Atilano was the 35th player taken in the 2003 draft, out of high school in PR. Obviously people thought very highly of him them. TJ surgery in 2006, 2007 was a washout year, 2008 started the road to recovery.

We might have something here, and if we do, we'd have JimBo to thank for it.

Posted by: Sunderland | June 1, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

a few quick things:

1. I think that Sheinin's article really shows what Kasten and Rizzo mean when they talk about "character" guys. Nieves is a solid backup catcher. He's no Pudge (who is?), but I'll take him in the clubhouse any year.

2. TippyCanoe, apparently, hasn't actually been paying attention to baseball, the last few years. Starting pitchers are supposed to only go the H.S. distance of 7 innings. He may not agree with the concept, I don't agree with the concept; but there it is.

3. If there is any question about Oswalt's getting tossed yesterday, it was his fault, not the umpire's. What he did left the plate umpire no choice (as opposed to what West did in Chicago, earlier in the weekend). OTOH, it was really the catcher's fault. He seemed to be "framing" every pitch, and in a very obvious way. Of course, a pitcher will try and extend the strike zone towards the outside of the plate and past, but when the catcher jerks the pitch/mitt back over the plate, as happened a lot yesterday, the umpire thinks: well, the catcher thought that was a ball, so it must be a ball.

Posted by: mikecatcher50 | June 1, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Atilano, Martin and Stammen are the absolute perfect guys to have either as long relief or on the SYR-WAS shuttle to fill in for missed starts. They are low-upside guys, but are predictable, professional, and competent when called upon for spot duty.

By the AS break, our staff could have a ton of upside, but I feel a lot better with those guys around as insurance (and to win the IL pennant).

Posted by: natinbeantown | June 1, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

I'd be surprised if they took Atilano out of the rotation. Stammen has been hit pretty hard, even against the O's he gave up 5 runs. I think part of the reason for delaying Strasburg's start was to see both Atilano and Stammen pitch one more time this week before making a decison who gets dropped from the rotation. Because both are young, it would make sense for one to go back to Triple A.

As for Martin, he seems better suited to being a long-relief guy and doesn't figure to be in the rotation long-term. He's probably going to be sent down in July or August when either Wong or Marquis are ready to pitch.

Posted by: wizfan89 | June 1, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

We're being a little rough on Martis. His complete game win over the Giants was better than any game Atilano has thrown so far. Martis got sent down mostly because he forgot how to throw strikes, not because his luck ran out.

Posted by: nats24 | June 1, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Luis Altilano is a reflective of today's young pitcher's worried about his pitch count,innings, and of course his contract,but don't blame Luis he is a by product of the culture in professinal baseball; more style than substance. Udaldo Jiminez of the Rockies is one of the best pitchers in baseball with an ERA of damn near zero yet when his manager came out of the dugout to pull him yesterday against SF he asked to be allowed to finish the game and he did,while Altilano was pulled with a ten plus run lead, had i been Riggleman i would have made him finish the game. The pitchers in toaday's baseball game are more worried about how many pitch's they've thrown than winning the game and the gm's,pitching coach' and managers are all being manipulated by the agents of these young pitchers that is the reason some bullpens are spent by the all star break.

Posted by: dargregmag | June 1, 2010 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Why is it assumed that Atilano will be the guy to be sent down to make room for Strasburg?

Looking at the schedule, any one of the five starters could conceivably be removed from the rotation. Because of Strasburg's insertion on the 8th, that means that if Atilano is sent down, three of the four remaining starters will be pitching on six days rest instead of the usual four, with the fourth still getting five days rest instead of four.

Atilano has pitched better than both Lannan and Stammen, and not counting J.D. Martin, Stammen is the only starter in the current rotation in which the Nats have lost more games than they've won.

If we look at how many games the Nats have won with each starter, we see that the Nats have won:

6 of 10 starts by Hernandez
6 of 10 by Lannan
5 of 8 by Atilano
4 of 10 by Stammen
4 of 8 by Olsen (on the DL)
1 of 1 by Chico (in the minors)
0 of 3 by Marquis (on the DL)
0 of 1 by Martin
0 of 1 by Mock (in the minors)

Looking at those numbers, shouldn't Stammen or Martin be the one sent down and not Atilano?

Posted by: KenzAFan | June 1, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse

"Martis got sent down mostly because he forgot how to throw strikes, not because his luck ran out."

Nats24, not to pick on you specifically, because that's what I thought, too, but that's the beauty of selective memory - I remember a strong Martis who "lost" it. Unfortunately, that's not what the gamelog says. For his entire time in 15 starts last year, he threw 60% strikes. In the first 5 games, he threw 62% strikes, in the middle five he threw 60% and in the last five he threw 58%, so yes, there's a downward trend, but it's not like he "forgot" how.

I think what really happened to him was the run support ran dry. In his fifteen starts, the Nats put up 5.06 runs per game. 5.06 is coincidentally exactly the same average as the Phillies put up for the whole season, so basically, in each and every one of Martis' starts, he had the production of the Phillies on his side. More than that, it wasn't uniform - in his first 10 starts, Martis was 5-1 and the Nats were 6-4 as they averaged a whopping 6.4 runs per game, which was good, because Martis was pitching to an ERA of 5.62 to that point. Basically, Martis was the same mediocre pitcher at the beginning that he was at the end - it's just that Nats offense was covering it up.

It couldn't last and it didn't - the last five starts, the Nats averaged 2.6 runs a game, and lost all five of his starts. Surprisingly, Martis actually pitched better - lowering his ERA a full run (to 4.50) but couldn't do anything with that pathetic support. So ultimately, it's not that he forgot how to throw strikes, it's that the Nats stopped supporting him, even as he was actually pitching slightly less mediocre-ly. Such is the typical life of your #4 and #5 starters - they're going to give up between 4 and 5 runs, and if they get good support, they'll win.

Same, I think, goes for Atilano to this point. Atilano, to this point, looks to be pretty similar - he's pitched to a 4.70 ERA so far, which is pretty middling, and received run support of 6 runs a game. Even before yesterday's blowout, he was getting nearly 5 runs a game in support. By the way, his strike percentage is 62% so far - almost exactly what Martis' was. I think he's probably a better pitcher overall than Martis, and I'm very intrigued by the splits up above, but I think he's the likely candidate to go down and Martin goes back down when Olsen is healthy.

Posted by: Highway295Revisited | June 1, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Responding to the below, I believe that the 50.1 minor league innings does not take into account the innings he threw in the Arizona Fall League this year. That should account for the discrepancy, and I think the numbers below add up:

PDD - 19.0
HAR - 22.0
SYR - 28.1
WAS - 95.0 (projected)
TOTAL - 164.0

-----------------------------------

Reposting... need some math help, here...
Ok, maybe I'm the idiot, but can someone explain this to me?
So they're planning on him pitching 14 2/3 innings in his final AAA start?
Posted by: fuglynats |
---------------------------
No, it's not you. The reporter lost 10 innings somewhere in his calculations. Or mis-reported the number of innings already pitched. Clearly there is a problem with the numbers.

Posted by: HenryStin | June 1, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

I don't think run support has much to do with Atilano's win total.
In his 5 wins, he has pitched roughly 6 innings per start.
And he has given up 0, 1, 2, 2 and 4 runs (3 ER) in those 5 starts.

He's started 8 times, 4 times he gave his team a very good chance to win and he got those wins. He got one more (yesterday) when he pitched OK.

It's better than what's happened to Oswalt this year (3 - 7 on a 2.78 ERA), but it's not out of the norm for him to have 5 wins.

He is a bit lucky to have only 1 loss, in that he's had 2 lousy and 2 not so good outings.

But it seems to me he's earned his wins.

Posted by: Sunderland | June 1, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Highway295, you convinced me. Those numbers don't lie. Ah, but I'll still keep a fond memory of the Martis' game against the Giants (and last year held precious few fond memories).

Posted by: nats24 | June 1, 2010 5:35 PM | Report abuse

"Looking at those numbers, shouldn't Stammen or Martin be the one sent down and not Atilano?"

Last year Martin had those numbers and a better ERA. Yet he got sent down now didn't he? So, no that isn't as relevant to management as you make it out to be.

Let's look at what's important?

walks versus strikeouts and WHIP, then ERA.

John Lannan: 26 BB + 2 HBP, 18 K's, 1.63 WHIP and 5.01 ERA
JD Martin: 0 BB, 5 K's, 0.67 WHIP, 1.50 ERA
C Stammen: 13 BB, 26K's, 1.41 WHIP, 5.60 ERA
L. Hernandez 19 BB, 27K's, 1.10 WHIP, 2.15 ERA
L. Atilano 21 BB, 16K's, 1.52 WHIP, 4.70 ERA

Looking at these its pretty clear that John Lannan is the least effective pitcher in the rotation followed by Atilano.


Posted by: periculum | June 1, 2010 5:41 PM | Report abuse

@ HenryStin

Your calculations are wrong.
Strasburg pitched in the Arizona "Fall" League last year, not this year. Those innings count towards last year's totals, not this years.

The 95 innings limit count is off by almost 10 innings (8 2/3 to be exact). Assuming 160 as his limit, for Strasburg to end up with a 95 inning limit, fuglynats is right, and they would have to pitch him in 14 2/3 innings in his last AAA start. That's not going to happen, because we know they're limiting him to 6 innings or 95 pitches, whichever comes first, meaning an extra 8 or 9 innings, give or take a couple, can be tacked onto the 95 suggested in the article.

Online courses in mathematics are freely available for those who are having trouble with the numbers.

Posted by: KenzAFan | June 1, 2010 6:00 PM | Report abuse

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Posted by: scoutbono | June 2, 2010 1:17 AM | Report abuse

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