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Posted at 10:19 AM ET, 02/20/2011

Report date and a rotation guess

By Adam Kilgore

Nationals position player have to report today, with physicals taking place tomorrow and the first full-squad workout coming Tuesday. Alex Cora and Matt Stairs are the lone players yet to make an appearance at the facility. (Bryce Harper hasn't really been around, but he checked in and dropped some things off late one night at the end this past week.) Given that Cora was playing winter ball into February and Stairs is a 42-year-old who's been in the league since 1992, the Nationals aren't exactly worried about anyone.

The first spring training game is hardly a week away - the Nationals will play the Mets in Port St. Lucie on Feb. 28, a week from tomorrow. Chad Gaudin, who the Nationals see as a fringe starting rotation candidate and a potential long reliever, will start the game. Livan Hernandez will start the next day, when the Mets come to Viera.

Manager Jim Riggleman has yet to set the spring rotation following Hernandez, and that may be telling. Because of the off day after opening day, the Nationals will have wiggle room to set their initial rotation regardless of how they align starters during spring training games. But the way the Nationals follow up Hernandez will likely be a window into how the Nationals view their opening day rotation.

Between Hernandez and likely fifth starter Tom Gorzelanny, there could be a valid argument for lining up Jason Marquis, John Lannan and Jordan Zimmermann in any order. Marquis is the veteran. Lannan started opening day the past two years. Zimmermann is probably the most talented.

marquis.jpg

Riggleman has said match-ups will help decide the way he lines up the pitchers. That being the case, it may make sense for Zimmermann to start the fourth game, the opening game of the Nationals' second series, in Florida against the Marlins. The Marlins have a predominantly right-handed lineup, and Zimmermann, a hard-throwing right-hander, had success against them last season, facing the minimum and striking out nine in a six-inning start.

The Nationals will probably want to split up Hernandez and Marquis, since they're both right-handers who rely on sinking the ball. All of that being said, here's an educated guess at how the Nationals' rotation, barring injury, will line up on opening day:

1. Livan Hernandez
2. John Lannan
3. Jason Marquis
4. Jordan Zimmermann
5. Tom Gorzelanny

I'm going to go watch some bullpen sessions. More later today.

By Adam Kilgore  | February 20, 2011; 10:19 AM ET
 
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Comments

Puleeze. Does it really matter? Like shuffling chairs on the Titanic.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | February 20, 2011 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Nice piece on Zinn today, Adam. I am cautiously optimistic that the starting rotation might be decent this year. Like the rest of the fan base (and team management) I am disappointed that we did not land a #1 starter, but expect a significant improvement over last year (an admittedly low bar). Given the talent level, though, I don't know that the rotation order makes much of a difference...

Am headed to spring training for the first time in late March, and looking forward to seeing the team in that setting. If anybody has any "must do" suggestions, I'd like to hear them.

Posted by: NatsFly | February 20, 2011 11:59 AM | Report abuse

As devoted as I am, I admit that is not impressive.

+1/2St.

Posted by: kevincostello | February 20, 2011 12:01 PM | Report abuse

A quick question; Is Sharon Martis with the team? i thought i read that he was going to be a non roster participant.

Posted by: dargregmag | February 20, 2011 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Adam's speculation is valid and as good a guess as any.
Another possibility is that they break camp with 4 starters. They don't need the 5th starter until the 8th game, and if they use a spot starter there (someone with options like Maya) they can delay the 5th starter for another week.
This 5th starter, if he has no options, would sit on the 15 day DL with a mild oblique strain, making a rehab start in Harrisburg. (You realize we went the entire decade of the 60's without a single oblique strain).
This will give Rizzo a little more roster flexibility.
I think it is more likely than breaking camp with 5 starters.

Posted by: Sunderland | February 20, 2011 12:13 PM | Report abuse

It should not shock anybody if Jordon Zimmermann becomes the ace of the staff, the frontline starter everybody thinks the Nats need. That's my optimistic guess for early spring training.

Posted by: nats24 | February 20, 2011 12:39 PM | Report abuse

The 1-4 names look right (in one order or another); The #5 starter is 'the devil in the details', imo. Detwiler, Gorzelanny, Maya, Mock, or even the dark-horse candidates like Broderick & Stammen could make a case for themselves this spring.

The probable starters may not look sexy compared to the Phillies rotation, but it beats the "cattle-call" from just three years ago, and even holds more promise than the 2010 group (Lannan, Marquis, Olsen, Stammen, Mock/Livo).

Posted by: BinM | February 20, 2011 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Intersting that you like Gorzelanny as the #5. Good luck to all of them and hope Tom has a positive impact for Washington Nats.

Posted by: PensRule | February 20, 2011 1:31 PM | Report abuse

In an 'everything goes right' world (which we all know never happens), here are my current SP proections for 2011...
NOTE - For the uninitiated: GS=Games Started, IP=Innings Pitched, QS=Quality Starts (6+IP, 3 runs allowed), ERA=Earned Run Average.

Livan Hernandez: 33GS, 200+IP, 16-22QS, 4.00-4.70ERA, 9-14 wins.
John Lannan: 32GS, 190+IP, 12-16QS, 3.70-4.50ERA, 9-13 wins.
Jason Marquis: 31GS, 185IP, 10-15QS, 4.00-4.60ERA, 8-12 wins.
Jordan Zimmermann: 25GS, 150IP, 8-12QS, 4.25-5.00ERA, 6-10 wins.
Tom Gorzelanny: 19GS, 110IP, 5-9QS, 4.40-5.00ERA, 5-9 wins.
Yuniesky Maya: 12GS, 80IP, 3-6QS, 4.25-5.25ERA, 3-6 wins.
Ross Detwiler: 10GS, 50IP, 2-5QS, 4.50-5.40ERA, 2-5 wins.

Posted by: BinM | February 20, 2011 1:57 PM | Report abuse

Shuffling chairs on the titanic?
__________________________________
At least the Nats are executing a plan that will result in a compeditive team in the near future. A dang site better than the skins who are bad and getting worse (i.e. Titanic) The only coverage they get now is who got stabbed. . . who assualted who. . . .

Posted by: brianbu | February 20, 2011 2:02 PM | Report abuse

69 wins out of the starters would be awesome. Add a modest 12 out of the bullpen and toss in 4 from Stras (!) and....yes, I'm enjoying the NatsBerry Punch. But hey, that's what spring is for.

Nice writeup BinM but I think your ERA's are a little high. They look too American League.

And on WTOP today I heard a guy give an analysis of the Nats that said they will not recover from the loss of Dunn's offense. Horsepucky. LaRoche will save 15 runs himself with the glove, stroke 25 and drive in 100 - NOTHING was going on in RF and Werth is there now, and Morse/Bernadina should post up at least what Willingham did. I think people are selling this team a little short. If Desmond can cut his errors down, I think they are pretty solid defensively, which will help the pitcher toss less pitches and go deeper in games. The bullpen will be good to very good again. There is more than meets the eye here (I hope).

More NatsBerry Punch please....

Posted by: dand187 | February 20, 2011 2:25 PM | Report abuse

>>Horsepucky.

Is Col. Potter ringing in?

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | February 20, 2011 2:30 PM | Report abuse

@dand187 & skins_fan_22:

Horsepucky? Col. Potter?

IIRC, if Col. Potter is being cited, it was "horsehockey".

Posted by: bertbkatz | February 20, 2011 2:50 PM | Report abuse

"In an 'everything goes right' world (which we all know never happens), here are my current SP proections for 2011...
NOTE - For the uninitiated: GS=Games Started, IP=Innings Pitched, QS=Quality Starts (6+IP, 3 runs allowed), ERA=Earned Run Average.

Livan Hernandez: 33GS, 200+IP, 16-22QS, 4.00-4.70ERA, 9-14 wins.
John Lannan: 32GS, 190+IP, 12-16QS, 3.70-4.50ERA, 9-13 wins."

Again, this is just Bill James. His predictions I think should be considered non-sequitor when it comes to this rotation. IN other words completely ignored. Why? Because there are so many guys coming back from injuries and that would include Tom Gorzelanny. Putting the soft-tossers at the top makes no sense. If we follow this obfuscated logic we might as well declare JD Martin the ace as he certainly earned it with his work in Syracuse.

Just in terms of velocity and quality starts/innings pitched last year you would have Livo, Gorzelanny, and Lannan. Gorzelanny is the only power pitcher in that group of three. Zimmermann, Detwiler, Mock, Martin, Gaudin, etc. are all coming back from surgeries/injuries.

After opening day the starting rotation should look like this:
(Given the day off.)

[2010 Quality starts listed)

#1 Zimmermann 2 QS
#2 Gorzelanny 11 QS
#3 Marquis 5 QS
#4 Lannan 12 QS
#5 Livo/Detwiler Livo 22 QS / Detwiler 1 QS

Livo should be designated fifth starter / spot starter / rubber
armed long reliever out of the bullpen

Outside shots:Craig, Stammen 8 QS, Garret Mock 0 QS

Posted by: periculum | February 20, 2011 3:01 PM | Report abuse

@dand187: It's my projected range for the starting staff as of now (43 wins low-end, 69 wins high-end); Not everybody will 'max-out'. If the bullpen can post a 4.20ERA (or lower) with 15-20 wins & 35-40 Saves as a group, the Nationals will end up in decent shape, imo.

The additions of LaRoche & Werth will likely fall slightly below Dunn & Willingham offensively, but the additional changes to the team & bench could easily make up the difference (Espinosa, Morse/Bernadina, Ankiel, Ramos/Flores, & AGonz over Kennedy/Guzman, Bernadina, AGonz, Taveras/Maxwell, Nieves) from April 2010.

Posted by: BinM | February 20, 2011 3:02 PM | Report abuse

dand187--I think they will really miss Dunn's offense and letting him go was a mistake. Even so, the improvements you cited, plus a slight improvement in pitching, may net a slight increase in wins. Then again, I may be drinking NatsBerry too.

Do you think if the NHL ever gets popular we could see a Budweiser Horses commercial in the Cup series? Now THAT would be Horsehockey!

Posted by: NatsFly | February 20, 2011 3:06 PM | Report abuse

The key is starting pitching (which is helped by the improved defense) NOT whether La Roche and Werth match the output of Willingham and Dunn. With Willingham and Dunn fans still saw two last place finishes in a row? What part of that doesn't make sense to those who seem to think its a "key" difference?

The starting pitching should be vastly improved even with so many unproven assets making it up. Is it enough to make it to the playoffs? Probably not. Is it enough to make it to .500? Sure, if the young prospects come through for the team as expected.

Posted by: periculum | February 20, 2011 3:41 PM | Report abuse

FWIW, I did my projections completely 'off the cuff' & without lookups or references; Suprised to read that my thoughts might fall in line with the likes of Bill James (only one of the premier seamheads of all time); I'm flattered.

Peric, why on earth would you place JZimm at #1 in your rotation, given his two quality starts (out of seven) with Washington in 2010? And if Lannan & Livo are predicted to post 34 quality starts between them, why have them at the back of the rotation - That seems like top of the rotation to me, unless you either want to lose 90+ games again, or hopefully inflate the W-L record on one or two pitchers.

Posted by: BinM | February 20, 2011 3:54 PM | Report abuse

peric: If a starting pitching staff is comprised of primarily groundball-surrendering pitchers, shouldn't that staff benefit from an improved infield defense?

[Career numbers, MLB only, per fangraphs.com]
L.Hernandez (45.4%GB), Lannan (52.4%), JZimm (45.0%), Marquis (49.9%), Gorzelanny (40.8%), Maya (44.0%), Detwiler (43.0%), Stammen (49.2%).

Just wondering.

Posted by: BinM | February 20, 2011 4:43 PM | Report abuse

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