Feb 14

2014 Predictions – Pitching

Pitchers and catchers report. Here is how some of the ratings services view the Nationals.

The top five National starters last year pitched 833 innings or 57.6% of the total pitched. Another way to look at the 2013 pitching staff is their WAR rating. The big four had a total of 9.8, although it was just a big three since Don Haren had a rating of just 0. FYI, Tanner Roark had the fourth best WAR on the pitching staff.

Once again Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmerman will be the nucleus for a strong rotation. Strasburg is easily the best of the bunch. Doug Fister gets ratings comparable if not slightly higher than Jordan and Gio. His impact on the team, based on his ratings, could be significant. The key once again will be keeping everyone healthy.

Here are some representative projections for the top four starting pitchers.

Pitchers Name                         W     L         IP     ERA       Ratings Service
Gio Gonzalez                            14     8      199    3.29       Oliver
Stephen Strasburg                  16     7      201    2.85       Fans
Jordan Zimmerman                16     9      215    3.25       Fans
Doug Fister                               12   10      173    3.32      Steamer

Stephen Strasburg. If healthy he is a dominating pitcher. Not too many pitchers can throw in the mid-90s and toss an 80 MPH change-up. Like the rest of the pitching staff he needs to keep a close eye on base runners.

Jordan Zimmerman continues to improve. He added a two seam fastball to his arsenal in 2013 and proved to be a steady reliable presence on the mound. He will be 29 in 2014 and should be entering his prime.

The consensus opinion is that Gio Gonzalez will repeat his numbers from 2013. His fastball velocity dropped slightly in 2012, although remains above his career average. His wFB (Fastball runs above average) went from 23.1 to -1.0. By comparison Strasburg’s number is around 6. This shows up in his pitching statistics. Gio relied more on his change-up in 2013, 10.3%, up from a career norm of 83.8% with a corresponding drop in his use of the fastball. Hard to say if this is a trend or just a bump in the road. Gio also does need to avoid those one inning melt-downs.

Doug Fister projects to be a solid starter, his numbers comparable to what he posted in 2013. Over the last three years he has relied less on his fastball and more on his off speed pitches.

There is no shortage of candidates to fill the fifth spot in the rotation. At some point we wondered if the Nationals would pull off a deal for AJ Burnett. His wife is from Bowie and he would make a good five starter for Washington while putting some additional arms in the bullpen. Average out Steamer/Fans/Oliver and you get a 3 WAR for AJ. His inning pitched totals are 189, 199 and 166. But the team would lose a draft pick.

Ross Detwiler is an intriguing pitcher who might have more value this season in the bullpen, especially if Taylor Jordan can bounce back from his off season injury. Tanner Roark is another candidate. Long term you have AJ Cole and Sammy Solis.

Ross Detwiler? Starter or Bullpen? Here are his projections from Oliver, 8-6 3.88 ERA. In 2013 Dewiler went with the fastball 88% of the time, a trend that has been going on since 2010. Can a starter rely on one pitch, Jouett Meekin did but Ross is no Meekin. Fans down in Florida will get to see how it all plays out but the numbers seem to beg to have Detwiler in the pen.

Taylor Jordan’s minor league record was one of success and failure. He had to learn and adapt qualities that might serve him well. Jordan relies on a low 90s fastball, 84 MPH slider and change-up. He will need to add to his repertoire of pitches. Oliver lists him at 7-5 3.47 ERA while Oliver puts his ERA at 4.06. Jordan had great success in 2013; can he be a consistent winner in the majors?

Tanner Roark put up great numbers in 2013, can he repeat? Steamer and Oliver are in consensus about Tanner; they see a 9-9 starter with 145 innings, 3.88 ERA and a WAR or 1. One reason for his success last year was the lack of home runs he allowed. This was below his average and should jump. Roark has the ability to be a starter, although he relies on his slider a lot (20%) which makes one hope he will not be injury prone.

Add Felipe Rivero and delete Nate Karns. Karns unlike Taylor Jordan had a good run through the minors. His debut was a disaster. The rating systems give him a 4.00+ ERA type. He has a good arm, a mid 90s fastball and a reliable change up and curve. Karns is not as bad as he looked in 2013. Oliver projects him at 6-6, 4.28 ERA with 109 innings pitched. Zipps rated Karns as the fifth best pitcher on the staff based on WAR, a 1.4. Fangraphs lists Rivero has a potential #3 starter. He throws a low 90s fastball with a good curveball. Rivero played in A+ last year so should start at Harrisburg. If Rivero can solve his control problems he might turn into a real find.

Ross Ohlendorf added some zip to his fastball and emerged as a nice surprise for the team and area fans. Steamer and Oliver don’t think he can repeat on his 2013 numbers, Oliver in fact giving him a 4.65 ERA. To be fair that is still below his career ERA.

Danny Rosenbaum is your basic soft tossing lefty. He had a good run through the minors but his strikeout totals have dropped the higher up the ladder he went, while his walks and ERA have increased. Washington left him in AAA last season for a reason.

Chris Young seems destined for AAA.

AJ Cole split time between Potomac and Harrisburg in 2013. He is on track for a 2015 arrival although he might get a shot this season. If so Steamer gives him a 3.87 ERA, Oliver 4.97.

Sammy Solis looked good in the Arizona Fall League. He will probably start at AA and have his innings closely monitored. Doubtful if he would get a chance to pitch in the majors this season. Steamer gives him a WAR of 0, Oliver a .1.

Lucas Giolito put up some impressive numbers in limited work in 2013. He is still a year or so away.

The Bullpen

The bullpen remains a question mark. Here are the WAR ratings from Zipps, Fans and Steamer.

Zipps   Fans    Steamer
Tyler Clippard               1.1         .6       .2
Craig Stammen              .8          .5       .2
Jerry Blevins                  .5                    .1
Drew Storen                   .5          .3       .3
Rafael Soriano               .4          .5       .2
Christian Garcia             .3                    .3
Xavier Cedeno               .1                    .1

Rafael Soriano. His fastball velocity has been in a small but steady decline since 2009, not unexpected for a major league pitcher his age. The issue with Soriano is his control, if his walk totals climb his effectiveness drops. Most projections predict a season somewhat similar although not as effective as 2013. The possible complication is that Soriano’s niche is closer. If the game is not on the line or if the team decides to replace him we wonder if he can still be effective. The trend line for Soriano, based on projections by Steamer, Oliver and Fans is generally negative. They project increases in BB/9 and ERA but a slight drop in HR/9. Here are his projections.

W      L           ERA        Saves    Rating Service
4       3          3.56         28          Steamer
4       3          3.56           –           Oliver
2       4          3.19         40          Fans
3       3          3.11         43          2013 Numbers

Washington passed on some talented players to draft Drew Storen. Not your typical high strikeout pitcher, but he does display good control a strong point with runners on base. The ratings project a .3 WAR with a record of 4-3 and ERA of 3.35. Storen relies less on his fastball which was not an effective pitch in 2013. There has been a slight drop in his velocity since 2011.

Tyler Clippard has been a very good set-up man, a position he excels in. Oliver and Fans give him a .6 WAR, Steamer just a .3. All forecast a 4-3 record with an RA around 3.00. Clippard has a wide assortment of pitches to complement a 92 MPH. There is some concern about over use the past several years.

Craig Stammen. We followed him in the minors and have always rooted for him. Fans gives him a .5 WAR, Oliver a .4 and Steamer a .3. He throws a low 90s fastball which is supplanted with a good mix of other pitches, especially sliders.

Jerry Blevins is the left handed specialist they needed last year when Zack Duke was the go-to guy. Expect 40+ innings to go with a 4.00 ERA and a WAR of .1. He features a sinker/slider.

Ryan Mattheus. Ryan’s fastball was not an effective pitch last year. Not were many of his other pitches. Ryan earned a .1 WAR in 2013, Steamer gives him a -.1 for 2014, Oliver a -.5.

Xavier Cedeno. Another situational lefty. He can hit 90 MPH and can use other pitches although he relies less on his slider. Steamer gives him a WAR of .1; Steamer is more generous, slotting him at .3.

Erick Davis was just placed on the 60 day DL so his effectiveness for 2014 is in some doubt. Steamer gives him a .1 WAR, Oliver a -.1.

Christian Garcia, if healthy he could play an important role for the Nationals. He has a mid 90s fastball and a good change-up. He has the ability to be a starter. Steamer gives him a 0 WAR for 2014 (3.81 ERA) while Oliver puts him at 3.35 ERA (.3 WAR).


And the Braves… The Washington and Atlanta pitching staffs are roughly comparable.

Like the Nats the Braves have a solid starting rotation. Mike Minor, Kris Medlen and Julio Teheran get WAR ratings not far below Washington’s big three. But Washington appears to have a qualitative edge based on the ratings. Strasburg might rate higher but injury concerns bring his ratings down slightly. Here is how they compare using the cumulative WAR from Zipps, Steamer and Fans.

Strasburg 11.8                 Medlen 9.4
Gonzalez 9.8                   Minor 8.6
Zimmerman 10.1             Teheran 8.2
Fister 10.6                       Wood 6.7
Detwiler 3.2                     Beachy 3.7

The qualitative advantage in the bullpen belongs to the Braves. Atlanta’s is anchored by Craig Kimbrel, one of the best in the majors. Kimbrel has good support with Jordan Waldon, David Carpenter, Luis Avilan and Jonny Venters all good set up men. How good is Kimbell? He is projected by Zipps to get a 2.3. Even in Storen’s big 2011 season he only earned a 1.6 WAR rating. But it does not end there, Walden rates a .8, Carpenter a .6, Avilan a .4 and Venters a .6.

  • Wolf

    Who wrote this article? Not only is it grammatically incorrect but makes careless. Jordan Zimmermann turns 28 this year, not 29. It seems like this article was written without any real understanding of the Nationals pitching staff.