November 17, 2019

Washington Nationals playoff hopes now ride on “The Other Guys”

Popular Internet meme, created by @JWerthsBeard and @jackobeam.

All season long, the Washington Nationals have boasted not only of the quality of their starting pitching, but of the depth as well. In Games 3 and 4 of the National League Division Series, they’ll get a chance to prove just that. With ace Stephen Strasburg available solely as a cheerleader and confidante in the playoffs, the Nats post-season success now lies in the right arm of Edwin Jackson and left arm of Ross Detwiler.

Both players have impressive enough pedigrees. Jackson has a no-hitter and World Series ring to his credit. Detwiler is a former No. 6 overall pick in the MLB draft. Both players have established themselves as key components in the Nats rotation this season. But both have also had enough trouble — especially lately and especially against today and Thursday’s opponents — that there is reason to be concerned about how they will react and perform against the St. Louis Cardinals, with the Nats hopes of advancing in the playoffs hinging on their performances.

“They’re quality pitchers,” Nats manager Davey Johnson said in Tuesday’s media availability. “Jackson’s got a lot of experience. He pitched a heck of a ballgame against the [Cardinals] one of the outings. He’s certainly up for it.”

As for Detwiler, Johnson said, “At times has gotten into the same mode [as Zimmermann], hard sinkers away. He’s got great offspeed stuff, and when he uses offspeed stuff, and when he uses both sides of the plate, he’s tough. I don’t care how good a hitting club you got. But this is part of the maturation process of this staff.”

This is a big start for Jackson, both in his responsibility to the Nationals and for his immediate and long-term future. He spurned a multi-year deal last off-season to sign with the Nats for just one year, with the very hope that a strong season and successful post-season appearance would earn the 29-year old a lucrative, multi-year deal that will set him up for the rest of his career. Jackson fulfilled the first part of the equation, going 10-11 with a 4.03 ERA, 1.218 WHIP, 8.0 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 2012. Wednesday’s start could complete his resume for his off-season pursuit of happiness.

In Tuesday’s media availability, Jackson stressed the simple things as the keys to his success in Game 3. “It’s all about throwing strikes and coming out and establishing that you’re going to throw strikes early in the game,” Jackson said. “And make them want to swing. Like I said, if you get behind in the count to these guys and let them get comfortable and they know you have to come across the plate, they’re going to do what they’re paid to do and they can hit the ball real well.”

Detwiler, the 2007 No. 6 overall selection in the MLB Amateur Draft, has finally started to live up to his pedigree. Stunted thus far in his career by injury and inconsistency, both due to an overly pronounced cross-body delivery, Detwiler has been proving critics wrong all season. He still has an unattractive delivery, but it is much smoother and consistent, allowing his heavy sinker to do much of the damage against opposing batters, allowing the 26-year old to put together an impressive 10-8 season with a 3.40 ERA and 1.223 WHIP.

It’s the biggest start of Detwiler’s young career, but in his media availability Wednesday before Game 3, he joked about how his last start against the Cardinals, a 2 1/3 inning appearance where he allowed seven runs (three earned) on four hits and five walks, was an example of “what not to do,” against a Cardinals team that has power and puts the ball in play, from the leadoff hitter down to the No. 8 spot.

Jackson and Detwiler have both had dominant appearances in 2012, but they also have had their share of disaster starts as well. The Nationals have exhibited confidence in both starters all season long. They’ve even banded together to form “The Other Guys”, a reference to how the two may have been overlooked this season with so much attention to the top three on the Nats staff, based on the Hollywood movie of the same name and a now a popular Internet meme.

But all the attention on Stephen Strasburg, 21-game winner Gio Gonzalez, and Jordan Zimmermann doesn’t matter at all anymore. The Nats very playoff lives hinge on the performance of “The Other Guys” the next two days. Nats fans hope their performance matches the Nats organization’s confidence in the pair.

__________________________

Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Nats and the Caps, and previously wrote Nats News Network and Caps News Network. Dave’s first sports hero was Bobby Dandridge. Follow Dave’s Nationals coverage on Twitter @NationalsDSP.

Washington Nationals boast candidates for Cy Young, but real strength is in numbers

Nats top three starters Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann – Philadelphia Philles v. Washington Nationals, August 1, 2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

There are 49 pitchers that qualify for the N.L. ERA title this season. Among those 49 pitchers are five Washington Nationals, and they all rank in the top 24 in WAR (according to Baseball-Reference.com) in that group. Sure, WAR isn’t the end-all when talking about a pitcher’s contribution to his team, but it gives us a starting point to be able to look at the pool of candidates as a whole.

It’s pretty impressive that the entire Nats’ rotation ranks that high for a couple of reasons, and it perfectly illustrates why the Nats hold a 6 1/2 game lead in the division with about 20 games left in the season.

1) Health. Other than Chien-Ming Wang, no Nats starter has missed a game due to injury, pending “The Shut Down”. I can’t stress how unusual that is. The Nats have five qualifiers for the ERA title. Only Cincinnati and San Francisco can share that claim this season. Only St. Louis and L.A. have four starters that qualify. Notice a common trend among those five teams? All are first or second in their division and all either occupy a playoff spot today or are within one game of the Wild Card. These are the best teams in the N.L.

2) Youth. All five starters are in the younger half of the bracket, with only Edwin Jackson outside the youngest 14 in the league that qualify. Stephen Strasburg, 23, is the second youngest among qualifiers (Madison Bumgarner). Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Ross Detwiler are all in their age 26 seasons.

3) Quality. Based on WAR, Edwin Jackson is the least valuable Nats starter. He’s 24th out of 49 qualifiers in the N.L. But he’s the fifth Nats starter to qualify. Gio is fourth overall, Zimmermann is eighth, Strasburg is 14th and Detwiler is 21st. Cincy and San Fran have multiple starters each in the lower third of the candidates (including Tim Lincecum, last among N.L. ERA qualifiers in WAR). All five Nats are also in the top 20 in OPS+, with only Jackson outside the top 12. This tells us the Nats starters as a whole excel at keeping runners off base and not giving up extra base hits. That’s good.

Nats manager Davey Johnson supported Gio Gonzalez for the Cy Young after Gio won his 19th game of the season Monday night, tops in the N.L. “No question,” Johnson said. “No doubt about it. I know [Mets starter R.A.] Dickey gets a lot of attention, but you’re talking about a last-place club. It’s a little bit different. We’ve been on top and getting all those wins.”

Davey cites the oldest of old-school stats ever in backing his pitcher for the Cy Young. That’s okay, he’s 69 years old. But even he knows better. He knows that the voting members in the BBWAA still cling to the notion that starting pitchers are supposed to win games for winning teams, when in reality it’s their job to make outs and pitch deep into games. Dickey has one fewer win than Gio going into Tuesday night’s game, so isn’t it more impressive he’s pitched well enough and deep enough that he’s qualified for all those wins on a losing team?

But I digress.

The point of this wasn’t to tear down R.A. Dickey, or to boost the qualifications of any of the Nats individual pitchers. Rather, it was to illustrate just how good the Nats rotation has been in total. Sure, Strasburg, Gonzalez and Zimmermann will garner votes for the Cy Young Award, and rightly so — regardless the criteria the individuals on the voting committee employ. But as a group, there hasn’t been a better starting staff top-to-bottom than the Nats. I’ll take that over essentially meaningless awards any day.

Washington Nationals Lunchbox on CSN Washington.com: Pitching help at the deadline

A new episode of Nationals Lunchbox. Patrick Reddington of Federal Baseball, Chase Hughes of CSNWashington.com and myself talk about potential trade scenarios for the Washington Nationals with the MLB trade deadline rapidly approaching.

Washington Nationals start fueled by pitchers’ fastball velocity and strikeout ability

It’s April 18. We’re 7.4 percent into the season. Your Washington Nationals have the second best record in the Major Leagues.

Let that sink in.

The Nats have had hot streaks before in the course of their seven complete seasons in D.C., but never before like this at the start of the season. Heck, we haven’t seen a start like this in Washington baseball history all the way back to Goose Goslin and Walter Johnson.

9-3. A .750 winning percentage. Unsustainable over the course of a season, but pretty to look at in the standings nonetheless. Only 14 teams since 2000 have been able to finish a season at .600, so the Nats will come back to Earth at some point over the course of a long 162-game schedule. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 7 Review: Walk-off wild pitch sends home opener crowd happy

Nationals enjoy walkoff wild pitch in 3-2 home opener (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

With the Washington Nationals nursing a 2-0 lead late in the game, a small — but steady and noticable — amount of fans were making their way down Half Street toward the Metro, hoping to miss out on some of the Opening Day (and rush hour) congestion leaving the stadium.

They missed quite an ending. [Read more…]

%d bloggers like this: