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Where would Nats be without Scherzer?

May 17, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT

May 16, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer (31) pitches against the San Diego Padres during the first inning at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

When the Nationals first signed Max Scherzer to a record free-agent deal in January, many of us – including yours truly – scratched their heads. The Nats already had by most accounts the deepest rotation in baseball and by some numbers, such as starters ERA, the best.

Where would Tanner Roark go? Was the move unnecessary? Am I taking crazy pills?

The Nationals had obvious needs, and signing Scherzer did not fill any of them.

But now, roughly a fifth of the way through the 2015 season, the signing of Scherzer doesn’t only make sense, the current state of their rotation makes you wonder where they would be without him.

Doug Fister is out with a strained flexor muscle in his right forearm, an injury he suffered after a botched start time in San Diego. Stephen Strasburg is in the middle of the worst start of his six-year MLB career. Jordan Zimmermann has been uncharacteristically up-and-down. And Gio Gonzalez has a 4.25 ERA and a 1.535 WHIP.

Remove Scherzer’s stats and the Nationals’ rotation ERA is 4.65. Only three teams in the NL are currently worse: the Phillies, Brewers and Rockies.

Scherzer himself is now 4-3 with a 1.75 ERA, the best start to a season of his career. He has 66 strikeouts – tied for most in MLB – in 56 2/3 innings with only eight walks. His 2.04 FIP is so far the lowest in the National League.

Scherzer was dominant again in Saturday night’s 4-1 win over the Padres in San Diego. He tossed seven scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts, four hits and two walks allowed. Scherzer has posted double-digit strikeouts in three of his last four outings and at least eight Ks in six of his eight starts this season. He has an 8.25 strikeout-to-walk ratio, which is more than twice as good as his career average.

Scherzer has gone at least seven innings in seven of his eight starts this season and in six consecutive appearances. His shortest start was six innings on April 12 and only once this year has he allowed more than two earned runs in a game. Only twice has he given up more than one.

A former Cy Young winner, Scherzer has stepped in and immediately become the clear ace of the Nationals’ staff. The rest of their rotation has been inconsistent overall, even Fister who was their rock in 2014, and even Zimmemrann who has been one of the best pitchers in the NL for several years.

The question before this season was where the Nationals’ rotation would rank among the best staffs in recent baseball history. Now it is fair to ask, where would they be without Max Scherzer?

  1. Ghost of Steve M. - May 17, 2015 at 9:37 AM

    Easy to answer the question “Where would Nats be without Scherzer?”: Tanner Roark would be a starter.

    • ehay2k - May 17, 2015 at 9:44 AM

      That only answers “Who would be in their rotation?”, not ” Where would they be?”

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 17, 2015 at 9:52 AM

        That’s where they’d be. Same rotation as last year.

        I’m not going to make assumptions until the season is over as the Nats were the best rotation in baseball last year. Scherzer was supposed to make it better and the rotation overall is worse. Chemistry?

        The Nats spent a ton of money to get Scherzer and I applauded the move but thought once you got Scherzer you needed to trade Strasburg and extend JZim as I said numerous times in the off-season.

        Now I would think Rizzo tried and never got the value he wanted so essentially Rizzo just swapped Scherzer for Roark.

        It seems to me that Strasburg isn’t doing well pitching behind Scherzer. Stras has always been the “Chosen #1” and now isn’t. Is it just a coincidence that Stras has been pitching like S*** this season?

        To me, that’s a bigger question.

      • ehay2k - May 17, 2015 at 10:17 AM

        Except that Roark has had to fill in for Stammen. Without Roark in the pen, we’d have a big hole there.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 17, 2015 at 10:19 AM

        Yes but you adapt in your bullpen. All good teams do.

      • veejh - May 17, 2015 at 10:42 AM

        Ghost, even more proof that Stras is mental case.

      • Just. Dave - May 17, 2015 at 11:37 AM

        Wouldn’t they still be in San Diego?

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 17, 2015 at 11:41 AM

        Veejh, sure, Strasburg is wrapped differently. All different personalities on this team.

      • ehay2k - May 17, 2015 at 12:44 PM

        Lol. Perhaps veejh thinks SP stands for Stepford Pitcher?

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 17, 2015 at 2:15 PM

        Wouldn’t they still be in San Diego?

        And we have a winner!

  2. ehay2k - May 17, 2015 at 9:42 AM

    Ty Rizzo! I was in Mark’s camp – why did we sign another Ace? But unlike Mark, I could just say “In Rizzo we trust” and then try to subjectively validate the decision. 😜

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 17, 2015 at 11:05 AM

      unlike Mark

      Or Chase, who posted this. 🙂

      • ehay2k - May 17, 2015 at 12:43 PM

        D’oh. Sorry Chase.

  3. adcwonk - May 17, 2015 at 9:48 AM

    When the Nationals first signed Max Scherzer to a record free-agent deal in January, many of us – including yours truly – scratched their heads.

    To me it was obvious — Scherzer was the replacement for JZ, it’s just that we got him one year early because that’s when he was available.

    Of course, he’s ended up being much more than that!

    • npb99 - May 17, 2015 at 10:17 AM

      That’s exactly it. Timing of various players’ free agency doesn’t match up perfectly, and in this case there was overlap, leading to Roark becoming odd man out. It’ll be sorted out next winter.

  4. Owen - May 17, 2015 at 9:50 AM

    The best thing about Scherzer’s signing is that he is showing the rest of these guys what a real ace does and how much they need to improve. Only Zimmermann is close. Strasburg should never be mentioned as an ace. He is no where near Max as a player. I hope we resign Zimmermann and cut ties with Stras. He is a glorified Ben McDonald at this point.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 17, 2015 at 10:01 AM

      “Only Zimmermann is close”

      Close? JZim is a real ace. He arrived quietly a while ago.

      Jordan Zimmermann was never given the opportunity to start on Opening Day or get the publicity that Strasburg has and Jordan Zimmermann threw a no-hitter last year and had a 26 out shutout going in Game 2 until the bullpen let a 2out inherited runner score.

      Is Scherzer better than JZim right now? Yes. I believe JZim was better than Scherzer last year. Lots of baseball to go.

      • ITGSOT - May 17, 2015 at 11:23 AM

        Scherzer was in his walk year last year after he laid down the gauntlet to the Tigers by turning down their big offer and taking the risk that he might underperform and reduce his free agent haul. So if you’re going to compare Scherzer’s 2014 to any of JZ’s seasons, it should be this season. JZ is taking the same gamble that Scherzer took in 2014, and so far he is seriously underperforming.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 17, 2015 at 11:39 AM

        “Seriously underperforming”

        I think you’re wrong.

        It’s a marathon and not a sprint. JZim has had 5 very good starts, 1 awful start (victim of very poor defense included), 2 starts of 3 earned runs. When you have 1 start of 7 earned runs in 2 1/3 innings, it takes a long time to get the stats back.

        Take that start out of the mix and JZim’s ERA would be 2.43. Judge him on 30 starts, not 8.

        I’m going to predict when the season is over JZim and Scherzer will be a #1 and a #1A. Not sure which order and that’s why we play the games.

    • npb99 - May 17, 2015 at 10:23 AM

      I agree, SS is not an ace. Having ‘good stuff’ doesn’t by itself make for an ace – rather, it’s being THE MAN, the guy who comes through more often than not when your team needs you. A lot of people were saying SS had broken through last fall, but the vast majority of those good starts occurred when the Nats were sailing far ahead of the rest of the NL East – a low pressure situation.

      • thelatencn - May 17, 2015 at 11:10 AM

        If I recall correctly, the other thing abour Strasburg’s hot streak last fall is that he was being caught almost exclusively by Lobaton. I don’t think Lobby has caught him at all this year. I recall wishing MW would play pair him with SS in the NLDS (preferably in game 2 after JZ has won game 1, I thought.)

        Now, I certainly think calling SS a “mental case” is unfair and hyperbolic, so let’s just call him “fragile.” Perhaps today will be a chance for MW to go with Lobby; it’s sort of a day game after a night game.

        Perhaps pitching in San Diego with Lobaton behind the plate would be enough to overcome SS’s fragility, at least for one critical start.

  5. Nats Fan Zee - May 17, 2015 at 10:12 AM

    I’m thinking with Roark in the rotation our team record would be about the same. Having said that, going forward, having Tanner in reserve is going to be huge. Max is a great addition … Once Fister heals up ( hopefully he heals up), this rotation will dominate. Worried that the BP is not as solid as in the past. I assume the yet to pitch acquisition may help that.

    • nats1924 - May 17, 2015 at 10:19 AM

      Desi holds the keys for BP help – Once Rendon is back, I wouldnt be surprised is Desi is dealt for a bullpen arm or two.

      Yunel – SS
      Rendon – 3B
      Espi – 2B

      • adcwonk - May 17, 2015 at 10:46 AM

        Some here keep making that suggestion — but how much do you think you could get for him? Not only is this one of his poorer seasons (thus far), but it’s in his walk year.

        This would be a classic example of selling low, don’t you think?

        The only team that could possibly want him, given it’s his walk year, would be a contending team that is desperate for a SS, and who thinks that with the addition of Desi, that will be the difference between making the playoffs or not. I have no idea if there are any teams that fit that description. Further, that doesn’t sound like a team that would give up proven bullpen guys, either.

        In short, even if Rizzo wanted to do it (and I’m not so sure of that) I don’t see that even as a remote possibility,

      • virginiascopist - May 17, 2015 at 11:12 AM

        “Further, that doesn’t sound like a team that would give up proven bullpen guys, either.”

        Exactly. Only a contending team with an admitted hole at shortstop would take on Desi in his walk year, and that team is not going to deplete their bullpen to do so. Besides which, we’d also be giving up the compensation pick. If at the trade deadline we are desperate for bullpen help outside the organization (and I don’t think we will be), the only way we’re going to get it is by dealing prospects (see what the Orioles gave up for Andrew Miller last year).

      • Nats Fan Zee - May 17, 2015 at 12:44 PM

        I like the direction of your thoughts, but, hold on a bit for Danny. If you recall last uear, “April 2014 Danny” was magnificent, .291 BA with an OBP of .337. “May 2014 Danny” was .125 BA and .195 OBP. Overall, he had a .139 RISP. Yes, so far this year he is producing (.273 overall BA and .368 OBP), his average with RISP is way low.

        I need to see a few more weeks of Danny hitting before I endorse your MI selections. I hope (wish, pray, etc.) he can keep it up but his track record is not good. I also admit that watching Desi at the plate is a challenge. I have never been a fan of swing hard and say a prayer that the ball runs into your bat.

      • infideljack - May 17, 2015 at 2:35 PM

        +1

  6. Ghost of Steve M. - May 17, 2015 at 10:16 AM

    Scherzer’s 21st out was in the batter’s box with runner’s on 3rd and 1st and 2 outs. Abraham Almonte could not only ruin his shutout but also put the Padres back into this game. Honestly, I would’ve pulled him given an almost identical situation on May 6th where the first 2 runners got on base and Stanton was lurking in the on-deck circle and hit a 3 run jack off of Scherzer. MW bet it wouldn’t happen again but just in case had Thornton hot.

    Scherzer got a gift strike on Pitch #1 which was perfectly framed by Ramos. On 0-2 Scherzer dots Ramos mitt. Ramos didn’t have to move it as he held it for the ump and it was called a BALL. That was an uh-oh moment or so I thought. Didn’t faze Scherzer who was out of fumes. He was throwing all fastballs to Almonte at 94-96 mph. Scherzer throws a changeup that Almonte ID’d and didn’t swing at. Ramos calls for another heater and this time Scherzer got the swing and miss for strike 3 and his 21st out on his 104th pitch.

    I’ve seen that situation play out where a Nats pitcher has gotten a call and it usually spells disaster. Scherzer didn’t pout, didn’t stare in at the ump. Didn’t yell into his glove. Didn’t make a contorted face. Scherzer I think smiled.

    That was impressive.

  7. homeparkdc - May 17, 2015 at 10:23 AM

    “Doug Fister is out with a strained flexor muscle in his right forearm, an injury he suffered after a botched start time in San Diego.”
    Finally, someone connects the two events. I was able to watch all the game including the botched start. It was clear to anyone with access to a weather radar link that it was going to rain consistently in San Diego. So what happened in the managers’ pre-game meeting? The home manager makes the call on games’ commencement. That makes it Bud Black’s decision.
    In the top of the third, FP or Carp commented that Matt Williams had talked to the umpire crew chief who then spoke to Bud Black.
    Until someone leaks a fact or writes a memoir, we won’t know, but my gut feeling is that Bud Black is responsible for Doug Fister’s injury.

    • adcwonk - May 17, 2015 at 10:41 AM

      But didn’t both pitchers have to sit and wait after starting? In fact, one would think, at first glace, that the Padres pitcher was at more of a disadvantage, because he actually started pitching the game, and then had to stop.

      • homeparkdc - May 17, 2015 at 10:57 AM

        Exactly…he pitched to one hitter…only 6 pitches until the game was called. Who confirms he really warmed up the first time? I went back and watched the Fox broadcast which showed them removing the tarp just before the game began. Ross IP in previous 7 games: 6,7,5,5,5.2,6,6. He was pulled in the top of the 6th after two walks – Harper and RZimm. Just saying the delay didn’t affect his game compared to the rest of his season.
        As I am new to this board, I assure you I’m not usually crazy obsessed about things. Please allow me one instance.

      • adcwonk - May 17, 2015 at 11:39 AM

        Who confirms he really warmed up the first time?

        Are you suggesting he started the game without warming up?!?

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 17, 2015 at 11:00 AM

      The home team, i.e., the front office, with input from MLB, makes the decision to start or not. No doubt Black has a lot of say, but it’s not just his call.

    • ITGSOT - May 17, 2015 at 11:28 AM

      The home manager doesn’t make that call. The home TEAM does. That means major front office involvement in the decision. On both sides.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 17, 2015 at 11:54 AM

        I think I read that somewhere.

    • dclivejazz - May 17, 2015 at 3:33 PM

      Fister hasn’t looked like himself so far this year, often throwing higher up over the plate than usual and giving up lots of fly balls instead of grounders. Something was going on with him before this game in San Diego. Possibly whatever it was got aggravated, or possibly he finally decided to confide that he felt something wrong in his forearm.

      A long rain delay might throw off a pitcher’s prep, but given his performance so far this year, it’s unlikely that it was the only cause of his injury.

  8. veejh - May 17, 2015 at 10:46 AM

    If we trade Dez and end up winning the WS, that would be one pissed off Dez.

    • infideljack - May 17, 2015 at 2:42 PM

      yep…

    • dclivejazz - May 17, 2015 at 3:34 PM

      Or could he wind up on a contending team that actually wins the WS.

  9. Sec 3, My Sofa - May 17, 2015 at 10:57 AM

    There’s.
    No.
    Such.
    Thing.
    As.
    Too.
    Much.
    Pitching.

    • Eugene in Oregon - May 17, 2015 at 11:11 AM

      From 2000-2005 the 10 teams who spent the largest percentage of their payroll on pitching failed to even reach the World Series (in fact, only two of them made it to the playoffs — the 2002 and 2003 versions of the Twins).

      From a study published in 2006, of the 10 teams that had had the largest differential between pitching VORP and hitting VORP none (i.e., zero) of them had reached the playoffs.

      But — as of the mid-2000s decade — of the seven teams that had scored 1000 runs in a season, two had won the WS and another had made it to the WS and lost. Of the 19 teams that had scored between 950 and 998 runs, six had won the WS and three more had lost.

      Pitching is hugely important. But so is hitting. To quote Steven Goldman: “Which is to say that can’t have too much pitching — except when you don’t have enough of everything else.” Balance — at a high leve — is the key.

      • Eugene in Oregon - May 17, 2015 at 11:12 AM

        Should read: “…high level…”

      • therealjohnc - May 17, 2015 at 11:31 AM

        $$$ spent on pitching is not a good measure of too much pitching; often the teams overspending for pitching are teams that are short of pitching, not teams that are deep in pitching.

        But the larger point is true; balance is the key. In fact, while the pitching has been struggling it’s the Nationals’ bats that have kept the team rolling along. The Nats are 9th in the league in runs allowed per game (6th in ERA), but are 2nd in runs scored.

      • Eugene in Oregon - May 17, 2015 at 11:46 AM

        I take your point, but since a GM can’t know what the pitching will be like until the season has begun (is over?), in applying the msxim ‘you can’t have too much pitching’ you’re really talking about the acquistion of the pitchers. Ditto hitting. Ditto defense. So, in that sense, the organization of the team/distribution of the payroll is all about the contracts (which, admittedly, is a mix of pre-arbitration, pre-free agency, and post- free agency $$$s).

      • adcwonk - May 17, 2015 at 12:50 PM

        I’m going to view the maxim “you can never have too much pitching” from another slightly different vantage:

        I think the idea here, is not necessarily that you have to have the best pitchers, or that your VORP has to be tops — but that you always want to have enough pitchers so that you don’t have a real clunker or two in your starting five, or be left without any good (or only one good) relief pitcher.

        Last year’s Nats were a great example: they had no holes in their starting five. That’s was a huge factor for them winning 96 games.

        So, it’s not necessarily that you need five studs (although that’d be nice, and that’s what the Nats had last year), but you need at five _decent_ starting pitchers. And you need one to fill in in case one gets injured. And more to fill in when they leave via free agency.

        The Nats are, possibly, in that position now. Assuming their pitchers pitch to historical norms, this is a killer rotation. If (G-d forbid) Fister is out for a while, we have Treinen or Cole or Roark to step in. Ditto, even if Fister and SS are out. And, next year, if we lose Fister and JZ to free agency, same situation. (And Giolito waiting in the wings).

        Long gone are the days when Lannan, 36-year old Livo, Jason Marquis and either Gozelanny or Detwiler started in 4 of every 5 games (which was our situation just four years ago).

        So, I think that’s where the maxim of: “you can never have too much pitching” comes in — not that you need five studs, but that you need five above average decent pitchers at a minimum: five to start, and one or two more as fill-ins. The Nats potentially have that. Most (almost all?) teams do not.

    • Nats Fan Zee - May 17, 2015 at 12:57 PM

      And that logic is precisely why we had to trade for MI help last year and this as well as stock the farm. And even with the all pitchers in the farm (we drafted 89 of them in the last 4 years), we bought/trade Max, Doug & Gio … three out of your five rotation. Then, we trade for an 8th inning guy that had yet to throw a ball.

  10. Duncan - May 17, 2015 at 11:07 AM

    I can’t speculate about where we’d be. We somehow managed to do pretty well without him last year. But I don’t think anyone can argue that he is a huge value–added to this team.

    Even when you don’t consider wins, stats, or possible pennants, you have to admit: It’s fun to watch this guy pitch!

  11. nattygoats - May 17, 2015 at 11:37 AM

    We would be in the pooper. Speaking of,pooper, sure glad Nats won last night since Stras is going today.

    • adcwonk - May 17, 2015 at 11:41 AM

      The sky is falling and the glass is one quarter empty!!!

  12. thelatencn - May 17, 2015 at 11:56 AM

    It’s certainly not unreasonable to think that if Roark were in the rotation instead of Scherzer, he would have a record of 4-3, so at that level of analysis, our record would be the same.

    Let’s try and go a little deeper. Many have commented that Scherzer has had a very positive influence on the other pitchers. Perhaps, but if so, why aren’t they doing better. Last year, without his positive influence they were the best rotation in baseball.

    The other factor would be that if Roark was in the rotation, he wouldn’t be in the bullpen. While he has done well there, it’s hard for me to believe his impact in that role is sufficient to have resulted in much difference in the overall record.

    So I don’t think it’s possible to find $210 million worth of impact from the signing, or even whatever the proportional share of that number is for a month and a half of a season.

    Which is not to say Rizzo made a bad deal in getting him. I share with others here that his purpose was not 2015-specific, but rather looking ahead to the next several years. Zimmermann may be impossible for us to sign at any price, and Rizzo may know that. He may also have forseen Strasburg’s fragility. I’m fully prepared to trust his expertise, which far exceeds mine or even any of the more expert posters on this blog.

    And I love Scherzer. But still, I’m thinking that the answer to Mark’s actual question is, “about where we are.”

  13. mnmindc - May 17, 2015 at 12:53 PM

    Lots of interesting thoughts here. I’m in the Ghost and Latecn camp of wondering how the Scherzer signing affected the rest of the rotation. You can say he’s had a positive influence on everyone else, but if that’s the case we haven’t really seen it yet. And why might that be? Well the Scherzer signing maybe did a few things. It maybe told JZ and Fister that the team didn’t want them as much as him. It told Stras that he wasn’t the ace, oh and by the way Stras, you’re not the number 2 here either. Then there was the resulting trade speculation that JZ primarily but also Stras and Fister had to listen to. It told Gio that he wasn’t the number 2 but actually a 4 or 5. It told Tanner that the team appreciated his crazy good efforts last year, but he’d have to play mop-up man this year in the bullpen. As an added bonus, it seemed to me like someone from the team spoke quietly to Boswell justifying not signing JZ and maybe not Stras because of the fears their arms would blow up. I’m sure that was fun for them both to read in the press. And then Max comes into the clubhouse with his fun but strong personality, which maybe upset the interpersonal dynamics as well.

    I could see very much the signing having a weird effect on what has been one of the games’ best rotations over the past few years. I can also see over time everyone getting used to it, liking Max for what he brings to the table, and getting over it.

    • ArVAFan - May 17, 2015 at 1:25 PM

      If Max keeps Gio loose, and sets a good example for the others on how NOT to lose their cool on the mound, it can only help. Of course it will take a full season of perspective to see if I’m right on that. Certainly it’s not as if no one is sitting next to Max on the dugout bench during the games when he’s not pitching (personal observation: I can’t see the dugout bench from where I sit, but can see the guys sitting up watching the game).

    • adcwonk - May 17, 2015 at 1:43 PM

      Unsurprisingly, I disagree:

      Well the Scherzer signing maybe did a few things. It maybe told JZ and Fister that the team didn’t want them as much as him.

      Team to JZ in 2014: here’s a huge contract offer, take it or we have to plan the future without you
      JZ: I’m not taking it
      Team: OK, we’re moving on. (Goes out and signs Scherzer).

      (Tangent: substitute Desi for JZ and Difo for Scherzer to get the same story at SS). JZ brought this on himself. Oh, and, btw, Scherzer did that last year to the Tigers. He didn’t suffer last year.

      It told Stras that he wasn’t the ace, oh and by the way Stras, you’re not the number 2 here either.

      SS can read the stats and see the results. SS didn’t learn anything new. Scherzer has a Cy Young, and JZ out pitched him last year.

      It told Gio that he wasn’t the number 2 but actually a 4 or 5.

      Gio can read the stats, too. He had the worst ERA & WHIP of the starting five last year. (It was pretty good, actually, but it was 5th best on the team).

      It told Tanner that the team appreciated his crazy good efforts last year, but he’d have to play mop-up man this year in the bullpen.

      And also maybe told him: “it took a Scherzer to knock you out, but the position’s yours to defend the following year.

      The players seem like to Schezer, not even a rumor of anything bad.

      So, I think this line of reasoning is very not-reality based.

      • Bruxtun - May 17, 2015 at 2:15 PM

        +1 wonk

        I doubt the players are that oblivious, or fragile, or what ever was being implied. And if they are, they aren’t as good as Scherzer for it. They can all learn from Max.

      • mnmindc - May 17, 2015 at 2:29 PM

        I certainly didn’t mean to imply the players are fragile. I don’t think that at all. But I do think there was a huge change in their team, that the players are human, and that maybe this change had an unsettling effect on the other pitchers. I commented below on the Storen/Soriano dynamic from a few years ago being a similar example. All I know is that each member of the rotation, non Scherzer division, has not yet hit their stride and in some cases really faltered. Why? Maybe it has nothing to do with the signing, but would it surprise me if it did? No.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 17, 2015 at 2:34 PM

        Yes, that. And…

        What makes anybody think Jordan Zimmermann wants to be back here? He makes the right Crash Davis noises, but he’s also been pretty clear that he looks forward to the idea of being on the market, and shopping his stuff around for a nine-figure deal. Can’t say that I blame him. “Nothing personal. It’s just business.”

        Strasburg has looked all along, and said more than once, that he would rather be just one of the staff. He seems painfully introverted sometimes, and doesn’t particularly look like he would enjoy being the Identified Ace. Maybe he would feel better as the #3, who knows?

        Roark was great last year. He came out of nowhere, in baseball terms, to do that. He seems to be as easy-going as Rendon — genuinely glad for the job, and happy to help the ballclub any way he can. I believe him when he says that. He looked pumped as hell when he closed that save. The guy looks to me like he just loves making lots of money to play baseball. I really don’t think any of this bothers him in the least.

        If one suggests adding a Sherzer to any staff in any way makes it worse, well, that’s an extraordinary claim, and would require extraordinary proof.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 17, 2015 at 2:34 PM

        Yes, that. And…

        What makes anybody think Jordan Zimmermann wants to be back here? He makes the right Crash Davis noises, but he’s also been pretty clear that he looks forward to the idea of being on the market, and shopping his stuff around for a nine-figure deal. Can’t say that I blame him. “Nothing personal. It’s just business.”

        Strasburg has looked all along, and said more than once, that he would rather be just one of the staff. He seems painfully introverted sometimes, and doesn’t particularly look like he would enjoy being the Identified Ace. Maybe he would feel better as the #3, who knows?

        Roark was great last year. He came out of nowhere, in baseball terms, to do that. He seems to be as easy-going as Rendon — genuinely glad for the job, and happy to help the ballclub any way he can. I believe him when he says that. He looked pumped as hell when he closed that save. The guy looks to me like he just loves making lots of money to play baseball. I really don’t think any of this bothers him in the least.

        If one suggests adding a Sherzer to any staff in any way makes it worse, well, that’s an extraordinary claim, and would require extraordinary proof.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 17, 2015 at 2:35 PM

        HEY! That’s not supposed to happen.

        What would happen if I report the second one? Let’s find out.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 17, 2015 at 2:37 PM

        OH WAIT, I can’t.

        This whole report comment thing is getting on my nerves.

        And that double post was in reply to Wonk at 1:43

  14. wmlsays - May 17, 2015 at 1:31 PM

    I never thought that Stras was the team ace. I am glad the team is doing much better now, but Scherzer, Fister, JZimm, Gio and a fifth pitcher should be the rotation next year. Stars rarely comes through when needed.

  15. peewilly - May 17, 2015 at 1:51 PM

    To suggest that acquiring Scherzer has somehow damaged the psyche of the other starting pitchers is ridiculous. If any pitcher is that sensitive then they’re not going to last anyway. The logic that “Scherzer is here and the other pitchers aren’t pitching as well as last year therefore it’s his fault” is faulty. Without Scherzer we would not be as good, period.

  16. laddieblahblah - May 17, 2015 at 1:53 PM

    Rizzo had to hedge against both Fister and JZ walking this coming off-season. He got the best guy on the market last winter, so the Nats are covered (Roark) if either walks, with Max, SS, Gio, Tanner and the one remaining of JZ or Fister.

    If both leave (and neither has signed an extension), then Mike either stays in-house (Cole, Treinen, Rodriquez, whoever), or goes back into the FA market, or works a trade.

    My WAG is that Mike has at least 10 different possibilities under consideration as options to deal with any contingency – Scherzer was the only trigger he has pulled, lately. But let’s not forget, he got Cole back from Billy Beane, so he has been hedging his pitching bets going back at least that far.

    It seems whenever Mike makes a big deal for pitching (Scherzer, Fister, Cole) no one here had the slightest clue.

    And when Desi turned down the Nats extension offer, Rizzo went out and picked up both Trea Turner and Chris Bostick. Harrisburg has also been playing Will Difo primarily at SS. He’s got that situation covered, as well. Danny’s resurgence this year has given him yet another option at SS for next year. What was once the thinnest corps of players is now, probably, the deepest.

    Don’t know who he will get if both JZ and Fister walk, but he will get someone, or be satisfied that he can fill that need with in-house talent. How Cole plays out over the rest of the year will probably be a major factor.

    How SS deals with his recent difficulties will tell Rizzo and us just how much they can expect from him going forward. Anyone who saw SS pitch for San Diego State does not recognize the man they have seen performing as a pro, this year. The collegiate SS had a killer 98-99 mph sinking FB, a knee-buckling curve, and a 92 mph change that was all but unhittable.

    Before TJ surgery, SS was an Ace. He has simply not been the same pitcher since. The Nats have reworked his mechanics (no more reverse W) to protect that arm. Makes today’s start in San Diego that much more interesting. I think he will figure it out, maybe not today, but sometime this year. FWIW, I think SS enjoys having Max on his team. SS and Max seem to be closer to each other than anyone else on the staff.

    • Eric - May 17, 2015 at 2:19 PM

      Nice post. Your comment about Stras and Scherzer being close is intriguing, especially in light of this observation in
      the FanGraphs analysis of Scherzer’s 2015 season so far
      :

      “For the first few years of his professional career, Scherzer had a classic case of “he should be better.” He was a solid contributor in Arizona and in his early years in Detroit, but if you watched his stuff on any given night, you were left wondering why he was above average rather than great. The biggest hurdle for Scherzer was repeating his rather chaotic delivery to the point where he could utilize his stuff effectively day in and day out. Adding a curveball certainly helped, but the turning point came in mid-2012 when Scherzer figured out how to find a consistent release point. He never looked back.”

      Seems to me you could replace “Scherzer” with “Strasburg” and it still would be a rather apt analysis, with the exception of the very last sentence. Stras seemed to figure it out down the stretch last season, but he has definitively “looked back,” so far this season.

      Hopefully Scherzer can help Stras put the finishing touches on his game for good, seeing as how Scherzer apparently has been the guy everyone was waiting on to figure it out, and then ultimately took that last step. If they are close, maybe this aspect of their make up (lots of talent, some difficulty refining it) is partly why.

  17. Theophilus T.S. - May 17, 2015 at 1:56 PM

    GSM (and others) have anointed Zimmermann beyond his pay grade. I’m not denying he’s a good pitcher, and if James Shields is an “ace” as some (probably not here — have said then Zimmermann is a 2xAce. But he’s not in the same class as younger, healthier versions of Verlander or Hamels, or Kershaw, 2014 Bumgardner, Hernandez. He gets credit for a no-hitter against a tail-of-a dead cat season Miami team and, admittedly, an outstanding performance against a low-BA, not-great power Giants team. Historically, his K-rate is nothing outstanding and he still struggles to put hitters away without contact. Is there a stat for no. of foul balls per opponents’ PA? (Probably.) My bete noir with most pitchers is how deep they go in games or, mostly, don’t go. Zimmermann was outstanding in his last start but was out after six innings. That’s been a problem w/ Scherzer over his career, too. But he’s averaging seven-plus this year, best of his career. The Nats aren’t where they are without Scherzer turning over leads to a short BP.

    At the end of the season Scherzer will still be No. 1, Zimmermann a solid No. 2, and who knows who No.3 — probably Gonzalez, who I optimistically measure by the three starts previous to his recent clunker. The Nats have enuf starting pitching to win the NL East the way things currently stand. But the thought that 4/5 of the rotation would rank among the bottom three in the majors is alarming and does not bode well for a deep run in the playoffs.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 17, 2015 at 2:03 PM

      5th beat in the NL isn’t 1, 2, 3 or 4 and again, nobody in their right mind could say JZim is but he’s an Ace.

      Not as good as Scherzer right now either but nothing wrong being #2 to Scherzer.

    • sec105rowwseat28 - May 17, 2015 at 2:25 PM

      Whether JZ is an “ace” or not, be it now or at the end of the season, is immaterial. What matters, to him especially, is whether he’s making the case for a Scherzer-level deal when he hits FA after this season. As of now, he’s not making a very good case for himself. He needs to step it up, the sooner the better. Ironically, the worse he pitches this year for the Nats the better the chance he’ll still be pitching here next year.

    • adcwonk - May 17, 2015 at 3:28 PM

      GSM (and others) have anointed Zimmermann beyond his pay grade. I’m not denying he’s a good pitcher

      JZ was an ace last year. The Nats led the NL in team ERA, and JZ led the Nats in ERA (7th in NL) and WHIP (4th in NL). And (one of stats I love to most) he and Fister were two among only 5 ML pitches who had fewer walks than starts. Among pitchers not named Wainwright, Kershaw, and Cueto, he was (perhaps along with Baumgartner) the best pitcher in the NL. Guys that finish 5th in Cy Young are aces.

  18. mnmindc - May 17, 2015 at 2:03 PM

    I think it’s a pretty accepted principle of workplace dynamics that people perform best when they feel valued and supported. I don’t think it is a huge leap to question whether a big change to the team would affect the others on the team. Remember when the team signed Soriano? How did Storen perform after that? And remember when Clip came out later when they demoted Storen and chastised the team for their handling of Storen? That wasn’t a non-informed fan writing on a blog, that was a member of the team basically admitting that signing Soriano and demoting Storen really hurt him. Now none of this is to say that the team isn’t acting in the best interests of the team, but I really am surprised when folks seem to think that players wouldn’t be impacted on a psychological level by events around them.

    • infideljack - May 17, 2015 at 2:55 PM

      People perform best when paid for specific achievement (ie: comission sales) Pay players daily for specific actions that advance the team´s ability to win and you will always get the best product your players are capable of producing.

  19. rabbit433 - May 18, 2015 at 6:55 AM

    It’s nice to see the offense holding up the pitching. Just goes to show you why you can’t call a season before it starts. Got to play em out.

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