When you have three legitimate aces on your team, it’s easy to see how other hurlers can get overlooked.
Jordan Zimmermann is having a career year, and is starting to turn heads nationally as a result.
Gio Gonzalez’s effectiveness on the mound and personality off of it have made him a media and fan favorite.
Stephen Strasburg, well, I think I could move to the North Pole for the next few weeks and still find myself inundated with stories from national outlets debating the Nationals’ plan to shut down their talented young ace.
I hear even Skip Bayliss and Stephen A. Smith got in on the act today on ESPN’s First Take, discussing whether shutting Strasburg down is the smart move. I’m oh, so sorry I missed it.
Zimmermann, Gonzalez and Strasburg have been responsible for a large portion of the Nationals’ success this season. Edwin Jackson and Ross Detwiler also have played major roles and have helped round out the best rotation in the majors, and Tyler Clippard, Sean Burnett and (recently) Drew Storen have stepped up in a big way at the back of the Nationals’ bullpen, holding tight leads and closing out games.
But let’s spread some love to the less-discussed pitchers on this Nationals staff, guys who have also been huge factors in getting this team to the best record in the majors.
Since signing with the Nats as a minor league free agent on May 8, Michael Gonzalez has become a valued member of the bullpen, providing veteran insight and putting up zeros. Gonzalez has mentored a number of the Nationals’ younger pitchers (Detwiler, for example, has made a point to credit Gonzalez multiple times for helping him become more aggressive on the mound), while posting a 2.31 ERA over 30 appearances.
Gonzalez has allowed just seven of 25 inherited runners to come around to score, and is holding left-handed hitters to a .190 average.
His fellow left-hander, Tom Gorzelanny, might have the least-glorified job in the Nationals’ bullpen. But don’t overlook Gorzelanny’s impact this season. He’s constantly counted on to work multiple frames, save the rest of the bullpen and keep games close in the middle innings.
Gorzelanny has worked two or more innings a whopping 15 times this season and has a 2.57 ERA in 27 games since May 1. He won’t get much face time in highlight packages, but the guys in the Nationals’ clubhouse respect the heck out of the lefty for the job he’s done this season.
Ryan Mattheus was one of the last guys to earn a spot in the bullpen coming out of spring, but the 28-year-old has shown why manager Davey Johnson has such high hopes for him. Despite missing 22 games with a foot injury earlier this season, Mattheus has worked in 43 contests this season, posting a 2.68 ERA. If you throw out his outing in Milwaukee at the end of July in which he allowed three homers over 1 2/3 innings, that ERA is 1.92.
Not too shabby.
Then there’s Craig Stammen, who has done a little bit of everything for the Nats this season. Need him to be the first guy out of the bullpen and give you three innings? Sure. Need him to work the eighth and hand a lead over to the closer? He can do that. Need him to come in during extra innings and essentially pitch until the game ends or he can’t pitch anymore? No problem.
Among National League relievers, Stammen has worked the second-most innings (65 1/3), has tied for the second-most wins (five) and ranks seventh in strikeouts (62). He has a 2.48 ERA and has allowed just four of 18 inherited runners to score.
The big names in the rotation and at the back of the bullpen will get a lot of the credit for the Nationals’ success, and rightfully so. But don’t overlook the impact of the other guys in the ‘pen, as well.