Assessing the candidates for the final spot in the Nats’ rotation

Yesterday was quite a day of television. Two NFL Divisional Round playoff games, a very interesting “60 Minutes” episode that featured a piece on Alex Rodriguez’s alleged PED usage (I guess we still have to say “alleged,” even though Rodriguez might be the only person left on the planet who doesn’t believe he took PEDs), and then the Golden Globes.

I’m usually not a big awards show guy, but I flipped over to the Golden Globes right as Jon Voight won an award for the Best Supporting Actor in a Series. As a Seinfeld fanatic, I spent the rest of the night singing George Costanza’s Jon Voight song and mentally replaying the scene where Voight bites Kramer’s arm.

Yeah, I’m aware I need a life.

One of the most talked about Nationals topics over the last handful of weeks has been the team’s fifth starter spot. The addition of Doug Fister in early December gave the Nats four set starters - Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Fister - and leaves just one spot in the rotation up for grabs.

Unlike last season, when the Nationals only really had veteran right-hander Chris Young as their insurance behind their top line of starters in spring training, the Nats have a good bit of starting pitching depth this year. That’s obviously a good thing, as injuries are bound to occur and you need experienced guys who can step in and make a spot-start or two.

That depth also creates what should be a solid competition for the No. 5 spot in the rotation during spring training.

Ross Detwiler certainly appears to be the favorite for the job. He battled injuries in 2013, but has put up pretty strong numbers the last two seasons when healthy, and general manager Mike Rizzo said during the Winter Meetings that he’d “like to see what a 30-start Ross Detwiler looks like.”

That said, Rizzo has made it clear that Detwiler will not be handed a spot in the rotation. He’ll need to earn it in spring by proving he’s healthy and pitching well.

Detwiler’s competition for the position includes Tanner Roark, Taylor Jordan, Ross Ohlendorf and Nathan Karns. Three of those four right-handers made their major league debuts last season, while Ohlendorf bounced back from rocky 2011 and 2012 seasons to earn a trip back to the big leagues, where he delivered in a few different roles.

Here are the numbers that each of the five candidates for the fifth starter spot put up both last year and over their big league careers:

2013: 2-7, 4.04 ERA, 71 1/3 IP, 1.486 WHIP, 4.9 K/9, 2.79 K/BB, 0.6 HR/9, 94 ERA+
Career: 18-29, 3.79 ERA, 408 IP, 1.368 WHIP, 5.4 K/9, 1.85 K/BB, 0.8 HR/9, 105 ERA+

Roark (2013 numbers include five starts and nine relief appearances)
2013: 7-1, 1.51 ERA, 53 2/3 IP, 0.913 WHIP, 6.7 K/9, 3.64 K/BB, 0.2 HR/9, 252 ERA+

2013: 1-3, 3.66 ERA, 51 2/3 IP, 1.355 WHIP, 5.1 K/9, 2.64 K/BB, 0.5 HR/9, 104 ERA+

Ohlendorf (2013 numbers include seven starts and nine relief appearances)
2013: 4-1, 3.28 ERA, 60 1/3 IP, 1.160 WHIP, 6.7 K/9, 3.21 K/BB, 1.2 HR/9, 116 ERA+
Career: 22-33, 4.88 ERA, 501 2/3 IP, 1.441 WHIP, 6.4 K/9, 1.95 K/BB, 1.3 HR/9, 83 ERA+

2013: 0-1, 7.50 ERA, 12 IP, 1.917 WHIP, 8.3 K/9, 1.83 K/BB, 3.8 HR/9, 52 ERA+

It’s important to note that Ohlendorf and Roark both excelled in the bullpen last season and that Detwiler has made 16 career relief appearances, posting a 1.11 ERA and 1.052 WHIP out of the bullpen. Those three all could be options in relief if they fail to earn the final rotation spot.

Based on what you’ve seen of these hurlers on the diamond and what you see above, which starter would you prefer earn the No. 5 spot in the Nationals’ rotation?

Do you want to see Detwiler get another shot, perhaps remembering how masterfully he pitched in a must-win Game 4 of the National League Division Series in 2012? Would you like to see one of the young guys earn the final starting job? Or would you prefer to see Ohlendorf’s throwback delivery every fifth day as part of the Nats’ rotation?

blog comments powered by Disqus