It seems that everywhere I go lately people are asking me the same question: How are the Nats going to get better?
I could probably answer that question 15 different ways, but what I say is they just need time.
Pitching is the #1 KEY to winning consistently, and we have good young pitchers! They just need experience.
A big part of experience is failure. We all learn more about ourselves when we fail. Pitching is no different. These kids will take their bumps and bruises, but in the end they will grow and succeed, and we have to be patient.
Let me explain why I respond this way: five young pitchers who have exceptional stuff, but must have more game experience in order to maximize their talents.
Here's a breakdown of what I have seen from the young guns.
John Lannan is a pitcher period. From his first start in New York, under all that pressure of pitching in front of his family and at a stadium that is not real friendly to the opposition, he showed tremendous poise. He showed an ability to put the ball in spots that consistently exposed the hitters' weaknesses. Over the course of the season, he posted 21 quality starts, and in my opinion he was far and away the Nats' most consistent starter. If he had gotten any run support at all, his 9-15 record could have been reversed. He got off to a slow start this year, but he's now pitching well again, working his ERA down to 4.10.
John features a fastball that clocks between 87-91 with good late movement running away from right handed hitters. His change up is exceptional with good downward and fading action. He calls his breaking ball a slider, but to me it is more slurverish with more tilt and depth than a true slider. at times when he really gets on top of the ball he throws a fastball that cuts a little; usually that's when he hits the 90 mark on the gun. I look for John to become a consistent 15-game winner, mainly because he has three quality pitches, good command of all three and no fear of failure.
Jordan Zimmerman is a power pitcher learning his way as he goes. To me he possesses the best pure stuff of anyone on our staff. He is ultra aggressive in his approach. I love when a young pitcher goes right at the hitters. And Jordan does just that. He pounds the strike zone relentlessly. When he realizes that the Big boys can hit anybody's fastball. He will make better pitches to better spots. He is certainly capabale of doing that.
He has a fastball that explodes, topping out at 96, and he usually pitches around 94. He can elevate the fastball for strike outs or drill the bottom part of the strike zone . His curve and slider are also exceptional, although he is still refining his command on those two pitches. An authority no less than his father told me that his change up is a work in progress. Remember, give him a little time. I believe that Jordan is a top of the rotation starter, meaning that he will make 33-34 starts a year and average around 7 innings per outing when he matures. He has a chance to be real special.
Shairon Martis has been effective for the most part this season. His last three outings have been a little rough, but he is all business and wants to be a great one. He also has quality pitches. He must keep the ball down though.
His change up might be his best pitch but he has to establish his fastball a little more for it to be effective. He has a nasty slider when he stays on top of it. Every once in awhile he will get into a 3 or 4 pitch rut where he doesn't finish his slider. Result: It rides high in the hitter's zone. His fastball is generally in the low 90's with a little run on it. A big plus for Shairon is that he is a good athlete. He can hit, field his position very well and even run the bases. He's also an outstanding bunter. He is strong and should develop into a 180 to 200 type of pitcher that when he gains experience, could put up some big numbers.
Ross Detwiller is our power left-hander. I sat behind home plate the night of his initial start and was immensely impressed. His fastball had serious pop and late movement. He wore out the outside part of the plate that night not walking a single hitter and striking out 6.
His change up surprised me. He had tremendous action on it with a lot of arm motion. I could not tell the difference between his fastball or change. The hitters couldn't either. At times it looked like it stopped just as it got to the plate. He has a good sharp curveball but has not used it enough for me. He seems to be sure of himself though, and barring some type of physical set back, he might be able to match Zimmerman as the years go by.
Craig Stammen has been the biggest surprise for me. He gets into town, goes out on the mound at Nationals park and pitches lights out. He threw nothing but strikes. Featuring a heavy running fastball at 90-91, he topped out on the gun with a four seamer at 93. He has a very good north to south breaking ball that will give hitters fits when he gets more comfortable throwing it up here. I loved his change up, as it has downward and sideways movement with nice deception.
He has a nice compact delivery that should bode well in his quest to throw strikes. He is not going to blow anyone away, but he will cause a lot of hitters sleepless nights if he continues to improve and work the ball as well as he has in his brief stint here.
Add Scott Olsen, Colin Balester, Jack McGeary, Josh Smoker, Tyler Clippard, Zechery Zinicola, Jeff Mandell, Bradley Meyers and another handful of good young arms, and don't give up on Garrett Mock and Jason Bergmann They have great arms, and when they do get it figured out they are going to be big ++++++'s.
That's a lot of good young talent and we have the first and tenth pick in this year's First-Year Player Draft!