April 10, 2010

About That Pitching Depth

This is a largely meaningless piece of early season fluff from new WaPo beat writer Adam Kilgore. I'm not ripping Adam, pieces like this are inevitable when every beat writer has blogs to fill and chats to host in addition to the standard gamers and traditional longer-form stories. When you have to find something to talk about other than how the team's front office, pitching and roster construction all suck eggs, you get a one-off post on the Nationals' improved minor league pitching depth.

The article is accurate, as far as it goes. Matt Chico, who started 31 games for the Nationals in 2007, is currently assigned to AA Harrisburg as he continues to rehab from Tommy John surgery. Lots of guys come back from TJ surgery these days, and some even come back stronger, so there's reason to think that we might see Chico in the big leagues again one day. But here's the thing: even as a fully healthy 24 year-old Matty was maxed out as the "workhorse" on one of the worst pitching staffs in modern baseball history. Could a now 27 year-old Chico really be expected to improve on his 2007 performance (10 H/9, 4 BB/9, 5 KK/9, 91 ERA+)?

Chico is at AA because the AAA roster is chock full of MLB "veterans." Scott Olson, J.D. Martin, Colin Balester and Shairon Martis all have experience as major league starters, though experience shouldn't be confused with success. The truth is, if any of these guys were good enough, Messrs. Stammen, Hernandez and Mock would not be a serious impediment to their promotion.

In truth, the Nats don't so much have improved pitching depth as they do improved pitching breadth. From Stammen and Hernandez, to Olsen, Mock, Martin and the rest the Nats have eight or nine guys who could be fairly interchangeable below average starters. Some are a little bit older, some are more flyballers than groundballers, most have only a rough idea where the ball is going when it leaves their hand. None of these guys can be counted on for six or more innings on a regular basis, and having more than two of them in the rotation would quickly burn out even an eight man bullpen.

Does this constitute an improvement? I suppose that's a matter of perspective. In 2010, Matt Chico no longer has a clear path to the front of the Nats rotation. Unfortunately, that's because he's competing with a half dozen Matt Chico clones.


Dave Nichols said...

well put.

AppleDawg said...

I agree. I enjoyed the article but it was a bit of a fluff piece.

We need pitching all around so badly that it actually hurts me to watch our current pitchers.

There are just not that many good pitchers on our current roster.

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7 said...

What a difference a month makes!!