For the Nationals, staying healthy is what it's all about. The pitching staff has, in the past, had a very difficult time making starts and putting up innings that would really capitalize on their talent. Patterson and Hill led this wounded army of throwers but could surprise a lot of people if they stay healthy.
John Patterson hasn't put together even 50 innings in a season since 2005 in which he posted a very good 198.1 IP. He does have the stuff when healthy to dominate, and has been encouraged by off-season surgery and workouts to pitch to his full potential. Thus far in spring training he's seen limited action, but in 5 innings he boasts a 1.80 era, with 5 strikeouts and 0 walks. I expect Patterson to put his ailments behind him and finally have the break out year that the Nationals and the fans are waiting for.
Projected: 15-9, 2.97 era, 175 Ks
Shawn Hill, whose 2007 season was very sharp if not statistically impressive will probably not make the opening day roster. Hill has experienced tightness and pain in his right forearm since January and if his history of illness is any indication of where he'll be and how effective he'll be this season, I don't think the Nationals will be able to rely on his consistent presence in the rotation. Expect him to throw around 90 innings in limited work.
Projected: 3-5, 3.88 era, 63 Ks
Matt Chico put together a very good rookie season with the Nationals last year and most importantly was counted on to make his starts; 31 games started. Chico had good speed and attacked the strike zone, but lacked effected control last year walking 74 batters. It's always important to have a left-handed innings eater on staff and Chico gives the Nationals just that. Regardless of the numbers he puts up, if this sophomore can anchor the third spot in the rotation the Nationals will be in a very good position to win series of games, not just one or two here and there.
Projected: 9-7, 4.22 era, 103 Ks
Jason Bergmann. I would love to see this guy make all of his starts. Behind Patterson he has the best stuff of the staff and a good idea of how to use it. A pitcher with an above average fastball and good breaking stuff he's the only member of the staff that has the potential to post double digit strikeout games. Injuries are again a factor with this young hurler, but thus far in spring training he has started three games for 11 innings. Pitching an entire season where he can capitalize on general momentum and consistency will iron out his era, but Bergmann will have to keep the ball in the ballpark to post a respectable record. Bergmann allowed 18 homeruns in 21 games and coupled with 42 walks produced his 6-6 record. The new stadium will only be more prone to the longball so Bergmann will have to get batter at pitching smart when he falls behind in the count.
Projected: 11-8, 3.55 era, 165 Ks
John Lannan was a late season call up after injuries took their toll on the staff last year. I was able to see one of his six starts and got a fairly good impression of his style. He's not going to strikeout a lot of guys, but he will throw strikes and get groundballs. He pitches to contact and relies on his defense. General Manager Bowden has said he like Lannan's mindset on the mound, but I think Lannan needs to focus more early in the count. Falling behind and letting runners get on base is never a good idea, and even if you are able to bare down and get guys out in those situations, a team will get beat more times than they win when you fall asleep and put runners on base. Lannan has a good shot at the rotation but will need to prove it by putting up numbers worthy of his spot.
Projected: 7-7, 4.15, 65 Ks
Because Hill is already a very precarious start for the regular season and both Patterson and Bergmann have a history of missing starts, the fifth spot in the rotation will be represented by a hodgepodge group of guys that include Tim Redding, Tyler Clippard, Michael O'Conner and Ross Detwiler. Both Redding and O'Conner saw a good amount of action on the mound in 2007, but didn't turn in stellar campaigns posteing a combined 6-14 record. They can be used as innings eaters and can stay competitive against weaker teams but should not be relied on. Clippard and Detwiler are the young studs of the organization and the sooner they are ready to compete the better. Both have electric pitches and will make an impact after the All-Star break if not before.
The pitching staff has a lot more upside that people think. They also appear to be the best the Nationals have ever had walking into the regular season. The end of the rotation usually takes care of itself, but to be a force in the NL east Patterson and Bergmann have to stay healthy.
- The Hokie