Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Life After Strasburg

Gio Gonzalez Hurls the Ball
Gio Gonzalez, above, will be the Nats ace in the post-season. (Photo: Geoff Livingston)
As the Nationals clinch the NL East Division Championship with a loss last night, I couldn't help but come to the realization of something: Once Strasburg got shutdown, the Nationals pitching staff has considerably dropped off.

Strasburg was shutdown for good following a 9-7 loss at the hands of the Miami Marlins. It was by far Strasburg's worst start of the season and some credited that due the fact that he was about to be shutdown. I, personally, think that the Marlins just got the best of him that night.

Since then, however, the Nationals are 11-11 and haven't been able to string together more than three wins in a row and have lost as many as three in a row. Tonight against the Phillies, the Nationals will be looking to stop a two-game losing streak.

Over the past 22 games, the Nationals have given up more than five runs eight times. Twice they have given up more than ten runs including a 12-2 loss against the St. Louis Cardinals. Just once have the Nationals pitching staff shutout a team.

Could the Nationals pitching staff be losing steam? A rotation that was once dominant and tops in the major leagues has been vulnerable as of late and that leaves a lot of decisions as to who will be the starting pitchers in four-man post-season rotation.

The obvious first choice is Gio Gonzalez. He has one 20+ games and has been lights out for the Nationals. He will likely be the starting in game one. The next easiest decision is to put Jordan Zimmermann on the rotation. Zimmermann has been getting better and better as the season goes on and look to him to fair well in the post-season.

The last two spots will likely come down to Ross Detwiler, Edwin Jackson, and John Lannan. All three were at one point dominant in the season. Lannan has the least amount of experience in the MLB this season, but, that does not mean he isn't the least qualified.

This season, Jackson has been much more consistent and reliable one the mound. He also doesn't take long to settle into a groove. So with that in mind, I'm labeling Jackson as the third man in the rotation.

The final spot will come down to Detwiler and Lannan. When at their best this season, both have been lights out. However, when teams are able to string a few hits together, things fall apart quickly for these two.

Detwiler takes a couple innings to settle into a groove. Usually, you'd like to see your starting pitcher be settled and ready to roll as you start the second inning. That is not always the case for the Detwiler. At times, Lannan can be the same way. It can sometimes take him two to three innings to settle in.

So how do you decide? Well, when things get a little out of hand early, who's able to recover the best? In my opinion, it's Ross Detwiler. When things go wrong early for Lannan, they stay wrong until he's finally pulled from the game. For Detwiler, he's able to regain his composure and the damage that has already been done will be the only damage that is done.

So here's my post-season starting pitching staff:

1) Gio Gonzalez
2) Jordan Zimmermann
3) Edwin Jackson
4) Ross Detwiler

We could probably expect the bullpen to be the likely suspects of Craig Stammen, Tyler Clippard, Sean Burnett, and Drew Storen.

Like I stated above, the Nationals starting pitching has fallen off since Stephen Strasburg was shutdown. They have a .500 record and there are still two games left in the season. Hopefully, the Nationals haven't peaked too soon. This team has a lot of talent and a lot of potential to go deep into the post-season.

Got an idea for the Nationals pitching staff? Leave a comment below stating who you would pick and why.

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