Ross Detwiler

Nats Add Two Interesting Prospects to the System in Detwiler Trade

The Nationals waited for the Winter Meetings to conclude before making a move, dealing LHP Ross Detwiler to the Texas Rangers for two prospects: 22 year old RHP Abel De Los Santos and 21 year old 2B Chris Bostick.

De Los Santos benefited by being moved from the starting rotation to the bullpen before the 2013 season; from 2010-12 where he was predominately a starter, De Los Santos put up the following stat line: 3.81 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 8.32 H/9, .64 HR/9, 2.43 BB/9, 8.47 K/9 and 3.35 K/BB ratio. Since being moved to the bullpen in 2013, he’s gone 2.58 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 6.36 H/9, 0.55 HR/9, 2.86 BB/9, 10.41 K/9 and 3.65 K/BB. While he spent his third straight season in A ball, he was still only 21 years old, so he wasn’t considered old for his level. His ceiling is as a middle reliever at the ML level, but if he can keep those BB and K rates right where they are, he stands a decent chance of reaching it. Making strides in 2015 is vital if he wants to reach the bigs; he needs to put on a strong performance for the Nats to have no choice but to add him to the 40-man and protect him from next year’s Rule 5 Draft. Continue reading

Further Detwiler Discussions

One of the great things about doing a podcast based around off the cuff conversation is I don’t have to prepare. One of the downsides to not preparing is I sound like a bumbling idiot when trying to defend a point against the machine that is David Huzzard. So, here I am putting number to my view of the discussion to hopefully make my argument a little more clear.

On last night’s podcast we got into a discussion that began in regard to Mike Gonzalez and quickly turned into a discussion about Ross Detwiler. The point of it being that Detwiler has much more competition for the 5th spot than Gonzalez for the bullpen spot, and is a longer shot to win that job. Long story short the conversation came to the point that 2012 may have been an aberration for Detwiler on two fronts: performance-wise, and from the health aspect as well.

I disagreed on the show and I disagree now. Continue reading

Ross Detwiler and Working on Stuff

A pitcher has to be doing very poor to get yanked from a Spring Training game. The point of Spring Training for pitchers is for them to get their work in. The performance is secondary. For someone like Ross Detwiler who just has to stay healthy to earn a roster spot the results matter even less, and that explains why Detwiler ended up pitching so poorly that he was yanked from his Spring Training start yesterday. If you’ve watched Detwiler before or listened to the announcers you’d know he throws an absurd amount of fastballs. Somewhere in the well over 90% range, but Detwiler also has a change-up, curve, and is working on a cutter. So yesterday Detwiler threw curve balls. He isn’t trying to change the type of pitcher that he is but he is trying to address a weakness.

As a sinker ball pitcher Detwiler is fine as a fifth starter with just that one pitch, but as a former first round pick he can be so much more, and in order to reach his ceiling he is going to have to develop his secondary pitches. Due to injuries Detwiler hasn’t been able to develop as expected and with no options left to go back to the minor leagues he needs a place in order to address those weaknesses, and that place is Spring Training. So while the results weren’t what any pitcher would want they don’t matter and they matter even less because Ross Detwiler was working on his curve ball that can best be described as erratic.

Continue reading

The Nats Ceiling is Scary

…the blackness of space illimitable; unimaginable space alive with motion and music, and having no semblance of anything on earth. –H.P. Lovecraft The Music of Erich Zahn 

Welcome to 2013 where Washington Nationals fans can stare into the void of unimaginable heights. Nats fans stand at the base of the mountains of madness ready to ascend in search of some forbidden knowledge. For the Washington Nationals on paper are the best team in baseball, but that is if everything goes according to plan, and all the Nats players play to their career averages. There are of course other options. Frightening and scary options. Options that should lift the spirits, but instead bring great fright. It is a siren’s call. Beautiful music from an unknown source to lure us to stare at the sky and attempt to discover where it ends. 

The Nats ceiling is higher and defies logic more than the dome of the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. Consider for a second the stories of the change-up of Jordan Zimmermann finally working, the reports of what Strasburg will pitch like now unbound, of Detwiler like Zimmermann adding a change-up, the fact that Gio Gonzalez has seen his BB/9 drop by an average of 0.42 a year over the last four seasons from 5.11 in 2009 to 3.43 in 2012, and that Dan Haren had his worst season ever in 2012 and when healthy is capable of being on of the most efficient control pitchers to have ever played the game. It isn’t out of the realm of possibilities that the Nats once again finish with five pitchers with double digit wins and beyond that five pitchers with 15 or more wins, but there is that ceiling again, infinite and undefined, inviting us to reach ever skyward.  

There is a latent fear that comes with the approach of a baseball season. Hopes are built up and expectations counted like pre-hatched chickens. The big fear that Haren will be no more than he was last season, but consider that in those games he started the Angels went 12-18 while the Nationals in games Edwin Jackson, the man Haren replaces, pitched went 12-19. That means little as other forces where at work and Jackson was the starting pitcher for four of the Nationals blown saves in 2012. Still at his worse Haren is a suitable replacement for Edwin Jackson and the back end of the Nationals rotation, and at his best he is the pitcher who owns the fifth best K/BB ratio of all time. There is also fear about Ross Detwiler and what happens if he regresses from his 3.40 2012 ERA to his 4.04 FIP, but understand that the average NL starting pitcher in 2012 had a 4.04 ERA. If Detwiler does regress to his 2012 FIP then he is a league average starting pitcher which at the back of a rotation is excellent.

These two big concerns highlight the strength of the Washington Nationals. If what is perceived to be a negative happens then while it will be viewed as a failure for the Nationals it is still a success when compared to the rest of the league. That is what makes the ceiling so scary. If things go wrong it won’t be that bad, but if they go right…if the change-ups of Jordan Zimmermann and Ross Detwiler take them to that next level, if Dan Haren returns to form of being the typical Dan Haren, if Strasburg, the man with the already god-like 11.21 K/9, becomes more deceptive, and if Gio Gonzalez once again improves on his walk rate the ceiling is unknown. It is at a height undetermined that no team in the history of baseball may have ever reached. That is right. The starting pitching staff of the Washington Nationals has a chance to be the best that has ever taken the field. It is a scary thought to let sink in, and its optimistic nature makes it no less true. The reality of the Nats ceiling will twist the mind with blinding light.    

Look at Strasburg and his quest to become more efficient. He averaged 93 pitches and 5.7 innings a start. With his WHIP of 1.15 he was averaging 23.655 batters faced a game and 3.93 pitches per batter. In 2013 Strasburg is going to be allowed to throw more pitches and he is going to attempt to become more efficient with those pitches. If Strasburg can lower his pitches per batter by even a quarter of a pitch on average and throws an average of 97 pitches per outing like Jordan Zimmermann did in 2012 then he will be able to face 26.358 batters an outing and last an average of 6.35 innings a start. And it is never a bad thing for a team to have their best starting pitcher on the mound more often.    

Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmermann, Detwiler, and Haren are all working to improve in 2013 and evidence has been on display this spring that they all might accomplish those goals. If they do then the 2013 Nationals are going to be a scary sight to behold and a team that will be remembered for a long time. The ceiling for this pitching staff isn’t just racking up the wins in 2013, but earning a place in baseball lore. And imagining the heights that they can ascend to is like trying to climb to the top of Mt. Olympus and shake hands with Zeus.

Storen’s Deep Thoughts and Detwiler’s Change-Up

There is still not much going on
around Natstown along the slow crawl to the Spring Training finish line. The
two biggest bits of news from this weekend have to do with Drew Storen thinking
too much on the mound as Davey Johnson said and Ross Detwiler talking about
adding a change-up. The first part about Storen can be addressed quickly
and easily. It is Spring Training. Now is the time to be thinking on the mound.
This is practice. Now is the time for pitchers to be working on stuff and
trying to figure out new grips, new pitches, and new ways to get batters out.
When the season rolls around that is the time to throw what the catcher puts
down. Here is Storen’s quote on the situation as given to Adam Kilgore of the
Washington Post: 

“When I’m out there, I’m trying to get the most out of an outing, other than results,” Storen said. “I’m trying to go, ‘okay.’ During the year, I know what my go-tos are. I know I’m going to go to in a certain situation. Here, you’re trying to look for things other than that. You’re trying to work on a different pitch to throw in a different situation, right? So if a situation comes up this year where I’ve seen a guy so many times, I’m not going to be fooling him – I’m not going to throw him a slider he hasn’t seen before. Why not work on some other pitches?

“My breaking ball works good and my change-up is good now, so I need to work on my fastball command. It was a step forward from the outing before. If you want to say it’s overthinking it, yeah. But I always think a lot during spring training. That’s what you’re trying to get out of it.”

That simple. It is Spring Training
and he is working on game situations. It is leading to bad results, but in 2011
Storen didn’t have the best Spring Training and then went on to have his best
season to date. When the time comes for Storen to get the job done he will be
ready and instead of anticipating he will react.

The other Nats pitcher said to be
working on stuff over the weekend is Ross Detwiler who said he is trying to add
a change-up. His results were much better as he limited a Tigers line-up with
many of their regulars to only one run over four innings of work and said his change-up
felt great. Why this is important is that the change-up is a pitch that
can neutralize the platoon advantage. Over his career right handed
batters have an OPS of .749 compared to .607 for left handers. As a left handed
pitcher Detwiler is going to face a lot more right handers and having a
change-up will make them less effective. The reason a change-up neutralizes the
platoon advantage is that it looks like a fastball coming out of the hand and
breaks straight down whereas a curve ball will break in to an opposite hand
hitter and is therefore much less effective than it would be to a same handed
hitter.  

For his career the change-up is
Detwiler’s third most used pitch, but he has only thrown it 497 times or 9% of
the time, and in 2012 it was his least used pitch as he threw the slider 319
times compared to the change 178 times. Detwiler was primarily a
fastball/sinker pitcher in 2012 preferring for batters to beat his
sinker into the ground than getting ahead and striking them out with his
change-up or slider. The slider was the pitch Detwiler went to to get a
strikeout as it had a K rate of 32.7% and the change a K rate of only 10.4%. If
Detwiler can make his change-up more effective it will both decrease the
platoon advantage batters have against him as well as lead to more strikeouts.
 

The issue with the change-up may be
command. It was a strike 62% of the time which is close to the 64% and 65% of
his fastball and sinker, but a change-up isn’t a pitch that pitchers want to be
a strike. A good change-up looks like it is going to be in the zone and then
drops out at the last minute. It is a deception pitch much more than a control
pitch and Detwiler’s effective slider was only a strike 56% of the time. Of any
of Detwiler’s pitches the change-up was the least effective with a .695 OPS and
.357 BABIP against. In 2012 Detwiler’s change-up was too easy to hit. If he can
improve it so that it does have more deception and dives out of the zone more
often it will make him a more effective pitcher. Detwiler has shown he can
pound the zone with his fastball and sinker to get ahead and with a good change-up
once ahead he can lure them into swinging at what they think is another
fastball only to find that the pitch is moving slower than they thought and not
where they thought it would be. 

Add Detwiler along to Zimmermann and Strasburg
as Nats pitchers working on stuff in Spring Training that could help them reach
that next level. It is a scary thought that as good as they were last year
there is still room for improvement and they all have a plan of how to get
there. For Detwiler the plan is much the same as the one for Zimmermann and it
involves getting better at throwing a change-up.

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Team USA & Nationals Pitchers

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Tonight, Team USA will play its
first game of the 2013 World Baseball Classic. It is exciting, as the United
States has long been considered to be the premier baseball country of the
world. This should not come as too much of a surprise, people come from all
over the world in hopes of making it in Major League Baseball. Japan, Taiwan,
Curacao, Venezuela, and too many other countries to name all have a player or
two in Major League baseball. That being said, Team USA will battle some tough
and proven opponents. What is exciting about the 2013 WBC and Team USA is that
they have a helping hand from the Washington Nationals.

In years past, it would be difficult
to see a lot of players from the Nationals make it onto the WBC’s team USA
roster. In 2013, the Nationals have representatives Gio Gonzalez and Ross
Detwiler. The two Nationals representatives join an all-star cast of
characters, including David Wright, Giancarlo Stanton, Ryan Braun, and many,
many other highly talented players. Having both Gio and Detwiler on the USA
roster says a lot about their talents and abilities and how good the Nationals
pitching staff is. A simple look at the roster will tell you that the players
Joe Torre picked were the best of the best. To have some of D.C.’s own
hand-picked to represent the greatest country in the world is a compliment to
the players as well as to what the organization has done to put together not
only an excellent pitching staff, but an excellent roster overall.

There is some debate, though over
having pitchers in the WBC. Pitchers get hurt, it is a fact of baseball and one
the Nationals are rather familiar with. Both Detwiler and Gio are coming off
some of their best seasons as starting pitchers. 2012 was the first full year
that Detwiler was both fully healthy and performed as well as he did. There
were a lot of injuries that have hampered his career to this point, but that is
not necessarily indicative of what we can expect of him in the future. Should
there always be an eye out for Detwiler’s health? Of course, as with any
pitcher. Take into account, though that the WBC has rules in place to protect
pitchers, such as pitch limits. Given that in the first round of the WBC
pitchers are limited to 60 pitches, a guy like Detwiler is essentially going
from spring training camp to a more competitive version of spring training. As
the WBC goes on, the pitch limits will expand, much like they do in spring
training. Such rules will help to reduce fatigue and lessen negative impacts on
pitchers. Think of it this way, if a Detwiler or Gio get hurt in the WBC, who
is to say they wouldn’t have been hurt in spring training? Anything could
happen, but having them with Team USA is a big plus for both the WBC and Team
USA.

There is also the pride of being
able to represent your home country that should be taken into account. If a guy
on any team gets the call from a manager in the WBC, what would be the reason
to say no? Of all the players in the world, only a select few get to compete at
the Major League level. Of that group, an even smaller number get to compete
while wearing the team USA jersey on a stage in front of the entire world. Any competitor
would want that opportunity; it is an incredible honor to Gio and Detwiler to
have the chance to prove themselves to the world.

Team USA has an outstanding roster
with great talent, and that should make watching them in the WBC a lot of fun.
With Gio and Detwiler lending a helping hand to an already stacked team, it
figures to be a fun competition where Team USA could go quite far. So sit back
and enjoy, Nationals fans. It will be some good competitive baseball.

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JP Howell and the Unspoken Option

What if the Nats search for a lefty reliever turned internal. For a couple days now all the writers that cover the Nats have been able to talk about is JP Howell and he, along with former Nats Tom Gorzelanny and Mike Gonzalez, is one of the last lefty relievers left on the board. After losing Sean Burnett to the Angels the Nats are left with fewer and fewer options for a lefty reliever. Except of course the one option no one is talking about. JP Howell is a fine lefty reliever. For his career as a reliever lefties have hit .241/.323/.351 off of him, but what if I told you that the Nats have in house a pitcher who lefties hit .214/.307/.300 off of.

That pitcher is Ross Detwiler and while it sounds foolish to take a starting pitcher and turn him into a LOOGY consider that righties hit .272/.331/.418 off of Detwiler for his career. Detwiler has been a reliever and a very good one before and just last season he bounced between relieving and starting. If the Nats rotation suffers an injury as it stands then either Zach Duke, Yunesky Maya, or Christian Garcia would be forced into the rotation. Converting Detwiler to primarily a reliever solves both the lefty bullpen issue and the worry about injury to the starting rotation. 

This is only a consideration if the Nationals sign an additional starting pitcher. The Nats are not in a position currently to be moving their very fine fifth starter into the bullpen, but what if they were. What if the signing of Dan Haren wasn’t a signal that the Nats are out of the starting pitcher market, but only a smoke screen to make other teams think they are. Even beyond Greinke there are pitchers that would help the Nats this season and next. The Nats minor league pitching is not at a point where a one year deal to Dan Haren makes perfect sense. There is no one that they are waiting for in the minors especially with Alex Myers being traded to the Twins for Denard Span. 

All the talk from the media about the Nationals the last couple days has been about JP Howell and future arbitration and extension concerns. The Nats look like a team that only needs to finish up negotiations with LaRoche, figure out what to do with Morse, and sign a lefty reliever like JP Howell, but that isn’t the only path open to the Nationals. The fact that Detwiler has relieved in the past and has a significant platoon split makes him a good candidate to fill that role, and if the Nats are going to fill that role with Detwiler it means they signed someone else. 

No one is looking for the Nats to sign Greinke, but no one was looking for the Angels to sign Pujols or the Tigers to sign Fielder or the Phillies to sign Lee or on and on. Free agents rarely end up where they are rumored to go and when it is down to two teams that is when the third and great mystery team often jumps in. Whether or not the Nationals are a mystery team for Greinke, Anibal Sanchez, or Ryan Dempster will be determined in the coming days, but it isn’t a possibility that should be ignored while everyone is assuming the Nats are solely focussed on Adam LaRoche and JP Howell as their only remaining targets. 

The Luxury of Time

Even while in the midst of a four game slide the Nats are 11 games over .500 and leading the NL East. Over the next two days they will have the pitchers with the second and the third highest WAR in the NL on the mound. By all accounts this losing streak should end within the next two games, but it could have and perhaps should have ended last night. If it had been Detwiler on the mound instead of Chien-Ming Wang the Nats losing streak may already be over. 

The problem with Chien Ming Wang has nothing to do with him. This has been his pattern over the last couple of seasons. He comes back from injury and takes a bit of time to get right, and when he does he is a good and sturdy pitcher that can go deep into games. Right now his delivery is off and he is overthrowing everything and leaving his sinker up in the zone where it is getting hit and hit hard. 

Brad Lidge was in a similar way where his mechanics just weren’t right but with time they would have gotten right. The problem though isn’t with the players it is with the current state of the Nationals. At 11 games over .500 and leading the NL East the Nats no longer have the luxury of waiting for veterans like Lidge or Wang to get right and then trying to flip them to contenders for prospects. This is no longer that state that the Nationals are in. 

Lidge was in a bit of a different situation than Wang. At some point in September Stephen Strasburg is going to be shut down and the Nats are going to need an additional starter. As of right now the move would be to simply shift Detwiler from the pen to the rotation and go with that, but with every start that Wang makes he is hurting the Nationals chances of even having to worry about contention when Strasburg is shutdown. The Nationals are reaching a crisis point and a decision is going to have to be made. Is it better to let Wang cost the Nationals wins now while trying to get him right or is it best to put the best foot forward and win as many games as possible before Strasburg is shut down and then hope someone like Lannan or Duke can be hot in September?

It is a tough question with no easy answer and it is made tougher by the fact that the Nationals are winning. If this was any other year in the Nationals history the answer would be easy. It would be to stick with the veteran until they were tradable and then move them for a prospect or minor leaguer that could help in the future. In the past the Nats made a number of moves they wouldn’t be able to make now because they simply do not have the luxury of time.

During the Winter Meetings in 2006 the Nationals were able to select in the rule 5 draft a high A catcher by the name of Jesus Flores. After the 2007 season the Nationals were able to trade a hot reliever with a hard to spell name to the Yankees for a starter named Tyler Clippard who the Nats subsequently transformed into one of the best set-up men in baseball. In 2009 the Nationals and Mariners swapped utility players with all glove no bat Ryan Langerhans going to the Mariners for light hitting poor defensive utility man Michael Morse. And in 2009 the Nationals traded the struggling Joel Hanrahan and Lastings Milledge to the Pirates for Nyjer Morgan and throw in Sean Burnett. Also that year the Nats were able to acquire Tommy John’s survivor Ryan Mattheus from the Rockies for Joe Beimel.

In some way every one of those players has contributed to the Nats recent success and they were able to acquire and then work through those players struggles because they had the time to do so. Look at what the Rockies are doing with a four man rotation. If they were in the midst of a pennant race there is no chance they have the ability to be that experimental, but because they have been struggling so badly this season they can afford to try a new idea. 

Because the Nationals now find themselves with a winning record in June they have some tough decisions ahead. When mechanically sound Chien Ming Wang is a perfectly acceptable starting pitcher, but he isn’t mechanically sound and the Nationals may not have the time to wait for him to get that way. Especially with Ross Detwiler sitting out in the bullpen waiting for another shot at the rotation. For a losing team the luxury of time is their greatest weapon because it can lead to finds like Michael Morse or Tyler Clippard, but the Nationals are no longer a losing team, and this is where the decision making process gets tough and sometime cruel.