Tag: Gio Gonzalez

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Bryce Harper: “Where’s my ring?”


Most people are high on the Nationals this season, but outfielder Bryce Harper might be the highest of all. Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com spoke with Harper on Wednesday …

The biggest money quote in a string of them came when Harper was asked for his reaction to the Nationals’ surprise signing of Max Scherzer, a $210 million addition to what already was lauded as baseball’s best rotation.

“To be able to have a guy like Scherzer come in? I just started laughing,” Harper said. “I was like, ‘Where’s my ring?’ You know what I mean? It’s stupid. It’s absolutely stupid how good our staff is.

He’s right — between Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, and Doug Fister the starting rotation is indeed stupid-good — but that kind of confidence won’t sit well with everybody.

Washington has been considered something of a juggernaut three years running, yet the franchise has not captured a World Series championship in its 46-year existence (dating back to the Montreal Expos days).

Jordan Zimmermann won’t discuss extension once the season starts

Jordan Zimmermann

Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann is entering what could be his final season in Washington. Both sides have expressed interest in discussing an extension, but the right-hander wants the situation resolved by the start of the regular season, per CSN Washington’s Mark Zuckerman.

Zimmermann, 28, will earn $16.5 million in 2015, the second year of a two-year, $24 million deal signed in January 2014 to cover his third and fourth years of arbitration eligibility. He put up the best numbers of his young career last season, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio in 199 2/3 innings. He capped off the regular season with a no-hitter against the Marlins on September 28.

The Nationals also stand to lose Doug Fister to free agency, and will have to deal with Stephen Strasburg’s third and final year of arbitration eligibility going into the 2016 season. Gio Gonzalez can become a free agent after the 2016 season if the Nationals choose not to pick up his $12 million option for ’17. They’ll have to make some tough decisions about their pitching staff soon — Zimmermann is just the tip of the iceberg.

Now with Max Scherzer, Nationals’ rotation could be historically elite

Max Scherzer

The Nationals have signed right-hander Max Scherzer to a seven-year deal worth more than $180 million, which now gives them a rotation that could be historically great. Even before the addition of Scherzer, it was already going to be tough to deal with, just as it was last season. Now with Scherzer in the fold, Tanner Roark, who had a 2.85 ERA in 31 starts this past season, likely moves to the bullpen until (if) the Nationals trade one of their starters.

Here’s a look at how each pitcher has performed over the past three seasons:

Tanner Roark 22 11 36 252.1 17.8% 5.0% 43.1% 6.4% 2.57
Jordan Zimmermann 45 22 96 608.2 20.1% 4.5% 43.9% 8.3% 2.96
Stephen Strasburg 37 26 92 557.1 28.0% 6.5% 47.3% 12.0% 3.10
Doug Fister 40 25 83 534.1 17.8% 4.7% 51.7% 10.1% 3.22
Max Scherzer 55 15 97 622.1 28.6% 7.1% 36.5% 8.7% 3.24
Gio Gonzalez 42 26 91 553.2 24.5% 9.1% 45.7% 7.5% 3.25

(Data courtesy FanGraphs)

With Zimmermann set to hit free agency after the season, he appears to be the most likely to be traded. Fister could also be moved, but as he is about three years older than Zimmermann, he wouldn’t bring a comparable return in a trade. Strasburg is reportedly available in a trade, but the Nationals have him under team control through 2016.

Since 1969 — when the pitcher’s mound was lowered — only 23 pitching staffs have finished a season with a combined ERA below 3.00, per Baseball Reference. If you exclude the strike-shortened season of 1981, that number falls to 21. The 1972 Orioles, with the four-headed beast of Jim Palmer, Mike Cuellar, Pat Dobson, and Dave McNally have the record for the lowest aggregate ERA for a pitching staff at 2.58. That same year, the Athletics set the second-best rotation ERA at 2.64 behind Catfish Hunter, Ken Holtzman, Blue Moon Odom, Vida Blue, and Dave Hamilton.

The most recent threat to the title for best rotation occurred in 2011 with the Phillies (Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels), but their aggregate 2.86 ERA ranks 10th. Adjusted for park factors and league strength, however, they do move up a few notches. The 1992 Braves are the only other rotation on the list since 1990.

The Nationals last year led the league in rotation ERA at 3.04 ahead of the Dodgers’ 3.20 mark. Take out Roark, who was a prime regression candidate (his 2.85 ERA beat his xFIP by nearly a full run), with Scherzer, and you have a rotation that could challenge the Phillies as the best modern starting rotation. If the Nationals decide to keep Zimmermann, Fister, and Strasburg, and they enjoy good fortune — both in terms of on-the-field results and pitcher health — they could climb the ranks as one of the best starting rotations in the era of the lowered mound.