Posted on: May 3, 2011 11:34 am
Only one team in the majors has yet to go to the bullpen in the first five innings of a game.
No, it's not the Phillies. Or the Giants. Or the A's.
Keep guessing, and let me know when you get to the Nationals.
Yes, the Nationals.
Last year, they didn't get past opening day without an early departure by the starter. By the end of the year, they had 38, the most in the majors.
Now, they're the only team without one (every other team has at least two, led by the Pirates with seven).
It's all according to plan.
"I'm not a big stat guy, but I firmly believe that the farther the starter goes in a game, the better chance you have of winning," pitching coach Steve McCatty said by phone Tuesday morning. "You try to get guys to know they have to go farther in the game to give you a chance to win."
It's not exactly revolutionary thinking, but McCatty has prioritized limiting walks over striking out batters. Sure enough, Nationals starters have just 45 walks in 173 innings, fewer than any rotation other than the Phillies.
"We're trying to stress it in the minor leagues, too," he said. "One thing the pitch count has done is it keeps guys from going deep in games, but we're telling guys you can go seven innings with 100 pitches or less.
"I was a guy who threw 135-145 pitches every time out, but just because I did it doesn't make it right."
The Nationals have gotten innings out of their starters without running high pitch counts. No Nats starter has thrown more than 109 pitches in a game, and last Friday against the Giants Jason Marquis threw a 96-pitch complete game.
The five-inning thing, as McCatty admits, isn't the best indicator. The Nationals are only in the middle of the pack in starts of six innings-plus (they have 19 in 28 games), and the Nats have just six starts of seven innings-plus (the Rays lead baseball with 15).
But for an unheralded staff -- Livan Hernandez, John Lannan, Jordan Zimmermann, Marquis and Tom Gorzelanny form the Nationals rotation -- the five-inning streak is impressive.
Especially from a rotation no one has paid attention to since Stephen Strasburg got hurt.
Posted on: September 4, 2008 11:10 am
The Cubs are nine games up on a playoff spot with 22 games to play. Even with their tough schedule (6 vs. Milwaukee, 4 vs. Mets, 3 at Houston), they should get to October even if their rotation is headed by Ryan Dempster and Ted Lilly, rather than Carlos Zambrano and Rich Harden.
But that's not really the point, is it?
If this 100-year drought is going to end, the Cubs don't just have to get to October. They've been to the playoffs before, as recently as last year.
No, the scary part for the Cubs is that they don't seem to know for sure whether Zambrano will pitch again this year. And while they've penciled in Harden for a start next week against the Cardinals, any hint that he's hurt (he'll go at least 11 days between starts because of "discomfort") brings up all of his awful history with injuries.
Should the Cubs be worried? You bet.