On this date in 2005, the Nats added former White Sox pitcher Esteban Loaiza to their starting rotation
For today’s Fed City Flashback, we wanted to take you back to the 2005 offseason. In their first offseason as the Washington Nationals, they went out and signed free agent starting pitcher Esteban Loaiza to a one-year deal worth $2.9 million. Loaiza fit a need for the Nats at the time because he could eat innings. In 2004, as the Montreal Expos, the starters threw the fewest innings of any team in the National League.
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During the 2004 season, the right-handed Loaiza went 10-7 in 31 games (27 starts) and had a 5.40 ERA with the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees. Chicago dealt Loaiza to New York at the trade deadline for Jose Contreras. After posting a 4.86 ERA in 21 starts with Chicago, Loaiza had a 8.50 ERA in ten appearances (six starts) with the Yankees and he appeared in three postseason games out of the bullpen.
When the Nationals made this signing, they had to hope Loaiza would return to the form he had in 2003 when he went 21-9 with a 2.90 ER in 34 starts, led the American League in strikeouts with 207, and finished second in the Cy Young voting behind then Toronto Blue Jays’ starter, Roy Halladay.
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In that 2005 season, Loaiza went 12-10 in 34 starts with a 3.77 ERA. He threw 217 innings, which was the second most of any Nats’ pitcher (Livan Hernandez threw 246.1 innings). His FIP of 3.33 was the lowest on the team and the second lowest of his career (3.05 in 2003). Also, his 34 starts were tied for the eighth most in the NL and one behind the league lead.
Loaiza was 5-5 in the first half of 2005 with a 3.57 ERA in 15 starts. While his ERA went up to 3.99 in the second half, he did go 7-5 in his final 16 starts of the year. But, he did go 5-2 in his final ten starts of the year. He had two outings of 11 strikeouts and both of them came against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Even though Loaiza gave up the seventh most hits in the NL (227), he was a strong pitcher at RFK Stadium. In his 16 home outings, the right-hander went 6-4 with a 2.86 ERA and held hitters to a .233 batting average. On the road, Loaiza was 6-6 with a 4.71 ERA and opponents were hitting .303.
After his one season in the Nation’s Capital, Loaiza played for the A’s, White Sox, and Dodgers in the final three seasons of his career. In the end, his 12 wins in Washington were the second most wins he had in a single season. Even though the Nats finished 81-81 in 2005, general manager Jim Bowden appeared to have made a good signing when he gave Loaiza a one-year deal.