Washington Nationals starter Austin Voth pitched exceptionally well in his return to the big leagues, potentially setting up a competition for the fifth starters’ spot.
After a controversial move to pitch Joe Ross last night, manager Davey Martinez called on Voth to start the series finale against Atlanta.
The Nats were merely hoping for an average outing from Voth today. Something along the lines of three runs allowed in five innings pitched would have put the Nats in a position to win the game.
However, Voth pitched much better than anticipated, throwing six strong innings with the only blemishes on his record being two solo home runs.
His fastball had a lot more life on it than when the Nats saw him last in September of 2018. His fastball averaged 91.5 miles per hour in 12.1 innings last fall.
In today’s start, his fastball reached 96 miles per hour in the first inning, likely due to him being amped to be back on a Major League pitching mound. It settled back down a bit in the middle innings, hitting 93-94 MPH consistently.
It is a great sign that Voth added a few extra ticks onto his fastball, which he used effectively in his start today. Each of Voth’s seven strikeouts came on the fastball.
Voth also throws a cutter, changeup, and curveball, so he will need to develop those pitches to keep his spot in the MLB as he won’t be able to get by for much longer on just a 94 MPH heater.
But due to his success today, and with Ross back in Triple-A, Voth and Erick Fedde might duke it out for the fifth starters spot.
Jeremy Hellickson opened the season with the job, but a 6.23 ERA and a lengthy IL stint have sidelined him since mid-May.
Kyle McGowin was called up alongside Voth, but he does not project as well as Voth. THE BAT, a rest-of-season projection system found on Fangraphs.com, projects McGowin for a 5.50 ERA in 26 innings pitched for the remainder of 2019.
Fedde is still the top option as he has proven himself to be the most reliable of the bunch. Fedde has a 3.79 ERA this season, but his strikeouts are way, way, way down in 2019 compared to previous years in the MLB and minor leagues.
Fedde is striking out 12.9% of batters in 2019, which is beyond horrific, compared to 19.7% in 2017 and 21.2% in 2018, which are around average marks.
With a sample size of 40.1 innings and growing, this drop in strikeouts is becoming more and more concerning.
Because of this, the door is opening for Voth to take the job. It is still Fedde’s to lose at this point, but by no means is his role set in stone.