Washington Nationals: Mid-Term Report Card: Starting Pitching

rshinberg
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 06: Max Scherzer #31 of the Washington Nationals pitches in the second inning against the Kansas City Royals at Nationals Park on July 6, 2019 in Washington, DC. The Nationals are paying tribute to the Montreal Expos by wearing retro jerseys. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 06: Max Scherzer #31 of the Washington Nationals pitches in the second inning against the Kansas City Royals at Nationals Park on July 6, 2019 in Washington, DC. The Nationals are paying tribute to the Montreal Expos by wearing retro jerseys. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images) /
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During the All-Star Break, District on Deck will review and grade the play of each position group on the Washington Nationals roster.

All Washington Nationals fans know that the foundation of the team has always been starting pitching.  In 2019, it is even more evident.

Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, and Anibal Sanchez have anchored the Nationals’ rotation, pitching over 440 innings of great baseball from March and into July.

Arguably the best free-agent signing in Nationals history, Scherzer is on his way to his third National League Cy Young award in four years.  His 5.5 WAR leads all pitchers in baseball by more than one win.  What else needs to be said?  GRADE: 100%, A+

Strasburg is quietly putting together a terrific season.  His 3.1 WAR at the All-Star break has eclipsed his mark from all of last year (2.3).  Only three of Strasburg’s 18 starts have failed to yield 18 outs.  Compared to the previous season, his strikeout rate is stable, his walk and home run rates are both down, and his ground ball percentage is much higher.  There is very little to complain about with the Nats’ long-time ace.  GRADE: 95%, A

In the first year of a six-year contract, Corbin is already paying dividends.  His 3.34 FIP ranks in the top 20 in the MLB.  Despite going through a rough stretch of starts spanning May and June, in which he allowed earned run totals of six, three, and seven in consecutive starts, he came out on the other side as strong as ever.  With his wipeout slider, grading out as the fifth-best slider in the MLB, there’s no reason to expect another slump from the left-hander.  GRADE: 90%, A-

While he’s not a member of the “Big Three,” Anibal Sanchez has been a critical member of the Nats’ pitching staff.  The Nats signed him in hopes of stabilizing the back end of the rotation, and that’s exactly what he’s done.  Since returning from the Injured List with a hamstring injury, he’s posted a 2.18 ERA over 41.1 innings.  However, Sanchez’s peripheral stats, such as an elevated walk rate and decreased ground ball rate, leave a cause for concern going forward.  GRADE: 80% B-

Lastly, the fifth starters spot has rotated between Jeremy Hellickson, Erick Fedde, Austin Voth, and Kyle McGowin.  Their combined stats this season come out to 104 innings pitched, a 5.54 ERA, an opponents batting average of .276 and a strikeout-to-walk ratio under two.  COMBINED GRADE: 60%, D

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Overall, the Nationals starting pitching is good.  The word “elite” can be used for their top three pitchers.  If and when the Nationals play in a playoff series, their top three starters will give them a great chance to beat any team in baseball over a seven-game series.  If the Nats are to get to that point, it’s going to be the starting rotation that gets them there.

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