At the GM Meetings in Boca Raton, Mike Rizzo was asked about the starting rotation for the 2016 season and said, “I’m happy sliding Tanner and Joe in the rotation. With that said, you can never have enough good starting pitching.” That’s as much as you can get Mike Rizzo to commit to at this time, and Dusty Baker will pencil in his mind his rotation with the full knowledge that things can change and often do.
If we take Rizzo’s suggestion on sliding Tanner Roark and Joe Ross into the rotation, this is what the starters and reserves will look like:
Yes, at some point in 2016 we could see Lucas Giolito. The word ‘could’ just means it’s possible to see the #1 prospect in a Nats uniform in 2016. If the 5 listed starters do their job well, the rotation should be set. If the starters don’t do their job, it’s very possible on July 31, 2016 that Stephen Strasburg could be traded. Again, the word ‘could’ just means it’s possible.
Stephen Strasburg was one of the best starters in baseball in the 2nd half posting up a 1.90 ERA in 10 starts. Strasburg was one of the worst starters in baseball in the 1st half suffering from neck and back pain that landed him on the DL. The 2nd half Strasburg was the star of the staff. Strasburg had off-season surgery to remove a growth from his back. Strasburg’s agent Scott Boras said that Strasburg was bothered by the growth when he pitched. Boras said the surgery took place about a month ago and added, “He’s fine now.”
Tanner Roark was the model of inconsistency in 2015 after coming off of a breakout 2014 season with 31 starts and a 2.85 ERA, Roark was put in the bullpen to begin the 2015 season as the odd man out after the Nats acquired Max Scherzer. Roark finished the 2015 season with a 4.82 ERA as a starter. Roark will enter Spring Training with a lot to prove, and at this point is “in” the rotation for 2016.
Joe Ross was acquired last off-season in the three-team Souza trade along with Trea Turner and seemed to be the extra filler to complete the deal as he had come off of a poor 2014 MiLB season between High-A and AA in the Padres system with a 3.92 ERA. Ross impressed the scouts in his starts in AA and earned a call-up mid-season and hit his innings limit and was sent to the bullpen. Ross showed a wicked slider and a well controlled fastball. Once Joe Cool can perfect his changeup he will continue to advance. His poise on the mound was impressive. In 10 of Joe’s 13 starts, he gave up 3 runs or less. In 4 of the 13 starts, he only gave up 1 run or less.
Max Scherzer was one of the best starters in baseball in 2015, finishing the season with 2 no-hitters and a 1 hitter and earning a 5th place finish in the Cy Young voting. Scherzer was the workhorse of the staff but stumbled heading into the 2nd half. Prior to signing as a Free Agent with the Nats last off-season, Scherzer had never thrown a complete game in his career; Scherzer threw a league high 4 complete games in 2015 and finished the season with 228 2/3 innings pitched. His 1st half ERA was 2.11 and his 2nd half ERA was 3.72 and he finished his 2015 season with a no-hitter.
Gio Gonzalez had an inconsistent 2015 season, and once again called into question on his pitching days as to which Gio would show up. The “good” Gio showed up 19 times in 2015 and the “bad” Gio unfortunately showed up 10 times. In 8 of Gio’s starts, he couldn’t get past the 5th inning which was a strain on the bullpen.
For 2016, the staff will have a new pitching coach in Mike Maddux and a new manager in Dusty Baker. Matt Williams like most managers was criticized regularly for his bullpen management and not having a good read on when to pull his starters. Dusty Baker and Mike Maddux will watch tape and figure out what they have. Much will depend upon the reliability of the 2016 bullpen.