Tag: Livan Hernandez

2011 MLB Preseason Preview: Washington Nationals

Washington Nationals (2010 record: 69-93)

The addition of free agent Jayson Werth speaks volumes about the Nationals’ growth in terms of the perception of the team as it continues its journey towards baseball relevance. The trade-off from Adam Dunn to Werth may or may not make an impact on the field in terms of wins and losses, but it makes a clear statement about the possibilities for the future.

Sadly for Nats fans, that future is not now.

The team improved by 10 games last year, but it faces an uphill battle to hold onto those gains in the upcoming season. The club lost future ace Stephen Strasburg to a torn ulnar collateral nerve and consequent Tommy John surgery last August. He’ll miss most, if not all, of the 2011 season.

On offense, Dunn and Adam Kennedy departed via free agency, and the front office traded OF Josh Willingham to Oakland. Considering all of these developments in their totality, the best case scenario for 2011 would be maintaining the 10-game improvement achieved in 2010.

The team is very young and, under the best of circumstances, it is likely still at least a couple of years away from competing for a division title.

Notable additions:
OF Rick Ankiel, 1B Adam LaRoche, LF Matt Stairs, RF Jayson Werth

Notable subtractions: 1B Adam Dunn, 2B Adam Kennedy, LHP Scott Olsen, RHP Joel Peralta, OF Josh Willingham


The Offense

Catcher: Ivan Rodriguez

Infield: Adam LaRoche (1B), Danny Espinosa (2B), Ian Desmond (SS) and Ryan Zimmerman (3B)

Outfield: Roger Bernadina (LF), Nyger Morgan (CF) and Jayson Werth (RF)

The offense finished 14th (of 16) teams in the league in runs scored last year, and the plight of the lineup became more acute this winter when 1B Adam Dunn left for the cozy confines of US Cellular Field on the south side of Chicago. It was further exacerbated when Willingham was shipped to the Athletics.

The club will be largely dependent on holdover Zimmerman and newcomers Werth and LaRoche. Zimmerman won the Silver Slugger Award at third base in each of the last two years, but he had Dunn as his running buddy in the lineup.

That responsibility now falls to Werth, who will face life outside Citizens Bank Park while trying to live up to the $126 million contract he received in free agency. The pundits are split on whether his power will translate seamlessly to a bigger stadium in the nation’s capitol.

LaRoche has bounced from Pittsburgh to Boston to Atlanta to Phoenix (and now) to Washington over the last three seasons, but he has averaged a .269 average and 25 HR in those three seasons.

The club’s fate will be largely dependent on the continued development of 24-year-old SS Ian Desmond and 23-year-old 2B Danny Espinosa to complement Zimmerman, Werth and LaRoche. They both offer a potential for a decent power and speed combination, but they’re young and nothing is assured.

Desmond showed growth in the second half of last season, offering hope for 2011. Espinosa’s batting average in 2010 was bleak, but it will likely improve as last year’s number was based on a dismal 27 percent hit rate.

Nyjer Morgan went into last year having had a dynamic second half in 2009, but some level of regression was expected as his success was based on an unsustainable 37 percent hit rate in ’09. He regressed.

The question is where he goes from here. His game is speed, and he can’t use it unless he gets on base more consistently. He doesn’t walk nearly enough to be an effective leadoff man, so he’s got to figure out an identity and then embrace it. Many of the same comments apply to Bernadina, as well.

Ivan Rodriguez’s skills at the plate are increasingly marginal and he offers little in the way of production. That said, he doesn’t really hurt the club, per se, so he’ll likely retain the lion’s share of the playing time behind the plate.


The Pitching Staff

Rotation: RHP Livan Hernandez, RHP Jordan Zimmerman, LHP John Lannan, LHP Tom Gorzelanny and RHP Jason Marquis

Closer: RHP Drew Storen

On the mound, with Strasburg lost for the year, it is essential that the bevy of young pitching prospects they have started integrating at the big league level develops quickly in support of veteran Livan Hernandez.

Hernandez had a nice comeback campaign last year, posting a 3.66 ERA, but he’s just not a No. 1 pitcher anymore. Zimmerman and Marquis are both returning from injuries and cannot really be counted on, yet the Nationals are counting on them to be productive in the No. 2 and 3 slots in the rotation.

Zimmerman looked good in his return from Tommy John surgery at the end of the year and is capable of becoming a consistent winner if healthy. He’ll be another year removed from his injury this season, so the front office is hopeful he will remain healthy and develop into a reliable No. 2 behind Strasburg.

Lannan struggled throughout the first half of last year and eventually earned himself a demotion to Double-A. When he returned he resembled the pitcher who showed so much promise in 2008 and 2009.

Marquis and Gorzelanny are back-end options in any major league rotation. Marquis is a ground ball pitcher who seems destined to pitch 180 innings, win 12 to 13 games, and post a 4.50 ERA with a 1.45 WHIP, plus or minus. Gorzelanny walks too many batters and, as a result, will always struggle to live up to the potential he occasionally flashes.

Storen should be ready to assume the closer’s mantle on a regular basis in 2011. He had a strong first half last year, followed by a rough second half, but the peripherals suggest his second half was largely a matter of bad luck (high hit rate, low strand rate). I expect he will have a solid campaign as Washington’s closer, and eventually develop into an excellent closer over the next couple of seasons.


Prediction for 2011:
Fifth place (70-92)

The absence of Dunn and Strasburg will no doubt hurt the on-field product, but their losses shouldn’t be catastrophic. Werth won’t replace Dunn’s offense, but the combination of Werth and LaRoche should replace the productivity of Dunn and Willingham. There is no replacement for Strasburg, but a healthy Zimmerman should mitigate the impact of his loss.

Desmond, Espinosa and Morgan: two of them will take a step forward this season and help the offense improve, if only marginally. Lannan will win a dozen games. The 2011 campaign won’t be what it could have been with Strasburg in the rotation, but it should provide an ever-improving foundation for the organization as it looks toward a future that includes Bryce Harper, Derek Norris, AJ Cole and others.


Top Five Prospects

1. Bryce Harper, OF
2. Derek Norris, C
3. AJ Cole, RHP
4. Chris Marrero, 1B
5. Yunesky Maya, RHP

Sports Illustrated dubbed Harper “Baseball’s Chosen One” as a high school sophomore. You would think it would be hard for a kid to live up to that kind of hype, yet Harper continues to impress in spite of the weight of expectations he carries on his shoulders.

The former catcher earned his GED in 2009 in order to skip his junior and senior years in high school and enroll at a junior college. In his one year of JuCo ball (2010), he hit .443 while leading the nation with 31 HR. He won the Golden Spikes Award as the nation’s top amateur player and was then the consensus No. 1 pick in last June’s First-Year Player Draft.

He agreed to a contract with the Nationals just before the August signing deadline and converted to the outfield in the instructional league. He hit .343 in winter ball (in the Arizona Fall League) and is ticketed for the minor leagues in 2011 (maybe High-A Potomac, to start).

He is the proverbial five-tool player. There is no aspect of his game that needs improvement…just refinement. According to Baseball America, his power rates an “80″ on the scouts’ 20-80 scale. What most people don’t know is that his arm also rates an “80″ on the scouting scale. He stole 20 bases in 24 attempts in JuCo.

He will need to refine his approach at the plate and the mechanics of his swing in the minor leagues—improvements that will help him to hit for a higher batting average in the major leagues. He also needs work on his defense in right field, but it is a matter of gaining experience not acquiring skills. He is reputed to have an excellent work ethic, so the learning curve won’t be long or steep.

He is on the fast track to The Show, and to stardom.

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Washington Nationals: Livan Hernandez Driving Bus on Road Back to Respectability

When the Washington Nationals signed the aging Livan Hernandez to a minor-league contract following the 2009 season, the move was met with a yawn and a shrug.

Hernandez—who claimed to be 34 at the time—had just completed his fourth consecutive bad year in which he combined to go 46-47 with a 5.28 ERA.

The Mets had released him late in 2009, and the woeful Nationals soon signed him, giving him six starts at the end of the year.

He pitched even worse, allowing a 6.23 ERA with Washington along with a .314 batting average-against.

And yet—somehow—the Cuban defector found himself in the 2010 starting rotation and he flourished, finishing the season as the Nationals’ best starter. He pitched 200 innings, won 10 games and his 3.66 ERA was his lowest since 2003.

Shortly after the season ended, Hernandez was quickly re-signed to a one-year, $1 million contract. Manager Jim Riggleman announced formally yesterday afternoon what most of us already assumed: Livan will be the team’s Opening Day starter.

But will Hernandez perform one more year of sleight-of-hand magic and keep that oh-so-slow fastball out of the upper deck of National League ballparks, or will he revert back to his days when his ERA and his waistline were equally bloated?

We all remember Hernandez’ start last season, when for the first two months of the year he was one of the best pitchers in the league.

Even by mid-season, he was still formidable. The second half of the season, though, seemed pretty ugly.

So will the Nationals get the Livan of the first half of 2010 or the second half? Surprisingly, the numbers don’t suggest as much difference as I remember.

Let’s compare his statistics from 2010, from Opening Day to July 1 and from July 6 to the end of the season:


First-half: 17

Second-Half: 16


First-half: 6-4

Second-half: 4-8

Innings Pitched:

First-half: 112

Second-half: 100

Innings Per Game:

First-half: 6.6

Second-half: 6.2




Batting Average/On-Base/Slugging Percentage Against

First-half: .260/.312/.376

Second-half: .280/.336/.748

Hits/Walks/Strikeouts Per Nine Innings:

First-Half: 8.8/2.7/4.4

Second-Half: 9.6/2.7/5.3

BABIP (Batting Average for Balls in Play):

First-half: .277

Second-half: .312

Quality Starts:

First-half: 12/17

Second-half: 10/16

Those first six weeks were pretty special for Hernandez.  In his first eight games, he had an ERA of 1.62, and he didn’t see his ERA go over 3.00 for good until July.

But really, his second-half numbers were certainly strong enough that the Nationals were in a position to win most of them.

And Livan did not wear down as I had initially thought. Take a look at his ERA breakdown over the course of the year:

First eight starts: 1.62

Second eight starts: 4.50

Third eight starts: 3.29

Last nine starts: 5.33

It wasn’t that his career 3,000 innings began to take their toll, but rather Livan Hernandez either performs at one extreme or the other.

In one three-game stretch in late August, Hernandez game up 20 runs in 14 innings. But in the four games that preceded them, he had a 2.28 ERA and a .255 batting average against.

And in the five games that followed, he crafted a 2.81 ERA and allowed just a .265 batting average against.

True, those last nine games of the season look a little ugly with that 5.33 ERA, and they seem the product of wear and tear on an aging pitcher.

But the last five of those nine games were superb. He allowed just a 2.81 ERA and a .269/.318/.403 slash line.

In other words, he finished the season as strongly as he started it.

This is purely a subjective assessment, but I think Livan has one more good year left in him, and the Nationals desperately need it.

Oh, his 10 or so wins won’t make much of a difference this year, but another 200-inning campaign will surely take the strain off the bullpen, as the young pitchers struggle to improve against major league hitters.

This time next year will find Livan Hernandez in someone else’s uniform, replaced by a healthy Stephen Strasburg. But what he did for the Nationals in 2010—and hopefully this year—will not be forgotten.

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2011 NL East Pitching Preview: the Stephen Strasburgless Washington Nationals

Coming to fans everywhere, the latest installment of Washington D.C. baseball…National Treasures: The Missing Strasburg. Starring the D-list celebrities of the fantasy baseball world: Livan “National League Harlot” Hernandez, Jordan “Not That Zimmerman” Zimmermann, and featuring Jason Marquis and John Lannan as trusty sidekicks.

Looking back at last year’s chapter of National Treasures, it seems like not many will buy into the 2011 version. 

There might be fantasy relevance with the Nationals’ pitching this season with Tom Gorzelanny doing his best President Obama impression. Coming to Washington D.C. from Chicago, Gorzelanny is a strikeout pitcher with two sub-4.00 ERA seasons under his belt.

It’s likely he’ll be towards the beginning of the Nationals rotation, but the question remains if Gorzelanny will be used primarily in relief like in Chicago each of the last two years. I think he is meant to stay in your league’s free agency this year, but in super deep or NL-only leagues, there is some potential.

From Florida to San Francisco to Washington to Arizona to Colorado to New York and now back to Washington, Livan Hernandez certainly gets around the National League. 

Usually bringing his ghastly ERA and bloated WHIP, Hernandez will have another crack at it with the Nationals this year. He actually had one of the better seasons of his career last year, posting a 3.66 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, and 22 quality starts.

However, he only managed to win ten games in 2010, and had one of his lowest K/9 ratios (4.8). I can’t see Livan in many 2011 lineups, especially with age not helping as he enters his 20th season in the majors.

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Jayson Werth: Why Signing With the Washington Nationals Isn’t Just About Money

Sunday former Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Jayson Werth signed a seven year, $126 million contract with the Washington Nationals.  Monday, Werth is already receiving criticism for not only signing with a rival team, but also for going to a non-contendor. 

$126 million isn’t too shabby for a player who is already 32 years old.  Werth faced a long struggle last year hitting with runners in scoring position.  However he brings speed, a strong arm, great glove, and a hot bat to a team who has finished last in the National League East the past 6 of the last 7 seasons (including when the club was still in Montreal). 

Washington is going through an obvious rebuilding process within the organization.  With the top draft pick in the MLB draft the past two seasons, the club has been able to pick up two outstanding young phenoms in Steven Strasburg and Bryce Harper.  The team also has decided to part ways with catcher Will Nieves with the signing of Jesus Flores. 

Strasburg is expected to miss this season as he is recovering from Tommy John surgery, but should be back alongside of Bryce Harper in 2012.  The team should also receive a high draft pick again this year and should be able to add even more young talent to the club. 

With Adam Dunn also leaving the team, watch for Werth to be put in the 3 or 4 spot in the lineup, a position where he will be able to utilize his speed, power, and run producing abilities.  Even if Werth hits 50 homeruns, drives in 150 runs, and steals 40 bases, don’t expect Washington to make a run at the Division title just yet.  Bryce Harper should make his major league debut about halfway through this season if everything goes as planned which will add another power source and player who can drive in runs.  Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond also should compliment Werth and Harper by driving in runs as well. 

Offense is not the only key to the Nationals success.  If Strasburg returns in 2012 and continues to dominate hitters as he did in his rookie season, he should become the number one man in the rotation and has the potential to win 20 games a year.  Livan Hernandez led the team with 211.2 innings pitched this season, finishing with a record of 10-12.  Hernandez’s record does not reflect the quality of his pitching.  His posted a 3.66 ERA with 114 strikeouts.  Lack of offense plagued the 35 year old pitcher.  John Lannan also had a productive season and should be able to have even more success this season if the offense picks up.  The team also had 14 different pitchers start a game this season.  If the team has a core of starting pitchers, and a core offense, they should be able to make some noise in the division and could make a run in the division in the next few years.

So Phillies fans, don’t throw Werth totally under the bus.  While he is not with a contender now, the Nationals could be a contender in the next few years. 

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NLCS 2010: The 10 Greatest Pitching Gems In SF Giants Postseason History

Following Tim Lincecum’s second masterful outing of the postseason against the Phillies in Game 1 of the NLCS Saturday, I scanned all the way back to 1958 when the Giants moved to San Francisco from New York to find the greatest pitching gems in SF Giants postseason history.

I found some obvious names, I found some surprise names, I found three names from this year’s Giants squad (no, Barry Zito wasn’t one of them).

Given what Giants starting pitchers have already done this postseason, there’s a strong case to call them the best SF Giants starting rotation ever.

Here are the Top 10 Pitching Gems in SF Giants Postseason History.

The Giants had to win the game for the pitcher to be included.

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Aroldis Chapman and 10 Rookie Call-Ups Who Starred in the Playoffs

In a year of stunning rookie performances, Cuban defector and Reds uber-prospect Aroldis Chapman made his major-league debut on Tuesday, facing three batters in one inning of work. The 22-year-old was electric, hitting 103 mph on the radar gun.

More importantly, because Chapman was called up on August 31st, that means that he will be eligible for the postseason roster. If the Reds make the playoffs, Chapman will have the chance to become the latest in a glorious line of rookie call-ups who have had an impact in the postseason before they had a chance to have an impact in the regular season.

Here is a by-no-means exclusive look at some of the most memorable rookie call-ups who have contributed in the postseason in recent years.

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Stephen Strasburg Loses Super Powers, Out for Season(Satire)

by Brett Lay

The Washington Nationals announced in a conference call this morning that phenom rookie pitcher Stephen Strasburg’s mutant right arm has lost its powers due to recent sunspot activity.

Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said Strasburg realized there was a problem when he could no longer summon the powers of a Norse god of thunder to fling baseballs at his normal average speed of several hundred miles an hour in a recent practice.

“As anyone who has had mutant powers granted to them and then taken away by a freak act of nature can tell you, it’s a traumatic experience. Just ask Cyclops or Wolverine,” Rizzo told reporters. “But he is fully committed to doing whatever he has to do to rehab and get back out there, because lord knows, we need him,” Rizzo continued between slow sobs at the mic. “Who knew that his weakness was random bursts of electromagnetic energy? We just assumed it would be drugs and alcohol, like the other red-blooded ball players we have on this team.”

Strasburg has been a rare ray of hope for these Nationals, who have spent the last several seasons perfecting their record of complete futility. The loss of Strasburg will be a big shock not only to this city, but also to his fellow players.

Truly morale was low in DC, as we asked some of the residents to throw in their two cents’ worth.

  • “Yeah, Strasburg was awesome. Not sure what we’re going to do now.” – Greg, street vendor
  • “If you ask me, I saw it coming. I can’t tell you how often the genetically enhanced mutant protectors of our national pastime come through here, raising hopes, but then fizzle out before any substance can be provided.” – Mara, food services
  • “We have a baseball team? I didn’t know that. Give me your wallet.” – Stitches, unemployed

“We were just getting in the swing of things, too,” Ryan Zimmerman, the Nationals third baseman, stated to the swarm of reporters. “Ivan was just starting to learn how to block the plate like a real catcher, the janitor they brought in who was competing for the first base spot with Dunn had just barely gotten edged out, and we had just learned how to pronounce Nyjer’s name. I even thought we might win a game this year. What a rip.”

The Washington Post reported Strasburg will get a second opinion from Verðandi, a norn that once treated Thor himself when he had to have Tommy John surgery in 652 B.C.

“I’m no quitter, that’s for sure,” said Strasburg as he was loading Pegasus for the long trip to Valhalla for his evaluation. “Now that I’m temporarily a normal human, sort of like that dude in Superman 2, I have to be careful. It seems I can no longer smash through walls or melt things with my heat vision. But I’m not giving up on this season that easily, no sir, I’ll be back.”

At that point he mounted his steed and swiftly flew from sight into the sunset.

We can only hope, for the Nationals’ sake, that he gets his powers back.

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MLB Trade Deadline: 10 Most Expendable Players Nobody’s Discussing

Cliff Lee was the first big name to get traded, and certainly no player on the block has been more discussed this season. Roy Oswalt, Dan Haren, Corey Hart, and Prince Fielder are the most recognizable of the remaining names that are being bandied about by sports commentators and trade “experts.”

Still, others seem to be of interest to every team. David DeJesus and Ty Wigginton get more ink than a pen factory.

However, there are a good number of highly tradeable, highly expendable players out there that haven’t yet been ground up by the rumor mill.

These are the top 10 most expendable, and simultaneously, tradeable players you haven’t heard talked about.

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Summer Could Be Time of Contention for Washington Nationals

On Monday, the Washington Nationals will draft Bryce Harper, a “once in a generation” hitting prospect with their first overall pick in the 2010 amateur draft. On Tuesday, Stephen Strasburg, last year’s top pick and a “once in a generation” pitching prospect, will take the mound in his first ever major league game.

To borrow a phrase from former Redskins’ head coach George Allen: “The future is now.”

I have little doubt that the Nationals will contend in 2011, especially if Chien-Ming Wang returns from injury and regains the form that saw him craft back-to-back 19-win seasons with the Yankees in 2006 and 2007.

But what about 2010? Clearly, the team as presently constituted won’t reach .500 this year, though they will come close. Once the injured players return, a 75-78 win season doesn’t seem unreasonable.

But, we all know that this team is about to get a lot better. Strasburg will join the rotation on Tuesday and when last we heard, Wang is on schedule to join the team sometime after the all-star break.

If general manager Mike Rizzo thinks the team can make a serious run towards the playoffs, he will end the Roger Bernadina experiment in right field and bring in a reliable right fielder in exchange for some prospects. If not, expect right field to continue to be a debilitating sore on the Nationals lineup for the remainder of the season.

Let’s take a look at the team and try to guess what might happen in the coming weeks, beginning with the starting rotation:


Craig Stammen: 1-2, 5.33, 11.0/2.4/4.5, .304/.344/.544, 11 starts

Last season, Stammen’s batting average-against the first two times through the lineup was just .258 before it jumped by 80 points the third time through, so it was thought he would make an ideal long-relief pitcher. This season, however, he’s getting hit hardest in the first two innings.

Stammen was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse after a beautifully pitched game against Cincinnati on Sunday.

It was the right choice.

Luis Atilano: 5-2, 4.24, 9.4/4.3/3.3, .269/.349/.444, 9 starts

Atilano’s ERA was high before Saturday’s game against the Reds, but an outstanding outing brought it down to an acceptable number. That high ERA was the result of three very bad starts (9.64 ERA) intermixed with his five very good ones (2.40 ERA). His 4.3 walks per nine-innings is high, but hits, batting average, on-base and slugging percents allowed are all very good.

And he’s on pace to win 15 games this season. Until he proves he doesn’t belong, he will remain with the Nationals.

John Lannan: 2-3, 4.79, 10.6/4.1/2.9, .294/.367/.440, 11 starts

Lannan’s numbers look bad, but he suffered through some pretty significant elbow pain early in the season. Not counting his first game back against the Rockies in Denver (which tends to skew statistics), Lannan has pitched brilliantly.

In his last three games, Lannan is 1-0 with a 1.96 ERA, allowing opponent batters a .205 batting average, .261 on-base percent and a .292 slugging mark.

John Lannan is the model of consistency. He is only one of a handful of starting pitchers with an ERA below 4.00 in the last two seasons. No doubt, 2010 will make three in a row.

Scott Olsen: 2-2, 3.77, 9.4/2.9/6.7, .269/.324/.365, 8 starts

Oh, if Nationals’ starters could just stay healthy. Coming back from elbow surgery, Olsen started the year in the minors and got hammered in his first two starts back with the Nationals. In his last six starts, however, he’s been dominant: 1-0, 2.04, .248/.299/.293.

Olsen should return to the rotation in 10 days, and if healthy, will remain for the rest of the season.

J. D. Martin: 0-1, 2.31, 9.3/0.8/6.9, .250/.265/.542, 2 starts

Last season, Martin was solid as a rookie, going 4-4 with a 4.44 ERA. But like most rookies, he got pasted in his first two starts but from that point on—in his last nine starts last year and his first two this season—Martin has pitched beautifully.

In 77 innings, Martin is 4-3 with a 3.28 ERA, allowing 9.5 hits and 1.9 walks per nine-innings while striking out 5.6. Opponents are hitting just .261/.322/.456 against him.

There is nothing sexy about Martin. But he is a former first-round pick who gets major league batters out on a regular basis.

He deserves a spot in the rotation.

So thus far, here is my Nationals’ rotation for the second half of the season:

1. Stephen Strasburg
2. John Lannan
3. Scott Olsen
4. Luis Atilano
5. J.D. Martin

This, of course, doesn’t include Livan Hernandez (4-3, 2.22, 7.4/2.6/4.6, .222/.275/.363), without a doubt the team’s best starter thus far. That is because I don’t for a second believe that Livan will be with the team after the trading deadline on July 31st , perhaps even before.

No one expected Hernandez, 35, to pitch this well in 2010. He hasn’t finished a season with an ERA under 4.00 since 2005. Since then, he’s been traded, released, and released again.

At 35, Livan is not in the team’s long-term plans, and any day now could return to his form as one of the worst starters in the National League. No doubt Rizzo is gauging his value as trade bait to a contender, perhaps packaging Livan and a prospect or two for a bona fide major league right fielder.

Really, if the Nationals aren’t going to try to contend this season, Livan’s presence is a luxury, perhaps even a problem.

Because waiting in the wings are two former all-star pitchers, Jason Marquis and Chien-Ming Wang. Marquis is due to return to the Nationals in mid-July and Wang, who is not progressing as quickly as hoped, will probably be available two or three weeks later.

Stephen Strasburg, John Lannan and Scott Olsen are locks to remain in the rotation through the rest of the season (though Strasburg will be pulled when he reaches his first-year inning count, somewhere in early-to-mid September). But what if Luis Atilano or J.D. Martin struggles?

No problem. Just insert Wang or Marquis. In fact, they are going to be inserted regardless of how the staff is pitching.

By August, then, the rotation will include Strasburg, Lannan, Wang, Marquis and one of Atilano, Martin or Olsen.

Sometime after the all-star break, the Nationals will have no less than eight starting pitchers who have earned the right to be in the rotation. Some will slump, some will be injured, but among them will be five pitchers who are good enough to help the Nationals contend.

But if that is true, is the bullpen strong enough to support a contender?


The Nationals will need seven solid arms in the bullpen. Take a look at the top seven relievers the Nationals currently have:


Miguel Batista: 0-2, 4.05, 6.5/5.6/4.8, .207/.336/.360

Other than his high number of walks, Batista’s stats—especially his batting average against—are lights out. He is the weakest link in the bullpen right now, which says a lot about the way this group is pitching.

Tyler Walker: 1-0, 4.13, 9.5/1.6/8.6, .278/.304/.472

Need someone to come in and strike a batter out, or to at least make sure you don’t walk him? Walker is allowing just 1.6 walks per nine-innings while striking out almost nine. He started off poorly but has pitched well recently.

Doug Slaten: 2-0, 1.93, 9.7/4.3/5.4, .290/.371/.323

Slaten is walking too many, and giving up too many hits, but his 1.93 ERA is sparkling.

Sean Burnett: 0-3, 3.50, 8.3/3.6/8.8, .235/.307/.353

Burnett started slowly but has redeemed himself recently and has now matched his numbers from last season, which was his career best.

Drew Storen: 1-0, 1.93, 5.6/5.6/5.6, .185/.333/.222

5.6 walks, hits and strikeouts per nine-innings? I think all of those numbers are skewed by a low inning total. But his averages-against tell the real story. He’s done an outstanding job.

Tyler Clippard: 8-3, 1.66,  5.0/4.3/10.1,  .172/.279/.276

Just look at those slash lines one more time. I don’t have a thing to add.

Matt Capps: 0-3, 3.71, 10.5/2.1/8.1, .286/.330/.429, 18 saves

Take away the errors in Houston and Capps would have 20 saves, on pace for 58 for the year. Sure, he’s got a little Chad Cordero in him, but unless his defense (or the umpires) doesn’t make a mistake, he’s going to get the save. He’s hanging some sliders right now, but he’ll correct the problem soon enough.

The Nationals’ offense, as we all know, is good enough to make it to the playoffs. Yes, there is a big hole in right field, but Rizzo certainly has enough spare parts to go out and get one if needed.

And the bullpen is about as good as it gets, and once the injured starting pitchers return, there is going to be a logjam like we’ve never seen before here in Washington.

The National League is made up of several very good teams and a bunch more average ones. Strasburg, a right fielder, and the return of the players currently on the disabled list would be enough to get the Nationals to 84-87 wins.

Will that be enough to get to the playoffs?

I don’t know. And unless the answer to that question becomes a cut-and-dried yes, I don’t see the Nationals trading any of their future for a preemptive pennant chase this summer.

Stay tuned, though. Whatever happens is going to happen soon.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

NL Cy Young Power Rankings: Anyone With a Shot Besides the Main Two?

We are now two months into the season. While we are still a long way from the end of the season, those players who are in the MVP and Cy Young races are beginning to fall into place.

In the Cy Young races in particular, there are many candidates who are certainly worthy of the title with how they have been pitching so far. In the National League, there are 16 or so people that should be in the top ten. This is, unfortunately, not possible, and some surprising names are left off this list.

Stats used to rank them are as of May 31.

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