Yesterday's game was as expected, as Riggleman threw a "hope the other team is laughing so hard they can't pick the ball up and everyone hits inside the park home-runs!" lineup out there. They did not laugh. The Nats got no inside the park home runs.
A few days ago commenter Hoo mentioned that he was no longer buying the from quantity comes quality arms theory. That got me thinking. How many elite major league pitchers were not 1st round picks? I went over to baseball-reference.com and looked up the Top 10 in ERA last year in the NL and AL. The breakdown was as follows.
- 11 1st round picks, 3 amateur free agents, 1 each in 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th, 11th, and 38th rounds (Randy Wells since you must know)
That's not exactly what I was looking for however. Any year can have a freak guy showing up in the ERA. What about the last three seaons and looking at ERA plus? A similar pattern emerges
- 8 1st round picks, 4 amatuer free agents, 3 2nd rounders, 1 each in 3rd, 4th, 8th, 15th, and 23rd (Ted Lilly - what is it about these Cubbies?)
It's more top heavy the higher you go though - 5 of the the Top 11 (with 2 FAs), 3 of the Top 5 (with one FA). The point is that you are far more likely to get an special pitcher by drafting a pitcher everyone thinks is special, rather than drafting a bunch of very good pitchers and hoping one turns out to be special. Quantity is nice, but the difference makers are not hiding. Yes, I mean Strasburg, but you know who I also mean? Luis Atilano - drafted in the 1st round (albeit with a compensation pick) Just something to keep an eye on.
Commenter Bryan brought up yesterday a common theme that's followed Nats discussions this seasons so far. Basically - "The Phillies are so good that they screw up everything". Their lineup is so overwhelming and the Nats have played them so many times - that that's a big reason why the Nats pitching looks so bad. Ok. Let's see.
Phillies Bats vs Nats: .315 / .406 / .535
Phillies Bats vs Everyone else: .263 / .335 / .404
Other Bats vs Nats : .257 / .410 /.431
Hmmm. What if we pull Livan from the numbers. He's been super hot and he never faced the Phillies.
Other Bats vs Nats (-Livan) : .288 / .459 / .471
Well there's something here. The Phillies did slug the Nats at a much higher level than other teams, but they got on base far less (Jesus - a .459 OBP? Really?). So they did hurt the Nats pitching a bit more than if the Nats had faced a team of Joe Q Averages. But the Phillies also hit a LOT worse against guys that didn't have Washington written across their chests. What it all means that in the battle of what mattered more, the Phillies awesomeness or the Nats suckitude, the Nats suckitude wins by a landslide.