Nationals Baseball: The ZNN Rules

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The ZNN Rules

Riggleman noted yesterday that Jordan Zimmermann will have an innings limit this year. I don't necessarily have a problem with that, especially for Jordan. He's never thrown a lot of innings. 134 in 2008, 99 in 2009 and 70 last season. To have him throw 230 innings would be silly.

But I hope the Nats aren't strict interpreters of pitch limits. It's Feb 16th. The Nats have a number in their head on how much ZNN should pitch this year. That's fine... for right now. Come April 1st they should have another number. May 15th another, the All-Star break another. ZNN needs to be evaluated on an ongoing basis. With that being said - it's best if the Nats don't actually release their number to the press. Right now all that's been said is "not 200" - which is fine. I don't think the Nats are going to run into a scenario where Jordan NEEDS to pitch that last week. The minute they put a 150 or 175 out there, that will become a focus for the media covering the team and that interest may hurt the Nats making adjustments to it along the way.

The other day I noted the (potential) staffs ERAs for this season. I think they were reasonable numbers. Averaged the Nats would have a starter ERA in the neighborhood of 4.30. Last year it was 4.61. You could look at this in two ways.

The staff won't be good next year, but it will be better.
The staff will be better next year, but it won't be good.

Same notion - two different take-away feelings. I tend to fall into the latter group (big surprise) where the takeaway feeling is one of general disappointment. This is because even with an improvement of 0.30 in ERA the Nats will only move from 14th in the NL all the way to 13th. The median value is right around 4.00, which means the Nats would have to have another significant jump in them, after the expected one, to be even "average". The improvement is not so much about the Nats getting better but about the Nats being very very bad last year. I can't get excited about a mere move to meh.

I will say though that the move IS important for the season after this one. If they can get to the 4.30 range this year and Strasburg comes back to pitch in the neighborhood of how he did in 2010, it bodes well for a staff that's at LEAST average in 2012. Maybe a savvy signing, some unexpected development, or a good trade and the Nats are looking at a one of the better starting staffs in the NL the year after next.


Hoo said...

I don't really care about the staff ERA that much. If the nats have a 4.3 ERA with Livo throwing a 4.6+, I'll be pretty darn happy. B/c that means the '12 rotation wasn't that bad. If the staff throws a 4.3 with Livo at 4.1, I'll be more concerned unless Marquis throws a 8+.

I'd guess the feelings about the staff performance boils down to how ZNN, Maya, Gorz and maybe Det perform. If they're on the sunny side of 4.3, it's a good year.

If the top starters are Marquis and Livo, yikes.

Wally said...

I agree with you, it is a testament to how bad they have been. I think that this is a case where the numbers, despite how bad they are, understate the situation, even now. Let's try it this way - which NL teams would you trade the Nats SPs for (majors and minors)?

Even assuming a Stras return to health, I think that the Mets are the only clear choice. I was going to say Pittsburgh too, but they have been drafting some touted prospects the last few years, so it is kind of a push, in my mind. Maybe Arizona? Possibly Houston? Rizzo does have a chance to add at least two good SP prospects this June, so that could change the equation (hoping for Sonny Gray).

I know that sounds pretty bleak, but on the flip side, I am probably a little more optimistic on this year's staff than you. There are better pitchers 1-8 than they have had before - don't underestimate the value of no Atilano, Martis, etc. And Rizzo at least built it more coherently than in the past - mostly groundballers with an expected good infield defense. That could surprise people with what it does to the numbers.

Donald said...

I'm optimistic as well. My assumption is that someone will perform better than expected and someone worse. With the added depth, we don't have to keep the disappointments around as long. Also, I don't know to what extent competition improves performance but if it does, that could help all around.

Harper said...

Hoo - that is the key for feeling good about 2012+, having someone not named marquis or livan carry this team in 2011. Livan's performance is completely inconseuqential to any long term schemes. At least a Marquis good performance might net the Nats something back in a deal.

Wally/Donald - I'm pretty sure they'll be bleh, but I will say I'll be more surprised if they end up with an ERA around 4.50 than if they end up with one around 4.10. (I like Lannan to surprise - but Livan to crash out)

Anonymous said...

I was with you until the second half of the last sentence.