Yesterday I told you that it's very unlikely that the Nats pitching staff would go through 2013 without a serious injury and next to impossible that they'd be able to stay complete healthy all the way until the end of 2014. But still a couple teams have done that in the past 20 years and the Nats staff is supposed to be special. Why CAN'T the Nats do it? I'll leave the kicker until the end but first let's look at the teams that did it.
2005-2008 White Sox
Four consecutive years of 4 guys with 30 or more starts. That's mighty impressive. How'd they do it? They mixed home grown talent with savvy FA signings.
The first crew to do it was Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland, Freddy Garcia, and Jose Contreras. Buehrle and Garland were home grown guys, younger, and already had a history of lots of starts (4 years in a row of 30+ for Mark, 3 for Jon). They brought in Garcia who had a 4 year streak of his own coming from Seattle. Only Contreras was the gamble. He was supposedly a rubber-arm Cuban but spent parts of 2003 dealing with one thing or another. The White Sox gambled on him and won.
The following year this group would be joined by Javy Vasquez who also had a long history of 30+ starts (6 years in a row before coming to the White Sox) and they got the perfect 5 guys all staying healthy all year.
Freddy Garcia would leave the next year for Philly and promptly suffer an injury that would derail him for 3 years. The rest of the cast stayed the same and they got 4 again. One thing you'd notice though is that it didn't matter as much to the White Sox how well the pitching was. Contreras was awful this year and fairly consistently so, but they kept trotting him out there. At 72-90 the White Sox were out of the playoff hunt by the All-Star break. A better team may have tried something else.
In 2008 the aged Contreras was let go and Garland left for LA, but the White Sox filled the holes with Gavin Floyd (trade) and John Danks (within) to get to 4. While Javy would leave after this year, these three would continue to put up 30+ games starts until last year when Danks went down.
The Braves! The pitching staff held up as the example of awesomeness, who did it almost entirely from within.
In 1991 It started with Steve Avery, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, and Charlie Leibrandt. Only Leibrandt came from outside and when the Braves got him he had put up 5 straight healthy years (though it looks like he'd been a little injured that first year for the Braves). Thus started the run.
In 1992 it was the same 4. In 1993 Liebrandt left and in came Greg Maddux - 5 30+ start seasons in a row before this.
And then... the strike, which made it impossible to get to 30 starts in '94 and pretty much impossible in '95 Could the Braves had made it until Avery was brought down low in 1996?
No. While in 1995 the 4 would start 28, 29, 29 and 29 games showing another year of perfect health, 1994 was not that. Two weeks before the season ended Smoltz underwent surgery to get bone chips out of his elbow. Is it possible that in a full year he tries to pitch through it? I suppose. But is it possible that that leads to a bigger injury issue with Smoltz? Or that if he has his surgery in the beginning of October instead of the end of July that he's maybe not ready by a normal Opening Day '95? (The 1995 season started in late April). I'm thinking one way or another it ends in 1994 or 1995.
Plus Avery did get injured, too. He just pitched through it and got terrible.
So why not the Nats?
The Nats (23, 26, 26, 26, 28) were older than the Braves (21, 24, 25, 34) when they started their streak, but younger than the White Sox (25, 26, 28, 33). Haren is an injury risk but then again the Nats don't need him to keep the streak alive (we're only talking 4 pitchers here) and even with an injury he hit 30 starts last year, which makes 8 years in a row. Why would I be down on the Nats in comparison to these two staffs (at least in the sense of hitting 30 starts)?
Here's why -
White Sox - Contreras lost a little time in 2004 with shoulder issues, no other recent injury issues
Braves - Liebrandt lost a little time in 1990 due to something, no other recent injury issues
Nats - Haren lost a couple games in 2012 with back issues. Tommy John surgery for Jordan Zimmerman in 2010. Major hip surgery for Ross Detwiler in 2010. Tommy John for Stephen Strasburg in 2011.
Both the White Sox of the mid 2000s and the Braves of the early 90s were dealing with staffs that were mostly healthy leading up to the streaks. As we talked about yesterday, past health is a great predictor of future health. While Haren might work out just like Leibrandt and Contreras did, there are still 3 guys on the Nats who have yet to put up back to back full years of health because of major injuries.
This doesn't mean the Nats staff is not better than the White Sox or arguably on par with the Braves. It is that good. It does mean however that what I said to start holds true. The chances of the Nats making it through the next two years with great health (4+ starters starting 30+ games) is next to none.