Nationals Baseball: The Education of Mike Rizzo

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Education of Mike Rizzo

The more I think about the Gorzelanny trade the more I like it. Last year the Nats were going to open the season with a rotation like this

Marquis (presumed healthy)
Lannan (presumed healthy)
Detwiler (unproven)

with the other two spots filled in from some combination of : Scott Olsen (retread), Shawn Estes (retread), Miguel Batista (retread), Aaron Thompson (unproven), Craig Stammen (unproven), Garrett Mock (unproven), Shairon Martis (unproven), Matt Chico(unproven), Collin Balester (unproven), J.D. Martin (unproven), Chein-Ming Wang (mid-season injury return), Jordan Zimmermann (mid season injury return) and Stephen Strasburg(mid-season call-up, technically unproven). That's a lot of arms! Surely something good will come of these, right?

When Detwiler went down, in came Livan (retread), but you saw how the season progressed. The Nats never did nail down that #5 spot and when Marquis and Lannan both went down with injuries things got bad.

This season the Nats are slated to open with a more defined rotation of

Livan (presumed healthy - upgrade from "retread" since last year was good)
Marquis (major injury in 2010)
Lannan (major injury in 2010)
Zimmermann (major injury in 2009)
Maya (untested)

with pretty much the same jokers you see above gunning for a role if someone fails, replacing Olsen with Luis Atilano (unproven), and changing Strasburg's status to (mid season injury return). Well dammit if this year didn't look that much more secure than last year. Sure the injury returnees should be fine, but I'd bet one of them isn't and there's no guarantee Maya will make it. Add in a Livan collapse and within a month the Nats could be scrambling for 3 pitchers again.

There are a lot of question marks and as last year showed, just because something isn't a question at the beginning of the year doesn't mean it won't be at some point. Rizzo saw the rotation really needed another arm and tried to get a number 1, because, well... why not? But failing that he didn't just pack it in and say "we'll go with what we got"... well actually he DID but then he made the deal, which I hope shows he's learning. There is value in security and bringing in Gorzelanny gives the Nats more security that a healthy major league caliber arm will be filling a rotation spot. It may not be flashy but it's an important step in being a respectable team.


cass said...

One quibble:

Does "maybe September" count as "mid season injurty return"? I think, rotation-wise, we can just count out Strasburg at this point. If he makes a couple starts in September, that's fine, but it won't really have any impact.

And do we want to be respectable? Will winning 75 games really help us with free agents? And at what cost of draft order?

Positively Half St. said...

I don't want to worry about draft order anymore. I think that 75 wins, combined with September success for Strasburg and Harper, would make the Nats interesting for free agents. Once at 75 wins, each win after it becomes more weighty. Getting to 78 wins would seem so much closer to a .500 team, and actually overachieving to get to .500 might be psychologically crucial to show the team's direction.

Hoo said...

This is a bit confusing. Your rotation is before the Gorzo signing right or do you think Maya is still starting?

I'd also take some issue with the idea the situation wasn't much better than last year. As you mention, Livo goes from 3 to 5. Furthermore, the addition of Maya, and ZNN and Wang being a year further along is key.

Maya is seen as a lot more potential than Olsen. I don't think anyone counted on Wang last year. If Wang isn't healthy and ready to go fairly quickly, then what is Rizzo doing? Znn is much farther along in that he'll be ready to go all spring instead of hoping to have him late in August.

My issue is more that last year's rotation was a bit of an emergency, mash unit. Even before the Gorz trade, this unit has more of Rizzo's imprint.

If the rotation doesn't look that much better to you on paper, then Rizzo's rotation moves have been poor.

All that said, I like the trade more as well. A starter with a sub 4.25 ERA for the year would be a nice change for the Nats.

Harper said...

cass - point taken really (late-season injury replacement) but if he's healthy enough he will pitch and that is a spot.

Ignoring the pleas for decency from a desperate fanbase for the moment, if you can't be the worst or 2nd to worst, I just don't think it's worth it to try to be bad for draft position. The Nats aren't bad enough to guarantee those kind of finishes so they might as well try to win. 75 wins may not get free agents but, as +1/2 st says, if you build a 75 win team you might luck into something better AND there's Strasburg and Bryce on the horizon.

Hoo - yes that was meant to be the before Gorz rotation. What I meant by "not that much better" has to do with the security of the rotation not the talent in it. There really was only 1 arm you could 100% count on with Livan, before Tom was brought in. But ZNN being that much more likely to have a big impact is huge because he's the best non-Straburg prospect by far, and I do like Maya better than the rest of the dregs from last year/ this year(though I don't like Maya very much...)

Wally said...

I agree that the Gorzy trade improves the rotation this year, and may make it the best going into the season that we have had - it doesn't mean that they will perform the best, but there is reason to hope.

I think that I am saying the same thing as you, but in my business, before we make an investment, we always go thru a 'what do we have to believe for this to be successful' analysis. To me, (a) a starter with a proven MLB track record has a higher predictability of performance than someone only with minor league or international (Maya)stats, and (b) projecting someone to maintain a previously achieved level is more reliable than anticipating a step up in performance (you have to adjust this for age-related decline and/or injury concerns). So all things being equal (and they are not always equal), it is easier for me to believe that Gorzy will pitch in line with what he did last year at the MLB level than to believe that Detwiler or Maya will pitch more innings at a higher level than they ever did before. Doesn't mean he will or they won't, just that there is a higher % chance he will.

Marquis, Lannan and Gorzy now are reasonably-aged starters with a proven history of average-ish pitching performance. Two have injury concerns, but since they came back and pitched effectively afterwards, I don't discount their projections too much for it. I am not sure we have had that before. Livo is old enough, and with enough recent spotty performance, that I actually don't put much stock in any projections for him. I would probably be more shocked if he repeated last year than if he was DFA'd by June.

The only way not to like the trade is if you are a proponent of the 'don't do anything to help the MLB performance until you are good enough to contend', and so you would never, under any circumstances, trade young for older. I am not. It takes a decent organizational building principle to an extreme.

Harper said...

Wally - very well said on every point. Gorzelanny is a investment in small variance. The chances of him NOT being some level of usefullness are small in comparison to the other members of the staff.