Pitching – Now, Soon, and the Future

Thanks to a dominating performance by Scott Olsen and then the bullpen on Sunday, the Nats won a 1-0 victory for the first time since April 2, 2008. That’s a smidge over 2 years. I’m not ready to get too excited about Olsen, though. Last April he had a rough two start debut, then managed two quality starts followed by a 5 2/3, 1 ER outing. But it all blew up in May for him. The difference this time was that he struck out one more batter yesterday than he did in any single outing last year. And of course, he didn’t allow a run.

I don’t think anyone expects Olsen to have this kind of performance week in and week out, but if he can put together one of these every 3 or 4 starts, and just pitch quality starts of the definition kind (6 IP, 3 ER) the rest of the time, he’ll be a pleasant surprise, even if there’s a stinker thrown in once a month.

After Only Seven Years in the Minors

Some credit should also be sent the way of Luis Atilano, who made his major league debut on Friday night. He went 6 innings and only gave up 1 run, getting the win. Atilano is a typical Nat pitch to contact kind of guy, as evidence by his 1 K. That isn’t just in the majors, in his minor league career he’s only struck out 321 batters in 602 IP. But he’s pitched well the last few years. In 2008 he was 23 and was still wallowing in Low-A and rookie ball. But he had a combined ERA of 2.50 in 15 starts with 24 total appearances, and his ERA got better when he went from Low-A to High-A, and again got better when he made it to AA. Then in 2009, he spent most of his time in AA, where he wasn’t entirely good, amassing a 4.16 ERA there until he was brought up to AAA, where he got better once again, posting a 2.45 ERA (in two starts).

This year he started off well, as you may have heard. 2 starts for Syracuse, 2 wins, and a 1.64 ERA. Meanwhile he managed to strike out 9 in 11 IP, pretty darn good for him. So he was called up for the spot start, and you saw how he did. His minor league resume makes you realize why he’s hasn’t been considered a prospect for quite a while. But he did have TJ surgery in 2006, and has been pretty good since then. And hey, his major league resume looks pretty good so far. He’ll get another chance probably on Wednesday, and you never know. Maybe he can end up putting in work for the Nats the way Alfredo Aceves helps out the Yankees – occasional spot starts and solid bullpen relief without many strikeouts.

Thanks in large part to the strong performances over the weekend by these two pitchers, the Nats are now sitting at 10-9, which is pretty impressive for this team. But it’s even more impressive considering Ryan Zimmerman has only started in 10 of those games.

More Strasburg? Of Course!

Finally, the future of Nats pitching was once again profiled by experts, this time Steve Berthiaume of Baseball Tonight. It’s a good read, but if you are lazy and don’t feel like reading through all of it, here are the highlights:

  1. His fastball is very fast
  2. His slider/curve/slurve is so ridiculously good that umpires can’t follow it
  3. His changeup is better in pro ball than it every was in college
  4. He’s got a sinker he uses when he wants to get some “easy ground-ball outs”. You know, just in case he feels like getting some of those

In summation, he is great, and he knows it, but also mentioned is that fact that he doesn’t really act like he’s great and he knows it. Looking forward to his debut this late spring/early summer.

Also, Dave Sheinen wrote a nice piece in the post this weekend about the Baseball Jesus. It’s more about how he’s already developed a maniacal following, at least maniacal for Harrisburg.

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