The Benefits of Long Toss

May 4, 2011

Tim Kurkjian has an article up today on the rise of left handed power arms… in the outfield. The Nationals’ own Rick Ankiel headlines the group of today’s rocket armed lefty outfielders. A few highlights

But no left-handed or right-handed outfielder throws better than Ankiel, 31. You know his story. He won 11 games and struck out 194 batters in 175 innings with the Cardinals in 2000, but soon after, he lost all ability to throw the ball over the plate. He had Tommy John surgery in 2003 and finally ditched pitching in 2005 because of acute control issues. Now he’s throwing better than he ever has and has no mental block about throwing from the outfield.

“I just let it fly,” Ankiel said. “And I play a lot of long toss to help preserve my arm.”

There you go, kids – long toss will help you have the best outfield arm. Well, that and the ability to strike out more than a batter an inning. Jason Marquis is also quoted gushing over the grand eloquence of long toss. And with his season so far, who’s to argue to Marquis? Kurkjian sums it up with a nice line for Nats fans to hang their hats on:

And I’ve never seen anything like this. The best-throwing outfielder in the game is left-handed.

He’s referring, of course, to Ankiel. It’s a good article of the inside-baseball outside-the-numbers just-telling-stories mode. It doesn’t change Ankiel’s .590 OPS, but it reminds you that he isn’t ALL bad this year.


Those Starters

May 3, 2011

Last night, the Nats got a great start out of Tom Gorzelanny, 8 innings of shutout ball to go with a complete game shutout pitched by Jason Marquis on Friday night. The starting pitching has probably been the biggest surprise of this early Nationals’ season, and it’s not just good, it’s been great. The Nats starting rotation has a 3.38 ERA, good for 3rd best in the National League, and 5th best in all of baseball. All this while possibly the pitcher with the best stuff, Jordan Zimmermann, has an ERA below league average (ERA+ of 91). Zimmermann hasn’t even been awful, he’s had 1 bad start, 1 hard luck start with bad results, and 4 good games.

Here are the starters, in order of best ERA to worst

  • Jason Marquis – 2.62 ERA, 5 GS, 6.3 K/9, 4.80 K/BB
  • Tom Gorzelanny – 2.93 ERA, 5 GS, 6.8 K/9, 2.56 K/BB
  • Livan Hernandez – 3.23 ERA, 6 GS, 4.6 K/9, 2.00 K/BB
  • John Lannan – 3.78 ERA, 6 GS, 4.9 K/9, 1.29 K/BB
  • Jordan Zimmermann – 4.29 ERA, 6 GS, 4.5 K/9, 2.57 K/BB

Looking at the ERA, you might figure that Marquis is the luckiest, but looking at the ratios, you realize he’s also been the best. Sure, those numbers won’t hold up, but when you strike out close to 5 times as many people than you walk, you’re in great shape. Gorzelanny has looked very good, but didn’t look great – until last night’s game. He’s showing he can strike guys out, and he hasn’t walked too many either.

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