One thing that the Major League Baseball advertising department would like you to believe would be that you can’t predict baseball. And while that’s been a slogan for many a campaign, it’s a mainly false statement. Baseball, for the most part, is a very predictable game. The best hitters only make something happen one third of the time. And there are only so many possible outcomes for every situation. Groundout, flyout, strikeout or hit. But the times where you see something amazing, crazy or just odd, are the times where the phrase comes to your mind. Maybe it’s an unassisted triple play. Maybe it’s when the pitcher hits a home run, or when catcher legs out a bases-clearing triple. However, the one thing you can never consistently predict is how successful a player will be next year, next month, week or even game. So when Stephen Strasburg was controversially shut down as an effect of his previous Tommy John Surgery in 2012, right before the Nationals were poised to make a deep run into October, and right after he had a career year, the baseball world was unhappy. People questioned if he’d ever have a year this good again. People wondered if it was the right decision for him mentally and physically. Everybody from government officials to columnists to football players weighed in. The verdict typically seemed to be to let him pitch. Mike Rizzo stuck to his plan. Two years later, on the brink of another postseason, how does that decision look now?
This was the team that made D.C. dream. We cheered with them, cried with them, and sung “Take on Me” with them. 2012 was an incredible year for the Nationals.
Ever since the end of the steroid era, pitching has been the key element of most teams. If they haven’t developed their own ace rotation, they’ve signed one. And at this moment, it’s seeming like they’re only getting more important and bigger contracts.
Clayton Kershaw is going to be payed roughly $147,000 dollars per inning he pitches for the next seven years. Justin Verlander is commanding 180 million for the next five or six years. Felix Hernandez has also gotten a huge seven 7 year deal. Rookies like Jose Fernandez, Matt Harvey, Michael Wacha and players before their fifth year or not free agents yet like Stephen Strasburg & Jordan Zimmermann are expected to get about as much. Unfortunately, one pitcher does not win a world series.
The four men behind the ace are just as important, if not more. If you only had one reliable winning pitcher, you would win around 1/5 of your games. Having three good pitchers has always been considered acceptable. However, baseball has probably never seen a time like this in which the rotations are so strong for so many teams.
But who’s rotation is the best heading into this season?
While I love what the Red Sox, Tigers, Dodgers, A’s and Cardinals have, I think that it is the Nats. And not for the reason you may think.
As a Nationals fan last year, I learned something very important. There is a need for more than five pitchers in a rotation. You need that number six and seven as much as you need your ace. Last year, the Nats were supposed to be dominant with everything. However, they surprised everyone, starting the year in a slump and with really only two reliable pitchers. While they finished off better than they started, it was an annoying year. Strasburg was hurt for about a month, and Ross Detwiler barely played half a season. They called up players from Triple-A, but it wasn’t the same. While Taylor Jordan and Tanner Roark held things up for the most part, the Nats realized that not having a sixth starter in the lineup killed them, or at least partially. (Not hitting until September also probably hurt.)
This year, they have too many problems with that. There is an argument over who will have the number one slot, but I think everyone knows it’s Strasburg’s to lose. This is the year he needs to prove he is an ace. Gonzalez, Zimmermann and Fister were all very good last year, but the number five slot is a curious thing. Some people say that Taylor Jordan or Tanner Roark should take it, while normal number five Ross Detwiler can move to the bullpen as a power lefty. I disagree, and say keep the National Det in the rotation, and have Jordan and Roark as backup. But it really comes down to what new manager Matt Williams sees in Spring Training.
The Red Sox & Cardinals probably have the best depth with players like Lester, Buchholz, Wainwright and Wacha, and the Tigers have probably have the better rotation, but the depth nor the rotation is as complete for any one of them is as good as the one in our Nation’s Capitol.
However, offseason predictions aren’t always correct. Who had the Red Sox winning the world series last year? (Hint: Literally nobody)
But even with the unreliability of predictions, I still like the Nats’ chances.
Since the theme as of lately has seemed to be 2001, let’s have another flashback to then. That was the year the Patriots won their first Super Bowl with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick at the helm of the ship. Thirteen years later, the dynasty has remained.
But how have they remained at the top for so long if they have been around for so long? New tends to eventually wipe out the old in sports, and in life. However, this hasn’t happened yet. For the past two years, people have said that the reason the Pats were succeeding so late in time was because of Wes Welker, Vince Wilfork, Rob Gronkowski, Shane Vereen and Aaron Hernandez.
This offseason, Welker signed with the Broncos, Hernandez was arrested on murder charges, Vince Wilfork was injured early on, Shane Vereen played half the season, and Gronkowski played for 7 games with an injury, then promptly tore his ACL. This, was the end, surely, right? But no. It worked, and New England got the two seed this year.
So, how then? To fully understand, you have to go back to Bill Walsh’s creation of the West Coast offense, which was a system in which you can put anybody anywhere, and as long as they understood what to do, it consistently worked. And even though that’s been around since the eighties, nobody except Bill Walsh has truly used it any better.
But that’s a hard task for a coach. It really is. So to do what he does, even with the system, with what he has – a quarterback and an offensive line – he deserves that award more than anybody does.