Nationals Historic Staff
The signing of Max Scherzer vastly improves the Nationals pitching staff that led the MLB in ERA last year at 3.03, without Scherzer! Their starters are now comprised of Scherzer, Jordan Zimmerman, Stephan Strasburg, Doug Fister and Gio Gonzalez. That means that young righty Tanner Roark (who was 15-10 in 2014) would currently not be a starting pitcher for the Nationals. Even if the Nats trade either Zimmerman or Strasburg, they would be set with putting Roark in at the number 5. At least for now though, there is no trade in place, so just how stellar is this rotation?
Let’s take it from the top: Max Scherzer. The former Cy Young led the American League in wins in both of the last two seasons. His combined record in the past two seasons is an immaculate 39-8, and over the last four seasons it is 70-24. He has clearly proved that he is one of the best pitchers in the game right now, if not the very best. Another pro of signing the star righty is that he is only 30 years old, and is still in the prime of his career. (Perhaps down the road this will actually haunt the Nats front office, but certainly not this season.) The acquisition of Scherzer ensures that their ace will never be overmatched in big games.
Although most people may think Strasburg will be Washington’s number two pitcher, it is actually more likely that it will be Jordan Zimmerman. His last two seasons combined record is 33-14, and like Scherzer he has also led the league in wins. In 2013 Zimmerman had more wins than any other National League pitcher. His highest ERA in the last four years was 3.25, clearly a model of consistency. Perhaps Dodger’s #2 Zach Greinke and/or Tiger’s Justin Verlander are better than Zimmerman, but he is certainly one of the best “non-aces” in baseball.
Who is the best "number-two" pitcher in baseball?
Whether Strasburg is #2 or #3 it really doesn’t make a difference, either way they’re an otherworldly one-two-three combo. Strasburg finished ninth in Cy Young voting last year in what wasn’t even one of his better seasons. Personally, I do not believe that there’s a better number three pitcher on any team in baseball. Tiger’s Anibal Sanchez and Dodger’s Hyun-Jin Ryu again could be near him, and perhaps Cardninals Micha Wacha, but if Strasburg pitches up to his potential he will be the best number three in the game.
Doug Fister has been better than Gio Gonzalez in recent years, but Gio is a lefty so they may throw him in at number four to mix it up. Gio is yet another Nats pitcher who has led the league in wins, leading the NL in 2012. Gonzalez had a solid 162 strikeouts in 2014, and that is the least out of all the pitchers previously listed. Scherzer struck out an astonishing 252 last season, Strasburg piled up 242 and Zimmerman had 183. Added these four together that equals 839 strikeouts, which is utterly amazing. (Doug Fister had 98 strikeouts last season.) If Gio Gonzalex pitches as well as he can, he will easily be the best number four in the game.
Last but not least the number five pitcher, Doug Fister. But this ex-Tiger is no regular number five. In fact, he finished eighth in Cy Young voting last season. That being said, FOUR Nationals starters were in the top ten for Cy Young voting last season. Doug Fister was essentially the eighth best pitcher in the league, but he is fifth of the Nationals. Essentially if a pitcher is eighth in the league, they are eighth out of 75 starting pitchers (Fifteen teams with five starters). That comparison really puts the Nationals staff into perspective; they are on another level. Fister is by far the best number five pitcher in the MLB, rounding out the best staff the league has seen for a long time.
Scherzer, Zimmerman, and Strasburg would be aces on most teams. Even Gonzalez and Fister could be aces or at least a solid number two pitcher on many teams throughout baseball. One of these pitchers is going to be in long-relief in the playoffs, and Tanner Roark will be in long-relief in the regular season. Even if Scherzer gets injured, the Nationals staff would still be one of the best in baseball. They may even have the best starter at each spot in the rotation compared to other teams’ rotations. The Nationals have struggled in postseasons past, but this year they will most likely have another chance, and when they get that chance they have a plethora of pitchers to rely on.