The Nationals signed Jason Marquis yesterday, and while I am not going to completely rip the signing, I don’t think it’s much to get excited about. He’s not great at much, other than showing up every day. But there is great value in this, and maybe he can teach the youngsters a thing or two about starting 30 games a year. They needed someone to start 1/5 of their games, and while there were better options out there, he certainly isn’t the worst. So let’s start with what he’s good at:
He eats innings like few pitchers do, starting at least 28 games every year from 2004. He’s averaged 32 games started in those 6 seasons. He’s also a groundball pitcher, meaning he doesn’t give up a ton of home runs. Well, at least he hasn’t in the last three seasons. The three seasons prior were a different story. His groundball rates went up last year, and it may be kinda flukey, but it is important. If he can keep those up, and the ball down, he is a much better pitcher. Of course, he was able to have rates like that back on the Cardinals, so they aren’t out of the question. As it is, he’s can be a decent 4th starter if he plays like he did last year. On this team, that makes him one of the best out of the gate.
He’s just not anything that good. When he doesn’t keep the ball on the ground, he gives up homers – he lead all pitchers in that category in 2006, but that was by far his worst season. In fact, last year’s GB/FB ratio was 2.03, and in 2006 it was a meager 1.07. So watch out for fly balls, if he keeps it on the ground, he might be alright. The problem, then, becomes the defense. At this point the left side of the infield may be an asset, if he can keep them hitting to Zimmerman and if assumed-SS Desmond starts making the routine plays. At least we know Desmond will keep balls from going through the infield, even if he throws it away after that. Maybe he should talk to Ryan about fixing that problem. The left side of the infield is a different story. Guzman is penciled to start at 2B, which has zero innings playing in the majors, and Dunn at first is never going to be pretty. Although I’m convinced it’s better than Dunn in the OF. Regardless, even if Marquis pitches well, he’s still not going to strike people out, and he may be hampered by poor defense.
Marquis also wasn’t trusted enough last year for the Rockies – the Rockies! – to make a postseason start. Because, despite his 15 wins, he wasn’t exactly spectacular. After August 1st he was just plain bad, with a just over 5.00 ERA. From August 29th to the end of the season, in the playoff chase, he made 8 starts and managed a 6.25 ERA. Meanwhile, for much of last season, he was able to avoid big innings that have hurt him in the past because of his walk rates. But he still finished with a pretty terrible K:BB ratio of about 1.43:1. Not as bad as some other seasons, but still rather atrocious. My prediction is that even if he can keep that groundball rate high, he walks so many compared to striking out so few that he will end up getting burned much more.
An innings-eater is nice, which is what he is. But there were better ones out there. A 2 year deal for too much money seems curious to me $15 M for this guy isn’t a terrible price for what you assume will be about 65 starts, but what is the point? I would have picked a few other guys that I’m not quite as certain will regress over him. The Nats had the right idea, I just think they signed the wrong guy for it. All that being said, even if he isn’t great, a little stability, and knowing that he’ll pitch every 5th day will probably be useful to this team. I just hope his slot doesn’t keep a youngster from stepping up and shining.