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.

Lannan remains a mystery. His peripherals would suggest he has been lucky, yet his whole career he’s had a K/BB ratio at best around that 1.50 mark. This would suggest he’d get roughed up more, but he keeps on pitching well. Livan has been the same Livan, those ratios aren’t too far off from what he’s done recently, suggesting he has been a little lucky, but he also probably isn’t due for a significant correction.

Despite what I said about Zimmermann earlier, his peripherals show some worrying signs that many people have already picked up on. He just isn’t striking people out. Luckily, he isn’t walking anyone either, and he’s said that he’s rather get grounders and pitch deeper into games. But that hasn’t been how it’s working out, and evidence shows that striking guys out is the better way to go anyway.

At 14-14, the Nats owe their wins to the starting pitching. They are 13th in the NL in runs scored, so they are winning despite their offense. It’s almost depressing to think what their record might be if Zimmerman was healthy, Werth had been hitting all April, and the general malaise of this offense wasn’t present.

By Charlie