What was the one thing going into this season that everyone knew was going to be a problem? The bullpen seemed deep and talented, the bats were allegedly much improved, especially with the new stadium… but that starting staff was lost. Hill was hurtin’ for certain, unknown or forgotten players were heading up their roster, and it looked like Matt Chico was the only one who had a shot at a decent season.

Instead, with just about 20% of the season gone, the starting staff has been one of the best parts of this squad. Let’s start with Wednesday night’s winner, Tim Redding. Redding has done little in the past to show that he can consistently pitch successfully against major league hitting, but that’s what he has done here. One of the TV commentators (probably Don) noticed when the Nats were in Houston that Tim was uncomfortable pitching there, he was a bit intimidated by its hitter friendly fences. Who knows, fixing his delivery to the way it was before Minute Maid Park spooked him is one possibility as to why he’s doing well. Anyway, he has 4 QS in 9 starts. Nothing spectacular, but again, this is more than we expected and not at all bad. Besides, its yet another start on this team with a sub-4.00 ERA. Redding went from 4th on this list in ERA to 2nd after his 6 IP,1 ER performance against the Metropolitans.

Odalis Perez continues to impress me. His numbers from the Mets game weren’t that great. 11 hits in 6 1/3 innings, plus serving up 2 HRs in that park. But he has pitched really well over this season so far and in probably his second worst outing of the year he finally gets a win. Meanwhile, in 9 starts he has 4 Quality Starts and 3 more games where he gave up 3 ERs or less and last 5+ innings. but just didn’t make it to the 6 IP needed for a QS. In other words, 3 more games where he was 1 IP away from a QS. That’s 2 stinkers out of 9, and in one of those stinkers he gets a win.

John Lannan followed up a stinker of his own with a 6 IP,1 ER performance. It’s important to see a 23 year old pitcher recover like that. He did pitch poorly against the Mets, 12 hits in 6 IP and 4 ERs. It would have looked alot better if the Nats had scored 10 again, but for a bad game, it wasn’t terrible. He’s shown, at least at the beginning of the season, that he can compete at this level as a mid-tier starter.

Shawn Hill has come back from his injury and pitched very well so far. His ERA is best among the starters, as you would expect, and even though he’s only had 2 QS, he’s given up more than 3 ERs only once, and that was his first start back from the DL. His K/BB ratio is a little off for him. His ratio was 2.6/1 last year, and I’m confident when he is healthy he’s going to be able to get to 3/1.

This is what the top 4 pitchers look like all hanging out together:

Hill looks like the best of the bunch in terms of ERA and K/BB. Perez is right up there with him on the K/BB, and Lannan has made the most QS although we noted that Perez has been right there a bunch of times. There is no dominant ace right now. Some people speculate Hill can do this, I am more of the impression that while he will always pitch well, he’s not going to dominate to the point of being a #1 pitcher. But that’s ok, you need more than one pitcher to compete.

At the beginning of the season, I don’t think anyone would have predicted that at this point in the season, 4 Nationals starters would have an ERA below 3.80. Sure, they’re not perfect, you’d like to see them last into the 7th inning a little more often, and walk a few less. But having 4 guys who can give you a solid shot at winning every time out is a pretty good deal, too.

By Charlie