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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, April 25, 2012 at 11:32 PM

Nobody’s expecting the Washington Nationals to maintain the torrid start that had them sitting at 13-4 in your newspaper standings heading into Wednesday Night’s late start at San Diego. But, a solid young pitching staff certainly gives them a chance to compete deep into the season. And, if a few breaks go their way later in the season…we may well have a big surprise playing in the postseason from the NL East.

In their first 17 games, Washington had scored 61 runs while allowing 46. The averages:

3.59 runs per game on offense

2.71 runs per game allowed by pitching and defense

You don’t win championships with 3.59 runs per game offensively, so the bats will need to pick up the pace quite a bit. It’s impossible to ask an entire staff to pitch like Cy Young candidates for 162 games. That being said, this young starting rotation certainly has a chance to post solid (or better) numbers for the duration. Let’s see what’s happened so far with the five guys getting all the starts.

 

KEY PITCHING STATS (age in parenthesis)

*Stephen Strasburg (23): 1.08 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 9.0 K-Rate, 6.3 IP/Start

Even after surgery, Strasburg is getting strikeouts and mystifying opposing hitters. The ERA won’t stay that low all year because the laws of math won’t allow it. But, you’re going to earn a lot of wins with WHIP and K-rate numbers that great…and those stats tend to be more stable. We’d prefer to see a higher numbers of innings per start for the #1 spot in the rotation. We can understand why the Nationals are showing caution with the young phenom. Strasburg has been getting respect in the legal betting markets since he came up from the minors. It’s well deserved, even if surgery has taken a little something away. He could lose a bit and still be great considering where he started.

 

*Gio Gonzalez (26): 1.52 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 10.3 K-Rate, 5.9 IP/Start

Gonzalez threw some gems for the Oakland A’s. Now he’s coming over to an easier league. It’s amazing how often the markets forget to factor that into their pricing! Yes, Oakland was a great pitcher’s park. Gonzalez seems happy in D.C., which means we could see a lot more of this. Once again, you have to love the WHIP and K-rate while expecting some regression to the mean in the more volatile ERA category. And, again, we’d rather see more IP’s per start. You can’t ask the bullpen to pitch the 7th, 8th, and 9th every single day of the week without inviting trouble. For now, particularly with the shortage of pop in NL East offenses, this is quite a one-two punch featuring young studs.

 

*Jordan Zimmerman (25): 1.29 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, 4.29 K-Rate, 7.0 IP/Start

Make it a one-two-three punch with Zimmerman. We are concerned here about the low K-Rate. It’s very hard to post great numbers for a full 162-game season when the ball gets put into play that much. Even the best ground ball pitchers need to be higher than that. So, this is a guy who’s likely to regress in a few areas rather than just ERA. The world revolves around K-rate in this sport. Still, what Zimmerman is likely to bring to the table for the full season is going to be very good for a #3 starter. And, if he can come close to matching last year’s full season K-Rate, it might well feel to NL East opponents that Washington has THREE aces at the top of their rotation.

 

*Ross Detwiler (26): 0.56 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 8.4 K-Rate, 5.3 IP/Start

Anyone for four? Detwiler’s history suggest he won’t maintain a K-Rate that high. But there’s room for that to drop and the other numbers to go up. The lack of IP per start is going to be a problem if the guys in front of him aren’t going deeper. If you’re trying to figure out which pitcher right now is throwing the furthest over his head, it would have to be Detwiler. He’s got a very good chance though to settle into a “good for a #4” slot if he just maintains career norms. If he’s going to be better than career norms, this rotation is getting truly scary.

 

*Edwin Jackson (28): 4.26 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, 9.5 K-Rate, 6.3 IP/Start

It’s hard to know what to expect from Jackson. He will occasionally seem unhittable. Yet, when people do connect the ball goes pretty far. You can see above that his ERA is WAY too high for the other stats. He basically has Cy Young caliber WHIP and K-Rates, yet his ERA is over 4.00 because damage is done on contact. Jackson has broken the hearts of a few teams…or at least been exposed as overpaid. If Washington just needs #5 type stuff out of him, he’s likely to come through as a plus. A good sleeper, but not a guy to hang your season on.

Given what we’ve seen from the parks so far, this staff is likely to thrive in:

Washington

Miami

New York (Mets)

Philadelphia (until Phils get healthy on offense)

They should hold their own in Atlanta too, in terms of the NL East. We’d expect good numbers in other pitcher’s parks the team visits through the course of the season. If you’re a fantasy player, try to get some of these guys on your team! If you’re a baseball handicapper, try to find ways to back them at value prices. That can be tough for the highly hyped Stasburg. It’s not hard at all for the rest of the guys.

Washington is +8 units for the year (pending the late Wednesday result)

Washington is +4 units even when Strasburg isn’t pitching

Washington is 8-2 at home (6-0 with Strasburg, Gonzalez, and Zimmerman)

Washington has only been priced higher than -150 four times all season

A 13-4 team is technically on pace to win 124 games in a full season. THAT’S not going to happen here. But, we could easily be looking at a 90-win team (or better), and that’s going to make you money because this team just isn’t going to be priced with that much respect until they spend a few months convincing skeptical oddsmakers that they deserve it.

Coming up for the Nationals:

Thursday: at San Diego

Friday-Sunday: at LA Dodgers (surprisingly big series!)

Tuesday-Wednesday: vs. Arizona

Friday-Sunday: vs. Philadelphia (gut check)

JIM HURLEY may or may not be involved in tonight’s game involving the Washington Nationals. But, the team is likely to be involved in a few major plays during that stretch outlined above. You can purchase our baseball picks every day right here at this website. Note that a few days a week involve multiple sessions because of early starts. That’s definitely the case THURSDAY!

 

Early Thursday Highlights:

San Francisco at Cincinnati

Miami at NY Mets

LA Angels at Tampa Bay

 

Late Thursday Highlights:

Washington at San Diego

Boston at Chicago White Sox

Thursday brings the close of the NBA regular season. We’re looking at the TV doubleheader on TNT, and will be checking with our information sources around the league for possible steals on the lucky 13-game card. Check the ad boxes on the home page of this website for big play bulletins. If you have any questions about our service, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453.

Every team has a story. If you’re only following a few teams closely, you’re missing a lot of stories! The exclusive TEAM HANDICAPPING approach of JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK keeps us on top of developments all over the world of sports. You’ve seen that daily in the bases. You’ll see it in dramatic fashion when the NBA playoffs get started this weekend.

LET’S GO GET THE MONEY

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