Do the Washington Nationals Now Have the Best Rotation and Bullpen in MLB?
The signing of closer Rafael Soriano has now given the Washington Nationals the best bullpen in the majors. Couple that with their top-notch rotation, and it's plausible to say that the Nationals now have the best pitching staff in the majors—period.
Their rotation is unbelievable.
Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez give manager Davey Johnson two aces, while Jordan Zimmermann and Dan Haren both have the potential to perform like aces themselves.
Ross Detwiler could be a No. 4 starter on most teams, but is a strong No. 5 in this rotation.
Last season, with a rotation that featured Edwin Jackson instead of Haren, the Nationals finished second in the majors with a WAR of 18.1. They trailed only the Detroit Tigers (20.5).
Their 3.40 ERA trailed only the Tampa Bay Rays (3.34).
There's a significant chance that they will perform even better in 2013.
Strasburg will almost assuredly be without an innings limit. While he was stellar in the 159.1 innings he provided the team, there's no doubt that the Nationals would have benefitted from his services late in the season.
Gonzalez finished third in the NL Cy Young voting in his first season in D.C. With a 21-win season already under his belt with the Nationals, he'll be even more comfortable when he starts his second.
Zimmermann has showed improvement every season he's been in the bigs. More experience can only make him better.
Detwiler will provide a stable presence at the back of the rotation, but Haren is the lone wild card here.
He posted a down season in 2012 with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and signed a one-year contract with the Nationals this offseason. If he can get back to his pre-2012 form, then general manager Mike Rizzo should be given the credit of making the best value-signing of the offseason.
The bullpen, now with Soriano entrenched as the closer, is undoubtedly the best in the league.
Soriano provides the team with a stable option in the ninth inning and Davey Johnson will have no qualms about going to his closer when his team has a late lead.
With Soriano in the fold, Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard slide down the totem pole and become setup men. Both are very capable of closing, but the combination of Soriano, Storen and Clippard (ClipStoSo?) will force teams to beat the Nationals' stellar rotation in six innings.
Ryan Mattheus and Craig Stammen have now been reduced to much lesser roles, but each are perfectly capable of performing as quality setup men.
The lone hole in the bullpen was created when left-hander Sean Burnett signed with the Angels. Burnett, one of the best lefty specialists in the league, has yet to be replaced by Rizzo.
Zach Duke is already a member of the team, but he's never performed solely as a left-handed specialist. It remains to be seen how well he'll perform.
The battle for the final spot in the bullpen will come down to Henry Rodriguez and Christian Garcia. Both have the potential to be mainstays in the bullpen, but each has their respective issues.
Rodriguez throws extremely hard but has no control. Garcia could very well be the most talented pitcher in the bullpen, but his inexperience will keep him from having a prominent role.
The Nationals have far and away the best rotation and bullpen in the majors. The Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants and Cincinnati Reds all have strong pitching staffs as well, but the Nationals have the edge because of their depth.
One through five and long man through closer, the Nationals' pitching corps are stellar.
Next season will be a letdown if the Nationals don't at least make it to the World Series, and that's going to be because of the pitching.
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