Hopefully by now, you've read parts one, two and three.
Once again, what I'm trying to show all of you is that 1) The Nationals could (theoretically) be a .500 team next year and 2) They don't have to spend a whole lot of money to do it. They just have to spend that money in the right way. Responsibly. I'd like to point out again that I get all contract information from Cot's Baseball Contracts. It's crazy in-depth, accurate and (better yet), incredibly user friendly.
Without further ado, your 2009 Washington Nationals' pitching staff:
1) RHP Tim Redding (arbitration-eligible, ~$2 mil)
Redding is the "ace" of the Nats' staff filled with #3/4 pitchers. In 198 and 2/3 innings pitched for the Nats in 2007-08, Redding sports a 3.76 ERA and a 10-9 record. 11 of his 20 starts this year have been quality starts, but he's allowed 4 earned runs or fewer in all but 2 of his starts (and 3 or fewer in all but 5). The Nats are 15-5 in his starts. In reality, a team's "ace" is the guy who, when he pitches, gives the team the best chance to win. It's a tossup between Redding and Lannan in that category, but you can't really argue with W's. I know John Lannan gets 2.75 fewer runs per game in run support, but a 15-5 team record when Redding starts (compared with a 21-55 record in games he doesn't start) is pretty impressive.
Realistic 2009 prediction: 12-9, 32 GS, 183 IP, 3.68 ERA, 70BB/120K
2) LHP John Lannan (under contract, $400k auto-renew likely)
Lannan is intriguing. He doesn't strike out many batters (4.41 K/9 for his career, 5.01 K/9 this season) and allows a decent number of baserunners (career WHIP of 1.344, 1.283 this year), yet still puts up decent numbers in terms of ERA (4.15 career ERA, 3.40 this year) and ERA+ (118 career ERA+, 125 this year). He doesn't throw particularly hard. But why bother arguing against results? The kid has the intangibles to pitch in the majors. He keeps the ball in the yard and goes out and gives you a quality start most times he's out there (13 of 18 starts this year were 6 innings or more with 3 earned runs or less). And somehow the Nats are still only 5-13 in games started by the 23-year-old lefty. Meh.
Realistic 2009 prediction: 8-12, 33 GS, 185 IP, 3.90 ERA, 65BB/95K
3) RHP Jason Bergmann (under contract, $400k auto-renew likely)
Bergmann is about as intriguing as Lannan (to me, at least). Here's a guy who only started 21 of his 104 games in A+ or above (11 of which came in 2007-08, after reaching the big leagues). It appears that his time as a reliever stunted his endurance, as he falls apart after the 5th inning, with about a 90 OPS+ allowed over innings 1-5 (with 100 being a league-average pitcher) as opposed to about a 143 OPS+ allowed during innings 6-8 (which is probably better-sounding than what it really is, considering these are career numbers and include games he came in as a reliever). If we can get the Mann on a better strength and conditioning plan that allows him to pitch 6 effective innings each game rather than 5, we have ourselves another Tim Redding, just with better K/9 numbers (7.19 K/9 as opposed to Redding's 6.11). Here's to some more (and improved) BERGMANNIA in 2009! He's my breakout candidate.
Realistic 2009 prediction: 15-7, 33 GS, 197 IP, 3.42 ERA, 50BB/160K
4) LHP Oliver Perez (FA signing, $5 mil for 1 year)
Why not replace one lefthanded starter named O. Perez with a younger one? Oliver is equally intriguing (time to invest in a thesaurus, no?) as Bergmann and Lannan but has hit both peaks (2.98 ERA and 239 K in 196 innings pitched in 2004) and pits (6.55 ERA in 112 and 2/3 innings pitched in 2006) in his career already. Why is he worth picking up? He is having a season this year that looks average at best on paper (6-5 for a good team, 4.44 ERA) but also looks like an abberation if you search deeper. Perez's H/9 is actually better this year (7.58) than his career average (8.08) and last year's (7.78). He's just been a little wild, with career highs in HBP and WP at the ASB, and a little unlucky. His K's are a little bit down and his walks are a little bit up, but those things are correctable. This guy's got sick talent and is just going to be 27 at the beginning of next year. Guarantee him some money and innings and let him try and rebuild himself for a year under a new pitching coach. What's there to lose?
Realistic 2009 prediction: 13-8, 33 GS, 194 IP, 3.57 ERA, 85BB/205K
5) RHP Collin Balester (under contract, $400k auto-renew likely)
Balester has the most talent in the system. We've seen flashes of it in the first 3 games, with a 100% ridiculous line of .154/.185/.154 against the first time through the lineup (comparable to Tim Redding's career hitting line of .145/.168/.173). But, unfortunately, baseball games are 9 innings rather than 6. And Balester allows a .387/.487/.710 line against during innints 4-6 (semi-comparable to Sammy Sosa's 64 HR 2001 season, where he hit .328/.437/.737). The sample size is small (3 games and 73 career batters faced), but Balester needs to be efficient later on in games next year just like Bergmann.
Realistic 2009 prediction: 6-8, 22 GS, 130 IP, 4.19 ERA, 45BB/100K
So there you have it...our $9.2 mil starting rotation (even less if Oliver isn't signed and the rotation spot goes to Shairon Martis, Tyler Clippard, Garrett Mock, etc.). Under my predictions, the staff will go 54-44 with about a 3.72 ERA. Wouldn't be too bad...hopefully the likes of those guys I just named above could fill in the extra 9 or so starts. Keep in mind that these predictions are based most on performance and not injury.
Be sure to check in tomorrow night for the bench, Tuesday night for the bullpen and sometime later this week with the wrapup of the series.