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Nationals moving Ross Detwiler to the bullpen even if he doesn’t like it

Mar 17, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT

Washington Nationals starter Ross Detwiler throws a first inning pitch against the Los Angeles Dodgers during their MLB National League baseball game in Los Angeles Reuters

In one of his first personnel decisions as Nationals manager Matt Williams has decided to shift left-hander Ross Detwiler to the bullpen full time, leaving Taylor Jordan and Tanner Roark to compete for the final spot in the starting rotation.

Williams told Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com that Detwiler was “not happy” about the decision “but I wouldn’t expect him to be.”

Detwiler was used exclusively as a starter last season before being shut down with a herniated disk in his back and 69 of his 85 career appearances have come as a starter. However, he has a mediocre 4.02 ERA as a starter and Williams said he thinks Detwiler has a chance to be “something special out of the bullpen” as a late-inning reliever.

  1. djpostl - Mar 17, 2014 at 3:35 PM

    His career ERA as a starter might be 4.02 but the reality is that is bogged down by his first season in the bigs, making it hard to just write him off as being best suited to be a reliever.

    2012 was our best look at what he can offer, a full season as a starter, no bouncing back and forth between the pen and the rotation and no nagging back injury.

    The big knock about him is that he does walk too many guys, but if that gets resolved his stuff alone makes him a very solid middle of the rotation guy.

    As it stands now he is pretty solid, very respectable for a 4 or 5 in a rotation.

    His SO/9 rate isn’t gaudy but he was able to consistently miss the fat part of the bat for his entire career, right up until last season where hitters BABIP against him spiked up about 50 points from the career norm.

    If they don’t plan on using him in their rotation I think he is easily replaceable in the pen and should probably be dangled as trade bait. Somebody would give something of value up for him.

    • NatsLady - Mar 17, 2014 at 3:42 PM

      No, the biggest know against him is that batters figure him out the 2nd and 3rd time in the order, and he gets fatigued. His repertoire is effective–in limited stretches.

      “Detwiler has completed six innings in only 31 of his 69 career starts; he has completed seven innings only nine times, and he has reached the eighth inning only once.”

      “Detwiler also has shown a propensity to fade the deeper he gets into starts, perhaps evidence of opposing batters figuring him out the more they see him. For his career, opponents have hit just .225 with a .631 OPS in their first plate appearance against him, but those numbers skyrocket to .300 and .787 in their second plate appearance and .324 and .873 in their third appearance.”

      See: http://natsinsider.com/2014/03/17/detwiler-will-open-season-in-bullpen/
      And: http://ladyandthenats.blogspot.com/2013/11/relieving-ross-detwiler.html

      • NatsLady - Mar 17, 2014 at 3:42 PM

        the *biggest KNOCK* … grrrr, edit function.

      • Eric - Mar 17, 2014 at 4:43 PM

        Yeah the jump in stats for second and third at bats against Det is really illuminating imo.

      • djpostl - Mar 17, 2014 at 9:19 PM

        Name a 5th starter in MLB you can’t say any of that about lol. We aren’t talking about an uncommon thing for the back-of-the-rotation guys.

        Playing in the NL, therefore needing to be pinch-hit for, and with the Nats having had a pretty solid/deep pen in recent years only makes it less surprising.

        And don’t kid yourself about the walks. It’s a big part of the problem, often causing him to have to come at batters with mostly fastballs once he issued a free pass. His problems are almost exclusively of the self-made variety in the starts I see (which is most of them since I live in the MASN coverage zone).

        Additionally, the walk rate is 7.2% of PAs as a starter and jumps to 14% out of the pen. It might not be a problem with a good SO/9 but he doesn’t miss enough bats to overcome it a la David Robertson or others. That nice shiny ERA is not indicative of how he has pitched as a reliever.

        He can be replaced in the pen. Probably pretty easily.

        But some big league club out there would likely love to pencil him at No. 5 and would give up something of value for him in the form of some prospects.

      • djpostl - Mar 17, 2014 at 9:20 PM

        There’s me wanting that edit function now haha, sorry about the bold

    • David Proctor - Mar 18, 2014 at 12:32 AM

      His relief stats, especially rate stats, are pretty irrelevant when we’re talking about a 30 inning sample size.

      • djpostl - Mar 18, 2014 at 12:46 PM

        Not when they lineup with his stats as a starter. It isn’t like he’s suddenly going to turn in into Rivera or Eckersly with miniscule walk rates as a reliever.

        He is what he is. A guy who can’t command the zone and doesn’t miss a ton of bats. Not reliever material imo.

      • David Proctor - Mar 18, 2014 at 1:16 PM

        He had a 2.73 BB/9 in 2012 and 1.77 BB/9 in 2013. It’s not like he’s walking the world.

  2. NatsLady - Mar 17, 2014 at 3:47 PM

    Detwiler could be terrific in the bullpen (as he has been in the past). He could come in to get a key left-handed hitter, he could come in for two innings, he could make a spot start.

    He could be a left-handed Tyler Clippard if he accepts the bullpen role–and a future closer. It’s not the end of the world.

    • dwick21 - Mar 17, 2014 at 8:28 PM

      future closer is a stretch..in my opinion.

  3. no14mike - Mar 17, 2014 at 3:48 PM

    As a Nats fan, I think this is a mistake. I hope I am wrong.

    • karlkolchak - Mar 17, 2014 at 5:42 PM

      I’m surprised they made the move given how conservative they’ve been in recent years in making major changes, even when the need for them is quite apparent. That said, I like the move. Detwiler is just too one dimensional to successful starter, but he could be dominant bullpen force for years to come.

      And anyway, if Roark or Jordan get hit hard as the No. 5 starter, Detwiler could quickly step back in as he did for Wang in 2012.

  4. sumerduckman - Mar 17, 2014 at 9:27 PM

    I can see where having him work out of the bullpen would be an attractive option for a manager, he would then have TWO quality long relief guys that could eat three, four or more innings if needed. A right handed choice with Craig Stammen, and a lefty with Detwiler.

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