Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Jason Marquis is one of several Nats starters pitching brilliantly this spring.
Meanwhile, the Nationals don't play down in Florida until 7:10 p.m. against the Mets, so I wanted to take this opportunity to raise a point about spring training numbers. I've made the argument here before that you have to be careful reading too much into Grapefruit League stats, because they don't always reflect the situations the players are in or what they may specifically be working on at the plate and on the mound.
But what about overall team stats? Should we read anything into that? Specifically, I'm talking about the Nats' 10-6 record so far this spring.
Spring records can at times be meaningless. If your team trails at the end of five innings each day, then rallies to win late once all the backups and minor-leaguers are in the game, it doesn't really mean much. But I do think it's at least somewhat significant that the Nationals have posted a winning record down in Florida this year. It's even more significant how they've done it.
The key to the Nats' spring success has been pitching. The staff ERA is 3.70, fourth-best in the NL. In 143 1/3 innings, the Nationals have recorded 115 strikeouts while walking only 44 batters.
More specifically, the starting rotation has pitched brilliantly so far. Jason Marquis has allowed one run and six hits in 12 innings. Jordan Zimmermann hasn't allowed any runs in 11 innings. Ross Detwiler has 10 strikeouts and one walk in nine innings. Yunesky Maya has allowed one earned run in 8 2/3 innings. John Lannan, Livan Hernandez and Tom Gorzelanny have been less successful, but Lannan has only made two starts so far, Gorzelanny has only appeared in one game and Hernandez never puts up good numbers in spring training.
Point is, the guys who are probably the biggest mark on this club heading into 2011 are performing exceptionally well this spring. Does that guarantee continued success once the bell rings on March 31? No. But given the choice between a rotation putting up outstanding spring numbers versus a rotation putting up awful spring numbers, which would you prefer? That's what I thought.
As for the Nationals' 10-6 record ... well, in the six seasons since the franchise relocated, this team has never finished the Grapefruit League with a winning record. They've also never finished the regular season with a winning record. Is there a correlation? Probably not. But again, given the choice, you'll take a good spring in the standings over a bad one.