Watching the Washington Nationals in a game I called this past weekend for FOX Sports 1, I found myself asking what should be a simple question: if I had to today, how would I set the Nationals rotation for a playoff series? I found my conclusion a surprise.
A closer look inside the numbers of a rotation that ranks third in starters’ ERA in the NL and first in fWAR:
At first glance you might conclude that Stephen Strasburg — despite having the highest ERA and WHIP of the group — is the best starting pitcher on the Nationals. WAR would certainly back this up. You could also make the case that he has been unlucky, as his BABIP and FIP would suggest.
As they often don’t, the numbers do not tell the entire story. People close to the team and who have a good pulse on the clubhouse told me Strasburg is not looked at as an ace but more like the third or fourth starter in this current rotation. From what I have seen, I would agree.
Strasburg far and away has the best stuff on the staff, but I want more than that. There is an intangible that guys like Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright have that Strasburg still lacks. He has failed to capture that true top-of-the-rotation stature we have been looking for from him so far.