The addition of Brad Lidge does not wholly change the complexion of the Nationals’ pitching staff. It provides Nationals something important, sure. He is a veteran in a young bullpen, a World Series winner, a right-hander with a nasty slider. In the end, they have another option in seventh and eighth innings.
But the signing of Lidge does make you stock of things, and things look pretty good for the Nationals. The composition of the rotation and bullpen will shake out in spring training – the final spot in the rotation will probably come down to John Lannan and Ross Detwlier, and both Ryan Mattheus and Ryan Perry will compete for a spot in the bullpen. But at the moment the Nationals’ 12 pitchers look like so:
The Nationals’ staff was quite good last year. Helped by an improved defense and a very rangy infield, Nationals pitchers allowed 643 runs, ninth-lowest in the majors. They have improved their staff to the point that, on paper, from the first pitcher to the 12th, it probably ranks among the best in baseball.
They traded for Gonzalez and effectively added Strasburg, 40 more innings from Zimmermann and another four months from Wang. In adding Lidge to the bullpen, they strengthened their biggest strength.
“It’s pretty unbelievable,” Storen said. “You look at the way that teams played against teams like the Braves. Hitters know that if they’re going to strike, they need to do it against our starters. And with the way our rotation is shaping up, they’re not to go get much from them, either.”
The incredible thing is how quickly it has taken place. In 2010, John Lannan headed an opening day rotation that also included Garrett Mock and Livan Hernandez, who joined the team as a minor league free agent. Two years later, Lannan is in line to be the fifth starter.
Even last year, Ryan Mattheus played a valuable role in the bullpen; now he’ll fight for a spot. And it’s a staff worth fighting to be on.
More on the Nationals: