(Getty Images; Getty Images; Getty Images)

Late Saturday night, when the Philadelphia Phillies finished off a victory over the New York Mets, the Washington Nationals clinched their third National League East championship in the last five years. Each title represented something slightly different: the 2012 champs cemented baseball’s return to the District after a 33-year absence, putting behind a pair of 100-loss seasons; the 2014 team established the Nationals as perennial contenders with a core that looked to be ready to contend for years to come; and this year’s club is something of a new era, with so many pieces of the original core having moved on.

With these three data points, two of our previous Nationals beat writers – Barry Svrluga and Adam Kilgore – decided to debate the merits of all three teams, position by position. The idea was to focus on the roster available for the playoffs, to that leaves out prominent regular-season contributors such as Stephen Strasburg in 2012 and 2016 and Wilson Ramos this year. It’s possible our two beat guys are the only two people who care to dork out on this subject to this level. If not, feel free to join them. To see all positions, click here.

Below, their argument over starting pitcher 4.

  • 2012: Ross Detwiler – 10-8, 3.40 ERA, 1.223 WHIP, 105 K in 164-1/3 innings
  • 2014: Gio Gonzalez – 10-10, 3.57 ERA, 1.197 WHIP, 162 K in 158-2/3 innings
  • 2016: Joe Ross (through Sept. 27) – 7-5, 3.48 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 88 K in 101 innings

Kilgore: Ross Detwiler might not have seen the mound in the playoffs if not for the Strasburg Shutdown. He seemed to come out of nowhere before his exquisite Game 4 start, but it’s easy to forget how good he was all season. He threw practically nothing but sinkers, and he was still an efficient, groundball machine.

Svrluga: Detwiler’s the pick here. But two things are amazing: that Gonzalez started in the 2014 playoffs over Roark, who went 15-10 with a 2.85 ERA, and that this year’s rotation has the second-best ERA in baseball even though Ross missed two-and-a-half months.