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What should the Nationals Do with the 5th Pitching Spot in the Rotation?

With Pitchers and Catchers reporting this week, it got me thinking about what the Washington Nationals should do with the 5th spot in the Rotation.

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As it stands today, here is the current pitching rotation: 

  1. Max Scherzer
  2. Stephen Strasburg
  3. Patrick Corbin
  4. Jon Lester
  5. Ross/Voth/Fedde

While spots one to four are as good as you can get, the rotation’s fifth spot is a question. 

It appears that Rizzo and Co. are currently set with having Joe Ross, Austin Voth and Erick Fedde or some combination of the three taking the mound every fifth game. That seems to be the approach that management is taking. However, I wondered if it is good enough for a team that places such importance on pitching depth. So with that being said, here are a couple of directions that the team can take to fill the fifth spot in the starting rotation.

“Platooning”

As of now, this seems to be the direction that the Nationals are going in. While this direction has some benefits, it also comes with some risks, such as not establishing a consistent routine. As we all know, pitchers and players are creatures of habit that like to have consistent schedules. However, the benefits of this plan include having the ability to take a look at the opposing team’s lineup and see what pitcher has performed better against those batters. 

In a recent article, Steve Mears from Talk Nats made an interesting point, the Nationals should consider moving Austin Voth to be a long reliever or even work in mop-up duty. “Austin Voth has no options remaining and would be the front runner for mop-up and long-relief, but at this point in his career, he might be down to his last opportunity in a make-or-break chance.” So let’s focus on the platoon of Ross and Fedde for the point of this article. 

Joe Ross

After sitting out in 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns, Ross will return to the Washington Nationals pitching staff, looking to become even more ingrained in the rotation. During the 2019 season, Ross went 4-4 and pitched in 27 games. Although he had a 5.48 ERA overall, the right-handed pitcher had an impressive 3.02 ERA as a starter. Ross’s sole appearance during the 2019 postseason was filling in for an injured Scherzer in Game 5 of the World Series, Ross pitched seven innings and gave up four runs. If Ross can carry over the success that he had from 2019 after a year off, he could be a good option as the Nationals fifth starter.

Image via Baseball Savant

Erick Fedde

Fedde has been with the Washington Nationals for what seems like forever, even though the Nationals drafted him in the first round back in 2014. Fedde has been bouncing between the minors and the majors for most of his career, which says a lot. While pitching in the Major Leagues, he is 8-11 with an ERA of 5.15. He has pitched in 46 games and has given up 208 hits, 111 runs, and 34 home runs in these appearances. All that being said, the Nationals know what they are getting. I am not advocating for Washington to give up on him. I am saying that it might be time to think about making Fedde a spot starter or sending him back to the minors unless a pitcher gets hurt or needs rest. I don’t believe that he should be considered for a fifth spot in the rotation.

 

Image via Baseball Savant

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