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Washington Nationals: Pitching Meltdowns

June 2, 2010

Last week, Ron Shandler wrote an article in the USA Today about pitching aces having meltdowns. Shandler defined a meltdown as

any game in which a starting pitcher allows more earned runs than innings pitched

Reading the piece, I started thinking about all of the meltdowns the Nats pitchers have had over the last few years. Then Craig Stammen had a meltdown Tuesday night against the Astros – 5 innings pitched, 5 earned runs. I decided to investigate further.

How Often Do Meltdowns Occur?

First, I looked at all games played in 2009 to figure out how often meltdowns occurred. There were 905 meltdowns in 2009. The Nats led the league with 43. The Braves aces were aces with only 14 meltdowns. The average number of meltdowns was 30.17, the median 30. Here’s how teams ranked:

Doing a little more math, we can convert the average 30 meltdowns per team to an average meltdown rate of 1 every 5.39 starts. The Nats rate worked out to an average of 1 meltdown every 3.77 starts. That gives us a baseline to work with the 2010 data.

2010 Meltdowns

The league meltdown rate this year is a little better than the 2009 season – approximately 1 every 5.62 starts. The good news for Nats fans – Nats starters don’t have the most meltdowns in the NL East. Here’s the breakdown through June 1st, with the team leaders in ().

NL East Meltdowns

  1. Atlanta Braves – 5 meltdowns in 52 games – 1 meltdown per 10.4 games – Jurrgens (2)
  2. Florida Marlins – 6 meltdowns in 53 games – 1 meltdown per 8.83 games – Robertson (3)
  3. Philadelphia Phillies – 6 meltdowns in 51 games – 1 meltdown per 8.5 games – Kendrick (4)
  4. Washington Nationals – 11 meltdowns in 53 games – 1 meltdown per 4.82 games – Marquis(3)
  5. New York Mets – 14 meltdowns in 54 games – 1 meltdown per 3.86 games – Niese, Perez (3)

The Nats do have 2 additional games where the starter gave up more runs than innings pitched, which would lower their rate to 1:4.08.

Nats 2010 Meltdowns by Pitcher

Here is the breakdown of the meltdowns suffered by Nats pitchers in 2010. The list includes game date, opponent, innings pitched, runs, and earned runs. I’ve also included Stammen’s near meltdowns – more runs scored than innings pitched – marked with a *.

John Lannan – 10 starts
  • Apr 5 vs PHI, 3.2 IP, 5R, 5ER
  • May 2 @ FLA, 5.0 IP, 6R, 6ER
Jason Marquis – 3 starts
  • Apr 7 vs PHI, 4.0 IP, 6R, 6ER
  • Apr 12 @ PHI, 4.1IP, 7R, 6 ER
  • Apr 18 vs MIL, 0.0IP, 7R, 7ER
Scott Olsen – 8 starts
  • Apr 20 vs COL, 2.0 IP 6R, 6ER
  • May 21 vs BAL 3.0 IP, 4R, 4ER
Luis Atilano – 8 starts
  • May 5 vs ATL, 5.1IP, 6R, 6ER
  • May 20 vs NYM, 4.1IP, 7R, 6ER
Craig Stammen – 11 starts
  • APR 14 @ PHI 1.1IP, 7R, 7ER
  • May 1 @ FLA, 4.0IP, 4R, 3ER *
  • May 22 vs BAL, 5.1IP, 6R, 4ER *
  • June 1 @ HOU, 5.0IP, 5R, 5ER


The good news is that the 2010 Nats starters have a better meltdown rate than the 2009 starters – 1:4.82 vs. 1:3.77. Jason Marquis, the 2010 team leader in meltdowns, is on the DL. Marquis had 6 meltdowns in 33 starts with the 2009 Rockies, 3 in 3 starts with the 2010 Nats. He will have to re-earn a spot on the roster once he is healthy.

The Nats will soon have 5 pitchers vying for 3 starting spots, Stephen Strasburg, Scott Olsen, Luis Atilano, Craig Stammen, and J.D. Martin. We will assume that Martin switches places with Strasburg in Syracuse. Strasburg has shown no sign of meltdowns in either his college or minor league careers. That’s the advantage of the high strikeout rate – it’s much easier to recover from bad situations. That leaves 2 spots for 3 pitchers. Craig Stammen and Luis Atilano are the two shakiest pitchers on the active roster. One of them will be replaced by Scott Olsen when Olsen returns from the DL. All in all, the days are getting brighter for Nats fans, who should be seeing fewer and fewer pitching meltdowns.

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