This Stephen Strasburg character is pretty good at pitching. He’s got the lowest xFIP (xFIP is, in my opinion, the best free pitching metric available. It appropriately weights events under a pitcher’s control-like Ks and Bbs-and ignores events not under a pitcher’s control-ERs and, controversially, HRs.) in the Majors and, not surprisingly, was the best Nationals pitcher in June and it’s looking like the same will be true in July.
Unless, that is, Livan Hernandez catches up to him. That’s right, Livan has had one great start and one O.K. start to give him a an xFIP of 3.44 in July, nearly the same as Strasburg (3.34 xFIP in July). Livan’s ERA has also risen as predicted, mostly due to a pretty bad June (5.12 ERA in June). Despite his recent success, I’d still like to see the Nationals phase Hernandez out of the rotation to let Chien-Ming Wang, Scott Olsen, Jordan Zimmerman, Jason Marquis, and the rest of the other Nationals rotation get some experience when they all come off of injury. Also, wouldn’t it be great if someone fell for Hernandez’s low ERA (3.12) around before the trade deadline passes?
Luis Atilano’s demotion was predictable given his bad starts in July, but it shouldn’t be too troubling a sign considering how well (compared to his prior performances) he pitched in June (3.98 xFIP in June, second best on the team). He will be back after the All-Star break.
Craig Stammen is walking a thin line; his success in June (4.19 xFIP in June) will soon be forgotten is he continues to pitch even worse than Atilano in July (6.07 xFIP for Stammen versus 5.58 xFIP for Atilano in July). His xFIP is still second best on the team, however, behind Strasburg.
Despite his 1-4 W-L record, J.D. Martin is silently putting together a good season; his xFIP is 4.35.
The Nationals rotation is one of the worst in the league, 23rd in terms of xFIP. Drastic changes will be coming soon with the aforementioned return of the many injured Nationals starters. This will most likely be bad news for Hernandez, Atilano, and Martin as the Nationals are surely looking to get their money’s worth out of Wang, Olsen, and Marquis when they return. One of Stammen and Zimmerman will likely have the minor league blues come July, though both are deserving of a spot in the Majors. These changes, however, will be good news for the Nationals rotation because we will finally see the rotation we could have had all season. All you have to do is make it through July.