Get To Know A Nat 2014: Ross Detwiler

Ross Detwiler on the mound, captured by @AshburnNatsFan

Ross Detwiler on the mound, captured by @AshburnNatsFan

Name: Ross Emery Detwiler
Nickname(s): Det, The National Det, One of The Other Guys, #CopsIsOn
DOB: March 6, 1986
From: Wentzville, Missouri
Position: Starting Pitcher Bullpen  Rotation Order: Fighting for 5th Spot Long Relief 
Hand: Lefty, but bats right-handed
With the Nats Since: Drafted and Debuted for the Nationals in 2007

Just who is this guy?: If you don’t know much of anything about the Nats back of the rotation lefty, you might want to start with our 2013 preview.

What Happened in 2013?: Last year, Ross Detwiler was going to easily be the best 5th starter in baseball, and the kind of guy that would be a #1 or #2 on a really bad pitching staff. But a strained oblique in May, followed by a pinched nerve (that never really got right) robbed Det of most of his starts in 2013. The Nats had many more problems swinging the bats last year than they did throwing the ball, but missing Detwiler from July on was not fun for anyone.

Ross Detwiler’s 2-7 record was a bit more misleading than usual, especially when accompanied by his 4.04 ERA – about .6 runs higher than in 2012. His FIP and xFIP, however, were both lower in 2013 than 2012-despite his struggles to find the curly W column. Indeed, he amassed .9 WAR in those 13 starts, or more than half what he had done in 2012.

Other stats corroborate the fact that Det was pitching better in 2013 than in 2012 (before the injury). While his strikeout rate was down (5.75/9 v. 4.92/9), he brought his walk rate way down (2.85/9 v. 1.77/9) and his home run rate way down too (.82/9 v. .63/9). This explains why his FIP (which is strikeout, walk and home run dependent) would drop, even if he was giving up runs off of hits in other ways.

Batters were hitting Detwiler though. His WHIP jump from 1.22 to 1.49. If we know he was walking less guys, then the hits must be the reason for putting more men on base – and the batting averages (.237 v. .310) corroborates that. I’d urge the reader to remember just how awful the defense was for the Nats at the outset of the 2013 campaign, and suggest that some of that hit inflation may be wrapped up in there.

What to Expect in 2014: The obvious answer is ‘be healthy,’ but the Nats may be are looking to put Ross Detwiler into a completely different role. After his departure in July, the Nats had to turn to young unproven minor league arms to take his place. Both Taylor Jordan and Tanner Roark had their chances, and both showed promise. If Detwiler is healthy, it should still be his job to lose – but he may lose it. and he lost it. 

So far in Spring, Det has had his moments, and between the three pitchers he is the proven commodity (when healthy). I’d expect him to be the starter, I totally expected him to be the starter, but even  now that he isn’t the Nats will need him to contribute. Detwiler may find himself as the long man, a position he was in for the 2012 season when the Nats (inexplicably) couldn’t decide between him and Chien-Ming Wang. In that role he can provide both actual relief pitching at a highly competent level, as well as keep whoever would have beat him for the 5th spot on their toes. It’s a spot that Ross Detwiler has, frankly, fought back from before. He can do it again.

Even if he doesn’t, many starting pitchers have found their stroke in the bullpen. Guys that have trained to for longevity find that they can put just a little bit more into pitches since they are only pitching for a short intervals. Tyler Clippard is an in house example of a starter turned All-Star reliever, and if Ross Detwiler can become a left handed Clip…well…that’s okay in my book.

If It All Goes Right: Ross Detwiler is your 5th starter provides excellent long lefty relief, and maybe steps back into the role of 5th starter. Like most other Nationals from the last two years, the best case is that Detwiler delivers on the promise of 2012 a year after we hoped they would. Det can be a quality starting pitcher who mixes up the location of his fastball and ought to be a mismatch on most days for the 5th starter on other teams. The Nats find themselves picking up these 4th and 5th games in a series regularly because Detwiler gives them an excellent chance to win.

If It All Goes Wrong: Detwiler has already lost his starting gig, but he hasn’t full been  Wally Pipp’d yet. If he doesn’t shine (or maybe even if he does?) in the bullpen, he could easily be moved. He can still throw hard, and plenty of teams would take a chance on Detwiler. He could be dealt, if Rizzo needs something that he can get with Det, or he might just ride out the contract in the minors or on the bench.

2 thoughts on “Get To Know A Nat 2014: Ross Detwiler

  1. I think the Nationals made a smart business decision when they put Detwiler in the pen. His stuff is nasty, and having a power lefty in the bullpen with the versatility to pitch 1 inning, long relief, and spot start is a pretty good weapon. I hope he can embrace the role and thrive. (And, agree, Clippard is a good example.)

    I have a spot spot for Ross, especially since he’s the only one from our 2012 starting rotation who didn’t wilt under playoff pressure. And I know starters want to start — but I think right now this is a terrific role for him to continue to shine.

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