Ross Detwiler: Spot Starter

Nationals’ pitching has gotten plenty of attention this season. Their starters have accumulated 15.3 WAR thus far, good for tops in all of baseball. Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez have been tremendous, while Jordan Zimmermann proved his early-career success wasn’t a fluke. With Edwin Jackson, the Nationals foursome is a force to be reckoned with. Through it all, Ross Detwiler has remained the forgotten man. And while a brief demotion from the rotation may have scared owners away, he’s been another solid option for the Nationals over the second half.

Detwiler might be especially useful over the next three starts. Over that period, Detwiler faces the Miami Marlins twice and the Cubs at home. This year, the Cubs have accumulated a 10.5 offensive WAR. That’s good for fourth-worst in the majors. The Marlins aren’t far behind, with a 12.1 offensive WAR. Detwiler isn’t a big strikeout pitcher, though his 15.0 K% is slightly up from last year. Thankfully, he shouldn’t kill you with walks. But if he’s facing poor competition, that’s a combination that can work.

Things have clicked for Detwiler this season. According to PITCHf/x, Detwiler appears to be throwing two different types of fastballs for the first time in his career. He’s thrown a regular four-seamer, but he’s also been throwing a sinker. It’s tough to tell whether he’s always used both pitches or has been far more reliant on them this year. PITCHf/x sometimes has odd calibration issues that cause pitches to be mislabeled. But there still seems to be some change. Detwiler has really managed to keep the ball on the ground this year. His ground ball rate has shot up to 52.9%, one of the better rates in baseball. Because of that, he’s been able to limit the amount of home runs he’s given up, which used to be a pretty big problem for him.

Detwiler’s high ground ball rate is even more important when you consider the Nationals’ infield defense. Danny Espinosa and Ryan Zimmerman have solid defensive reputations, and Ian Desmond has finally found a way to impress UZR. Even Adam LaRoche has shown off some nifty glove work this year. That can only help Detwiler.

After this stretch, Detwiler’s match-ups aren’t as rosy. He’ll take on the Braves and Dodgers towards the middle of the month. The Braves have been one of the best offensive clubs in baseball this season, and the Dodgers just got Adrian Gonzalez. Though the Dodgers’ offensive WAR still isn’t great, they added far too many weapons around the trade deadline and are no longer the same team. He gets one nice start against the Phillies before finishing with the Cardinals. Outside of that Phillies game, he’s not going to have a ton of value moving forward. Pick up Detwiler if you’re looking for starts now, but plan on doing some more dumpster diving after next week.

Chris is a blogger for He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.

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Gila Monster
Gila Monster

Detwiler is a curiousity because he is one of the few pitchers with a fastball with a ton of velocity, but a very very low K%