SweetSpot: Garrett Mock

No. 5 Starter Watch: Nats serious about Mock

April, 3, 2010
You can go back to watching basketball now; as Joseph White writes, the Nats have finally named their last starter:
    Garrett Mock's cliffhanger spring trip to the nation's capital had a better ending this year. He'll get to stay in town as the No. 5 starter for the Washington Nationals.

    Manager Jim Riggleman announced Saturday that the right-handed Mock got the nod over lefty Scott Olsen, who was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse.


    Mock began the spring projected as the No. 3 starter, but he had some struggles early and ended up on the bubble along with Olsen, who returned after shoulder surgery ended his season early last July.

    The stats for Mock and Olsen, both 26, were similar this spring. Each allowed 12 earned runs in five starts, although Mock allowed 10 fewer hits in roughly the same number of innings.

    "You never want to be so flip about it to say that you could flip a coin as to which one you took," Riggleman said, "but it wavered day to day as to which guy we were going to take."

    Riggleman said Olsen is "just not quite there yet in terms of being fully 100 percent," even though Olsen had the better final spring outing. Mock allowed six runs on seven hits in 4 2-3 innings against the Florida Marlins on Tuesday, while Olsen gave up one run on five hits over five innings and struck out seven against the Boston Red Sox on Friday.

    "The overall body of work -- we couldn't really just put it all on that one outing," Riggleman said.

The overall body of work? Both pitched almost 20 innings. Mock struck out 12, walked six. Olson struck out 13, walked two. Wanna go bigger? Olson's won 33 games in the majors. Olson's won four games: 4-13. As a starter he's 3-11 with a 5.69 ERA.

In Mock's defense, his strikeouts and walks suggest he's a better pitcher than that. Not a lot better. But better. In fact, Mock's career strikeout-to-walk ratio is better than Olsen's (which does surprise me).

I'll admit that Riggleman knows a lot more about his pitchers than I know. I just wish he'd be a little more specific. But as Joseph White notes later in the piece, Mock's "hold on the spot could be tenuous, with last year's No. 1 overall draft pick Stephen Strasburg expected to move into the rotation in June."*

* By the way, I'm going to make a list of the No. 5 starters on Opening Day, and check on their status at the All-Star break. But the Nationals aren't making it easy. Officially speaking, Mock was the last National to win a slot in the rotation. But he won't be fifth in line; that's going to be Livan Hernandez, who's not on the 40-man roster and won't be added until the Nats need a fifth starter. So who should I count as No. 5? I'll probably go with Hernandez, just for the sake of consistency.

No. 5 Starter Watch: Nationals (!)

March, 31, 2010
I'm sorry I don't have a conclusion to this gripping story, but you know what Clark Griswold says: "Getting there is half the fun."
    The Nationals this morning whittled their choices for their fifth starter down to Garrett Mock and Scott Olsen when they optioned J.D. Martin to Class AAA Syracuse. Martin pitched in just three big league games this spring, receiving most of his experience on back fields in minor league intrasquad games.


    That's the thing about the fifth-starter decision. Whether it's Mock or Olsen -- and Mock is the better bet at this point, based on what I'm hearing -- that may not matter for long. Martin, Matt Chico, Shairon Martis, Aaron Thompson and all the other starters who vied for a spot this spring remain in the system.

    The job will "absolutely" still be up for competition, Riggleman said, even as the year proceeds. Part of that is the fact that neither Mock nor Olsen has claimed the position with certitude. "Nobody's won the job," Riggleman said. "Somebody is going to get the job. But nobody has won the job."

    Once May arrives, the fifth starter will have to compete with far more than those who couldn't win a job out of spring. Chien-Ming Wang will be ready to come off his rehab. Ross Detwiler could be ready. By June, Stephen Strasburg will be entering the competition. The rotation by August could look like this:

    1. John Lannan
    2. Jason Marquis
    3. Stephen Strasburg
    4. Chien-Ming Wang
    5. Ross Detwiler

    Or not. The cavalry is coming, but the cavalry can't be counted upon. Wang is coming off surgery and is no sure thing. Detwiler has pitched more than six innings once in his 15 career starts, and he's never had to deal with rehabbing from hip surgery at the outset of spring. By late August, I'll be writing about when the Nationals will shut down Strasburg because he's reaching his innings limit.

Funny thing about this piece: the headline reads, The importance of the fifth starter ... maybe that's supposed to be sarcastic? Because it's pretty obvious that the Nationals are going to cycle through a bunch of fifth starters this season, plus they're going to finish last so it really doesn't matter.

For the record, though ... Garrett Mock turns 27 in a few weeks. In 18 starts with the Nationals, he's 3-11 with a 5.69 ERA. In his defense, 1) he's pitched somewhat better than those numbers suggest, and 2) his Triple-A performance has actually been real good. It's too bad he doesn't throw harder, but then nobody's perfect. If I'm running the Nationals, I'm happy with Mock as a place-holder. Same with Olsen, who's a year younger than Mock and actually has two good major-league seasons (out of four total) on his résumé. Sure, Olsen's recovering from a torn labrum and he's not been the very best of citizens. But like I said, nobody's perfect.

I'll bet there are plenty of innings to go around this season. Let's pull for all these guys. They're going to need as much help as they can get.