2012 Player Review: Ross Detwiler
The Washington Nationals enjoyed unprecedented success in 2012, recording the best record in Major League Baseball. The team relied on the contributions of many different players, whom we will catalogue throughout the offseason as we look ahead to the 2013 campaign. With Election Day behind us, we move to our favorite, politics-based nickname on the team, The National Det himself, Ross Detwiler.
With all the breakout seasons from various members of the Nationals in 2012, it can be easy to overlook just how good Ross Detwiler pitched. In fact, most fans have probably forgotten by this point that John Lannan was expected to occupy Detwiler’s place in the starting rotation until the final day of Spring Training, when the announcement was made that Detwiler had earned his place as the number five starter. And while Detwiler yielded his starting spot temporarily to Chien-Ming Wang upon the latter’s return from the Disabled List, he didn’t remain in the bullpen for long, finishing the year back in the rotation.
The key for Detwiler was finding the right balance of his two fastballs – a lively four-seamer that runs up in the mid-90s and a sinking two-seamer a couple miles-per-hour slower – and his developing off-speed pitches. He found that balance over his best stretch of the season from June 12 to August 2, a period in which he threw 49.2 innings with a 2.17 ERA, and 29 strikeouts to just 11 walks. While the southpaw has never been an overwhelming “strikeout pitcher,” he learned to pitch to contact to a greater degree this season. That helped him to his first career 10-win campaign, along with a huge performance in Game 4 of the National League Division Series.
Detwiler posted very similar overall numbers to those in his 2011 campaign, allowing 8.2 hits, 0.8 homers and 2.8 walks while striking out 5.8 per nine innings (8.6/1.0/2.7/5.6 in ’11). He lowered his WHIP ever so slightly from 1.26 to 1.22. His .241 batting average against ranked 14th among qualifying starters in the National League, just ahead of Ryan Vogelsong and Edwin Jackson, and also lower than rotation-mate Jordan Zimmermann.
Off the field, Detwiler and Jackson happily adopted the moniker of “The Other Guys” during the season, as the two members of the rotation happy to stay out of the wake of publicity surrounding Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Zimmermann. His easy-going, light-hearted personality allowed him to stay even-keeled through the rotation debates and the ebbs and flows throughout the year.
Although Detwiler pitched just 66.0 Major League innings in 2011, his combined total, including his Triple-A workload, was 153.1 frames. He topped that by 11.0 innings in 2012, not signifying a significant increase, but obviously held up fairly well at the end of the year, if Game 4 of the NLDS was any indication. Detwiler’s left arm should be well prepared to handle another increase in innings as a full-time starter in 2013, when he will enter his first year of arbitration. The Nationals have the 26 year-old southpaw under team control through the 2015 season.