The Washington Nationals' press release introducing Jason Marquis to D.C. described him as an, "extreme ground ball pitcher by trade," and the Nats hyped the fact that the then-31-year-old, 10-year veteran was a reliable presence on the mound in his career, who was, "one of only 10 big league pitchers to record a double-digit win total every season since 2004."
Marquis, as the press release noted, had, "helped his club reach the post-season in each of his 10 big league seasons." That streak would likely end in his first season in the nation's capital, most suspected, but the Nats were getting, "a good make-up guy with some consistency," and, "a take the ball attitude," as D.C. GM Mike Rizzo said in an MLB Network Radio interview after the signing was announced:
Mike Rizzo: "[Jason Marquis is] a guy that's a veteran player, that we did a lot of research on, we talked to Tony LaRussa and a couple of managers that Jason pitched for, and a guy willing to share his knowledge and to be a mentor to the younger pitchers that we have. And you know, in a market, we thought that this was a guy that we wanted to jump on and would give us innings, leadership and a chance to win a ballgame every fifth day."
Bill James' 2010 Pitcher projections had Marquis making 32 starts and pitching 202.0 innings in which he'd win twelve while surrendering around 209 H (9.31 H/9), 22 HR's (0.98 HR/9) and 77 walks (3.43 BB/9), while recording 110 K's (4.90 K/9), right around the Atlanta Braves' 1996 1st Round pick's career averages of 9.4 H/9, 3.5 BB/9, 1.1 HR/9 and 5.2 K/9 in eleven seasons.
After a brutal Spring in which the veteran right-hander gave up 32 hits, 10 walks and 21 ER in 20.2 IP, Marquis started the season by giving up 18 hits and 20 runs, 19 earned in three starts and just 8.1 IP, and it was clear something was wrong with the starter. The discovery of loose bodies in his elbow was no surprise, and the subsequent surgery and rehab sidelined Marquis, keeping him off the mound in DC until August when he returned to make 10 starts and throw 50.1 innings in which he was (2-6) with 58 hits, 27 runs, (24 ER) and 18 walks (3.22 BB/9) allowed with 28 K's (5.01 K/9) collected.
The Nationals had focused on Marquis' low HR/9, BB/9 and high GB/FB rate in the press release that announced what was later revealed to be a 2-year/$15M dollar deal. Though the numbers were clearly skewed by his injury, Marquis' HR/9 jumped from 0.63 HR/9 in '09 to 1.38 HR/9 last season, his walk rate went from 3.33 BB/9 to 3.68 BB/9 and the extreme ground ball pitcher induced less grounders (55.6% to 53.1%), gave up more fly balls (27.4% to 28.5%) and had more of the fly balls hit (7.8% to 15.3%) go out of the park than had ever gone out in his career (11.9% career HR/FB).
Nats' Assistant GM and Vice President of Player Development Bob Boone told Sirius/XM MLB Network Radio show "Inside Pitch" hosts Casey Stern and Jim Bowden this winter that Marquis is "a real bulldog competitor," who he expects, "...to get back to a little bit more legitimate Jason Marquis," in 2010. Nats' Skipper Jim Riggleman, asked about the Nationals' needs on the mound late last season, pointed to Marquis' improved finish to the 2010 campaign as a way Washington could potentially improve from within. Bill James is projecting 21 starts (4.8 K/9, 3.43 BB/9, 1.03 HR/9) and 105.0 innings pitched from Marquis this season, Marcel projects 19 starts (5.51 K/9, 3.41 BB/9, 0.89 HR/9) and 111.0 IP. James and Marcel have Marquis' ERA (6.60 to 4.46 on both) and FIP (5.65 to James' 4.77 and Marcel's 4.30)dropping back toward his career average (4.56 ERA/4.85 FIP). Since the Nationals weren't able to add a top-of-the-rotation arm this winter, they're having to rely on Marquis, John Lannan and Yunesky Maya among others improving on their 2010 seasons.
Unless of course they get involved in the emerging talks about the Minnesota Twins' Francisco Liriano...Do you have faith in Marquis' return to form? The 32-year-old right-hander will earn $7.5 million this year and become a free agent again next winter, so he has something to prove and the added motivation of proving that it was injuries that caused his issues last season. No one's likely to forget the two starts last season in which he failed to get out of the first inning, but a return to a more "legitimate Jason Marquis" as Mr. Boone predicts will soften the blow of not adding an arm this offseason.