Washington Nationals headed to playoffs in 2010

Well, it’s official. The Washington Nationals will take baseball by storm and make the playoffs in 2010 now that they’ve inked starting pitcher Jason Marquis.

Why do I say that?

Because Jason Marquis’ team has been in the playoffs every year of his career — 10 straight seasons. Marquis is a Winner™ and you best recognize.

Rockies Marquis Wins 13th Game in Denver

Okay, jokes aside…

Marquis, 30, is coming off his best season since 2004, when he went 15-7 with a 3.71 ERA in 201.1 innings over 32 starts. After stumbling to a horrendous 6.02 ERA and walking in free agency, Marquis signed a three-year deal with the Cubs. He didn’t set the world on fire, but he didn’t embarrass himself either. However, in a misguided attempt to drop payroll (similar to shipping Mark DeRosa to Cleveland), the Cubs sent Marquis to Colorado.

Marquis helped lead the Rockies to the wild card, throwing a surprising 216 innings with a 4.04 ERA. Most of his value was tied up in the first half with a 3.65 ERA. He regressed severely in the second half (4.56 ERA) to the point where Marquis was sent to the bullpen and pitched just one game in the playoffs.

Marquis has reportedly inked a two-year, $15 million deal with the Washington Nationals and will head up their rotation.

One thing that Marquis got away from in 2006-8 was groundballs. After three straight years of a groundball percentage hovering in the low 50’s, it went just under 50 percent for his final Cardinals year and Cubs tenure. That changed back in Colorado when he posted an excellent 55.6 percent rate. There was no major home/road split (in fact, Marquis pitched better in Colorado based on ERA) so he likely won’t see a bump in moving to the Nationals’ stadium. Marquis could actually be in trouble with the Nationals, as their infield defense past third baseman Ryan Zimmerman figures to be tepid at best.

The 31-year old certainly will have his playoff appearances streak broken, but should be a solid innings-eater in the front of the rotation for Washington, albeit without being an actual ace.

Having a mentor to work with the young pitchers can be valuable, and Marquis is young enough himself to do just that while furthering his career. This signing brings to note a common refrain repeated yearly: why spend the money on Marquis if they’re going nowhere? If the Nationals are a 77-loss team, why spend the money to bring them to a 75-loss team? Answer: It’s not that simple. You still need bodies out there to compete. What if their internal options were lousy? How about signing cheaper alternatives — they’re cheaper because they’re riskier. Maybe they’re not projected to be a good mentor (Erik Bedard would scare me in that role) or just not good, period.

Putting all that aside, for a team to win, complementary players have to be brought in at some point. You don’t get to dictate when the free agent or trade market breaks in your favor. Marquis, for all his warts, does have something good going in his 10 consecutive playoff appearances: it means that 10 consecutive playoff-caliber teams felt he could help the club. Aside from 2006, he’s done just that.

And he will continue to do just that for Washington.

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Dan Greer
Dan Greer

Marquis, of course, will be traded to a playoff team at the deadline. He is a force of nature, after all.