When the Nats signed Rafael Soriano it was met with mixed reaction. Stats don't back up the need for a lock down closer. When leading heading into the ninth baseball teams have a greater than a 90% chance to win that game, and that is right around where the Nationals have been this season. The current MLB average win percentage with a lead heading into the ninth is 94.9% and the Nationals are at 94.7%. That misses quite a bit of the nuisances of the Nationals bullpen this season and why even as an overpay paying for the marginal wins Soriano has provided was worth it. Imagine the Nats bullpen without Soriano. Think back to Game 5 and who it was standing on the mound and Descalso first tied the game and Pete Kozma drove in the go ahead runs. Think about the image of Drew Storen sitting in front of his locker staring in horror at the ground. Now fast forward to 2013 and look at Clippard and Storen. Neither pitcher is pitching like they have in the past. Clippard is walking an astronomically high 6.8 per nine and Storen is giving up a too high for a reliever 1.5 HR/9. Both have struggled at times and in his one chance to close out a ball game Storen blew it. No one has made a big deal of the mild struggles of Storen and Clippard, but imagine if the Nats didn't have Soriano. Imagine all the columns being written with the focus being on Game 5 and the mental state of Drew Storen. All the columns on if Storen truly has a closer's mentality and all that other nonsense.Read More
With the signing of Rafael Soriano the Nationals did something important. They are now able to both have a non-traditional closer pitch in the highest leverage situation of the game while still having a traditional closer for the save situation. For you see with Clippard, Storen, and Soriano all having experience closer and career ERAs at or around 3.00 and all being strikeout pitchers the Nationals will have closer level talent pitching in the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings whenever they have the lead. So far in the season both Clippard and Storen have pitched four innings and have essentially split the seventh and eighth inning with Storen having pitched in the eighth inning in all four of his outings and Clippard pitching the eighth in two out of his four appearances with the other two coming in the seventh.
When both Clippard and Storen have appeared in a game it is with Clippard pitching the seventh and Storen pitching the eighth. It is both clear that they are near equal talents and that Davey Johnson favors Storen slightly more as the set-up man. That should come as no surprise as Storen is the more talented pitcher and would have been the Nats closer had Soriano not been signed. There is an important off-shoot of this that goes back to how Davey Johnson used the bullpen in 2012. With Clippard as the closer, Burnett as the set-up man, and Stammen as the clear third most talented reliever in the bullpen Davey Johnson used Stammen mostly as a long reliever in games that were close. In essence Stammen was the Nats bullpen Ace or fireman. He came in to clean-up the mess left by starters and was often given the highest leverage situations and asked to pitch more than one inning. Read More
The Washington Nationals are seven games into the 2013 season and so far the bullpen hasn't looked as dominant as advertised. They haven't made it a six or even seven inning game. Rafael Soriano has one blown save and gave up another two runs last night. The only two Nationals relievers with an ERA under 4.00 are Drew Storen and Ryan Mattheus, but at the same time no Nationals reliever has pitched more than four innings. This is a cripplingly small sample size and way too early to worry about anything. Tyler Clippard gave up all of his three earned runs last night on a walk, a weak single, and a Paul Konerko homerun.
All night Phil Cuzzi had a tight inconsistent strike zone and it shows in the fact that there were 15 runs scored and a total of six homeruns hit in the game. Pitchers were forced to pitch to the middle of the plate and when they didn't Cuzzi was not going to call a strike. Can't complain as he was at least consistently inconsistent and caused pitchers on both teams to pitch in the middle of the zone. Aside from the poor zone of Phil Cuzzi, Clippard's homerun was given up to Paul Konerko who is one of the most underrated players of all time. Konerko has 423 career homeruns and a career slash line of .282/.359/.498, and has never gotten the credit he deserves as one of the better players in baseball. There is no shame in giving up a homerun to Paul Konerko. The only bad part is that there happened to be two runners on base, but some of that was out of Clippards control as Cuzzi was only going to give the corners when he felt like it and that was not a half inning when he felt like it. Read More
For those unaware a LOOGY is a Lefty One-Out Guy, essentially a left handed reliever whose sole purpose is to come in and get dangerous left handed hitters out in the late innings. Carrying a LOOGY is a fairly common practice in Major League Baseball. Last season the Nationals carried such a pitcher in reliever Michael Gonzalez, who was an excellent .179/.257/.269 against left-handed batters.
This season the Nationals have no such pitcher on the current roster, with only one left-hander, long man Zach Duke, in their bullpen. While many have wondered how they will fix this "problem", such as re-signing Gonzalez before he signed with the Brewers or picking up free agent JP Howell, many have ignored that there is no problem at all. The Nationals have no need for a LOOGY.Read More