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As Nats soar, so does Storen

May 26, 2015, 6:00 AM EST

USA Today Sports Images

Major-league closers, like NFL kickers and the sanitation department, only draw your attention when something goes wrong. We just expect them to work flawlessly, and if everything goes according to plan, we don’t even notice them.

Drew Storen, though, deserves our attention right now, because he has been just as responsible for the Nationals’ prolonged, dominant stretch of baseball — Monday’s 2-1 win over the Cubs was their 20th in their last 25 games — as anybody. Fourteen of these 20 victories have come by 3 or fewer runs, and Storen has been the last pitcher on the mound for the Nats in 12 of those games.

And in those 12 games, plus two more appearances he’s made since the hot streak began April 28 in Atlanta, Storen hasn’t allowed any opposing player to cross the plate. Not one.

That’s 14 scoreless appearances totaling 13 1/3 innings. Storen has faced 48 batters during that time. Only eight have reached base (five hits, one walk, two hit batters). Seventeen, on the other hand, have struck out.

And it’s not like Storen was struggling prior to that point, even though the Nationals as a whole were. For the season, he now sports an 0.93 ERA, having allowed only 13 hits and three walks over 19 1/3 innings while striking out 25. He has recorded an NL-best 14 saves in 15 tries.

Want even more evidence of Storen’s dominance? He has given up one extra-base hit all season: a 1-out double to Grady Sizemore during Sunday’s 4-1 win over the Phillies.

So, what exactly has made Storen so effective over the last seven weeks? Manager Matt Williams believes it’s the fact he’s using his full repertoire to perfection.

“I just think his secondary pitches have been crisp,” Williams said Saturday while citing the previous evening’s save against Philadelphia. “Last night’s an example. He got [Ryan] Howard on breaking balls and change-ups, then he was able to elevate the fastball to [Odubel] Herrera to get him for the last out. That’s a byproduct of him being able to throw the change-up for a strike and the slider for a strike and elevate the fastball when he needs to, especially against a left-handed hitter. I just think he’s throwing it where he wants to.”

Indeed, Storen’s command has been excellent to date; he’s throwing 66 percent of his pitches for strikes. But it’s more than that. He’s also throwing strikes that aren’t hittable. A full 25.5 percent of his strikes have been swing-and-miss, the highest rate of his career and a full 10 percent better than the MLB average.

And Storen also has been very efficient. He hasn’t thrown more than 20 pitches in any appearance this season, and he’s averaging a mere 3.6 batters faced per inning (he’s retired the side 12 times in 21 games).

Put that all together, and you’ve got one of the most dominant closers in baseball so far this season. Which, really, is just a continuation of 2014, when Storen led all NL relievers with a 1.12 ERA. Which, really, is just a continuation of the final two months of 2013, when Storen returned from a brief demotion to Class AAA Syracuse and regained his form.

In fact, take every MLB reliever who has thrown at least 30 innings since Aug. 16, 2013 (the day Storen was called back up to Washington) and nobody can match his 1.13 ERA.

Does he still need to prove he can get the job done in October after two notable blown saves? Of course. But that’s a story for another day, well down the road.

Right now, Storen is near-perfect in the ninth inning. And because of that, the Nationals have been near-perfect for the last four weeks.

128 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. laddieblahblah - May 26, 2015 at 6:09 AM

    Storen has been far more effective than Craig Kimbrel. Fact.

    Treinen has looked like he has been doing this for years, as has Barrett, recently. Thornton and Grace have been shutting down the LH hitters and Janssen looks better now than he did in the minors. And the pen will get even stronger when Roark returns to it.

    I think we can stop worrying about the bull pen. It’s those shaky starters who need some attention, but still looking to JZ to clinch another series win.

    • virginiascopist - May 26, 2015 at 6:51 AM

      Also more effective than Aroldis Chapman who has three losses this year (including yesterday), but curiously, I don’t believe any blown saves.

      Count me among those who were never particularly worried about the bullpen. Only slightly concerned about it now IF Roark is back in the rotation for an extended period of time (replacing either Stras or Fister), but even then I think we have the arms to survive.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 26, 2015 at 6:58 AM

      “I think we can stop worrying about the bull pen.”

      If we can check that off the list, then yes. The last few games MW has strategically played matchups perfectly leading up to the 9th.

      Storen didn’t have any eighty/lefty advantage facing Rizzo. It was big boy baseball and Storen never bent. Where was that video evidence to prove Bryant was HBP’d? If there was a time for Storen to fold under pressure it would have been yesterday and he didn’t.

      Treinen was dominant in 2 full innings and deserves much credit as he didn’t have any advantage of matchups either.

      Good job MW and bullpen and the sanitation department.

      • laddieblahblah - May 26, 2015 at 7:07 AM

        MW has really upped his management game, as well. Matt deserves some of the credit for matching those guys up to the Nats best advantage. Better pen management goes along with better pen performance, no doubt.

        Drew has been getting everybody out, regardless of the match ups. That’s what Kimbrel used to do.

      • ArVAFan - May 26, 2015 at 7:11 AM

        Is that going to be our new nickname for the bullpen: “the sanitation department’?

        Watched the highlights from last night, which included Zim reaching into the crowd for a foul. Nicely played-and he didn’t land in anyone’s lap.

      • rayvil01 - May 26, 2015 at 7:28 AM

        He had a chance to fold on Friday in a one-run game. Utley blooped a nasty pitch and the next guy hit a six-bouncer in the exact right spot of the infield. Storen struck out the next two to end it.

        He’s showing plenty of grit these days. So much for the theory that he didn’t have the fortitude to stand tall in a crunch.

      • scmargenau - May 26, 2015 at 7:35 AM

        He was one bad call mix strike away from beTing cards to advance

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 26, 2015 at 7:45 AM

        He was BABIP’d for sure and held up.

      • scmargenau - May 26, 2015 at 7:33 AM

        I hate eighty righty match ups. Seems disproportionate

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 26, 2015 at 7:43 AM

        80/righty yep, disproportionately adverse.

      • scmargenau - May 26, 2015 at 7:50 AM

        I so struggled spelling that new

      • zmunchkin - May 26, 2015 at 8:00 AM

        Where was that video evidence to prove Bryant was HBP’d?

        It certainly seems like the standard of clear and convincing video evidence that the call was wrong seems to be selectively applied.

      • nats128 - May 26, 2015 at 8:07 AM

        I read a comment on WaPo that said it was clear and convincing it hit the knob. When things are going well, it doesnt have a effect on the game. Good job by Storen just shaking that off.

      • natsjackinfl - May 26, 2015 at 8:22 AM

        I looked at both angles in slow motion on my DVR and any one who saw the ball hit the knob is making that up.

        I specifically looked for that same thing and it was clear as day that the ball traveled below the knob and glanced off the palm of his right hand. And both angles showed that he clearly checked his swing.

        New York got it right and Drew shut them down anyway.

      • nats128 - May 26, 2015 at 8:42 AM

        Really, so your calling Kris Bryant a liar? Watch the video I linked. Bryant said it hit his wrist, not the palm of his hand. Why would he lie?

        You will then get a arguement from the Kris Bryant and the Chicago Tribune. They said it hit Bryant’s wrist.

        http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/baseball/cubs/ct-kris-bryant-argues-call-bits-spt-0526-20150525-story.html

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 26, 2015 at 8:54 AM

        It hit his wrist. I don’t know what the argument is even about. It was clear.

      • nats128 - May 26, 2015 at 9:02 AM

        OK, the wrist, not the palm. Natsjacks tv must be messed up to.

      • natsjackinfl - May 26, 2015 at 8:58 AM

        Yes, it hit the very back part of his hand. Kris says wrist and where I stopped it shows the very back of his hand at the juncture of the wrist and hand.

        The fact is, it never hit his bat. I even looked to see if it may have glanced off the bat after hitting him. It didn’t.

        So I say the WaPo poster was clearly making it up that the ball hit off the knob. That was my initial feeling until I reviewed it further.

      • nats128 - May 26, 2015 at 9:00 AM

        I couldnt see clear and convincing to overturn like zmunchkin said. You must have a better TV set than I.

      • nats128 - May 26, 2015 at 9:08 AM

        ” it was clear as day that the ball traveled below the knob and glanced off the palm of his right hand”

        So it was not clear as day. May be murky as night.

        You wouldnt make a good witness for the prosecution here.

        Fact is it was ruled a foul tip strikeout on the field. There was no clear and convincing evidence that it didnt hit the knob first and then graze his wrist.

        On MASNs replay, I honestly couldnt tell. I could make an arguement either way but was suprized it was overturned.

      • zmunchkin - May 26, 2015 at 8:58 AM

        If the standard of evidence to change the call was probably then I would agree with you. But it is not clear and convincing.

        This is just another example of baseball not really enforcing its own rules – on two levels. The HBP rule also clearly states that the batter must make an attempt to get oout of the way of the pitch. Since he started a swing, by definition, one could question that he tried to avoid the pitch.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 26, 2015 at 10:10 AM

        Is that going to be our new nickname for the bullpen: “the sanitation department’?

        Yanno, that could work!

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 26, 2015 at 10:30 AM

        I like it! Still need a name for the bench as they deserve a good one. Goon Squad ll ? Kind of like a better sequel?

      • guyanesebanna - May 26, 2015 at 12:19 PM

        “The Sanitation Dept” – awesome.. that fits like a “T” for our bullpen seeing as how some of them keep their beards lol.
        Fact: Beards are Not for everyone….

        For our Bench, I was leaning towards “Meatheads” OR “Punishers” (ode to fav comics) OR “Ruffians” (if they start/finish a bench clearing brawl sometime soon)… lol

      • natsfan1a - May 26, 2015 at 1:29 PM

        Swat Team? Hit Men (as opposed to Pitch Men)? Hard Hitters? Bats Outta – um, no, probably not that…

        “I like it! Still need a name for the bench as they deserve a good one. Goon Squad ll ? Kind of like a better sequel?”

  2. TimDz - May 26, 2015 at 7:28 AM

    MAT’s catch only made #7 on ESPN’s top 10…there were some pretty impressive plays in front of his….
    I only watched to see where the catch landed, as I can’t stomach Neil Evert (he who beat that “Natinals” thing to death….and yes, I know I spelled his name wrong).

    • scmargenau - May 26, 2015 at 7:38 AM

      This is a than bulky

      -ehay2k

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 26, 2015 at 9:29 AM

        I think that’s pronounced “than, rhymes with Dan, as in MASN Dan.

  3. scmargenau - May 26, 2015 at 7:50 AM

    *btw not new

  4. chaz11963 - May 26, 2015 at 7:54 AM

    Thanks Mark; very appropriate to give some props to Drew. He certainly has faced his share of adversity and has persevered impressively. We are lucky to have him. No we just need to give him some more chances to straighten out his post season performance.

  5. natsfan1a - May 26, 2015 at 8:06 AM

    At least they didn’t bring in a than bulky specialist, so there’s that.

    • natsfan1a - May 26, 2015 at 8:07 AM

      Sigh. This was not supposed to be here. It was supposed to be down there, under the 7:50 AM post. Pretty early to be mixing it up that way, WordPress. I’m just saying.

      • scmargenau - May 26, 2015 at 7:32 PM

        A than bulky post huh?

  6. adcwonk - May 26, 2015 at 8:44 AM

    Not to detract from Storen at all, but, really, the entire BP has been outstanding as of late.

    Here are the game-by-game stats of the last week, going backwards in time:

    Monday: Treinen, Thornton, Barrett, Storen – 4 IP, 0 runs
    Sunday: Barrett, Grace, Janssen, Storen – 2.2 IP, 0 runs
    Saturday: AJ Cole, Janssen – 5.1 IP, 2 runs
    Friday: Storen, 1 IP, 0 runs
    Wednesday: Grace, Storen, 2 IP, 0 runs
    Tuesday: Treinen, Thornton, Barrett, Storen, Grace: 5 IP, 0 runs

    Total: 5 different pitchers used, 21 IP, 2 runs

    • adcwonk - May 26, 2015 at 8:45 AM

      … which is a collective ERA of 0.86

    • sec105rowwseat28 - May 26, 2015 at 9:31 AM

      I count seven pitchers. Treinen, Thornton, Barrett, Storen, Grace, Janssen and Cole.

  7. micksback1 - May 26, 2015 at 8:59 AM

    Drew has been stellar

    Yesterday’s game was a well played game and I am glad to see the Cubs competitive. I think Cubs may make it in as a wild card, I enjoyed 2 games at Nats Park this weekend, it feels like a playoff atmosphere and Boswell’s oped was SPOT ON

    It is a great thing is to see the Angelos looking like the a-hole we all know he is so Peter baby, your team is `17th in home attendance, sounds like Baltimore may not be baseball town, LOL

    • adcwonk - May 26, 2015 at 9:18 AM

      Boz’s column was a fun read.

      Closing paragraph:

      When you sell out back-to-back to see the Phillies in May, pretty weather or not, when you’re No. 7 in attendance on Memorial Day, something’s happening. Washington, a real baseball city? Washington, a sports town, not just an NFL town? With the summer spread before us, we will find out where this spring romance leads.

      • micksback1 - May 26, 2015 at 9:21 AM

        that was the best part of his Oped Wonk

        agreed!

      • zmunchkin - May 26, 2015 at 9:33 AM

        I read it yesterday and you are right that it is a great read.

        The issue with MLB and DC as a baseball town was not really just DC. MLB was concerned that the DC/Balt area could not support two teams. In 69-71, the Orioles won 318 games, went to the WS all three years and once it once. Yet their attendance those three years was never better than 12th/13th (out of 24). And, in fact, attendance went down the year after they won the WS.

        The thought of moving the best team in baseball due to poor fan support was a non-starter to MLB and so they looked south and found a source of fans and a carpetbagger owner who was anxious to move. In fact, there was speculation at the time that the reason Short was selected as the owner was because of his interest/willingness to move the team.

  8. Sec 3, My Sofa - May 26, 2015 at 9:01 AM

    On a more productive topic:

    Yesterday I we wondered out loud, tho not in all caps, if Mark not traveling hinted at something wrong. You know we LOVE to speculate about injuries in here. My sources tell me not to worry on that account.

    Really, we just miss him when he doesn’t post. He’s traveled more than I thought. So far, he’s been to 5 road series (Boston, Philly, Atlanta, Miami, Arizona) and missed 2 (New York, San Diego).

    • sec105rowwseat28 - May 26, 2015 at 9:42 AM

      So now he’s missed a third series, in Chicago. There IS something wrong. Not with Mark, with CSN. As Charlie Slowes always says, remember where you are so you’ll remember where you were. Where was CSN during this Nats hot streak? Not covering it, that’s where.

  9. adcwonk - May 26, 2015 at 9:21 AM

    You know we LOVE to speculate about injuries in here

    Ha! Indeed.

    At least we’re not speculating about his mental fortitude!

    (Yet)

  10. jd - May 26, 2015 at 9:31 AM

    Completely off topic I wanted to give my 2 cents worth about Stras and this is my 1st chance to do so. I find that there are are fairly vocal camps with strong opinions about Stras and I think that they both miss the mark.

    The 1st camp and it has a large membership considers Stras a loser, a head case a failure a cancer and someone who will never amount to much. This group refuses to accept the fact that Stras has been in the top echelon of major league pitchers since his return from TJ surgery and through 2014. Not in the penthouse but up there with very good pitchers like Anibal Sanchez, Kyle Lohse and AJ Burnett.

    The 2nd group completely dismisses the notion that Stras has been a dissapointement at any level and concludes that the problem is with the expectations not the results, I think this group misses the mark more than the 1st group. Steven Strasburg was acclaimed as a generational pitcher not by a few scouts but by every one who watched him who knows anything about baseball. His combination of power and finese was unparalleled by any rookie in this generation. Stras debut at the major league level with a triple digit fast ball, a 90 MPH devestating change and a curve ball which even as a rookie was close to the best in baseball

    Upon his return from injury it was apparent that Stras lost none of his physical skills, all that was left for the coaches was to teach him proper pitch sequencing and game strategy, the path to multiple Cy Young was that clear. In the 3 years following surgery Stras settled in as a very good pitcher but actually started making small steps backwards, the team still treated him like the ace giving him all the assignments normally reserved for the ace, it was really difficult to understand how a pitcher with a lesser tool set consistently matched or exceeded Stras results as JZim has done.

    At the end of 2014 some smart analysts noted a very disturbing fact: While Stras was still at the top of the strike out leader board he was also close to the top of the line drive percentage allowed leaderboard, in other words he was not able to induce weak contact even from mediocre hitters. In 2015 Stras has become Edwin Jackson he has been dreadful, not just bad.

    I am not smart enough to know how to reverse this trend, I know that I am dead set against using the DL as a training mechanism. If Stras is hurt he should go on the DL until he’s healed not to Vierra to work on things. For that he should go to Syracuse away from the bright lights.

    My last comment is that I don’t understand how Mc.Catty gets a pass on this? and at the same time why is Gio getting pitching tips from Storen and Scherzer which should come from Mc.Catty?

    • nats128 - May 26, 2015 at 9:47 AM

      “at the same time why is Gio getting pitching tips from Storen and Scherzer which should come from Mc.Catty?”

      Players help there peers all the time. No problem there.

      • jd - May 26, 2015 at 9:55 AM

        Nats128,

        Of course they do. My point is this: They made a big deal about the help Gio got from his team mates, Scherzer’s comment in particular about changing a hitters eye level is something so basic you’d think it would be covered in pitching 101.

        Again, I’m no expert on pitching I just don’t like the results I see from a slew of ultra talented pitchers. As a group they don’t seem to progress under Mc.Catty and as someone who has followed baseball for a long time and still remembers vividly the Expos of the early 90’s where Joe Kerrigan transformed eminently mediocre pitchers like Ken Hill, Butch Henry, Carlos Perez, Kirk Reuter, Jeff Fassero etc. into big time winners and helped a young Pedro Martinez become a amultiple Cy Young winner, I think pitching coaches matter and I don’t think we have a top notch one.

      • nats128 - May 26, 2015 at 9:58 AM

        Gio made a big deal about it as he gracioussly spreads the love back to his teammates and probaly overdid it. Scherzer told him to move his locations around up and down and side to side. Do you really think Gio didnt kno that?

    • sec105rowwseat28 - May 26, 2015 at 9:52 AM

      McCatty is the coach of ALL the pitchers, not just Strasburg and not just the starters. And if you look at the pitching staff as a whole, they are in general doing quite well. Sure, Gio and Fister and a couple of the relievers have had bouts of inconsistency, but they have or are working themselves out of them with McCatty’s help. And why shouldn’t those guys listen to others besides McCatty? It never hurts to hear multiple takes on any issue, does it? Really, the only pitcher who has been a major disappointment this year is the once-in-a-generation talent, Stephen Strasburg. That’s clearly not McCatty’s fault.

      • masterfishkeeper - May 26, 2015 at 9:58 AM

        Agree with all of this.

        Remember last year, at the beginning of the season? The starters were struggling, especially in the first inning. They turned it around.

        Don’t really understand what’s going on with Stras. Hope it’s not like Verlander, where he just becomes very hittable for some reason.

      • jd - May 26, 2015 at 10:00 AM

        sec105,

        1st of all I don’t agree that Stras is the only pitcher underperforming, also on the flip side who are the pitchers who are over performing?

        2nd of all, how does Mc.Catty get a pass on Stras non development? I don’t think he’s uncoachable, he doesn’t have that reputation. All I hear from Mc.Catty about Stras is that he’l have to work his way out of it. Come on, is he a coach or a cheer leader? Clearly the tool set is there.

      • jd - May 26, 2015 at 10:00 AM

        sec105,

        1st of all I don’t agree that Stras is the only pitcher underperforming, also on the flip side who are the pitchers who are over performing?

        2nd of all, how does Mc.Catty get a pass on Stras non development? I don’t think he’s uncoachable, he doesn’t have that reputation. All I hear from Mc.Catty about Stras is that he’l have to work his way out of it. Come on, is he a coach or a cheer leader? Clearly the tool set is there.

      • sec105rowwseat28 - May 26, 2015 at 10:14 AM

        A coach is nothing but a teacher, with the player as the student. If “the tool set is there” I guess that makes McCatty the shop teacher. Ain’t nothin’ gettin’ built in that class unless the student Strasburg does the work, is there?

    • adcwonk - May 26, 2015 at 9:57 AM

      My last comment is that I don’t understand how Mc.Catty gets a pass on this?

      Easy — we don’t know what’s wrong, we don’t know what McCatty’s suggested, and we don’t know what SS has tried. For starters.

      At some point, the execution is the players’ responsibility.

      Don’t you think Rick Schu (as well as 100 other folks) have told Ian to shorten his swing with 2 strikes? It is Schu’s fault that Ian won’t or can’t do it?

      I’m one of the few around here who thinks HRod was indeed a pitcher, not a thrower. But he lost it. And nobody was able to get it back for him. The problem was probably between his ears. No pitching coach was able to fix it. It’s not the pitching coach’s fault.

      • jd - May 26, 2015 at 10:07 AM

        wonk,

        Again, I look at the entire body of work. With the exception of Jordan Zimmermann (with the possible other exception of Roark but I think he was fixed before he came up)I don’t see any succses stories. None of the reclemation projects worked. Stras and Gio have regressed etc.

        To me, again as a none expert I don’t see any of our pitchers working the inside corner, every one of our starters has a problem with the putaway pitch, I think Ghost has pointed out correctly that the don’t use the high hard one often enough.

        Listen, I have nothing against Mc.Catty personally, I,m sure he’s great guy. I’m just judging results.

        BTW, I do have this nagging feeling that Stras will go elsewhere and find it. That will be a shame.

      • adcwonk - May 26, 2015 at 11:29 AM

        Again, I look at the entire body of work.

        Last year the Nats led the NL in ERA — by a rather large margin. Doesn’t that count in the entire body of work? Does McCatty turn from smart to dumb in one year?

        And in any event, this season is not yet 1/3 over. But, still, Nats are 5th in NL in ERA. That’s not chopped liver.

        Stras and Gio regressed? Maybe that’s on Stras and Gio. (As per my analogy before, Ian seems to have regressed, too — but I’m not blaming Schu for that. And, in any event, Espi has progressed, right?)

        We have a bunch of rookies relievers who are pitching in high leverage situations, and, lately, doing pretty well. Does/should McCatty get credit for that? Roark was one of the best starters in the NL last year, does/should McCatty get credit for that?

        If you’re “just judging results” (and I’m not sure i agree with that to begin with) shouldn’t all of the above be taken in to account, also?

        Frankly, I think you’re cherry picking by singling out Stras and Gio, and then blaming their problems on McCatty.

      • Steady Eddie - May 26, 2015 at 10:09 AM

        +25 (best go north)

      • nats128 - May 26, 2015 at 10:10 AM

        adcwonk, exactly right. Cant fry McCatty for this. Strasburg isnt executing.

        As Ghost wrote, Strasburg has options to send him down but no way they do that to him which limits what you can do.

      • Steady Eddie - May 26, 2015 at 10:11 AM

        That +25 was for wonk.

        No dis to jd — though I don’t fully agree with you, I hadn’t read your latest comment.

      • therealjohnc - May 26, 2015 at 12:15 PM

        There is a subset of commenters who consistently take the position that any good result is because of the player, and any bad result is because of the coaching. There seems to be a strong correlation between such views and routine overestimation of the actual skill levels of the player.

        And even if the assessment of a player’s skill level is accurate, how many players actually reach their full potential? Many things can cause a player to fall short, only a small number of which have anything to do with the coaching.

    • therealjohnc - May 26, 2015 at 10:08 AM

      FWIW, Strasburg’s stuff just isn’t as good as it was before the TJ surgery. It’s very, very good, don’t get me wrong – but if you watch the replay of the debut game the difference is stark. Strasburg threw a couple of pitches at 103mph in the 7th inning. That’s like 7 innings of Aroldis Chapman velocity. That’s crazy. Of course, his elbow failed just a few short weeks later. The human body isn’t really designed for that sort of thing.

      Strasburg might have touched 98mph this year, but I don’t remember seeing anything above 97mph – and generally he’s throwing the fastball around 94-95. That’s a plus major league fastball, but there’s a big difference between 94-97 and >100. And his curve and change were not only sharper, but they were both made much more effective by the intense heat.

      It seems to me that Strasburg is in transition, from being able to rely on unique stuff when he really needs it to having to pitch with a (very good) but not overwhelming repertoire. Transitions can be hard, and certainly he’s taken his lumps. But even the best pitchers may have down years where they have to make adjustments. As a friend of mine used to say about life transitions: AFGO. It stands for “Another [Foofnarfeling] Growth Opportunity.”

      • nats128 - May 26, 2015 at 10:12 AM

        He hit 98 several times in the 1st inning in his last start. Its been written and tweeted about how he came out guns a blazing.

      • jd - May 26, 2015 at 10:31 AM

        therealjohnc,

        You ar e right. You can’t throw triple digits all the time but you don’t have to. I don’t think Stras needs to transition into a finese pitcher. His fast ball average last year was 2nd in the NL at something laike 96.2, it’s plenty fast enough. Why is it that average hitters are teeing off on his fastballs?

        Once again I am certainly no expert but it seems to me that hitters are very comfortable against Stras, I am not suggesting throwing at hitters but it’s not a bad idea to make them feel less comfortable. That was pretty much the basis of Pedro’s game. I also find that when the Nats pitchers get to 2 strikes they start screwing around, nibbling at the corners, getting high pitch counts. what’s wrong, instead of throwing a slider in the dirt at 0-2 throwing a fast ball just off the inside corner or on a 1-2 throw a high hard one at shoulder level?

      • natsfan1a - May 26, 2015 at 11:10 AM

        Ah, I like that. In my experience, the older ones gets, the more such opportunities there are. But I digress. Carry on.

        ===

        As a friend of mine used to say about life transitions: AFGO. It stands for “Another [Foofnarfeling] Growth Opportunity.”

      • therealjohnc - May 26, 2015 at 12:32 PM

        Oh, I’m not saying that he’s suddenly become a finesse pitcher – a pitcher with a consistent mid 90’s fastball is a power guy. But you know the saying “it’s not about velocity, it’s about movement” – well, if you’re throwing at or above 100mph, it is about velocity, and you can get away with less movement and even with less command. Especially if you have two other good pitches. Yikes. But as velocity drops into the 90’s the subset of MLB hitters that can square the ball up increases quickly.

        So Strasburg’s stuff takes a step back, and then is combined with mechanical issues created by the ankle injury costs him command that his stuff isn’t quite good enough to overcome. A few liners, a few bleeders, and then there is a chance that his confidence takes a hit. It’s like a perfect storm.

        But it’s a perfect storm that I don’t think sitting/demoting him really solves. He’s going to get a lot of rope to work this out, because (a) the team is doing all right anyway; and (b) he’s earned it with the strong performances that he’s put up in 2012-2014.

    • alexva6 - May 26, 2015 at 11:05 AM

      You’ve offered several well though out points and I will add that athletic actions cannot be taught, only learned.

      I’ve often thought McCatty’s actions on the mound seem to be lectures with all the head bobbing and nodding.

      I have no knowledge as to whether he possesses a detailed knowledge of pitching mechanics but he has had successes as well as failures if you look at the stats.

      I think Strasburg will rebound to above league average performance, though I no longer think he will be the best in the game. We’ll see.

      • ITGSOT - May 26, 2015 at 11:46 AM

        McCatty was a highly successful MLB pitcher himself before he became a pitching coach. I think it’s a pretty safe assumption that he knows quite a bit about pitching mechanics.

      • alexva6 - May 26, 2015 at 1:10 PM

        actually, he was anything but highly successful in MLB. he was a major leaguer so he was not without great ability. that does not automatically translate to a detailed knowledge of mechanics and the ability to recognize flaws in others or offer help in getting them to improve.

      • adcwonk - May 26, 2015 at 12:40 PM

        McCatty was a highly successful MLB pitcher himself before he became a pitching coach. I think it’s a pretty safe assumption that he knows quite a bit about pitching mechanics.

        He knows something else, too — how to ruin a pitcher.

        He was part of an incredible Oakland A’s staff. (1980-81 A’s had: Rick Langford, Mike Norris, Mett Keough, McCatty, and Brian Kingman). They were terribly overused. (McCatty once pitched a 14 inning complete game). McCatty came in second in Cy Young in ’81, btw.

        By 1983 they were all washed up.

  11. nats128 - May 26, 2015 at 9:37 AM

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/nationals-journal/wp/2015/05/26/drew-storen-national-league-saves-leader-is-one-of-the-games-elite-closers/

    “Drew Storen entered, and battled Kris Bryant for eight pitches. He swung at the eighth, and Wilson Ramos caught it. The play was initially ruled a strikeout, but Storen had to wait while umpires reviewed the play, then awarded Bryant first. The peril percolated, because leadoff walks never seem to go unpunished, and Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro and Jorge Soler did not seem like a trio prone to leniency.”

    Here’s a great twist on it from Chelsea Janes. She thinks it was reviewed and determined not to be a swing and he was a leadoff walk.

    • zmunchkin - May 26, 2015 at 9:44 AM

      My interpretation is that she is drawing an (unstated) analogy to lead-off walks that put the lead-off batter on base without getting a hit. How many times has someone said “lead-off HBPs never seem to go unpunished” vs. “lead-off walks never seem to go unpunished”

      • nats128 - May 26, 2015 at 9:51 AM

        In her defense thats a stretch to get from point 1 to point 2. “The peril percolated, because leadoff walks never seem to go unpunished” she never said a leadoff HBP is like the dreaded leadoff walk which is a stated analogy.

        I wouldnt assume a unstated analogy as the whole thing percolated into a mess that was only avoided becuz Storen did a magnificent job to not let it effect him.

      • nats128 - May 26, 2015 at 9:56 AM

        zmunchkin, commentors on WaPo have addressed it also.

        greggwiggins
        8:25 AM EDT
        I think the ninth inning ruling that put Bryant on first base after the video review was that he was hit by the pitch, not as a base on balls.

        Snopes1
        9:17 AM EDT
        That’s right. It’s kind of basic Baseball 101 that ball/strike calls are not reviewable. Chelsea’s writing is very much a work in progress. She has a lot of interesting insights and a solid grasp of sabermetrics — but there are occasional blips that make it clear she’s still learning this game.

      • adcwonk - May 26, 2015 at 9:59 AM

        I noticed that, too — and I also made the same assumption that zmunch made: the was making an analogy. The writing could have been better, but CJ knew what happened, and was just trying to make the point that “lead off runners due to the pitcher’s error always seem to come back to haunt you.”

        And she’s right about that, no?

      • nats128 - May 26, 2015 at 10:19 AM

        You would be wrong becuz she just tweeted out she made a typo and I quote “By the way, in Storen article I wrote about Bryant’s leadoff walk. He was hit by pitch, of course. That’s a typo. I know the difference”.

    • curlydub34 - May 26, 2015 at 9:55 AM

      I’m not positive but I don’t think that check swings are reviewable. I think that the initial ruling was a foul tip that was caught for strike three.

      • nats128 - May 26, 2015 at 9:56 AM

        Foul tip is reviewable, check swings definitely are not.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 26, 2015 at 10:01 AM

        It was ruled a HBP not a ball.

      • Steady Eddie - May 26, 2015 at 10:16 AM

        And HBPs are most definitely reviewable — remember Justun Turner’s claim of HBP that was followed by his 2 run homer vs JZimm in that wild 15 inning classic vs the Dodgers last year?

        Maybe ALR’s best game as a Nat, 5 RBIs when he didn’t enter the game until the 9th.

    • sec105rowwseat28 - May 26, 2015 at 9:59 AM

      There’s no way that AB was a leadoff walk. The count was 2-2 before the disputed pitch was thrown.

      “The peril percolated” pretty much describes the state of the WaPo Nats beat as long as Chelsea Janes is writing for them.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 26, 2015 at 10:04 AM

        I can’t read her mind but starting with “He swung at the eighth” is an issue as it was ruled a foul tip and not a swing.

        You’re correct it was 2-2 Feelwood.

      • nats128 - May 26, 2015 at 10:08 AM

        Shes learning on the job. Not one of her better moments.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 26, 2015 at 10:15 AM

        “@ChelseaJanes: By the way, in Storen article I wrote about Bryant’s leadoff walk. He was hit by a pitch, of course. That’s a typo. I know the difference.”

        Well, here’s her explanation. BTW, I’ve never heard anyone ever say “leadoff HBPs never seem to go unpunished”.

        Poor cover-up IMHO.

      • Theophilus T.S. - May 26, 2015 at 10:24 AM

        I don’t understand why, if Wagner is the Nats beat writer, Janes seems to write most of the gamers. Agree that she is sometimes clumsy but she is trying to write, not just transcribe the game. I’ve always felt that sports writers have to be the most skilled among the reporters because they are, essentially, describing Ground Hog Day over and over. How do you distinguish one 4-1 game from all of the other 4-1, 3-2, 6-3, etc., games that occur over a 162-game season, unless your descriptive skills are way above average? I am glad that Jason Reid is gone, gone, gone, as he was both consistently iconoclastic for no apparent reason, usually wrong, and unredeemingly dull.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 26, 2015 at 10:25 AM

        But that brings up an interesting question — hypothetical on a 2-2 count — about replay.

        Suppose the count HAD been full. HPU calls it a foul tip, K. Batter argues it hit him. That’s reviewable. Suppose now the review clearly shows neither one happened, it was a clean miss, and just to keep it simple, no swing.

        Balls and strikes aren’t reviewable, but if it comes out in a legitimate review that the pitch should properly have been called ball four, don’t they have to overturn the call, and award the walk?

      • nats128 - May 26, 2015 at 10:27 AM

        “Drew Storen entered, and battled Kris Bryant for eight pitches. He swung at the eighth, and Wilson Ramos caught it. The play was initially ruled a strikeout, but Storen had to wait while umpires reviewed the play, then awarded Bryant first, hit by a changeup. The peril percolated, because free leadoff bases never seem to go unpunished, and Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro and Jorge Soler did not seem like a trio prone to leniency.”

        Now it has been edited to “free leadoff bases never seem to go unpunished”. That doesnt seem to go well together like peanut butter and jelly.

        Shes lucky she has a edit button and spell check and all. If I only had the ability to do that on tests in school. I should have argued my writing was a unstated analogy and not a mistake.

      • Eric - May 26, 2015 at 10:28 AM

        I think they would have to let the K stand, Sofa.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 26, 2015 at 10:32 AM

        Eric is correct Sofa, can’t change that to a ball if it missed everything.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 26, 2015 at 10:36 AM

        “free leadoff bases never seem to go unpunished”.

        That’s a new twist. That runs me the wrong way. We all make mistakes. Own it and move on.

        It was nice of zmunchkin trying to say it was an unstated analogy to give it some clarity in the original form.

        Now she writes that mess? Sheesh.

      • zmunchkin - May 26, 2015 at 1:38 PM

        WRT editing the post, please keep in mind this was a blog post. Not an article or an opinion column. Like it or not, but blogs entries are rarely, if ever, held to the same standard as articles. I read blogs for their primary purpose – quick, informal info of interest. 

        As someone who has a blog and has written professional articles and two books that have been copy-edited and peer-reviewed, I have to say that complaints about minor errors or mis-statements make me shake my head. 

  12. Theophilus T.S. - May 26, 2015 at 10:14 AM

    Re: Strasburg, so long as the Nats continue to insist that he is physically sound, us observers from the outside have no alternative but to assume that all of this crap is in his head. I.e., he either doesn’t know how to pitch or can’t control his motion/compel his body to execute his pitches. Without question, coaches and teammates have been whispering in his ear for at least the past month how to get it right and it hasn’t been absorbed or has been shrugged off (these possibilities are equally plausible). For any number of reasons they will continue to trot him out there every five days, consequences be damned. Maybe, just maybe, after a few more four-inning starts — and his ERA blows through 7.00 — AND when Fister comes back, they’ll skip a couple of his scheduled starts and put him in intensive psycho-therapy or under hypnosis. OR concede that he is not physically sound and send him down to Viera to rehabilitate behind closed gates.

    • veejh - May 26, 2015 at 10:24 AM

      Is this a NIer finally admitting Stras has some screws loose in his noggin?

      • Theophilus T.S. - May 26, 2015 at 10:30 AM

        I’m not new at all to the Strasburg needs a slap upside the head school of thinking. I’ve been quiet about it because I’ve been hopeful that he would figure things out — he had a 4-1 win in April, over the Phillies, I think, that seemed to indicate everything was fine. Then there were a couple of crappy starts after which he complained about pitch selection and then blamed his ankle. I think that tipped me to the “head case” position — he couldn’t bring himself to confess that, “I pitched like crap.” I still want to believe the problem is physical because that offers to the most hope.

      • veejh - May 26, 2015 at 10:35 AM

        Fair enough. I just seems there a pretty enormous lobby here to refute that case. Hasn’t there been enough proof for all these years now to prove it?

      • Eric - May 26, 2015 at 10:41 AM

        Proof? What proof? It’s certainly possible that he’s having a pitching-specific psychological breakdown pretty much out of nowhere, but I see nothing amounting to “proof.” I mean, he does look unhappy, but how would you look if you were in his shoes right now?

        On the flip side, I do see hitters calmly watching the curve fall out of the zone and hitting the piss out of his fastball. Seems almost like hitters have learned his “tells” and he’s having trouble adjusting.

        Just to reiterate – it’s certainly possible this is “all in his head” (scientific term 😉 ), I just don’t see anything remotely amounting to “proof” of that.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 26, 2015 at 10:56 AM

        Eric, you’ve been around here long enough to know that if enough people post something on the Internet often enough, that makes it true.

      • Eric - May 26, 2015 at 11:06 AM

        Ha!

    • raleighnat - May 26, 2015 at 10:35 AM

      Stras’ issues remind me of my golf swing. Repeating mechanics is hard when your head gets in the way. Some folks have the ability to just repeat and repeat the proper mechanics. I think Stras just has a hard time putting it exactly where he wants because he doesn’t excel at that skill. His stuff isn’t in question, it is all about command. Some days he’ll have it and some days he doesn’t. And when he doesn’t it gets in his head and steamrolls. That’s my take on it anyway.

      • Eric - May 26, 2015 at 10:42 AM

        He can lack that ability without his head getting in the way. Maybe his head *is* getting in the way, but if that’s it, he sure did a find job of silencing it down the stretch last year. Maybe that’s proof he was on anti-destabilizers (TM) last summer! 😉

    • ITGSOT - May 26, 2015 at 12:07 PM

      If it’s his mechanics that are off and he’s not yet able to fix them, that doesn’t imply that he has a screw loose. The fix he needs may not be a simple fix that he can implement overnight or in just one step. Ever try to tune a guitar? If there’s just one string that’s off, it’s a pretty quick process. But if there are many strings out, it can take a while. You get one string right, then tackle the next one only to find that by doing so you have thrown the first one off again. Something like this could be going on as Strasburg tries to fix his mechanics.

  13. Candide - May 26, 2015 at 10:27 AM

    Off-topic: There’s been some curiosity about Rendon in Viera. I heard from natsjack, who (in summary) hasn’t had a chance to see him but tweeted, “…he should be on another rehab stint to Harrisburg or Potomac by this Friday.”

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 26, 2015 at 10:31 AM

      Thanks.

      • Doc - May 26, 2015 at 10:46 AM

        Good to hear about ARen.

        Espi has had a significant uptick in his LH batting. But Rendon’s history for hitting righties while batting RH is still better than Danny’s current LH success against righties.

        I haven’t heard about Max’s take on his golfing buddy SS’s problems. Code of silence, I suppose.

  14. Sec 3, My Sofa - May 26, 2015 at 10:49 AM

    It seems telling to me that even his catcher, Ramos, said publicly that Strasburg just thinks too much. And watching him pitch, I can well believe it. That’s got to be very hard to stop doing, especially for a young, competitive athlete in a high visibility job. Some people are going to be better at it than others, just like some people throw harder than others. All the “moral fiber” in the world won’t give me an 80 MPH fastball, all the Yoda “Do. Or do not.” speeches notwithstanding.

    And McCatty may well be a great coach for some pitchers, fairly decent for others, useless to some, and downright catastrophic to some others. It’s not like either he’s great or he sucks. It may be the whole “strikeouts are boring, besides they waste your pitch count” thing is exactly wrong for this particular pitcher, but overall is a pretty good strategy. Maybe Strasburg should just be a closer, with three devastating pitches if he only has to throw 10 or so a night.

    • Eric - May 26, 2015 at 10:52 AM

      I missed that Ramos said that…that’s certainly carries more weight, imo, than our 30K’ observations.

      Still, I find myself wondering how an allegedly chronic and self-destructive over thinker has had so many stretches of absolute dominance.

      • nats128 - May 26, 2015 at 10:57 AM

        May be he wasnt overthinking then and yes Sofa is correct that Ramos said that.

        Overthinking tho isnt about missing location and overthrowing pitches and that was Strasburgs undoing on his last start.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 26, 2015 at 11:00 AM

        Well, he IS a pretty good pitcher.

        Seriously, this all-or-nothing argument, either he’s a head case, OR he’s a good pitcher, is frustrating.

      • Eric - May 26, 2015 at 11:01 AM

        For the record, I wasn’t questioning Sofa on the Ramos quote. I just hadn’t read it. You can mark it as the the first comment on the subject that I’ve ever taken seriously 😉

        I think Stras has a) trouble repeating his mechanics and b) possibly tips his pitches and c) if he tips, he hasn’t been able to adjust his delivery to not tip while retaining his stuff.

        But, I have no proof for any of that.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 26, 2015 at 11:02 AM

        I was going to go Godwin there, but it doesn’t work if you do it on purpose.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 26, 2015 at 11:07 AM

        http://natsinsider.com/2015/05/13/alarming-stretch-has-strasburg-searching-for-answers/

        “I think he’s thinking too much,” catcher Wilson Ramos said. “In this game, when you’re thinking too much, it’s hard to do everything right. It’s like, for example, a hitter. When a hitter’s going to the plate and thinking too much, you’re not going to hit the ball well. It happens, too, with a pitcher. He has to go out there and fight and try to do the best he can. You can’t go out and think too much. I think that’s what’s happening with him right now.”

      • natsfan1a - May 26, 2015 at 11:20 AM

        Along the same lines, there was this from Desmond:

        “It looks like he lacks a little bit of confidence out there,” Desmond said. “Maybe he’s fighting something mentally. But I have no doubt that he’ll shake it off and come back just as good as ever.”

        http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/nationals/strasburg-hammered-again-as-hamels-phillies-thump-nationals-8-1/2015/05/23/d8e535f8-ff46-11e4-805c-c3f407e5a9e9_story.html

      • Eric - May 26, 2015 at 11:23 AM

        Thanks Sofa.

        Two things come to mind even if we allow that Ramos is right (no reason to doubt him, but even he appears to be speculating):

        1) it’s possible that perfectly reasonable “non mental” issues are playing a role (e.g., reworking mechanics post-ankle injury, trying to adapt delivery due to tipping pitches, etc)

        2) it doesn’t retroactively prove anything about the cause of bad outings in previous seasons.

        Finally, to reiterate, it *could* be that the only reason Stras inconsistent is because of ‘mental issues,’ but I don’t see proof of that.

      • Eric - May 26, 2015 at 11:24 AM

        I saw that one, thanks natsfan1a…my points above still apply, imo.

      • ITGSOT - May 26, 2015 at 12:20 PM

        Mark The Bird Fidrych was a head case AND a good pitcher. Bill Spaceman Lee. Dock Ellis. Rob Dibble. The list goes on. Why can’t Strasburg join that list?

    • natsfan1a - May 26, 2015 at 11:28 AM

      Agreed. Things are seldom black and white, all-or-nothing, in my experience. Well, maybe on the interwebz. 🙂

      “Seriously, this all-or-nothing argument, either he’s a head case, OR he’s a good pitcher, is frustrating.”

    • natsfan1a - May 26, 2015 at 11:30 AM

      I’m not trying to change anybody’s mind. I learned a long time ago that is a losing proposition. Plus, everybody has a right to his or her opinion. I’m just linking to related quotes. It’s what I do. 😉

      “I saw that one, thanks natsfan1a…my points above still apply, imo.”

      • Eugene in Oregon - May 26, 2015 at 11:35 AM

        Agree that everyone has a right to his/her opinion. Problems occur — whether in baseball, science, politics — when folks present opinion as fact.

      • Eric - May 26, 2015 at 11:36 AM

        Right on. I didn’t take you as trying to change my mind, just commenting that it doesn’t change my outlook (which is more or less aligned with Sofa’s, from what I can tell – it doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing).

      • natsfan1a - May 26, 2015 at 11:44 AM

        Thanks, Eric.

  15. Eugene in Oregon - May 26, 2015 at 10:57 AM

    Off topic, but…

    Now that Memorial Day is over, it’s clearly no longer ‘early’ and fair to take a first* look at the standings:

    NL East: Nats, as expected, but maybe not by as much as expected. Mets could go either way. Marlins a mess.
    NL Central: Cardinals, as expected. Cubs remake looking pretty good.
    NL West: Dodgers, as expected, Giants in 2nd, Padres remake still a work in progress? Or a failure?

    AL East: Tampa Bay. Who called that? Will it last? Doubtful. Who’s the class of the division? No one?
    AL Central: KC, but with the Twins in second? Huh? Detroit still a solid team, yes year with a bullpen.
    AL West: Houston? The Astros? Angels in 2nd — okay. Seattle underperforming. A’s a mess.

    *I admit I peeked at the NL East standings over the course of mid-April to mid-May

    • Eugene in Oregon - May 26, 2015 at 10:59 AM

      Edit: “Detroit…this year with a bullpen.”

      • homeparkdc - May 26, 2015 at 11:31 AM

        Were the Nats ever at .600 in 2014 like today? Seems like a milestone of *sum* sort.

      • adcwonk - May 26, 2015 at 12:29 PM

        Were the Nats ever at .600 in 2014 like today? Seems like a milestone of *sum* sort.

        Nice observation. Last year, after their 15th game (at which point they were 9-6) they never again reached .600

        They never got to .590 until game 159, and finished at .593

        From game 30 thru game 152, they were below .570

        This year: hit .590 last Friday, and then, after yesterday: .600

      • homeparkdc - May 26, 2015 at 12:54 PM

        Many thanks.

  16. natsred4dndc - May 26, 2015 at 4:03 PM

    A more “out there” idea on Stras: after Ramos go-ahead HR yesterday and all the obligatory high-fives and hugs from almost everybody, Willie sat down on the bench next to Stras. To me, Stras looked none too happy to see him and was very cool, bordering on aloof, when Ramos talked to him. No rapport there at all. And maybe we’ve seen other signs that Stephen doesn’t particularly like Ramos’ game-calling… or is it Ramos himself… or is that just me?
    A REALLY “out there” idea on Stras: my 83 Y.O. mother, who is in her second season learning the game, thinks she sees signs that not all is well at home, and that a divorce is in the near future for Stras. Good luck parsing out that one.

  17. unkyd59 - May 26, 2015 at 4:18 PM

    FWIW… When Mark and Ted call me for advice, I’ll tell them to keep McCatty… His body of work is a solid net-positive. And I’ll tell them to relax re: Stras… He’s pretty long, and long pitchers have a harder time repeating their motion. His ankle was hurt, and apparently he’s been tipping his pitches, so he’s been trying to be consistent, as the ankle heals and while trying to hide the ball more effectively. I expect him to be the old familiar Stras, by ASB, and I won’t be overly concerned about him, until then… GYFNGOGOGOGO!!!!!!

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