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With relievers ailing, starters being pushed too far

Jun 12, 2015, 6:00 AM EDT

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On Tuesday night in New York, Max Scherzer took the mound for the bottom of the seventh in a 1-1 game, his pitch count at 100, and promptly gave up the runs that put the Yankees on top for good.

On Wednesday afternoon in New York, Gio Gonzalez took the mound for the bottom of the seventh in a game the Nationals led 2-0, his pitch count at 93, and promptly gave up the runs that let the Yankees tie the game.

And then on Thursday night in Milwaukee, Tanner Roark took the mound for the bottom of the seventh with the Nationals leading 5-4, his pitch count at 94, and promptly gave up the home run that let the Brewers tie the game en route to a 6-5 victory.

It doesn’t take much effort to spot the recurring theme here. Three straight days, the Nationals sent their starting pitcher back out for the seventh inning either trying to protect a lead or maintain a tie game, and three straight times that starter was unable to finish the inning before giving up multiple runs.

The problem is twofold: 1) Nationals starters, despite their lofty pedigree, are averaging only 5.8 innings per game, which ranks 22nd out of 30 MLB rotations, and 2) Nationals relievers, aside from closer Drew Storen, haven’t been consistently effective enough to leave Matt Williams comfortable enough to pull his starter even when he gets six quality innings.

And Thursday night’s loss at Miller Park, among the most frustrating of the season for the Nationals, was merely the latest example of all this playing out in such a fashion.

Roark hadn’t been in top form most of the evening, and particularly in the bottom of the sixth, when the Brewers produced four hard-hit balls off the right-hander (even though three of them went for outs). His pitch count at 94, Roark (who only joined the rotation two weeks ago after opening the season in the bullpen) appeared to be a strong candidate to have his night end right there.

Trouble is, Williams’ confidence level in the vast majority of his bullpen options right now is weak. Storen has been brilliant as closer. Casey Janssen and Matt Thornton have been effective far more than they haven’t, but Williams seems to be making a point not to work those veterans too much at this stage of the season, preferring they don’t pitch back-to-back days unless absolutely necessary.

So it was that Roark took the mound again for the bottom of the seventh, with the Nationals clinging to a 1-run lead. Which didn’t last very long. Roark served up a solo homer to the second batter he faced, Gerardo Parra, leaving the game tied and eventually leading to his departure and the summoning of rookie left-hander Felipe Rivero from the bullpen.

Then came the bottom of the eighth, in which Aaron Barrett gave up the eventual winning run via a strikeout that got away from catcher Wilson Ramos, a potential double-play grounder that turned into a costly error when second baseman Anthony Rendon’s throw to first skipped wide of Clint Robinson and rolled to the dugout railing, a groundout to first and then a jam-shot by Scooter Gennett that managed to sneak down the third-base line, bringing the runner home.

And all that only preceded Barrett’s final pitch of the eighth, a 92-mph fastball that sailed high above the plate and prompted Williams, pitching coach Steve McCatty and assistant athletic trainer Steve Gober to come to the mound to see if the young reliever was OK.

He wasn’t. Barrett, whose fastball has averaged 94 mph this season, appeared to be concerned as he spoke to the three men before handing the ball to Williams and making the slow walk back to the dugout. Williams offered zero information after the game, refusing to even reveal what part of Barrett’s body was injured and saying only the club hoped to know more Friday.

The insinuation, after all that, is that Barrett likely suffered a serious injury, though it’s impossible to know that for sure at this point.

What isn’t impossible to know is this: The Nationals bullpen remains a concern, an ever-changing unit of seven pitchers who individually and collectively have not offered up much in the way of consistency this season.

Perhaps new right-hander David Carpenter, acquired Thursday from the Yankees, will step right in and fill the void. Perhaps Janssen (who has tossed eight scoreless appearances but is remembered far more for a 4-run implosion in Cincinnati two weeks ago) will continue to pitch well and cement his status as Storen’s top setup man.

But those are far from sure developments, and they won’t do much to assuage anyone who is worried the bullpen as a whole is in bad shape right now.

All of which continues to leave Williams in a tough spot. In a perfect world, he’d feel comfortable enough with his relief options to pull his starters before they have a chance to blow a lead late. But right now, he simply can’t do that.

Until their bullpen stabilizes, the Nationals will just have to count on their vaunted rotation to start churning out more quality innings once they’ve surpassed the 100-pitch mark.


113 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. GeneralCornRowWallace - Jun 12, 2015 at 6:57 AM

    Season over. Too many injuries. Garbage bullpen. We need a new athletic trainer. Aaron Barrett done and done. Please don’t trade the farm for relief help. Suck up 3rd place and move on to next year.

    • therealjohnc - Jun 12, 2015 at 10:18 AM

      See you next March in Viera! We’ll carry on from here.

    • scmargenau - Jun 12, 2015 at 12:03 PM

      Come on man…we will get it together!

    • Section 222 - Jun 12, 2015 at 2:06 PM

      Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

  2. Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 12, 2015 at 7:05 AM

    Mark, thanks for further making the point but I contend that you really aren’t saving your bullpen in actuality because in almost every case the relievers are coming on mid-inning in a higher Lev situation.

    • rayvil01 - Jun 12, 2015 at 7:41 AM

      Fair point.

      One thing that does seem to be emerging is that Janssen is solid. He had that one horrendous outing. But, other than that he’s been really good. Mark talked about MW sparing him and Thornton, but, it’s time to work them a bit.

      Sounds like the plan was to take Carpenter to AA and do some tweaking before bringing him up. With Barrett’s status, which is something other than good, that may get reconsidered in a hurry.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 12, 2015 at 7:48 AM

        I think Carpenter was coming on to the Nats regardless.

      • rayvil01 - Jun 12, 2015 at 8:12 AM

        Ok. Not sure where I heard he was going to Harrisburg first. Doesn’t matter. He’s coming here now, that’s for sure.

    • Section 222 - Jun 12, 2015 at 2:08 PM

      +1 Ghost. And at the point, it’s a higher stress and higher leverage situation for the reliever. For that reason, I tend to think the MW’s slow hook is a lack of trust of the relievers rather than trying to save them.

  3. naterialguy - Jun 12, 2015 at 7:32 AM

    These are trying times indeed.

    • adcwonk - Jun 12, 2015 at 7:43 AM


  4. adcwonk - Jun 12, 2015 at 7:42 AM

    This article highlights the almost comical series of comments night after night — which alternate between: “This BP stinks” and “MW’s an idiot for leaving the starter in so long” — and then gets repeated a dozen times per game.

    Sigh . . .

    • Hiram Hover - Jun 12, 2015 at 7:59 AM


    • nats128 - Jun 12, 2015 at 8:08 AM

      I will read the game threads and not post. The intelligence level of some to comment after the fact with the all knowing vitriol is amazing. Then you have the same 3 people that show up on the game threads once a lead is lost. They are the types who enjoy inflicting additional pain and make it very personal.

      • rayvil01 - Jun 12, 2015 at 8:10 AM

        Gave up on game posts a long time ago for all the reasons you cited. I don’t even read ’em.

      • nats128 - Jun 12, 2015 at 8:45 AM

        I read them for the good stuff and to know who the Legion of Doom people really are. Just not worth my time to comment.

      • rmoore446 - Jun 12, 2015 at 9:21 AM

        I too quit reading the game threads during games for the same reasons and often never bother scanning them. Bad enough to witness the frustrating problems without readng all the idiotic comments.

    • scnatsfan - Jun 12, 2015 at 8:09 AM

      Comical? Not the word I’d use as I find nothing funny. Either the relievers here can’t do the job and its on Rizzo to get more or its on our coaches for using them incorrectly and its on them; either way, changing nothing gets the same results. The guys here cant do the job.

      And, first off, have to say I hope Barrett is healthy – but for me, I hope he’s healthy on the ride back to Syracuse. For all of you defending him, I sum him up like this; bottom 8, game on the line, he gets beat by Scooter Gennett – yes, the Scooter Gennett. Is that a guy you want handling high leverage situations?

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 12, 2015 at 9:00 AM

        Last night’s game was fairly predictive right down to Gennett getting a ball to handle as Barrett was not going to spike a slider with a man on 3rd.

        Even before that you could see Roark was throwing BP and in the lucky BABIP department almost survived. That’s 2 starts in a row where he didn’t have his “A” game.

        Nats rarely will win a game when a starter gives up more than 3 runs and the AJ Cole game is certainly the exception.

      • Hiram Hover - Jun 12, 2015 at 9:46 AM

        The game was not funny at all.

        The spectacle in the comments thread,of hyper-negative posters contradicting themselves in their criticisms, kinda was.

      • adcwonk - Jun 12, 2015 at 11:13 AM

        Comical? Not the word I’d use as I find nothing funny.

        I was careful to modify that word with “almost”

        A guy gets to first on a strikeout, and then a runner gets to second on a error, and you put the loss all on Barrett because Gennett gets completely jammed and accidentally shoehorns it between Esco and the 3rd base bag?

        For all of you defending him, I sum him up like this

        Sum up? Because of a serious jammage single? How about: in this entire year, 30 appearances, he has 7 holds, 3 wins, 1 loss and 2 blown saves. Yep — he’s had a bad stretch the last two weeks — but he also started the season with 13 scoreless appearances out of 15.

    • laddieblahblah - Jun 12, 2015 at 8:36 AM

      People are emotional. They want their team to win and they vent when the guys don’t do as they wish. Can’t take it too seriously. Being criticized goes with the territory and I’m sure Matt knew that going in. He has the kind of mind that learns from its mistakes.

      I don’t often read the game blogs for the same reasons you don’t, but I did last night. Probably won’t do it, again.

    • Bruxtun - Jun 12, 2015 at 11:34 AM

      +1 wonk, I’m with you there. Well said here and down below on your expanded comment.

    • dcwx61 - Jun 12, 2015 at 6:35 PM

      please defend MW’s moves that continue to fail
      Can’t manage a pitching staff.

  5. laddieblahblah - Jun 12, 2015 at 8:28 AM

    You should win with a 5-1 lead.

    I think Joe was right – why start your best 3rd baseman at 2nd, your best SS at 3rd, and your best 2nd baseman at SS? That was the decision that may have cost them the game.

    Maybe, maybe not, but Espinosa would have had a better shot at catching that 2-run blooper that fell between Rendon and Harper. Catching that would have changed the game. And Barrett pitched what should have been 3-up, 3-down. That inning was not on him, but on Ramos and Rendon. Danny would probably have turned that DP.

    I wondered about that IF alignment before the game started. It still doesn’t make any sense to me. You should put your players where they have the best chance to succeed, and the team has its best chance to win.

    Congrats to CRob on his first ML bomb. May he hit 20 more. Curious how Garza was able to shut down the 3 best all-around Nats hitters, but Span and Robinson ate him up..

    Whether or not Desi returns to the lineup tonight, they have got to keep Espinosa’s bat in it. If CRob can keep playing like he did last night then he is going to get a lot more reps at 1b. That turned out to be Matt’s best decision of the game. The guy can hit.

    Fiers has been very beatable, and JZ always pitches well in Bratsville. Tonight, the Nats strike back!

    • Joe Seamhead - Jun 12, 2015 at 9:00 AM

      Personally I think moving players around out of their best positions is not sound baseball management.yes, you have to score more runs than the other guys, but defensive mistakes create pitching problems, starting with pitchers having to get 4 or more outs in an inning, thus driving up pitch counts.5 runs should’ve been enough to win that game last night and the onus wasn’t just on Matt for leaving Roark in to long.Having good defense behind them makes for a lot of on the fence pitchers to look good.

    • jd - Jun 12, 2015 at 9:19 AM


      I know you are a big Rizzo fan but he does have a stubborn streak. Williams is his hand picked man and it was the wrong pick from the get go, MW is not a good manager. His decisions are not consistent, he has no feel for pitching situations and his lineup changes reek of desperation.

      I would give it until the all star break but if this level of play I would hand the keys over to Randy Knorr, getting a competent pitching coach and see how far we can go.

      • laddieblahblah - Jun 12, 2015 at 10:59 AM

        “Williams is his hand picked man…”

        No doubt about that. That’s why he is going to stick around as long as Rizzo still believes in him. I know he is making mistakes, but he is playing with a bad hand, and I am sure Rizzo understands that.

        “His decisions are not consistent, he has no feel for pitching situations and his lineup changes reek of desperation.”

        I don’t think he trusts his bull pen, and that probably has as much, or more, to do with how he is handling both his starters and relief corps than any inherent incompetence. Rizzo understands the problem and keeps trying to fix it by bringing in more experienced bull pen arms. I suspect Rizzo sees the pitching weaknesses as the main problem, not Matt’s attempts to manage around them.

        Of course the lineup changes reek of desperation. Standing pat would be much worse. That would reek of cluelessness. If you’ve lost 10 of your last 13, you should be trying to shake things up. Any competent manager would do the same.

        “I would give it until the all star break but if this level of play I would hand the keys over to Randy Knorr, getting a competent pitching coach and see how far we can go.”

        I really don’t have any opinion on that, except that I do not think that is going to happen. Making managerial changes in the middle of the season would really reek of desperation, as well as of incompetent general management. It would be different if Matt had problems in the club house, but I don’t see any indication of that. On the contrary, he is a player’s manager, and the players support that kind of skipper. I think letting him go mid-season would demoralize the club.

        Let’s see how many of the injured can return to the fray before we judge him on his management of what has turned into a makeshift roster that is changing weekly.

      • ITGSOT - Jun 12, 2015 at 11:33 AM

        Don’t know why you think MW is a “player’s manager.” He frequently throws his players under the bus. He has their back sometimes, but only to a point. And even though he has made managerial mistakes (what manager hasn’t) he has never ever admitted to one. IOW, with MW the problem always lies somewhere other than his desk. The buck never stops there. Players notice that kind of thing, probably long before you or I would. If they make it to this August playing as bad as they did in 2013, it’s no guarantee that they’ll pick it up for MW like they did for Davey.

      • NatsLady - Jun 12, 2015 at 1:24 PM

        They didn’t pick it up for Davey in 2013. They picked it up for Jayson. Davey had checked out.

  6. NatsLady - Jun 12, 2015 at 8:52 AM

    laddie, I agree with you on the infield alignment, and wonder what is holding them back from using Escobar at SS. Is it possible he’d just not flexible, so he’s not comfortable switching positions on a dime, even back to his natural position?

    • Hiram Hover - Jun 12, 2015 at 8:59 AM

      I am comfortable trusting MW and Co. on their judgments about who is best in what defensive position.

      While I’d be interested to hear it, I don’t expect him to come out with an honest public explanation, which would almost inevitably require saying something negative about one or more of his guys.

    • laddieblahblah - Jun 12, 2015 at 9:23 AM

      “what is holding them back from using Escobar at SS.”

      I don’t really know.

      The guy won a gold glove at SS not too long ago. He did have problems in Toronto last year, but they play on artificial turf and that might have given him problems. And then there was a reported politically incorrect statement he made that led to very harsh personal attacks against him. That could possibly have contributed to the bad year he had up there. I don’t think he really meant to offend anyone, but some folks wake up in the morning looking for reasons to be outraged. We live in DC so we see that kind of thing all the time, but it may have affected a relative innocent like Escobar.

      But the Nats play on one of the best maintained infields in baseball, and Nats fans love the guy, so none of what troubled him in Toronto should apply here, or so you would think. He is not a gold glove 3rd baseman, but he has done nothing over there that would lead me to believe he can’t cut it at SS.

      Of course, maybe the Nats know something that I don’t. (Nothing new there).

      • Joe Seamhead - Jun 12, 2015 at 9:40 AM

        Actually, he had problems in Tampa Bay last year, and the field conditions were one reason, injury was another. Toronto was a couple of years back.

      • Joe Seamhead - Jun 12, 2015 at 9:57 AM

        And as bad of a season as he had last year with the Rays,he still wasn’t as bad statistically as Desmond has been this year, by what ever metrics you want to use.

      • nataddicted - Jun 12, 2015 at 10:01 AM

        I don’t see a Gold Glove award on Yunil Escobars record.

      • Joe Seamhead - Jun 12, 2015 at 10:24 AM

        I don’t think that he ever did, but there were a couple of years when, let’s just say that Jeter won the popularity contest, when Yunel probably deserved the GG.

      • laddieblahblah - Jun 12, 2015 at 11:05 AM

        “I don’t see a Gold Glove award on Yunil Escobars record.”

        “Gold Glove caliber” would have been more accurate. Judge for yourself:

      • laddieblahblah - Jun 12, 2015 at 11:10 AM

        “Actually, he had problems in Tampa Bay last year, and the field conditions were one reason, injury was another. Toronto was a couple of years back.”

        It was at Tampa Bay where he had his best defensive season in 2013, so I suspect that injury played more of a role in his performance there last year.

  7. bowdenball - Jun 12, 2015 at 8:52 AM

    This narrative about how Williams is being forced to extend his starters because the bullpen isn’t reliable is a bunch of hogwash. Yeah, the bullpen is 10th out of 15th in ERA in the NL, which is not great, but it’s not some unmitigated disaster. And guess what? The starters are only 9th. Oh, and the starters have an ERA a half-run higher than the bullpen. So the bullpen is clearly superior to the starters when it comes to run prevention when you include EVERY inning pitched by the starters. When you only consider innings pitched by the starters when they’re gassed the gulf between the two is a mile wide.

    Stop bailing out Williams with this silly bit about how he’s stuck between a rock and a hard place because the bullpen is ineffective. ANY major league bullpen is better than a gassed starter who wasn’t all that effective to begin with throwing in the seventh inning at 100+ pitches. Williams is making terrible, indefensible decisions that are costing this team games.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 12, 2015 at 9:06 AM

      That’s some very good points. Davey hated parts of his bullpen and at times relied too hard on 5 arms. This bullpen is good if used properly.

      Barrett has to trust his stuff. He wouldn’t spike sliders on Gennett and that cost him the go-ahead run but rewind back, it was Roark who blew a 5-1 lead and it could’ve been worse as he was pitching BP. He wasn’t locating his fastball and it didn’t have much on it. He had to rely on his secondary pitches much more and it was what it was.

      • jd - Jun 12, 2015 at 9:22 AM


        I think that the good catchers always tell their pitchers to keep throwing their sliders even with a go ahead run on 3rd and to trust them to block it. I think that part of the problem is that the pitchers don’t trust Ramos as much as they should.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 12, 2015 at 9:37 AM

        I agree with you. Have to go with your best pitch. Whether you’re a split finger pitcher or a slide spiker, have to have your full repertoire.

    • jd - Jun 12, 2015 at 9:10 AM

      Absolutely right Bowdenball. Stupid and bull headed decisions 3 days in a row with the same results each time. And the idea of playing your best 2nd baseman at SS and your best 3rd baseman at 2nd base makes no sense to me at all.

      • scmargenau - Jun 12, 2015 at 12:14 PM

        Re don needs to be at third. I’m baffled he’s not. He’s one of the best in the league. No one else has much exp there

    • laddieblahblah - Jun 12, 2015 at 11:12 AM

      If he doesn’t trust his bull pen then it doesn’t make any difference if they are reliable, or not. And if they are so reliable, why is Rizzo bringing in new guys practically every week?

    • texnat1 - Jun 12, 2015 at 11:58 AM

      Excellent post, bowden. And you didn’t even get into the fact that forcing your starters to pitch past the point where they are gassed has additional risks beyond hurting you in additional games. As long as the starters to this team stay healthy, the team will eventually rise to the top of an mediocre division. Worrying too much about individual games in June can have disastrous consequences down the line if you cause a starter to get hurt or to just lose effectiveness. The bullpen is Drew Storen and a bunch of replaceable parts. They are who you burn through, not your starters.

      • texnat1 - Jun 12, 2015 at 11:59 AM

        “additional” should be “individual”

    • dcwx61 - Jun 12, 2015 at 6:37 PM

      +1….Gotta call Bull #### on this column
      And how brilliantly he managed the staff/bullpen during the playoffs last year…ugh

  8. Toot D. Blan - Jun 12, 2015 at 8:53 AM

    “Nationals starters, despite their lofty pedigree, are averaging only 5.8 innings per game”

    How is this number calculated? In the awkward decimal math that baseball uses, a pitcher pitches 5.0 innings, then 5.1 innings, then 5.2 innings, then he’s at 6.0 innings. So what does 5.8 innings even mean? I would guess that if you did the math correctly and used the fractions 1/3 and 2/3 instead of .1 and .2, you would come up with an average innings per game very close to 6 – which looks a lot better than 5.8 in the same way that $9.99 looks cheaper than $10.00.

    Similarly, any team that’s averaging over 6.2 IP/game is essentially at 7. In reality, it’s probably an out per game that separates the Nats staff from the top of this list. And it’s not the number of outs they’re getting that’s the problem with the Nats starters, it’s what happens AFTER they get their last out of the game. Matt Williams has not yet developed the knack of yanking his starter (or any other pitcher for that matter) one batter before the problem erupts. Instead, he’s slow on the uptake and doesn’t have a new pitcher ready in time. If he was doing it right, the innings pitched numbers for starters and bullpen could be exactly the same as they are now and the W-L record would be a lot better.

    • nats128 - Jun 12, 2015 at 9:09 AM

      5.8 is basically the in between of 5 2/3 and 6 innings. Obviously you cant pitch 5.8 innings but you can average 5.8 innings.

      • Toot D. Blan - Jun 12, 2015 at 9:24 AM

        Under yours and Mark’s math, the in-between of 5 2/3 and 6 innings could be anything from 5.25 to 5.99 (assuming traditional rules on rounding up and down). That’s a big gap. Since 5.8 is a lot closer to 6.0 than it is to 5.2, common sense would have you round that up to 6.0, seeing as how it’s not possible to get a fraction of an out. And as I said, 6.0 looks a whole lot better than 5.8!

    • Hiram Hover - Jun 12, 2015 at 9:40 AM

      The 5.83 is using the appropriate decimal math (e.g., 6.1 = 6 and 1/3 innings)–basically, it works out to 5 and 5/6 innings per outing, or the average between 5-2/3 innings one start and 6 innings the next.

      The #s aren’t quite as bad as Mark’s post makes them sound.

      Nats rank 10th of 15 NL teams in average innings pitched per start, which sounds bad.

      Except (as you’re getting at) the median for the NL is 5.92, so the Nats really aren’t significantly below the norm.

  9. Toot D. Blan - Jun 12, 2015 at 9:00 AM

    “Three straight days, the Nationals sent their starting pitcher back out for the seventh inning either trying to protect a lead or maintain a tie game, and three straight times that starter was unable to finish the inning before giving up multiple runs.”

    Except that last night Roark only gave up ONE run in the seventh. Sportswriter math strikes again!

  10. Mrsb loves the Nats - Jun 12, 2015 at 9:02 AM

    It was clearly evident that Roark was drained by the 6th. He escaped that one (Remember the last 2 batter recorded warning track outs.. so you knew what was bound to happen).. I said it before and I still don’t understand why Roark went back out there for the 7th. He didn’t have his best stuff (lets just call it what it is – it was a bad night for him) yet MW went with him over the BP. He should have thanked Roark for his 6 innings and called the BP (you have a BP for a reason, use them)…. I just don’t think that MW and I watch a lot of the same games…

    Barrett wasn’t the issue last night. It was the peeps around him, including the blue, who I thought missed an obvious K. DP should have been turned…

    At any rate – still hoping that Barrett isn’t seriously injured. No he hasn’t been as dominate but idk if this team can really take another injury… Talk about adversity.

    • nats128 - Jun 12, 2015 at 9:12 AM

      Great point on the blue not helping Barrett. Forgot about that. Never should have gone to 3-2. Nothing as bad as missing that 2-0 pitch on Span.

      Roark was not only drained by the 6th, he wasnt good most of that start. There were a few line drives right at the outfielders and lets be real, that Brewers lineup is not very good.

    • janebeard - Jun 12, 2015 at 10:09 AM

      Roark never got stretched out at a starting pitcher. We need to keep that in mind. We think of him as a starter but really he’s still getting BACK to being a starter.

  11. Joe Seamhead - Jun 12, 2015 at 9:12 AM

    Oh for the days when you had Storen as your go-to 7th inning guy, followed by the mostly reliable Cillarp for the 8th with the ever exciting King of the Un-Tuck for the 9th. (Well, at least the Soriano that we had before he got snubbed for the All Star selection). With a dose of Stammen when needed when the starters had an early meltdown.

    The Nats moved Storen from 7 to 9, without effectively replacing 7, and then really never replaced 8.

    • Joe Seamhead - Jun 12, 2015 at 9:18 AM

      Clippard. Man, I hate auto-correct. And not being able to edit even more.

    • jd - Jun 12, 2015 at 9:25 AM


      I think the concept was to have Jansen for the 8th and Barrett for the 7th with Thornton as the LOOGY and Stammen as the swing man, Roark as the long man and Treinen as the ace in the hole. I thing that a whole series of events starting with Jansen’s injury, Stammen’s season ending injury, Barrett and Treinen’s inconsistencies and Roark being forced back into the rotation totally ruined the plan.

      • Joe Seamhead - Jun 12, 2015 at 9:43 AM

        Of course, but it didn’t happen as planned, and the team has yet to figure how to fill in the blanks effectively.

  12. jd - Jun 12, 2015 at 9:13 AM


    You are exactly right. When a starter is effective and getting strike outs and weak outs I have no problem letting him pitch as long as possible but in Scherzer’s case on Tuesday he was clearly losing effectiveness and yesterday Roark never had it and was a house of cards waiting to crumble.

    • Mrsb loves the Nats - Jun 12, 2015 at 9:42 AM

      Sinker ball pitchers who get outs via the air always scare me.
      That was Roark all night… truth be told I wanted him out of the game earlier, after the lead was cut to 5-3, but I understood leaving him in.

      It’s just disappointing as scoring 5 runs, idc how the come, should be enough to win a game. Every time Roark was handed a lead, he couldn’t come in and have the shut down inning. Just disappointing.

  13. Toot D. Blan - Jun 12, 2015 at 9:27 AM

    I wish Matt Williams would do his Babe Ruth impersonation as he promised, and quit doing his Grady Little impersonation night after night.

    • bowdenball - Jun 12, 2015 at 9:31 AM

      +1. Well done

    • philipd763 - Jun 12, 2015 at 9:41 AM

      I wish Matt Williams would find a new line of work.

    • Mrsb loves the Nats - Jun 12, 2015 at 9:49 AM

      Ive been laughing for the past 5 minutes… Grady Little…. classic….

  14. TimDz - Jun 12, 2015 at 9:31 AM

    I was pretty shocked to see Tanner come out in the 7th…He was gassed and, from my vantage point, was getting hit hard all game. There were a lot of loud outs made….

    So, they reboot and go at it again tonight…With all the injuries and inconsistancies they are still just a half game out of first pace with half the season to go after tonights game. The LOD types need to consider forming their own blog, where they can all collectively bemoan the fate of the Nats, prepare for the sky falling, the stock market crashing and Justin Bieber becoming the next reincarnation of Bob Dylan….

  15. philipd763 - Jun 12, 2015 at 9:39 AM

    Blowing a 5-1 lead to a last place team is a new low. Even Scherzer can’t win consistently on this team.

    • adcwonk - Jun 12, 2015 at 12:01 PM

      Blowing a 5-1 lead to a last place team is a new low.

      No it’s not. It’s not even close.

      But thanks for playing.

  16. Theophilus T.S. - Jun 12, 2015 at 9:48 AM

    Barrett in the BP is useful only in the event of a laugher. Which is the only opportunity he has to work out the issues that bedevil him. Unfortunately the Nats are not having any positive laughers and, thanks to some labored efforts by the starters, they haven’t been on the wrong end of any negative mis-matches . . . recently. If anything, Williams has less faith in his BP than I do. Storen has his role, and Janssen has been, with one exception, effective (although allowing baserunners) but Williams is very sparing in using Thornton and everybody else goes out there with a wish and a prayer. Carpenter may be another wish-and-a prayer pitcher but he can’t arrive soon enough. I really thought they would throw him into the pool immediately. As soon as he is available, Barrett must go.

    • bowdenball - Jun 12, 2015 at 9:59 AM

      Barrett has a 2.14 FIP. He’s at 10.8 K/9 and just 2.2 BB/9. He basically got four outs last night before letting in the run and his defense blew two of them. He’s a very good reliever having a very good season. His high ERA is mostly a product of the two times he’s allowed more than one run in an outing:

      The most recent was against the Reds, when Marlon Byrd got an infield single on him and then Billy Hamilton pinch-ran, stole second, and came home on another ground ball single by Brandon Phillips. The second run charged to him was Phillips scoring when Grace came in and gave up a bunch of hits.

      The other was in early May against Atlanta, when he allowed three runs via two singles and a walk. None of the runners scored while he was on the mound, by the way- they scored on a groundout and a double allowed by Tanner Roark after his departure.

      I hope this post is just a weak effort at trolling. Because if you actually believe it …

      • exposremains - Jun 12, 2015 at 10:36 AM

        How about that Yankees game 2 days mention just one

      • therealjohnc - Jun 12, 2015 at 10:37 AM

        I’m not a huge Barrett fan, but to pile on last night is just ridiculous. Barrett got a strikeout and three straight ground balls, only one of which was struck with any authority whatsoever. The strikeout was boxed back to the backstop by Ramos, whose block attempt was poor. Barrett did an excellent job of busting to cover first on a grounder, finding the bag and taking the throw from Robinson. Another grounder was about as easy a GIDP as you’ll see, but Rendon double clutched and threw the ball away (love Tony Two Bags, but he had a pretty terrible game last night). The last grounder vividly demonstrated Escobar’s limitations defensively, as he likes to play very shallow and stood like a statue as Gannett’s grounder went past him.

        To trash Barrett for his effort last night is just adding insult to his injury, and undeserved insult at that. On the list of Nats problems in the game last night, Barrett was not in the top five and may not have been in the top ten.

      • bowdenball - Jun 12, 2015 at 11:10 AM

        The Yankees game when he gave up a run?

        Let me know when you find a reliever who never gives up runs. Other than Clint Robinson, of course.

      • exposremains - Jun 12, 2015 at 11:38 AM

        Among other games…I picked the ones you wanted to make your point and omitted the other ones. There’s been plenty, dont pretend they didn’t exist. His role was suppose to be the main setup guy…most of his innings are problematic. Let me know when you don’t handpick games or stats to make your point and don’t use a condescending tone.

      • bowdenball - Jun 12, 2015 at 11:51 AM

        No, I picked the ones that explain why his ERA is so out of whack with his FIP and other stats You seem to have misinterpreted the two games I chose- they were the two games where he gave up multiple earned runs, not his two worst outings. The Yankees game was a very bad outing, in fact far worse than the ones when he gave up multiple runs IMO. I was using those examples to show that ERA doesn’t really tell the story of a reliever, not that he hasn’t had any bad outings. Of course he has. So has every reliever in the history of baseball.

        But I’m not handpicking the 2.14 FIP. I’m not handpicking his K numbers or his walk numbers. Those are his numbers on the season, and they’re excellent. I wouldn’t rank the guy among the top relievers in the game or anything like that, but to say that a reliever with his FIP numbers “is useful only in the event of laughter” and “must go” is beyond ludicrous.

      • exposremains - Jun 12, 2015 at 11:58 AM

        I understand that FIP might be a useful tool but to me I see in Barrett the same thing as Storen of a few years back. Lots of nobbling, cant get guys out in crucial moment. Great stuff when is on some how he doesn’t get it done.

  17. Joe Seamhead - Jun 12, 2015 at 9:49 AM

    Off topic, but Ghost, you follow things like Stat Cast more than I do, but yesterday Burns had 2 outstanding catches for the A’s and on the first one Stat cast said he ran 20.70 MPH to get the ball. Is there a way to find out the highest foot speeds that they have recorded? 20.70 is the fastest I remember seeing.

    • Joe Seamhead - Jun 12, 2015 at 10:01 AM

      During the All Star festivities you have the Home Run Derby. I wish that they would have a Fastest ML Runner competition.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 12, 2015 at 10:45 AM

      20.7!!!! That’s the fastest I’ve seen. I hope Burns makes the All Star team.

      I don’t like the limited info Statcast is giving. Sometimes they omit the distance. I want to know distance, speed and route efficiency.

      • Joe Seamhead - Jun 12, 2015 at 11:34 AM

        As bad as the A’s are this year I doubt that they will get more than one representative to the All Star team and if that is the case it will probably be Sonny Gray. Billy Burns also has the disadvantage in that he didn’t get called up until the beginning of May, but he leads all rookies in multi-hit games. Even if it doesn’t last, the kid has had a fantastic 6 weeks, or so.I can’t help but to wonder how a foot race between Billy Hamilton, Billy Burns and Trea Turner would be! Say for about 50 yards.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 12, 2015 at 11:41 AM

        Yep, felt the same that they’d only get Gray. Burns is deserving.

      • Section 222 - Jun 12, 2015 at 2:29 PM

        I agree that the provision of info on Statcast is annoying. Sometimes they give you route efficiency and distance, sometimes they don’t. The amazing thing about Burns’ speed is that on the replay of the first catch it looks like he wasn’t running that hard. He seemed to slow up just a bit before the dive.

        The second catch wasn’t a great route, but was still a highly entertaining grab.

        One complaint I have about Statcast for hits is the lack of context. They’ll show the ball speed of a HR, often over 100 mph, but don’t tell you that a lot of singles and even outs are hit that fast.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 12, 2015 at 2:31 PM

        Again, spot on. The 20.7 is clearly top speed and average speed would be helpful.

  18. scnatsfan - Jun 12, 2015 at 9:54 AM

    We keep looking for places we can upgrade… how about behind the plate.

    • Toot D. Blan - Jun 12, 2015 at 9:57 AM

      At a minimum, Lobaton should be starting more than once a week.

  19. manassasnatsfan - Jun 12, 2015 at 9:54 AM

    The starters need to work on limited pitches per inning.

    We don’t pitch deep enough because we pitch to many pitches in the first 6 innings.

    If we could get through the 7th with less than 100 pitches I believe we would win many more.

  20. Toot D. Blan - Jun 12, 2015 at 9:59 AM

    “The bullpen has been worked a lot,” Manager Matt Williams said. “We want to get [the starters] through those innings if possible.”

    Matt Williams needs to switch his radio station to classic rock.

  21. rabbit433 - Jun 12, 2015 at 10:25 AM

    nats128: I read them for the good stuff and to know who the Legion of Doom people really are. Just not worth my time to comment.

    rmoore446: I too quit reading the game threads during games for the same reasons and often never bother scanning them. Bad enough to witness the frustrating problems without readng all the idiotic comments.

    So what guys! Read the good stuff! So what if you know who the Legion of Doom people really are. Who cares if it is not worth your time to comment. Who cares if you quit reading game threads. Who cares if the comments are idiotic. Many people think your comments, above, are idiotic. Many people think mine are. So what! The game scores aren’t determined by these comments. So what! Who cares! Just enjoy the game. It will be what it will be.

    • nats128 - Jun 12, 2015 at 10:41 AM

      All fair points by you. The emotion runs high and if you wait to comment I think its better.

  22. exposremains - Jun 12, 2015 at 10:39 AM

    Never was impressed by MW from the beginning of his tenure. Rizzo relied too much on Rookies carrying the bullpen and they haven’t. Thats on him.

    • jd - Jun 12, 2015 at 10:55 AM

      Unfair criticism. He got Thornton and Jansen to go with Barrett and Treinen. Injuries to Jansen and particularly Stammen threw a monkey wrench into the plan. When you have a $165 mil payroll it doesn’t make sense to spend $8.3 mil on a setup man and BTW Clippard is having a very pedestrian year in 2015.

      • exposremains - Jun 12, 2015 at 11:02 AM

        Thornton was already there..Jansen coming off a bad can’t expect zero injuries. If we have learn anything from the past 5 years you need a great bullpen to win. If you 200M for Scherzer you have enough an elite setup guy.

      • exposremains - Jun 12, 2015 at 11:04 AM

        Barett and Treinen were unproven in my book. Barrett showed that he wasnt ready in the playoff for a big role. Treinen had what 2 good months. Lets not make them something they aren’t yet.

      • Joe Seamhead - Jun 12, 2015 at 11:35 AM

        Don’t forget that Tanner Roark was penciled in to be in the bullpen,too.

      • exposremains - Jun 12, 2015 at 11:42 AM

        I know I still think Rizzo took a big chance after trading Clippard relying on rookies stepping up and performing at veteran level. In my opinion, it has backfired. The fact the starters can’t go past 6th inning with their pedigree is pretty bad…they should take a good look at their perfomance while their pocketing their 10M of $

      • therealjohnc - Jun 12, 2015 at 12:14 PM

        Well, Rizzo took a chance by trading Clippard, but two points are relevant there:

        (1) Escobar has been a great “get” for Rizzo; there have been times where Escobar and Harper were the only two Nats hitting; and

        (2) Rizzo traded a relief pitcher with a lot of mileage on his arm when his value was at its peak. Despite playing in a pitcher-friendly ballpark that caters to his style (Oakland has lots of foul ground, Clippard gets a lot of popups) Clippard has been pretty mediocre this season. He has a 3.20 ERA, which is bad for a reliever. His WHIP (1.303) is the worst since he switched to the bullpen, his strikeouts are way down (from 10.5 to 7.8 per 9 innings) and his walks are way up (from 2.9 to 4.6 per 9 innings). Clippard’s FIP is 3.94, which is worse than all Nats relievers except Rafael Martin, Taylor Hill and Sammy Solis.

        And that’s putting aside the three years of control of Escobar vs. one for Clippard.

        The Nats certainly miss what Clippard has been for the past few seasons for them. They do not miss the guy that Clippard has been in 2015.

  23. scnatsfan - Jun 12, 2015 at 10:49 AM

    The thought is these young arms will turn good with experience and I understand that… but at some point you have to stop throwing away games as these guys show they are not up to the task on a reliable basis.

    As for MWs penchant to leave starters in too long…. I can’t see that changing. MW, like Rizzo, has his way and that isnt going to change.

    • jd - Jun 12, 2015 at 10:57 AM

      Actually MW is all over the place with his pitchers. He takes them out too soon, keeps them in too long. I don’t think he has a good feel for pitchers and it’s disappointing that his pitching coach isn’t helping him in this regard.

      • dcsnakehead - Jun 12, 2015 at 11:30 AM

        Yes MW has his issues, but everyone is assuming that a “better” manager would have a different outcome. Lets assume that either Roark or the bullpen carry a 60% chance of blowing the lead. If this case, there is no real decision to be made since either one nets the same chance of failure.

        Now lets say there is the “better” manager who can magically decide when a starter’s chance of blowing the game is higher then the bullpen and pull the hook at the precise moment the risk of continuing with the starter becomes higher. In this scenario the manager is decreasingly the probability of losing the game but not eliminating it. If the bullpen sucks and the starter is gassed the likely outcome will be a blown lead either way. It will just be that over the course of a season a good manager will pick the less bad pitching options enough so that the team blows maybe a handful fewer games. Given that last night MW had two terrible options I do not think it mattered which way he went. He was screwed either way.

      • therealjohnc - Jun 12, 2015 at 12:23 PM

        MW used to be criticized for sticking to a “formula” and being too routine/predictable in his bullpen usage, not adapting to the game situation. Since he’s gone to a more “mix & matchup” style, he’s criticized for being inconsistent.

        Which is an occupational hazard for managers. If the team plays poorly, it’s the manager’s fault regardless of what happens on the field. For many fans, if the team plays well it’s despite the manager’s involvement. Fortunately the paycheck is pretty good (although the job security isn’t).

    • nats128 - Jun 12, 2015 at 1:19 PM

      Big headlines and nothing there. I thought there would be more to that story. Big deal.

      • NatsLady - Jun 12, 2015 at 1:30 PM

        My sentiments. I put it out there FWIW. Gossip & “guilt by association.”

      • nats128 - Jun 12, 2015 at 1:37 PM

        Hopefully there memories arent long there but like you said guilt by association. You could say the same or worse about Manny Machado who was mentored by ARod growing up but I think Manny has done a great job of being a as*hat fine on his own.

  24. Joe Seamhead - Jun 12, 2015 at 11:40 AM

    I have found these two things to be absolute:

    A manager’s level of IQ is directly attributable to his bullpen.

    The game blog’s level of IQ is directly attributable to whether the Nats are winning or losing.

    • adcwonk - Jun 12, 2015 at 12:05 PM

      +145 (for tonight — I hope) 😉

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 12, 2015 at 12:44 PM

      When you consider that wins make managers look smarter and many games are lost by bullpens, then yes .

      Managers do pick the lineup order and call steals and out on plays and pull starters that also affect the W/L but player execution is key to making manager’s look smarter.

      • Joe Seamhead - Jun 12, 2015 at 12:52 PM

        One of my favorite all time posts on this blog was by therealjohn a couple of years ago:

        I also cut Davey some slack because, as a major league manager, he is by definition one of the 30 dumbest people on the planet. Because every other person on the planet seems to have a better idea of what should or should not have been done by a major league manager.*

        *Numbers 31-60 on the “dumbest people on the planet” list are the General Managers of the 30 major league teams. They are smarter than the managers only because they can fire the managers, but the managers cannot fire them.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 12, 2015 at 1:13 PM

        He’s right and that is a good post. Players make managers look smart and dumb all the time but let’s face it, some Managers screw up more than others.

  25. manassasnatsfan - Jun 12, 2015 at 12:59 PM

    Our starters are suppose to be the stars. They have played less to their expectation more so than any other part of the team though in reality only a handful on the team has come close to the potentential.

    My number 1 problem with the starters is they are way wonder my goal for a starter of 7 full innings a game. Why? Because they gas early.

    Why? They pitch way too many pitches per inning early in the game. If you average 12-13 pitches a game after 7 innings you pitched 84-91 pitches. Your chances of being gassed are slim and none. However we are near or at 100 through 6 innings. That’s 3 to 4 pitches per inning to much.

  26. letswin3 - Jun 12, 2015 at 1:43 PM

    I’m not sure exactly why MW sent Roark back out for his final inning, but I know that my untrained eye saw “loud outs” throughout the previous couple of innings, and an obvious struggle to get the ball down …. both reasons to get him out of there, regardless of who is, or isn’t, in the BP. This guy was going only 40-50 pitches just 2 weeks ago, and now MW wanted to get just one more inning out of him, which was an error imho.





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