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Stock Watch: Bullpen issues haunt the Nats again

Sep 2, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT

Sep 1, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; Washington Nationals relief pitcher Casey Janssen (44) throws to a St. Louis Cardinals batter during the ninth inning at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Nationals 8-5. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Each week this season, we’ll take the temperature of the Nationals roster to see whose stock is rising or falling.  

Record: 3-4

Team slash: .293/.363/.478

Team ERA: 4.52

Runs per game:  4.85

 

STOCK UP  

Ryan Zimmerman, 1B: .321 AVG/ 4 HR/ 11 RBI  

There’s a decent chance that it might be a little too late to make a run, but if the Nats are to have a magical September they’ll need Zimmerman to continue to be vintage Zimmerman. Before he went to the disabled list with a foot injury, he hit .209/.265/.346 with five home runs and 34 RBI in 211 at-bats; since his return, he has a slash line of .272/.351/.596 with 9 homers and 30 RBI in just 114 at-bats. So he’s not just been good in the second half, he’s been arguably the best hitter on the team: His .947 OPS is tied with Bryce Harper for highest on the club since the All-Star break.

Jayson Werth, LF: .321 AVG/ 2 HR/ 1.067 OPS 

It’s been almost an entire season, but he’s has finally made it here. For all of his struggles throughout the season (and considering how complicated the game of baseball is in general), it seems silly to suggest that Werth moving to the top of the order was all that was needed to get him out of his funk. But if you take a look at his splits, the numbers are pretty staggering: He’s hitting .347/.429/.633 in the leadoff spot, easily dwarfing his production when batting lower in the lineup. Was that really the trick? Who knows, but the Nats will gladly take this version of Werth the rest of the way.

 

STOCK DOWN  

Casey Janssen, RP: 3 GP/ 0-2/ 7 ER 

It’s been nightmarish last few days for Janssen, who played a critical role in back-to-back crushing losses to the Cardinals. Between the two games, he allowed seven earned runs on six hits in just 1 1/3 innings. Ouch. Obviously, Nats fans are still wondering why Janssen was even in the game Tuesday night in the ninth inning with the score tied, a day after he threw 26 pitches and with a rested Jonathan Papelbon still waiting in the bullpen. Regardless, it’s hard to say the pitcher is completely blameless — even if he was running on fumes.

Max Scherzer, SP: 0-1/ 7.0 IP/ 4 ER 

Scherzer’s last start in and of itself isn’t troubling, but it’s that his season has seemingly spiraled out of control since the All-Star break. In the second half, he’s inexplicably 1-4 with a 5.04 ERA in eight starts. Somehow, after establishing himself as one of the leading contenders for the Cy Young in June, he’s all of a sudden 11-11 — he hasn’t lost that many games since 2010 — and has seen his season ERA balloon to 2.88 (considering it was once 1.76, it feels like a big jump). His sustained slide makes you wonder what exactly is troubling him. Is it health? Workload? Hitters’ adjustments? It’s hard to nail down the answer, so it’s shocking to witness one of the best pitchers in the game have such a dramatic fall after a tremendous first half.

  1. rmoore446 - Sep 2, 2015 at 11:26 AM

    MW in his morning radio appearance defended his strategy and this from the Washington Post:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/dc-sports-bog/wp/2015/09/02/matt-williams-strongly-defends-his-bullpen-strategy-after-crushing-loss-to-cardinals/

    • Joe Seamhead - Sep 2, 2015 at 11:53 AM

      I didn’t have a problem with MW not using Pap in the 9th. I had lots of other issues, but that really wasn’t one of them.

      And Drew Storen needs to put on big boy panties.

      • rmoore446 - Sep 2, 2015 at 12:00 PM

        I also understand not using Pap in the 9th for reasons MW gives. Plenty of other flaws to note. Not using Espi is one and Rizzo not calling up more BP help is another. We all could list others.

      • jd - Sep 2, 2015 at 1:46 PM

        I agree that there were worse offenses than not using Pap in the 9th but having said that, you shouldn’t worry about who will save the game if we take the lead, that’s secondary. Preserve the tie first, take the lead and then worry about it. The fact that he’s arguing about makes me think that he doesn’t get it at all and that’s scary.

        When your starter has to be taken out in the 3rd inning you cannot use the bullpen the way MW did all the way through. You have to get a minimum of 4 innings from an effective Fister, you have to get more than one inning from an effective Treinen and you have to get more than one inning from an effective Rivero.MW also talks about the potential double switch as if it;’s the most unusual idea ever broached. Of course you double switch to keep an effective pitcher in the game as long as possible.

        Not making defensive switches with the lead in the 7th 2 nights in a row, we don’t even need to go there. The ridiculous use of Turner should be a fire able offense in and off itself. The only way to use this potential lethal weapon is pinch run immediately, steal early and try to grab the lead and bring Pap in for the save.

        I mean, Joe, like you I have watched baseball for more years than I’d like to admit and truly I struggle to think of anyone who was a worse in game manager than MW.

  2. langleyclub - Sep 2, 2015 at 11:27 AM

    Maybe this was addressed in another thread, but is there any explanation as to why the Nats did not recall Rafael Martin when rosters were expanded yesterday?

    He is already on the 40 man; so, no move was needed to bring him up.

    Martin has been “lights out” as the closer in Syracuse. Since the All-Star Break, over 19 games, Martin has given up 1 run and converted 9 straight saves.

    His post ASB numbers: 19 Games 19.2 IP 10 H 1 ER 1 BB 24Ks .145 AVG .056 WHIP 0.46 ERA

    Not saying that Martin is ready to close in MLB, but he is a fresh arm who is in a groove, and would give the Nats an option out of the pen when the bullpen is clearly taxed.

    Just odd to me that with the Nats desperate for arms and with rosters expanded they would be in a situation where they would be left with Sammy Solis as the only option when Casey Janssen is gassed and the Nats need a 9th inning out.

    • scnatsfan - Sep 2, 2015 at 11:30 AM

      Love to hear the logic calling up just 3 players

    • tcostant - Sep 2, 2015 at 2:50 PM

      Agree love Martin. Give the guy a break…

  3. kiawah51 - Sep 2, 2015 at 12:17 PM

    The guy is a joke. He has a book that is archaic and never changes. Same with his interviews. These are desperate times, desperate times deserve desperate measures. At the end of the season we will all find out that Pap will have pitched in only a handful of games because our dinasour of a manager won’t waver from the “relief bible”. Glad we got a closer for 5 – 7 games

  4. idus1926 - Sep 2, 2015 at 1:01 PM

    I always maintened that drafting Storen at No. 10 was the biggest mistake of Rizzo – besides of course, signing Soriano and Janssen – especially when Trout was available and the Nats had no center fielder at the time. Then he could have traded him to the Twins…Rizzo is a vain, stubborn man as one can see with Uggla whom he oroginally drafted. After this season the team needs a complete house cleaning. Rizzo and MW must go and the Nats should join the movement by signing a well educated GM and an experienced manager. Look at what Epstein did in Boston and now, in Chicago. This is the future and not former scouts with all their prejudices.

    • hersheyman - Sep 2, 2015 at 1:53 PM

      Not sure about your assessment of Rizzo. A lot of teams passed on Trout. Hindsight on a single draft is really not a reason to bash a GM like this. That said, I think Rizzo, unlike in previous years where he has had a Midas touch, has shown some flaws. Including the trade for Paplebon in the first place, the reliance on injured stars, and a seeming lack of understanding of the worth of a dominant bullpen.

      To me, the real problem is M Williams. I haven’t seen too many managers so unprepared and unable to think on his feet or outside the box like this.

      • bowdenball - Sep 2, 2015 at 2:13 PM

        Yup. And let’s remember that Storen was a signability pick necessitated by the likely need to break the bank on Strasburg.

        There were 14 players selected between Storen and Trout. I’d rather have had Drew in the organization the last 6 years than all but one or two of them. It was a very good pick.

      • Karl Kolchak - Sep 2, 2015 at 2:46 PM

        Since there was no limit on draft spending back then, Storen was only a “signability” pick if ownership was not willing to put up a little more more to draft somebody potentially better. The Expos drafted Chad Cordero in the 1st round because they had no money. The Nats had no excuse as a pick that high should NEVER be used on a reliever.

      • bowdenball - Sep 2, 2015 at 4:40 PM

        OK, fine. We can agree that the general rule that a pick that high shouldn’t be used on a reliever.

        If that’s the case, and you grant (as you must) that Storen has given his team FAR more since 2009 than most of the players drafted behind him and the majority of the ones drafted ahead of him too, isn’t that a feather in Rizzo’s cap? He thought out of the box and the franchise was better off for it.

        As for the signability thing, I think it was a comp pick for losing Crow and thus would be lost if the team didn’t come to terms with the player. So there was a lot more at stake than just spending a couple extra bucks. A more highly regarded player would know they had the Nats over the barrel and could extract many, many extra bucks. They had to take someone they knew they could sign without a massive fight there.

    • coop202 - Sep 2, 2015 at 1:54 PM

      Is there any reason to believe trout was the other option?

      I do have to say, those games were very winnable and man… What 4.5 games back would mean right now

    • jd - Sep 2, 2015 at 1:54 PM

      idus1926,

      There are 2 issues with your draft comment. Storen’s was an unprotected pick because we lost Crow the previous year so if they hadn’t signed that pick they would have lost it for good, thus they picked a player they could sign early. Secondly, because of Steven Strasburg most of the draft signing budget was already allocated. To bring up Trout is 100% hindsight, most teams whiffed on him, not just the Nats.

      You make some decent points about the need for a more analytical approach but I do think Rizzo is a very good GM. Some of the trades he pulled off are highway robbery. I feel like the hiring of MW was a bi product of the relationship Rizzo had with Dave Johnson. Rizzo felt he needed to hire a manager he could work with and that wouldn’t butt heads with him. I think MW was a colossal mistake and I am afraid Rizzo won’t recognize that mistake and correct it.

      • hersheyman - Sep 2, 2015 at 1:59 PM

        If Rizzo does not see that a change in managers is absolutely necessary, then his job should also be on the line.

  5. tcostant - Sep 2, 2015 at 2:48 PM

    Stock down: Matt Williams

    Off season stock down will include Mike Rizzo if Matt Williams comes back as the manager.

    • micksback1 - Sep 2, 2015 at 3:33 PM

      BINGO!!!

      This is will be a test for Rizzo. I hope he does not fall into the ego trap by thinking “if i fire MW, I admit I was wrong” No, that is not the case at all. I have no problem with the hire in 2014, it made sense, the connection with Rizzo and MW made sense as well. But, what is clear is that MW SUCKS in many different areas. By firing MW, Rizzo is showing that he can move on by what at the time was a sensible hire. There is no reason whatsoever MW should be back next season at all!

      What really leaves a bitter taste with me as well as the majority of fans and season ticket holders I talk with at the park of (which I am one) is how this imploded AFTER the big 3 came back. This is what will linger

  6. Karl Kolchak - Sep 2, 2015 at 2:50 PM

    Let’s recap all of the mistakes Rizzo has made in regards to Storen:

    1). A top 10 pick should NEVER be used to draft a reliever (Strike ONE).

    2). Since Rizzo obviously had NO confidence in Storen as closer going into this season, Storen not Clippard should have been traded last offseason (Strike TWO).

    3). Rizzo compounded the last issue by humiliating Storen with the Papelbon trade (Strike THREE).

    I’ve always defended Rizzo for how quickly he built the Nats into a contender, but building a playoff team and fine tuning it so it can win a championship are two different skills. So far, Rizzo has shown no indication that he posses the latter.

    • tcostant - Sep 2, 2015 at 3:13 PM

      Couldn’t agree more. I read reports at the time that Rizzo did love Trout, but was scared he couldn’t sign him. We need to remember that this was his first draft as GM and the reason that signablity was important because you would loss the pick if you couldn’t sign him. He had to realize the noice the year before when Crow was not signed.

      Agree reaching for a RP that high, is not smart.

    • jfmii - Sep 2, 2015 at 3:50 PM

      Ok, but lets not blame the Papelbon trade for Storen’s lousy performance of late

      • Karl Kolchak - Sep 2, 2015 at 6:23 PM

        Why not? The timing sure was coincidental.

  7. micksback1 - Sep 2, 2015 at 3:36 PM

    I hope Rizzo does not fall into the ego trap by thinking “if I fire MW, I admit I was wrong” No, that is not the case at all. I have no problem with the hire in 2014, it made sense, the connection with Rizzo and MW made sense as well. But, what is clear is that MW SUCKS in many different areas. By firing MW, Rizzo is showing that he can move on by what at the time was a sensible hire. There is no reason whatsoever MW should be back next season at all!

    What really leaves a bitter taste with me as well as the majority of fans and season ticket holders I talk with at the park (of which I am one) is how this imploded AFTER the big 3 came back. This is what will linger as well as the fact Rizzo did not make very good decisions at the trade deadline.

    If MW is back and the team starts off in the tank, I expect the DC sports press corps to rip him and Rizzo to shreads if we hear the same arrogant CONDENSCENDING, disHONEST answers he gives after each pathetic loss

    • stoatva - Sep 2, 2015 at 4:13 PM

      I dunno. The Nats “press corps” seems like a pretty chummy little confab that highly prizes maintaining good relationships.

      I very much enjoy our host’s blog posts and learn a lot from them, but that’s how it sounds to me after every game. YMMV.

      • lowstrikes - Sep 2, 2015 at 4:33 PM

        You have only to look back at what happened to Jon Miller in Baltimore. He’s in a better place now, but it was nasty for him (and the fans) at the time. No critical analysis permitted.

  8. dakotah55 - Sep 2, 2015 at 6:03 PM

    I didn’t read the entire thread, but I can’t believe Matt Williams isn’t in the Stock Down list.

    • dakotah55 - Sep 2, 2015 at 6:05 PM

      my bad, tcostant had it.

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