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Stock Watch: Bullpen dooms Nats at worst possible time

Sep 9, 2015, 12:30 PM EDT

Washington Nationals relief pitcher Blake Treinen throws during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves at Nationals Park, Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015, in Washington. The Nationals won 8-2. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

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

Record: 5-2

Team slash: .316/.391/.516

Team ERA: 3.66

Runs per game: 7.42



Ryan Zimmerman, 1B: .524 AVG/ 9 RBI/ 1.452 OPS

Though Bryce Harper is closing out an MVP-caliber season, he actually might not be the best hitter on his own team in the second half. Since the All-Star break, Zimmerman leads the Nats in home runs (11), RBI (38) and OPS (1.024). Throughout the season when then offense was struggling, the club believed that its veterans would eventually put up numbers similar to their respective track record. It took some time, but Zimmerman has done just that.

Bryce Harper, RF: .333 AVG/ 3 HR/ 1.390 OPS 

Of course, Zimmerman’s hot second half doesn’t mean that Harper has been slumping — not by a long shot. The 22-year-old phenom showed off his power this week, homering in three straight games against the Braves. He may not be getting as many pitches to hit as he did earlier in the season, but he’s still feasting on mistakes. What’s made Harper’s season so incredible is that it seems like he hasn’t gotten into a rut at the plate; pitchers may have become increasingly careful when facing him, but he’s refused to expand his strike zone. There have been plenty of at-bats where the Harper of old may have tried to swing for the fences, but now he seems content with taking a bloop single to the opposite field. That’s a sign of a maturing hitter, and one opposing pitchers are going to have to deal with for a long time.

Jayson Werth, LF: .313 AVG/ 2 HR/ 5 RBI 

It’s safe to say at this point that the move to bat Werth leadoff has done him well. It took an entire season, but the 36-year-old veteran is finally back to looking like his old self. It’s hard to believe that simply going to the top of the lineup would do the trick, but he has a slash line of .333/.393/.617 since Matt Williams made the change, so it’s pretty hard to argue that it wasn’t the right decision. The only problem with Werth’s reemergence (much like the rest of the lineup) is that this might be a case of too little too late, and that’s because…..



Blake Treinen/Felipe Rivero, RP: 8 ER

Two outs, a man on first with a 7-1 lead. That’s the situation the Nats were faced with Tuesday night. If the bullpen could get just one more out, it’s likely that the NL East deficit is cut to four games. Instead, what happened was the start of the worst sequence of the season: Walk, run-scoring single, walk, walk. Fans have given Williams a lot of grief in recent weeks for how he’s handled the bullpen. But the bottom line is that he’s not the one on the mound, and at some point pitchers have to get outs. So with the bases loaded and the season on the line, the Nats’ skipper went to his set-up man.

Drew Storen, RP: 4 GP/ 3.1 IP/ 2.10 WHIP 

There’s really no other way to say this: Storen’s rough outing against the Mets may have very well cost the Nats the season. By allowing a bases-clearing double to Yoenis Cespedes and three consecutive walks — all before getting an out — this team’s fate might be sealed. They’re still mathematically in it and anything’s possible, but if and when they’re officially out of contention everyone will likely look back at the seventh inning of Tuesday’s gut-wrenching 8-7 loss as the clincher. What’s stunning about this is that prior to being named the team’s set-up man after the Jonathan Papelbon trade, Storen was among the best relievers in the game. And for his season to unravel as it has is just as unfortunate for him as it is for the team. The irony of Tuesday’s loss was that fans had been upset that Storen and Papelbon weren’t used in the prior series against the Mets at Citi Field. But in a cruel twist of fate, it was Storen who gave up the lead and Papelbon that later allowed the go-ahead home run in the eighth inning.


  1. wmlsays - Sep 9, 2015 at 12:51 PM

    It is what it is. There is another game to be played today. Got to grind it out and hope for the best. Not the best situation to be in, but you’ve got to play on and hope for the best.

    Did I get the spirit right?

    • Section 222 - Sep 9, 2015 at 4:37 PM

      Are you MW’s evil twin?

  2. loudounhound - Sep 9, 2015 at 1:04 PM

    Reposted from end of last thread since I’m very interested if anyone has any insight on whether MW gets in-game advice (and thanks to 106 for the thoughtful reply):

    I have a question for everyone, and please forgive if it’s already been covered. Most contributors to this board want MW fired, as do I. Many have suggested Randy Knorr as at least an interim coach. We’ve seen Knorr make some pretty forceful/unexpected decisions when he runs the show after our manager has been tossed by the umpire. I don’t think I have ever seen MW consulting with Knorr when the camera is on the dugout. Has anyone? It seems like you see other bench coaches side by side with the manager in other dugouts.

    This team has been pretty tight lipped about any possible locker room discord, and I can appreciate all the reasons for not publicly airing disputes. Maybe there are none to report. Or maybe Knorr and MW have such differing opinions and opposite approaches that either, a) MW doesn’t even want to hear Knorr’s in-game opinions, or b) Knorr has long since given up voicing them because they fall on deaf ears. Maybe this is all my imagination in overdrive. Would appreciate your thoughts on the MW/Knorr relationship.

    • nats106 - Sep 9, 2015 at 1:08 PM

      Not that it’s worth re-posting, but I commented a few minutes ago on your question.

      Loudounhound, I don’t think it has been brought up.

      Randy Knorr has had a difficult year-far more difficult than anyone else in the Nationals management organization has endured, despite the lack of on-field performance. I can’t speak to their relationship directly or indirectly, but you just hit on something I never considered-that Williams and Knorr have or had a tight relationship that took a backseat to Randy’s loss of a loved one this season.

      That can be a devastating thing, affecting your work, even though you try hard to not affect it. You also helped me regain some perspective on this season. Some things are just not important as a freakin W/L record in the general scheme of things.

  3. natsfan1a - Sep 9, 2015 at 1:35 PM

    Oof. Haven’t seen any games, being away, but was able to check on game score yesterday via my not-that-smart phone. Top of the 7th, up 7-1 and I’m telling my husband that it’s looking good. Just a few minutes later and it’s 7-6. Oof. Demoralizing enough to see play out via phone score-checks. That must have been a real gut-punch in person. Again. Le. Sigh. Heading home tonight but will check game score before boarding.

    Hey, guys, maybe you can end the series with a curly w, if only to put smiles on the faces of those faithful who will be in the stands tonight, no matter how many butts there may be in the seats (I’m thinking probably as many butts as there are faces, but I digress). Thank you in advance for your kind cooperation. Yours truly, natsfan1a

    • Eugene in Oregon - Sep 9, 2015 at 3:19 PM

      ‘Demoralizing’ is too weak a word.

  4. Nats Fan Zee - Sep 9, 2015 at 2:07 PM

    Want to know how bad it is? Read this from April 29, 2015. It starts:

    “Seeking some experienced help for a bullpen that has struggled through the season’s first three weeks”

    and NEVER finding it … the ENTIRE SEASON!!!!!!

    • Section 222 - Sep 9, 2015 at 4:40 PM

      Valverde and Carpenter. Did Rizzo pick up anyone else for the bullpen after the season started other than Pap. We knew there was a problem in the first month with Janssen hurt when Treinen was not the lights out setup guy Rizzo expected. You might have thought he fixed the problem by signing Pap because surely Storen would be fantastic in the 8th. Little did we know.

  5. Doc - Sep 9, 2015 at 2:12 PM

    Watching Storen walk all those hitters and throw more balls than stikes—what happened, he was totally efficient the first half?????

    Blow a 7-1 lead in the 7th and 8th—no real hope. Only thing left is to wait for next year!

  6. Karl Kolchak - Sep 9, 2015 at 2:17 PM

    Storen’s entire tenure with the Nats has been jinxed. Consider:

    –A top 10 draft pick should NEVER be used on a reliever. A.J. Pollock, Shelby Miller, Mike Trout were all drafted in the 1st round after Storen.

    –Storen being a top 10 pick is probably why he was made the closer over Clippard, who was a better pitcher and had demonstrated in 2009 & 2010 that he deserved the job.

    –Davey Johnson mishandles Storen in the 2012 NLDS–leading to Storen’s first meltdown.

    –Storen’s first meltdown leads to the disastrous signing of Rafael Soriano that offseason.

    –Soriano’s signing costs the Nats a desperately need 1st round pick in 2013.

    –Soriano then blows up in August 2014, necessitating the return of Storen to the closer’s role.

    –Storen second meltdown helps sabotage the Nats in the 2014 NLDS.

    –Yet for some reason, Rizzo trades Clippard instead of Storen this past offseason.

    –Rizzo’s lack of coincidence in Storen leads to the Papelbon trade.

    –Perhaps rattled by the loss of the closer’s job yet again (we’ll never know for sure), Storen suffers a total meltdown that effectively ends the Nats’ 2015 playoff hopes.

    –And to finish it all off, Storen will likely be traded away THIS offseason for pennies on the dollar of the value he had just one year ago.

    • Doc - Sep 9, 2015 at 3:04 PM

      Good summary.

      Storen has gone down-hill from his 43 saves. Time for a trade.

  7. tcostant - Sep 9, 2015 at 3:21 PM

    Now we know what happen, right around the time we gave up the division:

    • Section 222 - Sep 9, 2015 at 4:56 PM

      So did Journey tell the Nats they couldn’t use the song? Or did Charlie and Dave agree that they shouldn’t use a SF band’s song for the Nats win song? I hope it’s the former.

  8. lesatcsc - Sep 9, 2015 at 6:07 PM

    Drew Storen will be an outstanding closer on a bad team He will put up other-wordly numbers, make the all-star team and be generally acclaimed as a superstar, until the team he is on improves and start to play meaningful games and then he will blow up again. It. Is. Who. He. Is. I hope he makes millions pitching for a lousy AL team.





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