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11/18/07 The Washington Nationals Bullpen...Don't Trade Chad Cordero Just Yet, Please?

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     The Washington Nationals finished the 2007 Season with the fourth-ranked bullpen in the the National League (9th overall in the Majors), led by Chad Cordero's (3-3) record, 3.36 ERA, 37 saves and 76 appearances and Jon Rauch's (8-4) record, 3.61 ERA and team leading 88 late game assignments.

     Saul Rivera (4-6, 3.68), Jesus Colome (5-1, 3.82) and Luis Ayala (2-2, 3.19) were probably the next three most effective Nationals' arms out of the pen, with Jonathan Albaladejo (1-1, 1.88) finishing strong after a late-season call-up, and an assortment of lefties including Micah Bowie (4-3, 4.55) and Billy Traber (2-2, 4.76) contributing one batter, inning, or mop-up job at a time.

    The Washington bullpen, (30-27, 3.81) as a staff, finished behind only San Diego (30-25, 3.01), Atlanta (26-20, 3.54), and the Chicago Cubs (21-27, 3.76) in the NL according to esp.com's "Team Aggregate Stats" and covers.com's "MLB Bullpen Statistics", and the Nationals threw more frames than any team that finished in the Top Ten in Innings in the League.

     Chad Cordero converted just 37 of 46 save opportunities in 2007, with well-documented familial issues undoubtedly to blame for his early season struggles when the Flat-Brimmed Closer blew 4 of his first 8 chances, but that stretch was followed by just 5 blown saves in 38 closing jobs the rest of the season.

     Right behind Cordero out of the bullpen, Jon Rauch had what might be considered his second straight breakthrough season, during which he apparently convinced many in the Nationals organization that Chad Cordero has become expendable if the right trade arises.

    Improving on a 2006 season in which he went (4-5) with a 3.35 ERA in 91.1 innings with 36 walks, 86 K's, 34 earned runs allowed and 13 HR's, Jon Rauch, in 2007, led the Nationals in wins with his (8-4) record exclusively as a reliever, with a slightly higher 3.61 ERA, one more run with 35 earned against him, but also less HR's allowed with just 7, and fifteen less walks than in '06 with just 21 issued in 87.1 innings.

    As a staff, the Nationals issued the fifth-highest walk total in the NL with 226 free passes issued, and collected the seventh-highest strikeout total with 426 on the season, while their BAA(Batting Average Against) of .253, ranked ninth-overall, and all for a team that finished the season (73-89), in fourth place in the NL East, and tied for 11th out of 16 National League teams.

     According to Minorleaguebaseball.com's "Season In Review 2007", the Nationals might want to think twice before trading Cordero or Rauch.

http://web.minorleaguebaseball.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20071012&content_id=310509&vkey=news _milb&fext=.jsp

     Adam Carr was singled out for praise by MLB/MiLB writer Kevin T. Czerwinski, who wrote in his article, "Prospects emerge for Nationals" that:

          "Adam Carr, RHP: The Oklahoma State product had a
          splendid season, splitting time between Potomac and
          Harrisburg. He went 4-1 with 12 saves and a 1.78 ERA in
          48 appearances. In 60 2/3 frames, he fanned 78 and
          limited the opposition to a .175 batting average. A former
          first baseman in college, Carr seems to have found a
          niche on the mound, even though he didn't pitch as a
          senior."

     While Zechry "Zech" Zinicola, 2006's Nationals Minor League Player of the Year, Mr. Czerwinski writes, had:

          "... A 1.65 ERA in 33 innings spread over three levels --
          including 10 innings at Double-A Harrisburg --(in 2006
          and) had folks salivating in Washington following
          Zinicola's rookie season. But he struggled this year,
          posting a 5.46 ERA in 57 2/3 frames with Harrisburg. He
          started out the season as the club's closer, but after
          converting two of five opportunities -- his ERA was 8.84
          in April and May -- he became more of a setup man after
          working his way back into the closer's role in August."

     31 year-old Chris Booker recorded the most saves at the Nationals Triple-AAA affiliate in Columbus in 2007, while 25 year-old Brett Campbell and Zincola led the Double-AA Harrisburg Senators with 9 and 6 saves, respectively. 10 of Adam Carr's 12 saves came at Class-A Potomac.

     So...The Nationals, if they were to trade Chad Cordero, would be relying solely on Jon Rauch, and, if forced, possibly Luis Ayala, as the only Major League-ready talent available for the closer's role in the team's system.

     If the Nationals bullpen, as it's currently comprised, finished 4th overall in the NL, while the team finished 11th, and starting pitching is once again a major issue, heading into '08, why are the Nationals still considering trading Chad Cordero?

*BULLPEN STAT LINKS*

espn.com's "Team Aggregate Stats 2007":

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/stats/aggregate?sort=ERA&split=128&group=8&season=2007& ;seasonType=2&statType=pitching&type=reg

covers.com's "Major League Baseball Bullpen Statistics":

http://www.covers.com/pageLoader/pageLoader.aspx?page=/data/mlb/statistics/2007/bullpenstatistics_ml b_regular.html&t=0

washington.nationals.com's Team Stats page:

http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/stats/sortable_player_stats.jsp?c_id=was

washington.nationals.mlb.com's Nationals Minor League affiliates page:

http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/mlb/minorleagues/team_index.jsp?c_id=was