Just to recap: Entering play on Wednesday, Washington Nationals’ relievers, as a group, had a 5.02 ERA (the NL’s highest), a 4.74 FIP (second-highest), .267 BAA (highest), a .324 BABIP-against (4th-highest), 32 home runs allowed (4th-highest), 1.62 HR/9 (highest), and a 1.42 WHIP (5th highest).
[ed. note - “Be thankful we checked those numbers before the Nationals’ bullpen gave up another six runs in yesterday’s 13-2 loss to the Braves.”]
Earlier this week, after the eleventh blown save of the season by the Nats’ bullpen cost the Nationals another game, manager Dusty Baker voiced his concerns.
“We need some help,” Baker said. “We need some help big time. We’ve been knowing that all along.”
Baker expanded on his thoughts Wednesday afternoon, before the series finale with the Atlanta Braves in the nation’s capital.
By “help” he explained, he meant that the Nationals need a bona fide closer.
“I honestly feel that a bona fide closer would put everybody in a position where they should be,” Baker explained, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.
The lack of one, the veteran skipper said, was forcing the Nationals to use relievers in roles and situations they’re not used to, or, in some cases quite ready for at this point in their careers.
Knowing that you need a closer, and finding one are different matters altogether of course.
The Nationals knew they needed a bullpen arm at the back of the bullpen, that’s why they went after a number of high-end closer’s last winter.
Mark Melancon, acquired by the Nationals last July, opted for free agency at the end of the season, and then signed on in San Francisco this winter.
Kenley Jansen reportedly considered a move across the country from LA to D.C., but ultimately decided to stay in Los Angeles, re-signing with the Dodgers.
The search didn’t end there, as Washington Post writer Barry Svrluga noted in a story on the Nationals’ bullpen woes this week:
“[A]ccording to people with knowledge of the situation, the Nats don’t have David Robertson of the White Sox because, when an offseason trade was in place, the club’s ownership balked. The Nats don’t have Greg Holland, the former closer for the Royals coming back from injury, because when a deal was in place, the Lerner family wouldn’t approve it. Holland now has a 1.14 ERA and has saved all 23 of his opportunities for Colorado, which leads the NL West.”
Either of those relievers would surely have helped Washington, and, as Baker said, they would have pushed the other bullpen arms they had in-house back into positions they had excelled in previously.
Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo and the Co. in the Nats’ front office knew there was a need, they tried to fill it before the start of the season, and they’re still trying now, as Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies on Wednesday morning.
“Hey, the bullpen is struggling, we get it,” Rizzo said when asked about the continuing issues.
“We’re trying to find ways to remedy it. We’re trying to fix things from internally, of course we’re looking outwardly, and it’s something that was not unexpected. We saw this coming into the season, we tried to make some moves in the offseason. We tried to acquire some of the elite closers, we didn’t get them, and so now we have to keep looking. Keep fighting and keep grinding.”
Trevor Gott was called up this week. Top prospect Erick Fedde, who converted to relief work full time at Double-A was promoted to Triple-A Syracuse.
No one is telling the Nationals anything new with the constant talk and articles about the bullpen needing help.
“We’re evaluators for a living,” Rizzo said. “That’s what we do. We get it. I know the strengths and weaknesses of this team better than anybody.
“So, we know where our faults are, we’re trying to address them. We’re trying different ways to combat the problem.
“The main problem that we have to combat, the easiest fix, is for the pitchers that we have that have a track record and history of pitching well, to pitch towards their career norms. If we do that, we’re not talking about this.”
“We’re certainly not satisfied with where we’re at as far as what our bullpen is and how they’re performing,” Rizzo continued.
“I get that. All the media hype about ownership not allowing us to do things and that type of thing — this roster, this organization is constructed by me.
“Everything lays at my front door. And we’re working on it. It’s a difficult thing to do, to improve yourself during the season, and especially when you’re one of the lead dogs.
“Because when you’re leading nobody wants to help you, everybody wants to hurt you and take from you, and that’s just the way this game is and that’s what I love about it.”