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Dave Martinez chooses consistency over platoon advantages in Washington Nationals’ bullpen...

The Washington Nationals’ manager has done his best not to disrupt his top relievers’ rhythm so far this season.

MLB: New York Mets at Washington Nationals Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

When the Washington Nationals hired skipper Dave Martinez last offseason, they were looking for a fresh approach to the game. Previous managers Dusty Baker and Davey Johnson were about as old school as it gets and Matt Williams was inconsistent with his decision making.

Martinez is widely considered to be among the analytical crowd, utilizing sabermetrics to make managerial decisions. So far, however, there’s been an aspect to his in-game management that hasn’t fit that mold: bullpen management.

Washington relievers have tossed a combined 31.2 innings thus far. Amazingly, 27 of those frames have both started and ended with the same pitcher on the mound. In Sunday night’s extra-inning loss to the Mets, five of the six Nationals relievers to appear in the game toed the rubber for their three outs then handed the ball to the next man up.

Baseball’s new-age managerial style calls for taking advantage of platoon splits as frequently as possible. Entering Sunday, the Nats had a relief pitcher on the mound with a platoon advantage against just 61 batters on the year — or 47.3 percent of total batters faced by a reliever. That percentage comes out to the fourth lowest in the league, trailing only the Marlins, Pirates and Mariners.

A great deal of this is due to the fact that Brandon Kintzler entered the season assigned to the seventh inning, Ryan Madson owned rights to the eighth and Sean Doolittle had the title of closer. The trio has combined for 14 of the team’s relief innings and typically handles high-leverage situations late in games that might call for platoon advantages.

Nevertheless, it’ll be worth watching whether Martinez decides to switch things up in the middle innings if Kintzler continues to struggle. The former Twins closer pitched in all three games of the series with the Mets and allowed a combined seven earned runs.

Kintzler has reverse splits, doing much better against lefties (.642 career OPS against) than righties (.734). Martinez didn’t take advantage of those numbers, as all six hits Kintzler gave up to Mets hitters in the series were out of the right-handed batter’s box.

With Shawn Kelley starting off the season strong, he could potentially team up with Kintzler to form a potent duo to handle the sixth and seventh innings. Kelley’s best season with Washington came in 2016, when he held righties to just a .176 average with 54 strikeouts. If he’s truly returned to form, the Nats would have the reliable bridge for the middle innings that the team has lacked in years past.

Of course, Martinez could opt to stay the course and stick with the Kintzler-Madson-Doolittle combo that worked so well in the second half of last season. Players like to have established roles and Kintzler even said as much about a situation in which Baker mishandled getting him into a game.

“No one knows — ‘OK, do you have the seventh inning or do I have the eighth? What’s going to happen today?’ That gets kind of confusing,” Kintzler told Grant & Danny on 106.7 The Fan in December. “It messes up your routine a little bit. We’re so routine-oriented down there, to where when they ran out 7-8-9, the last two months, we knew exactly what we were going to do. When you know you can prepare for that inning, I think that’s why we were so dominant.”

Athletes are creatures of habit and one can hardly blame Martinez for sticking with a formula that worked so well in 2017. If the results don’t begin to improve, however, he may have to consider making some tweaks to the way he handles his bullpen.