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Washington Nationals news & notes: Bullpen action; Victor Robles & offseason work…

More leftover notes and quotes on the Nats as we wait for new news…

Washington Nationals vs New York Mets Set Number: X164114 TK1

Relief Work(ed):

“From July 6 through the end of the [2022] season,” the Nationals wrote in their Season in Review for their ‘22 run, “Washington’s bullpen ranked sixth in Major League Baseball (3rd in the NL) with a 3.11 ERA.” The starting pitching caused all kinds of issues for the Nats, but their relief corps managed to give the club a lot of innings with positive results.

“[The bullpen’s] 1.17 WHIP ranked third and its .228 opponents’ batting average ranked fourth in the National League over this stretch,” they added of the post-July 6th stats.

“The group finished the season strong, pitching to a 1.26 ERA (8 ER/57.1 IP) with a .215 opponents’ average over the last 14 games of the season... The 1.26 ERA was - by far - the best bullpen ERA in baseball over this stretch...The next best bullpen was that of the Chicago Cubs (1.63).

“On the season, the bullpen ranked in the National League in walks per 9.0 innings (5th, 3.32), ERA (6th 3.84), WHIP (7th, 1.28) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (7th, 2.49).

“Our bullpen, I think, was a big strength of ours last year,” manager Davey Martinez told reporters when he spoke at the Winter Meetings in early December, “… but I can’t do that to them this year where they cover so many innings. We’ve definitely got to improve in our starting pitching.”

MLB: SEP 20 Nationals at Braves Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Nationals’ 638 innings pitched by the bullpen were seventh-most in the majors in the 2022 regular season, and as their manager said, they need to get more out of their starting pitching if they’re going to keep their relievers going as well as they were this past year.

“I think we got — our starting pitchers have got to go deeper in games,” he explained. “They really do. If they can do that, I think our bullpen is going to be really, really good again.”

But you can’t abuse/over-use them and expect them to hold up throughout the season.

“These guys endured a lot last year, and they pitched a lot,” Martinez said. “We made — unfortunately, we made a lot of guys one inning-plus guys, which definitely helps. Not just us, but around the league we’ve seen that a lot.

“There’s going to be a lot — we talked a lot this winter about guys we can maybe do that with, that can maybe help us. Whether they were starters before, and we’re going to make them long guys. When we go to Spring Training, we’ll definitely have a plan what guys can really help us out in the bullpen going multiple innings.

“I think it’s going to be important because you never know, right? I think with Josiah [Gray], Cade [Cavalli] comes in, with MacKenzie Gore, and even [Patrick] Corbin, who to me is going to be our workhorse, because he takes the ball five days — I think those guys need to understand that it’s not just five innings. We need them to go six-plus innings and be consistent, throwing 100, 105 pitches.”

Robles’s Winter:

Victor Robles finished his 2022 campaign with a .224/.273/.312 line, 10 doubles, two triples, six home runs, 17 walks, and 104 Ks in 407 plate appearances, over which he was worth +0.3 fWAR, with a .983 fld% in center, a 4.8 UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating), which was up from -0.1 UZR in 2021, and 12 DRS (Defensive Runs Saved), which was up from 0 DRS in ‘21 and -4 in 2020.

His 12 DRS were the most amongst qualified NL center fielders in ‘22, ahead of the San Diego Padres’ Trent Grisham (8 DRS), the Atlanta Braves’ Michael Harris II (8), and Arizona Diamondbacks’ Alek Thomas (6 DRS), and Robles’s UZR (4.8) was second-best, behind only Harris (4.9 UZR), and though he also led qualified NL outfielders in errors (6 total, 3 throwing, 3 fielding) he finished with the most outfield assists (7) on the year.

Robles didn’t win, but he was a finalist for, the NL Gold Glove in center field.

The Nats’ 25-year-old outfielder had a bounce-back season in the field, but at the plate, he’s still a work in progress.

Robles has continued to work on his offense in the Dominican Winter League over the winter.

“Victor went and is playing winter ball,” manager Davey Martinez told reporters at the Winter Meetings last month. “He’s doing really well. Working on some of the things that [Nationals’ Hitting Coach] Darnell [Coles] wanted to work on, and I think Darnell is actually headed over there this coming week to go watch him play a little bit and talk to him.”

As someone who played winter ball in his own playing career, Martinez was asked what he saw as the benefits of going to play more once the MLB season ends.

“Look, I’ll be the first one to tell you it helped me out a lot,” he said.

“I talk about it all the time. I started my career, and I hit .139 in the big leagues. [former Chicago Cubs’ GM] Dallas Green said, What are you going to do this winter? I said, I’m going to go home and work out, get stronger. And he said, ‘No, you’re going to go to winter ball. Play winter ball, and it’s going to help you.’

“And I did, and it really did help me. It helped me know a lot about myself. I worked a lot on just trying to get on base. I really knew what kind of balls, what balls I can hit, and it prepared me a lot better.

“The next year I ended up hitting the ball really well and doing well.”

Martinez hit .292 over 142 games in his second big league run.

“For these guys,” he said of the team he is currently managing, “I encourage these guys to go play winter ball, especially young guys, because it definitely does help them. Definitely helps them how to understand how to hit breaking balls a little better because they do throw a lot of breaking balls there. It does help them just get them to understand themselves.

“The more baseball you play, the more you’re on the field, you get to understand who you are and what you can be.”

Robles played in 17 games back in November/December, going 11 for 54 (.204/.295/.259) at the plate, with a home run, three walks, and 14 strikeouts over 61 plate appearances for Águilas Cibaeñas in the Dominican Winter League.