Commenter Will questions why I think the Nats bullpen will be better this year than last year besides the simple "they can't possibly be that bad" return to mere awful from historically bad. No, it's not because the Nats brought back Mac the Ninth, I'm not sure why they did that. Nor is it because I think that the arms in this year's pen are that much better than those the Nats had going at the end of last year. It's because it took the Nats a hell of a long time to get those arms together.
Ron Villone came around on May 7th, about a fifth of the season in. Mike MacDougal had his first outing on May 29th. Tyler Clippard didn't get going until the very end of June. Sean Burnett started throwing for the Nats on July 1st. While this year's squad may not be substantially better than that bunch, they'll all be here come Day 1. That's the difference.
Which Nats made the Opening Day 25 man roster as relievers last year, and where are they now?
The quality arms
Joe Beimel : he's good as a LOOGY and just resigned with the Rockies.
Joel Hanrahan : a talent that may or may not put it together. He'll make the Pirates opening day roster if he's healthy.
Mike Hinkley : Orioles, will not make the opening day roster.
Wil Ledezma : Pirates, will not make the opening day roster, also recovering from injury.
Saul Rivera : Indians, might make opening day roster.
Steven Shell : Mariners, will not make opening day roster.
Julian Tavarez: Went unsigned after being DFA'd, retired from baseball.
So out of 7 pitchers (the Nats only carried 4 starters to begin last season) 5 of them are not good enough to make the opening day roster of a major league team a mere 365 days later. That's how bad the bullpen was that the Nats began last season with. Two major league quality arms to pitch in relief. (Ok Saul was quality at one point and could be again, but he wasn't last year)
Capps, Bruney, Bergmann, Clippard, Burnett and ?. There has to be at least 3 arms in that bunch don't you think?