Nationals Baseball: Who should be the closer?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Who should be the closer?

Shawn Kelley

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Shawn Kelley is the best, most proven reliever the Nats have. His K/9 is fantastic (over 11.5 over the past 4 seasons). His BB/9 has moved steadily down from a "uh-oh one of these guys" 3.88 to 3.48 to 2.63 to a "did somebody say elite?" 1.71. His HR/FB is perfectly reasonable.  His percentage of hard hit balls is not high. His LD% is low. 

Blake Treinen is a GB specialist.  Over 65% last year and never under 59% in the majors. Along with the groundball inducing good sinker comes a lot of mediocre contact (Hard% on the low side). However, he  doesn't strike out nearly as many (K/9 around 8.5 over past 2 years), and walks way too many (over 4.00). Plus his HR/FB is higher (though not terrible). With not too much bad luck a Treinen outing can go horribly wrong.

Koda Glover is an unknown. In the minors he has great stuff (K/9 of 10.6 in upper minors) and very good control for his age and that stuff (2.2 BB/9).  He seemed to be unhittable as well, having a hits per 9 of under 7 across every level since being in the Nats organization*. There's also less than 100IP total for Koda and he hasn't pitched more than 24 innings at any level. That means there has never been time for the level to adjust to him. He also seemed to have issues pitching with men on - showing a horrible LOB% and allowing 2 of 6 inherited runners to score. Small sample size? Almost certainly. However it highlights that Glover is an unknown more than anything.

In short, guys don't hit Kelley well, they don't get on base against him, and if he needs to he can strike them out. Guys hit Treinen terribly, but they can get on base against him, and he can't necessarily dial up the big strikeout. Guys hit Glover worst of all, they don't usually get on base against him, and he can strike them out as well, but these "guys" are almost all minor leaguers.

So Shawn Kelly is objectively most likely to give you the best major league results.  By the whole "closers are stupid" philosophy, shouldn't he NOT be pitching in the ninth? Sure. If this were a perfect world. I'll give you a moment to check on that.

...

Not perfect, huh? You see if Shawn Kelley isn't the closer then he'll be tied to some other role, likely 8th inning guy so what exactly does it matter where he is in this stupid one-set inning food chain? If Dusty were going to break with tradition and use him all over the place then maybe I'd say don't use him as closer but I don't have faith in that. Therefore - might as well give him the inning that's most likely to find itself with high leverage situations.

Another benefit of Kelley the closer - limited innings. Kelley doesn't have any flaws when he can get the ball from the mound to the catcher, but his career is already filled with injuries and last year ended with a dead arm in a playoff game. Closers, because they are used very specifically, pitch fewer innings than even the 7th/8th inning types who are more frequently called on to get an extra out or pitch in closer or tied games. It's possibly smart to limit his innings and sticking him in this role may serve that purpose, if secondarily.


*Kelley and Treinen were both this low last year, too. But historically have been higher so there's more a chance of them being a little easier to hit.

17 comments:

Ole PBN said...

My thoughts exactly - Kelley is the man for the job. If an injury arises, we'll see how the season goes, but I've always like what I've seen from Glover.

Dusty's Toothpick said...

The way Dusty is using Koda Glover in S.T. points to him being the closer. As much as I like seeing Kelley on the mound I feel like Glover has that Chapman/ closer aura about him, I mean he pretty much has the Wild Thing haircut too. 7- Treinen 8 - Kelley 9 - Glover seems rather tasty if they can make their pitches.

Chas R said...

This makes the most sense and pretty much what I thought all along. I do think they should keep Glover in the bullpen rather than send him to AAA. We have seen hat he can do int he minors, let's see if he can have some consistency in the bigs before we put him in the 9th inning.

Fries said...

@ Dusty's Toothpick

I think Dusty's using Glover that way right now because he wants to get a feel for the kid (like Harper said, limited exposure at any level so far) whereas he knows what he's getting with Kelley and Treinen. Granted you've been chilling in his mouth, so you can hear his mutterings better than the rest of us

G Cracka X said...

I'm a bit concerned about the batted ball profile. While many other stats look good, Mr. Kelley ranked 93rd out of 130 relievers with at least 50IP in Lowest Hard Contact%, and 108th among the same group in Highest Soft Contact%.

Bjd1207 said...

I think you glossed over the injury/dead-arm stuff WAYYY to quickly Harper. Sure the innings totals at the end of the season for closers may be less, but they also have the most regular back to back usage (not researched at all, completely gut/analytical).

Basically if Kelley closes out a win in game 2 of a series, will he be ready for a save situation in game 3? If not, I don't know why you would put that guy in a full time closer role. If you want him there for as many opportunities as possible, then you MUST accept a less conventional bullpen structure where you have someone regularly closing games when Kelley's not available. A "backup closer" of sorts

Josh Higham said...

Bjd has a point here. Looking over last year's game log, I only see one stretch where he pitched 3 days in a row (4 of 5 in the same stretch). May 5-8 against the Cubs (5-10 and also the Tigers for the five day stretch). But, notably, only 2 IP in those three games (0.1, 1.0, 0.2). A handful of 3 appearances in 4 days, usually with one of those being a single out. So last year at least, he didn't give us much reason to believe he could handle that deadly 3-days-in-a-row closer thing.

But on the other hand, if Dusty uses Kelley like a traditional closer (3 in a row sometimes, 4 off days in a row, etc) and Kelley's arm blows up late in the season, at least the Nats get lots of saves out of him and hopefully Glover looks like a Major League closer by then.

PhthePhillies said...

Off topic, but Tanner looked great last night!! So happy to see him getting much deserved national recognition.
One of the best stories in baseball...

sirc said...

Assuming that he isn't in pain tomorrow, Max is back. 4 2/3 (73 pitches) on 3/22 is all caught up.

Donald said...

What I would do is name Kelley as the 'primary' closer but I wouldn't pitch him 3 days in a row. If a save is needed on that third day, I'd use Glover. The hope would be that you'd both preserve Kelley and get to see how Glover handles the role.

Jay said...

I think they are pitching Glover in the 9th bc he if primarily facing minor league hitters at that point. I think Treinen is too hittable. While the groundball is great. He walks too many hitters and sometimes those ground balls go through the infield. I'm hoping this experiment works this year. If it does then the Nats are saving a ton of money on their bullpen - Treinen, Solis, Glover, Romero are all under team control. Kelley is signed for a total of 3 years (2 years remaining on his contract) for a total of $15 million. Blanton was signed cheaply. Oliver Perez was signed last year for 2 years and $7 million. If it blows up in their face we are all going to wish they would have spent more on Melancon. They can always to trade for someone too. They still have some guys that will likely be in AAA this year - Gott, Grace, maybe even one of the people I mentioned already if they keep Nathan (I don't think they keep Nathan).

Ole PBN said...

Grace isn't anything to get excited about. A filler arm at best. As for Gott, I don't like what I've seen from him, but certainly not ready to write him off. Hopefully he figures it out. I love Romero over Perez as an alternate lefty to Solis.

Dusty's Toothpick said...

@fries straight chillin'.....



If Joe Blanton can stay healthy and his age (36) doesn't catch up with him expect him to be right in the mix in that 7th & 8th inning role making Treinen more of a DP specialist/matchup guy. If you watch as many Nats games as I do you have the feeling that when the season is hanging in the balance Treinen just seems very shakey....I know he has dirty stuff and a great spin rate but....still doesn't have that "I'm throwing nails" vibe that Glover & Kelley seem to have. Basically, someone that is competing for the 9th inning can't be as nice as Blake Treinen seems to be.

JE34 said...

@DT -- Treinen's best weapon is a pitch that leaves the zone. We have seen him come in mid-inning with ducks on the pond, and he *seems* to do well in those spots (would love fancy stats to confirm my feelings). We have not seen Blake as Closer. I don't see Blake-the-nice-guy as a factor... it's more to do with hitters IDing the slider and laying off... forcing him into those gotta-throw-fastball situations, which don't seem to end well for him (again would love confirmation of my feelings).

When Treinen has one of those days when he can throw the slider for a strike, he is deadly... because then hitters have to say, "Crap - I can't lay off the slider now." If he can cultivate some variation in his fastball, he could be Melancon-esque or better (because he throws harder).

blovy8 said...

In this case, I think the pressure is internal, since all of these guys probably want that job, for monetary reasons if nothing else, and every inning is a new test.
I don't know how Treinen can make a better case than 8 k's in 4 innings, no walks and one hit. Except maybe that it's only four innings... But I doubt it even matters, three blown saves and the next guy is the antacid queen. Judging by your write-up, even if there's some information to go on, for Kelley, chances are the mileage negates it, the lack of info for Glover, and command and change-up effectiveness for Treinen renders the project mostly useless since those are pretty big factors. Bullpens are littered with former and future closers. What if the White Sox decide to get a real fire sale going early and take less for Robertson just to tank the whole season? I mean, is there a point to keeping anyone on that team making eight figures, since they probably should be trying to lose this year for a higher draft position? It's not like the Cubs won't be getting the majority of Chicago fans anyway.

If it were me - I would try use Treinen as much as possible as the fireman/DP guy, and keep three lefties. Sinkers like usage and he seems to be the healthiest guy out there. Solis can work as the long man, with a little more regular work thrown in to keep him sharp, but monitored. Romero and Lopez mostly against lefties. Glover and Kelley close, probably depending on usage, matchups and rest requirements, but mostly Glover unless he shows he can't do it. I don't buy his career getting ruined by blown saves if it happens. Kelley can do it, but I worry about overuse with him more, and he's just as valuable in the 7th or 8th and a known quantity there. The gopher ball then hurts too, but maybe you get a few more at-bats to fix it. Just a slight preference, and maybe that came with more fastball usage for him and he adjusts again - who knows? Blanton sets up. I'm thinking now that they've put significantly more effort into player health, the Nats should go with the next trend and emphasize rest. That means all these guys work in a regular pattern if at all possible, rather than sporadically. Baker designates days off for his regulars, he should do that for his relievers.

Sammy Kent said...

The answer to the question is Mark Melancon. However...........

Sean Kelly makes me as nervous as Goggles used to. But so does everybody else out there.

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