Nationals Baseball: Under the Shadow of the Flat Brim

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Under the Shadow of the Flat Brim

I'm a hack!

Really I'm just bored. The Nats losing a game because the B-Team bullpen (not Glover, Kelley) blew things the day after one of the rare, not typical, travel situations isn't a surprise. I figured this for a loss. So rather than talk about Enny Romero (sure he had two-outs but I'm not sure he threw a strike to Story), or try to excuse Blake Treinen (sinkerballers may have tough times in Coors because the ball will sink less), and as I wait patiently for Zimm to hit my self imposed May 1 or 100 PA deadline on looking at his stuff, I figure I'll tackle an enduring "mystery" of the Nats in a completely not serious post.

I'll tackle the Curse of Cordero.

In 2005 at age 23 Chad Cordero was named the Nats closer and successfully closed 47 games, made the All-Star game, even finished 5th in Cy Young voting (all it means is he got a vote but yes that happened). He would be the rare bright spot for the post inaugural Nats saving 29 in 2006 and 37 in 2007. He was the 2nd youngest player to hit 100 saves. But in April of 2008 he tore his shoulder and that's death. He was never the same after that and some say that upon being non-tendered by Bowden on a sports talk radio show (Bowden was the worst) he cursed the position of closer for the Nats.

Let us examine the doomed careers of those who followed "Under the Shadow of the Flat Brim" (that's what I'm calling the book I'm pitching as a hacky beat writer trying to find a niche that'll get me PAID)

2008 - Jon Rauch - took over for Chad, successful and promptly traded to Arizona where he was a bust. Only 38 saves post Nats career, bounced around for a couple years and career was over at 33

2008/2009 - Joel Hanrahan - took over for Rauch. Handed job for 2009, before he was done had a 1-3 record, with 5 blown saves in 10 attempts. Traded to Pittsburgh that same year. Tommy John would end his career at 31

2009 - Mike MacDougal - "Mac the Ninth" took over for Hanrahan. Non tendered by team after season. Spent most of post Nats career throwing to a 6.00+ ERA in AAA.

2010 - Matt Capps - Signed to take over duties. Traded to Minnesota before years end. After 1 and a half decent years, injured and at age 28 was never seen in the big leagues AGAIN.

2011-2015 Drew Storen - Drafted to be the closer. Immediate success, but injured. Came back in 2012 to reclaim duties right before playoffs. Successful twice before losing G5 and prompting Lerners to bring in Soriano and break Storen's little brain. Would go back and forth between successful closer, playoff disappointment, and replaced head-case 8th inning man. Traded to Toronto where he promptly wasn't named closer and again busted. Currently in Cincinnati doing well because they've convinced him he's part closer. Meltdown to come if not closer by Memorial Day

2012 - Brad Lidge - We do not talk about Brad Lidge with the Nationals other than to say his last pitch was made in this uniform.

2012 - Henry Rodgriguez - H-Rod, as he was unaffectionately known, was given the chance to close early in 2012 along with Lidge while Storen was out. Walked everyone. Walked right out of game two years later at age 27

2012 - Tyler Clippard - The "Best Middle Reliever in Baseball History" Clippard took over after the Lidge/H-Rod plan imploded and successfully conquered the closer job but Storen came back and the Nats wanted him as closer so back he went to middle relief. Eventually traded to Oakland in 2015 where he successfully closed for most of the year, but was traded to the Mets to do middle relief. Now successful in middle relief in NYY. NO CURSE CAN STOP CLIPPARD.

2013 - Rafael Soriano - Brought here after the G5 debacle because Scott Boras knows when you are most vulnerable, Soriano was a functional reliver for almost 2 years before his arm gave out. He would lose his role back to Storen and pretty much be done with baseball after that.

2015 - Johnathan Papelbon - Traded for in late July 2015 because Storen couldn't save G1 of the NLDS the year before. Papelbon would choke Bryce but because the Nats had no better options he stared 2016 as closer. He made it about half a year before flaming out and ending his career.

Successful closer careers that died in Washington? Check. Arms that couldn't pitch more than a couple of years before succumbing to the curse? Check. Drew Storen? Check.

Does this speak more to the choices the Nats have made? Perhaps. Does this speak more to the fragility of the relief arm? Perhaps. Does this ignore the good pre-injury performances like Hanrahan's back to back All-Star years, and Matt Capps successful Minnesota run to misrepresent the situation? Perhaps. Does this ignore Mark Melancon who will likely be pretty good for a few years for San Fran? Perhaps.

However some will always believe that there can be no saving the saver when he toils "Under the Shadow of the Flat Brim" HHAHAHAHAHHA!

(Except Tyler Clippard - He's awesome)

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

You're just on the Clippard train because you're a damn yankee fan, Harper. His FIP is garbage since leaving the Nats and he'll come down to Earth in a flaming heap of walks, just you wait!

Harper said...

Nah Clippard won me over when he forced me to eat my hat. http://natsbaseball.blogspot.com/2012/01/hat-eating.html

JE34 said...

The Cordero Curse can only be overcome by licking one's entire hand before throwing the ball. Thus the success of Tyler Clippard.

Carl said...

H-Rod had his issues, but he pitched the single best inning I think I've ever seen in person. Last home game in 2011. 11 pitches, 9 fastballs (7 100 MPH+) and 2 knee-buckling sliders. David Ross tried to bunt with two strikes because he knew he couldn't actually hit anything ol' Hank was throwing. So awesome, and sadly not repeatable.

Josh Higham said...

Wow. I can finally identify the sandwich on Harper's twitter. It's a HAT. And here I was convinced that I was reading a blog written by a sentient sandwich.

Sammy Kent said...

No mention of Mark Melancon?

And who started this Tyler Clippard cult and why does it persist? To use your term, Harper, Clippard is "awesome" at the late inning disastrous dinger...fabulous at getting two quick outs, walking the third guy and grooving a two run tater maker to the fourth. He did well enough for the Mets because Terry Collins is the only manager that had enough sense to get him out of the game immediately if he let someone get on. Since I don't watch AL ball, I really neither know nor care how he's performing for the Yankees. But if Girardi is using him like his counterpart in Queens did and getting him off the mound before he has time to do any damage in the eighth or ninth innings, kudos to Joe.

That said, there's nobody we've had as a closer that hasn't made me nervous, though Melancon less so than anyone else. I'd love for Rizzo to figure out a deal with Boston for Craig Kimbrell.

Fries said...

@Sammy

No way Boston coughs up Kimbrel. Sure we could offer them Robles, but they've got Benintendi, Betts, and JBJ roaming the outfield through 2020. Robles would be of no value to them. So then who do you offer? Rizzo sold the farm to get Eaton (not that I'm arguing with that, I liked the deal) so he's pretty hamstrung at this point and really should have been given the leeway to sign Holland. But hindsight is 20/20

Harper said...

Josh - Who says it isn't?

Sammy - because the situation you described really didn't happen that much. We can check his HR log and I can tell you maybe 12-15 times over hundreds of appearances with his time with the Nats. And that's not even thinking about how many of those were important or not. If you hold a grudge against Clippard for losing impt games with late inning bombs you are probably holding like 6 games against hims over the course of 6 seasons. That's pretty unfair.

If there's a fair complaint to have against Clippard it would be that he doesn't buckle down if he doesn't need to. He can be prone to the walk or solo shot when he has that leeway. But he's been generally better over the course of his career when things get more important (high leverage sitautions)

Josh Higham said...

Sammy, last time you made this argument I presented evidence that in terms of home runs Clippard compares fairly well to Rivera and Hoffman, two all-time great closers. IN terms of home runs allowed, he is not elite, but totally respectable, and in particular, per BR only 23 of his 76 homers allowed came in high leverage situations. Apparently this didn't sway you, so here is some data from Fangraphs.

In high leverage situations, the slash line against Clippard is .169/.278/.298. Only 12 home runs allowed in those situations. 2.4/1 K/BB rate. 1.02 WHIP. This guy has been great in high leverage situations. The best years of his career were 2011, 2013, and 2014, for your Washington Nationals. I find it unfathomable that harbor such ardent dislike for a guy who did so much for the team you love.

Josh Higham said...

Harper, now I'm forced to consider the possibility that this blog is written by a sentient cannibal sandwich. This is too much.

cass said...

Four of the top fifteen relievers by WAR, 2010-2017 have pitched for the Nats at some point or another.

http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=rel&lg=all&qual=y&type=8&season=2017&month=0&season1=2010&ind=0&team=0&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0

By RA9-WAR, Tyler Clippard moves up to 9th best in baseball over that span:

http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=rel&lg=all&qual=y&type=6&season=2017&month=0&season1=2010&ind=0&team=0&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0&sort=3,d

Harper said...

Josh - different sandwiches are like different species. No cannibalism.

cass / Josh - at some point in the offseason I might do a Clippard "best MR ever" post because I have looked at it before. He's not there yet - I forget the names that pass him under my restrictions I think Jeff Nelson is one - but it's not a performance thing it's a innings thing which he's young enough to keep adding on.

Sammy - yeah - no way ion Kimbrel. He's their closer! You want a more likely potential Rizzo target? How about Roberto Osuna of Toronto?

Sen_Exp_Nat_Fan said...

Clippard was great for the Nats and deserved the closer role. I hate you Storen. And his warmup song was "Ready or Not"...cmon. I am on the Clip train big time. He is off to a good start this year, can we bring him back?

Dusty's Toothpick said...

I think you can add the death of the 2017 closer Blake Treinen albeit a short chapter, especially after last night. He definitely has the "my dog just died look" when he takes the mound even though he is back in his spot from 16'. smh

Zimmerman11 said...

wanted to get a split... so lets get two of these three... and hit NYM square in the mouth this weekend...

woulda felt better about chances of getting a split, obv, if Zimmerman's HR had held up last night.

Ole PBN said...

Anyone ever wonder why most teams don't bring back fan favorites? Why we didnt bring back Michael Morse as a bench guy from 2014-2015 is beyond me. Or Desmond after last year's resurgence. Clippard is the same deal. I think back to the Red Sox not bringing back Nomar or Papelbon later in their career to fill a role. Is it because they would not be used in the same way as when they were with the team before, so it would "look weird" or cause unrest in the locker room? I don't know. I can see Rizzo & Co. saying "that ship has sailed. Plus, its just fans pining for the past. Not gonna happen. Let's look at every other player except for him."

In so many cases, a team has a need, a former fan favorite is out there an available, and almost NEVER comes back. Not only do they not come back, they aren't even part of the discussion as possible solutions.

Bjd1207 said...

@Ole PBN - I think part of it is that a guys like the veterans are guaranteed to be just a stop gap. In my opinion its much better to try and fill that role with someone younger, or soon to be a FA, so you can solidify that for multiple years. And you can also "discover" good players by utilizing them in those bench roles. If I have the option to fill my bench with veteran fan favorites or young "Maybes" then I pick the maybes on the off-chance that they break out into something bigger

BxJaycobb said...

High leverage situations like Game 5? BOOM.

BxJaycobb said...

Harper:
Possible closer candidates at deadline (note that some of these, particularly non rentals would 100% require Robles);
Colome of Rays.
Osuna BlueJays
Herrera KC
My dream (would require Robles and mariners imploding and doing total rebuild): Edwin Diaz (I think he's fine btw...just pitched too much in WBC
Doolittle (As)
Wade Davis if Rockies fall off...I actually think they and DBacks both have decent chance to be in the WC race once dodgers pass them, given how mediocre the WC type teams look in NL (Giants, cards, pirates, even Mets thus far)

Section 139 said...

The "closer" position is cursed because of it's chock full of mediocre pitchers that ride a hot streak over a small sample size of innings in a game where successful batters reach base only 30% of the time. This isn't limited to the Nats.

There are only a few true closers in baseball. A lot of guys get the title, but it doesn't mean anything. It's like being called a Consultant in DC. Most of us - yes I'm a (senior!) consultant too - sit in seats, do our jobs, and muddle through problems. At the end of the day, we eat through hours with some modicum of success with ups and downs over our careers. Analogy over...don't want to beat it to death...

But people get the title because they're the guy that happens to go into the 9th inning not because they actually have a well-documented history of closing opposing batters down.

Bjd1207 said...

You would do Robles for Diaz? That's crazy talk

Harper said...

Bx - I'd argue he was the 3rd most successful Nats pitcher (out of 6) that day!

Harper said...

BJD - yeah I'm not doing that right now. Obviously there's some SSS going on here but the kid is likely AA ready at age 21 (May 21st).

Sammy Kent said...

Everybody said the Braves would never part with Kimbrell either. But they did. Everybody said the Reds would never part with Todd Frazier. But they did.
I realize getting Kimbrell is a pipe dream, but it's because Mike Rizzo doesn't do blockbuster trades....not because the other team won't part. Which is why I worded my thought as I did: I wish Rizzo would figure out a deal to get Kimbrell. But he is neither creative enough nor ballsy enough to even discuss it.

As for Clippard: Harper WAS discussing closers, after all, and that is the context that I am discussing Tyler Clippard. The stats on Goggles don't tell the whole story. Statistics never do. Nonetheless they all strongly re-iterate that while Clippard was a pretty good long man and a good set-up guy, he was way too undependable as a closer. If he had been that good he'd still be here pitching the ninth inning. In 2012 he blew save opportunities at a rate of about 15%, blowing five of 37 chances. That is NOT being an elite closer. (For example, Mark Melancon last year failed only four times in 47 chances.)

In 2014 he led the majors in holds....but had only one save and six blown saves--all of which came with no inherited runners to blame. So, you can tout only 12 HR's in all of his "high leverage" appearances (which includes much more than save situations), but it's clear that virtually all of them came in the "high leverage" situations known as the closer's role, where you can least afford them. That's why guys like Soriano and Storen and Papelbon got the job and he didn't keep it.

The idea that I "hate" Goggles is just wrong. Back in the day, I rooted hard for him to be the closer. I thought he was the guy to get the job done. Tyler Clippard was a very integral part of the Nats' success when he was here. Still, the further from the end of the game you use him, the better off you are. This legend that has grown up that he was some sort of pitching paragon, especially as a ninth inning guy is just very misplaced nostalgia for something that never was.

Jay said...

Too bad Greg Holland wasn't available on the cheap for 1 or 2 years. Oops. I think the problem is that Rizzo can't bring himself to spend big money on a closer. The word on the interwebs is that the Melancon offer was so badly backloaded that the offer was rejected pretty much immediately. I think Rizzo made the Eaton trade (which is still debatable in its merits) bc he was hoping to sneak in and get Chapman at the last minute. I'm glad they didn't get him. The Yankees are rather tone deaf to have him as the calendar photo for domestic violence awareness month. (Sorry Yankees fans but it is true) I think they made a little more effort to get Jansen. But when the Dodgers increased their offer to within $5 million of the Nats; the Nats should have increased their offer. Anyway, now they are stuck in need of a closer. I still say sign Wieters to an extension. Trade Severino and some change to get Robertson. Pay all of Robertson's remaining salary. Severino is hitting .190 at AAA this year. No way they have what it takes to get Colome.

Anonymous said...

To your point of Severino hitting .190 in AAA this year - what makes you think the White Sox will make that trade? Severino and some change? Severino IS the change! Typical overvalue of prospects by the fanbase...

mike k said...

Sammy - the problem with your analysis is that a "blown save" can occur any time during the game. So it's not that he had one save and six blown saves in 2014 - it's that he led the league in holds with only six blown saves. That's not bad. Same probably holds true to your 15% "blown save rate" in 2012. I also disagree that Clippart "lost" the closer job in 2012. Davey was on record saying he thought Clippart was their best reliever, but wanted Storen to be the "closer."

The Red Sox won't trade Kimbrel because they're competing for a WS title. Other teams that dealt top players/closers were not.

I thought the White Sox now wanted Robles for Robertson, and Severino wasn't enough. They're probably going to hold Robertson until the trade deadline and get a minor haul for him.


BxJaycobb said...

Sammy Kent: That is...such a wrong take I can barely believe it. I don't know whether you made it up or are just wildly misinformed. I'll assume it's the latter. Literally nobody was saying the reds wouldn't part with Frazier and nobody was saying the braves wouldn't part with Kimbrel. Those were 2 rebuilding abysmal clubs hanging onto valuable assets. They're looking to deal them. People were actually surprised the braves hung onto kimbrel as long as they did, as they shipped off upton, Heyward, and Simmons but kept him an extra half year. The only reason the reds waited to deal Frazier as long as they did was because they wanted to have him in the home run derby and all star festivities at GABP. There's a very simple distinction here. The Red Sox are contending for a championship, now and in the next few years. They have win now talent coming out their ears. They're not going to trade their dominant closer for the same reason the Nats aren't going to trade any huge piece. I can think of one single instance in the last 15 years when a team trying to win the World Series traded a big piece of their major league roster---the A's trading Cespedes to Red Sox in the Lester deal when they were dominating mid season....then they fell apart. If you are looking for a closer, look to teams that won't be in the mix at the deadline and aren't in the same division. The Red Sox aren't on that list. Other teams we know with virtual certainty will not be sellers: Indians, Astros, Cubs, Mets, Dodgers. Then there's a bunch of uncertainty around the next 8-10 teams who might be in the mix and might not. I imagine that the sellers will include these teams: Tampa (colome), Jays (osuna), KC (Herrera) Minnesota, White Sox (Robertson), Angels, As (Doolittle), maybe M's (Diaz), Philly (Neris?), Braves, Pirates, brewers, reds, Padres, Giants.

G Cracka X said...

Sometimes a blown save can be a good thing. After all, baseball is supposed to be entertainment, right? For example, I remember going to a Nats-DBacks game back in 2014 (in the middle of their 10 game winning streak). Nats are up 1 in the ninth, and Clippard comes in for a rare save opportunity (he wasn't the regular closer that year). DBacks are the worst team in the league that year, so what could go wrong? Well, Didi Gregorius leads off the inning and hits a home run. Sad, right? Perhaps not. Why? Because it led to a most dramatic 11th inning. Stammen comes into the game and immediately loads the bases with zero outs. Then, he pulls a Houdini and gets two strikeouts and a groundout, getting out of the jam with no runs. Bottom half of the inning, Bryce and someone else get out against a struggling reliever, but then Adam LaRoche gets into a 3-1 count and I tell the guy next to me that Adam is in a prime position to hit a tater. Sure enough, he hits his first ever(!) walk off home run. Amazing. I will never forget that most dramatic last inning.

Froggy said...

Washington Redskins 15 Colorado Broncos 12.

Even though 15-12 in Coors Field = 8-6 anywhere else, it's official: our special teams... er, bullpen SUCKs

Anonymous said...

So many people get Drew Storen wrong. He was a great closer, until he blew one postseason game and was quickly replaced. Can you imagine what that dies to your confidence? Yes he got another chance abd did great during tge regular season and not so good in yhe postseason, but once you have been repkaced once, that's always remembered. Really wish the Nats didn't panic after the 2012 postseason. He could have been a good closer.

JE34 said...

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I hate Coors - the "beer" and the field.

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