Nationals Baseball: Bullpen honesty

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Bullpen honesty

Look there are two objective truths here.

Objective Truth #1 : When Blanton was brought in, most people were satisfied with the pen. I won't say most people were happy. Most people wanted a lights out closer either Melancon or Jansen, and were disappointed when the Nats got neither. But Blanton made the pen whole. Kelley was very good. Treinen finally pitched well last year. Glover looked to be good. Solis seemed serviceable at the least. That's 4-5 arms. The roles were still undefined but once a closer was found things should shake out.

I define this truth because I'm hearing a lot of "I knew they needed depth! Rizzo didn't do his job!" type of comments and I think that's like 90% hindsight. A few probably did think that, not feeling comfortable with the mix of injury cases and brief successes. A few more probably think everything is always a problem and complained about it while complaining about the offense and the rotation as well. But at the time the majority felt that given the likely contract restrictions keeping him from getting a big money closer, Rizzo did a pretty decent job finding a handful of good arms with potential.

Objective Truth #2 : This isn't working. That the plan might have been ok at the time only matters in saying "Hey, don't blame Rizzo too much"* Congratulations. Now that you've had your cupcake, fix this. Treinen does look broken.  A 2.38 WHIP with 10 walks in just over 14 innings? He needs to go to Syracuse to get his head on straight. Blanton does look done. A 1.92 WHIP with 6 homers in 12 innings? He needs to be demoted to last man to see if they can get anything from him. Glover and Kelley should help solve things a little at least but given they are still not back from injury they can't be relied on until probably the end of May.

I keep saying that the NL East is garbage if the Mets aren't healthy and it is. I mean the Nats have gone 4-4 since May started and they've gained 2 games on the Phillies and 2 and a half on the Marlins. But the Mets have gained ground and so have the maybe dead Braves. The longer you let teams stick around the more chance they have of catching you. This bullpen issue is letting teams stick around.

Of course, as we went over yesterday, I don't know how to fix this. A lot of you brought up Turner. I mean, maybe he's growing into a relief role, but I look at his lifetime stats and I don't see anything encouraging. It's not like he's a guy who can dial it up and blow three guys away for you. He's bullpen filler. Move Ross or someone else to the pen has been floated out there too. Voth or Cole are both viable options. Both have some historically decent K-rates. Both are of an age where you'd try to transition them from failed starter. Ross I see less, just because the guy has shown he can be a good starter in the league and he's younger. I guess, I'm saying Cole/Voth into the pen makes sense as the next move. It's leaves you even thinner when it comes to rotation depth but it's not like you liked these guys anyway.**  However it looks like Cole is getting the rotation turns so maybe concentrate on Voth now.

Again - like yesterday - any team with a massive failure early in the year is in a bad spot. Teams aren't built to fix big problems early in the year and there usually isn't a good way to do it from the outside through trade or free agency. The Nats have to jury-rig a solution for the next 7 weeks or so.  It could stay ugly.


*He has to get some blame, of course, because he picked all these guys. Even if they looked ok, they did fail. 

**Sidenote : Have you seen the Nats AAA starter stats? Don't.  As for Fedde - he's fine in AA so far but not so great you can project him in the Nats rotation in 2017.  He's at least another month in AA and probably the season.

36 comments:

Fries said...

Enny is not a closer. I hope Dusty finally gets that. You need a guy who can consistently throw strikes. Instead, he gets behind in the count and batters sit on a fastball down the middle. And when you throw as hard as he does, balls fly off the bat.

I'm on the Albers train for closer for the time being, with Turner setting him up. Treinen is pulling a Storen. Oli is still a LOOGY. It's just ugly right now. PLEASE get healthy Koda and Kelley. PLEASE

Anonymous said...

Agree that this is a case where they need to take action quickly, even though doing so will be difficult/more costly than doing it in July. Beyond the agony of the blown leads, I'm concerned that the bullpen situation could slowly eat away at a core strength--the starting pitching. The pitch counts for the starters are up and while that in part is a function of having a run of (mostly) strong starts, there have been situations in the past few weeks when Dusty clearly would have pulled the starter a few batters earlier if he had decent options in the pen. For example, Max was clearly pushed hard last night, and while great lip reading theatre, too many of those outings has to come back to roost in tired arms come September/October.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Rob Manfred could shorten games to 6 innings. After all, who wants to watch 9 innings of baseball. With the relievers in our bullpen, I know I don't.

Mike in DC said...

Hard for me to blame Rizzo too much when the Lerners are probably giving him zero to work with in terms of payroll. If it weren't for them we'd actually have a closer and (maybe) the bullpen wouldn't be the tire fire that it is. Oy.

Ole PBN said...

Agree with the sentiments posted throughout this week: If we get a closer, who is going to pitch the 6th, 7th, and 8th? I'm aboard the Albers Closer train in the meantime, but what's the use if you can't hang on in the innings leading up to him taking the hill? Treinen should be sent down to get his head right. Enny is not a closer and shouldn't be trusted to close. Turner is alright, but he a long-man. Oli is a LOOGY. Blanton is trash. We also have to keep in mind that half our bullpen is made up of cast-offs who had nowhere else to go. They took a minor league deal with us because NO ONE ELSE WANTED THEM at the MLB level. Why on earth are we thinking that we found a diamond in the rough? The only surprise is Treinen and Blanton being this bad, I don't think a lot of people saw it coming. Good thing its been balanced out with ridiculous production from the lineup. But that soon will come back to earth and where will that leave us? These boneheads in the pen aren't going to figure it out... To quote Dennis Green: "They are who we thought they were!"

Enough venting. Solutions: How about Austin Adams in Syracuse? 1.4 WHIP in 16 innings with 26 K's. 15 walks though... Jaron Long in AA? Good lord, we're already out of options.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anon@7:24, Dusty is obviously riding the starters because he is aware how terrible the pen situation is right now. That can't last long, because if it does, you blow the strength that is your starting pitching. They have to do something, I think Harp is on to the best current option: Voth to the pen to see if he can help be at least as stabilizing/reliable as Albers. From there, it's all hard choices on waiting ot not waiting on Treinen and Blanton. Damn, this is just ugly...

mike k said...

Treinen has options? If so, I don't know why he hasn't been sent down yet to get his head on straight and regroup.

Even if AAA options look poor, it might not be a bad idea to call some up and see how they do over the short-term. The excitement/adrenaline of being called up, coupled with the fact that other hitters haven't seen them yet, might buy the Nats a couple of innings per new reliever and bridge them to when Glover and Kelley come back. Might also give the current guys the kick-in-the-ass realization-their-jobs-aren't-safe they need, but this is assuming professional athletes don't already do this to themselves.

I'm also not averse to just leaning on Turner and Albers while they're hot. History suggests they won't stay this way for long, so might as well take advantage now when they're needed.

Anonymous said...

On a completely unrelated note to our ongoing bullpen disaster, did nobody ever teach Brian Goodwin that when there's fewer than two outs and you're running, your first responsibility upon hearing the crack of the bat is to look up and locate the ball, not to just keep sprinting along the basepaths with your head down like a clueless idiot? I know he's young, but good grief, this is Fundamentals of Baseball 101 and something a kid really should know before arriving at the Show!

I'm becoming concerned about our instructors at the minor league levels, because I'm seeing this kind of lack of awareness, boneheaded decision making, and plain old poor fundamentals way too often from our kids like Taylor and Difo and Goodwin. They're either all getting rushed up WAY too early, or those instructors are not doing their jobs very well.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 8:13

I think part of the issue is that they're thriving on talent alone in the minors. You're less likely to make boneheaded mistakes when you can count on your talent making up for it. In the majors, the talent level is that much greater so you need a good head on your shoulders AND talent. It's hard to learn without making mistakes, and our minor league players that get called up tend to be the very definition of AAAA because they don't really make those mistakes in the minors. I've never coached, but I can imagine it's hard for instructors to teach things like that without the kids seeing the error of their ways.

Alan Wiecking said...

Wow; lot's of venting today. But like both FP and Dusty said, a loss like that one really hurts.......so let's pile on!!!

Why on earth, with a 2 run lead in the bottom of the 9th, is Daniel Murphy playing second? Difo at least knocks that ball down.

Dusty? You bear some of the blame here.

Chaos

Josh Higham said...

Is there a worse thing than Scherzer throwing a great game even when he goes one more inning than he should, and the offense giving him enough runs? Answer: no. It's the worst. Because some chump is going to lose the game.

Jay said...

I vote bring Joe Nathan up. He can't be worse than what is up now. FP went on a tirade Monday night that Treinen should be able to figure it out in the big leagues. I would disagree. He seems pretty awful right now. Either way I'm sort of glad the pen is imploding bc now they are more likely to do something to fix it. I disagree with Harper about Truth 1. Most fans were hoping things would be ok, but everyone has been worried about the pen since spring training. Also, all of the experts pretty much predicted exactly what is happening right now with the pen. I think Rizzo and staff tend to get a little too full of themselves after a winning year and figure they know better. That's why the pen is so up and down every other year. It's definitely horrible right now.

Karl Kolchak said...

I was one who was saying they needed more bullpen depth back in spring training even after the Blanton signing. Kelley and Solis were already major injury risks, Perez was awful much of last year, Romero has always been awful and Glover made the inexplicable decision to not get his hip fixed in the offseason. Not only that, it seemed suspicious that every other team shied away from Blanton and that other free agent middle relievers were given contracts worth four and five times what he had to settle for. All of that was pretty easy to see if you weren't wearing glasses with Curly Ws in the lenses.

So far, Treinen's meltdown has been the only real negative surprise, while Fatt Albers has actually been far better than they could possibly have hoped. I said a here a couple of days ago that the bullpen should be treated as an emergency situation. From what Dusty said last night, it sounds like he agrees.

1natsfan said...

When the Braves had Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty, they were very difficult to beat. Knowing that very few starting pitchers can pitch a complete game (I wonder how many complete games were pitched last year), why don't teams strive to get relievers who completely shut the other team down or is Venters, O"Flaherty and Kimbrel more luck than anything else. The strategy it seems is to keep the game close, rack up a high pitch count on the other starter and get into the other teams bullpen because that is where the inferior arms are. Teams spend hundreds of millions of dollars on starting pitching only to turn the game over to journeymen and rookies-this does not make sense.

Anonymous said...

Quotes from Rizzo on 106.7 The Fan this morning:

“The problem is,” Rizzo added, “I think I may have more confidence in the bullpen then the bullpen has confidence in themselves. So that’s got to change. We’ve got to figure this thing out, we’ve got to do things that put them in a position to succeed, and then it’s on the players.”

SINCE we had a 3 and 2 run lead...it must be on the players??

“I’ve got to trust the track record and the stuff and past performance of these guys to believe that there are better days coming. Do you trust Joe Blanton’s 80 games with a 2.48 ERA last season or his 12 games with a 9.75? Or Treinen’s last three years: 2.49 ERA, 3.86 ERA, 2.28 ERA last year in 73 games? Kelley has been 2.45, 2.64 the last two years, he’s got a 5.40 this year. I think you have to believe in the process, I believe you have to trust your eyes that their stuff is good. I think you have to trust their track record. I believe in these guys. I still believe that when these guys are healthy this is a very, very good bullpen that can help us win a lot of games, and I’m not getting off that until they prove me wrong.”

HOW long does it take for them to prove Rizzo wrong??

“I will say that, yes. We’re not actively out in the trade market looking for bullpen help right now,” Rizzo told the Junkies.

SO, it looks like it is going to be internal fixes (at least publicly) and waiting for health and hoping against hope for no more injuries until the trade line??

Harper said...

1nats fan - some of it is luck, most of it is trying to work on getting to the 6th/7th in position to win. If you pay out the nose for 7th / 8th / 9th guys and then try to go with middling starters it's likely you end up with a lot of 5-2 deficits ending at 5-4.

Really - you hope to get lucky somewhere so you can use money elsewhere. Nats got lucky on offense (Rendon, Bryce, Turner, are all relatively cheap) and used the money on mostly starting pitching - getting Scherzer, keeping Stras. It's a choice. They actually spent money last year on pen (Petit, Perez, Kelley) but it didn't quite work.

Anon @ 10:03 - well I think he's saying it's on the relievers to do what they need to.

If you want to give a wide berth to a player you trust you can give up to half a year. I'm not sure any of the Nats guys fit that bill though which puts the ceiling more at 2 months. The issue is more that they've all failed at once and they've had injuries so you can't simply cycle Blake to AAA or Blanton into a lesser role. They are still needed.

Pretty much on the plan. I think Part A is wait until Glover and Kelley are back and see if they are healthy and good. If they are then yeah - see how it shakes out through the end of June. If they are not... then you might see some more reaches

Robot said...

“The problem is,” Rizzo added, “I think I may have more confidence in the bullpen then the bullpen has confidence in themselves. So that’s got to change. We’ve got to figure this thing out, we’ve got to do things that put them in a position to succeed, and then it’s on the players.”

Agreed that has to change...but how do we make Rizzo lose confidence when he doesn't believe something so obvious?

Harper said...

Robot - I've got an idea. We can tell Rizzo thaaACK*

Micahel A Taylor said...

There is no way to do such a thing. Stop talking to Rizzo

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Ole PBN said...

Its foolish for Rizzo to say he's actively looking for a trade or discuss internal workings of a potential deal/targeted player. That's stuff for the birds (fans). If you took Rizzo's quotes as fact, then he wouldn't have signed or traded for ANYONE in the past 5 years. Did he keep us informed throughout the Scherzer sweepstakes? Or the Strasburg contract extension? What about the Eaton trade? We heard it all through the grapevine if we heard anything at all. You can take his quotes as a vote of confidence in this way, "Hey Blake, if you're listening, I haven't given up on you yet buddy" and nothing more. He's actively looking, but tell me what team is going to trade us a solid reliever in May? The asking price is going to go down by July as teams fall out of contention. It's in-house or bust until then.

Anonymous said...

Well, at least the Mets, Phillies and Braves lost so far today...let's gain some ground back tonight!

Anonymous said...

Here is probably the most important quote, and honestly the most specific behind-the-scenes kind of quote I've ever heard him make:

“We usually evaluate these things after the first 50, 60 games, we really know what type of team we have, and then as the trade deadline nears, that’s when you make some adjustments on parts of the team that you think need adjusting,” Rizzo said. “I think it’s way too early to make any snap judgments. … I think the market’s going to correct itself in the bullpen and they’re going to pitch better, and they have to pitch better. And if they don’t, then we have to make decisions internally or externally to improve ourselves.”

BxJaycobb said...

@Harper. I do think it is important to recognize that this isn't just about everybody performing poorly. It is also about a fairly unusual conflagration of simultaneous injuries. I've been watching the Nats in a serious way since like 2010. I can't remember 3 of the 4 most important bullpen arms going on the DL simultaneously EVER let alone virtually immediately. It's as if the bullpen never got a chance to re-set itself after a rough first few weeks, because Solis, Kelley, and Glover all got hurt. I don't think any bullpen--let alone one struggling--can be reliable when 3 key arms vanish. You're inevitably going to be putting crappy pitchers in key spots when that happens. So I do think it is fair to wait for these guys to come back and give them a few weeks before canning the bullpen as irredeemably terrible, right?

G Cracka X said...

Whew! Wieters the hero, stings his former team

Nattydread said...

Two points come out from the Rizzo interview.

First, he's giving the players a vote of confidence and giving them ownership of their situation. As he said, all he can to is put them in a place where they can succeed. That's what a good manager does. He doesn't want to draw attention to obvious weaknesses and he doesn't want to panic.

Second, he is not telling anyone his trade plans. Rest assured, he is always looking to make a trade where the Nats are weak. But he is not going to tell us that and he's not going to throw players under the bus.

Anonymous said...

Is anyone else seeing that bullpens across baseball are stinking it up? It's not just the nats.

JE34 said...

Harper, you weren't kidding about the Syracuse pitching staff -- OUCH.

Assuming Joe Blanton continues to be unable to get through an inning without surrendering a homerun, I think Jay is right above... Joe Nathan couldn't be worse, could he? His stats are ugly at the moment but that's based on 9 appearances, 6 of which scoreless innings. (Of course I have no idea what sort of hard contact he's giving up.)

Same can be said for another aging veteran, Neal Cotts... got crushed in his first outing and seems to have been OK since.

Joe Nathan and Neal Cotts. (sobs into morning coffee)

Scott Remley said...

Harper -

Here's another way to look at the debacle - both now and historically - and I'm curious about your thoughts:

Do you feel confident that Rizzo understands how to build and maintain an effective bullpen?

Anonymous said...

I assume that as soon as one or two of the injured guys comes back that Blanton is getting released. They pretty much have to, because Dusty is never putting him in another game again unless the spread is at least five or six runs in either direction.

As for other bullpens around the league, while they blew it last night the Orioles pen has been one of the biggest reasons why they've been doing so well (a lot of smoke and mirrors have been going on there). Also, Colorado's is doing OK thanks largely to their acquisition of Greg Holland, who just picked up save #14.

Jay said...

Greg Holland... Too bad we couldn't trade for him or something. Maybe we could trade Robles and Fedde for him. Do you think Colorado would give him up for that? How did Rizzo not at least try and sign that guy?? From everything I read when he was signing with Colorado, Washington wasn't interested or in the mix in any way. Oh well. At least the Lerner family helped build a new spring training facility...

I still say sign Wieters to a year or two extension and trade Severino for Robertson. Problem is Chicago may not want him. Severino is hitting .180 this year.

Anonymous said...

http://www.espn.com/mlb/stats/team/_/stat/pitching/split/128/order/true

http://www.espn.com/mlb/stats/team/_/stat/pitching/year/2016/split/128

http://www.espn.com/mlb/stats/team/_/stat/pitching/year/2015/split/128

http://www.espn.com/mlb/stats/team/_/stat/pitching/year/2014/split/128

Bullpens are bad around baseball, but it seems there's been some progression towards worse bullpens year over year.

Dusty's Toothpick said...

For the record, I called Treinen's shortcomings and now he has gone full Storen, you never go full Storen and come back! He is too "nice of a guy" and doesn't seem to have the intensity or swagger to be a closer. Closer is a holistic position that takes stuff, willingness to throw strikes, and a bar fight mentality. I am very wary of Albers in the 9th, granted he is probably next in line with Glover and Kelley still on the mend. I feel like Albers has gotten lucky and probably does well in lower pressure situations even though he has done great with the Nats (and I'm pro fat athletes). I feel like they are going to have to rotate or do Dusty matchup magic until Glover and Kelley get back. Baseball gods please be gentle to the Nats, it's the year!


Harper, Buster Olney was trying to get Chelsea James on the Tony Watson train yesterday, what are your thoughts on Watson?

Watson - 13.7 IP 11 SO 7 SV 1.32 ERA 1.390 WHIP

KW said...

The Rockies are in 1st place so won't be looking to move Holland.

Tony Watson has a good ERA but a concerning 1.390 WHIP and frightening 4.12 FIP.

Melancon is on the DL and has a full no-trade.

I know I'm in the minority, but I'm still in patience mode. Get Kelley and Glover back, let Treinen and Blanton rebuild confidence in less stressful situations. The NL East is crap and the Nat lineup is awesome, so there's no reason to do something drastic that would involve trading a top prospect.

G Cracka X said...

Storen did have a nice recovery after a rough 2013 outing. He was worth 1.0 fWAR in 2014 and 1.2 fWAR in 2015. And now he is doing well with the Reds.

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