Nationals Baseball: It always has to be about you doesn't it, bullpen?

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

It always has to be about you doesn't it, bullpen?

I didn't want to talk about. I laid out reasons we should move on (for now) just yesterday. And yet here we are again, with the number one story for the Nationals being the bullpen blowing another lead, another game, and making themselves the story for another day.

But what is there to say at this point that hasn't been said? I guess I can talk about how I'm tired of guys saying "I KNEW THIS WOULD HAPPEN!!!" because, no, no you didn't, not like this. I've mentioned it before but after Blanton was signed there were three camps. There was the "cautiously optimistic camp", who saw three arms (Blanton, Treinen, Kelley) that were very good/great in 2016 and an arm they really liked (Glover) and thought they saw a good pen forming. There was the "neutral camp", who saw these four guys, but also saw the problems with them. This camp assumed the pen would be ok but would need and get some sort of bump at the trade deadline. Then there was the "mildly pessimistic camp", who wanted a damn shutdown closer, was mad the Nats didn't get one, and figured the Nats would muddle through with closer issues until the trade deadline. Notice there isn't a "wildly pessimistic camp" in there where people assumed that every piece in the bullpen would fail in one way or another by June. Because this camp didn't exist. Ok it DID exist but only as part of the crank "wildly pessimistic every year" camp, who also thought the Mets would win 100 games, that Bryce would stay hurt, that Murphy would crash, that Giolito would be pitching no-hitters in the majors now, etc. etc.

I guess I can talk about how I'm still surprised how much of a pass Dusty gets in all this. In 2015, when the pen was meh, Matt Williams took a lot of blame for picking the wrong guys at the wrong times. In 2016, when the pen was among the leagues best, Dusty (and Maddux) got a lot of credit for picking the right guys and the right time. But in 2017? Crickets. We don't talk about it. Why? I'd like to assume it's a new found realization that the manager is the small piece in this equation. However, I know it's because you guys all love Dusty. He gets mad when the pen is bad! He's like us! Except he's not like you. He's the one putting guys out there. He's the one that thought it would be a good idea to not use Oliver Perez for 2 whole weeks for no reason. He's the one that thought it would be a good idea to immediately use a returning from injury Kelley in back to back games, then after that failed, do it again. Dusty is a good manager. The record speaks for itself. But come on, put a little blame on the guy (and Maddux I guess if you were praising him).

I guess I can talk about how this reminds me, a little of 2013. Let me explain exactly. In 2012 the Nats were surprisingly good and a big reason for that was the surprise performance of the bench. Roger Bernadina was good. Tyler Moore was better. Chad Tracy was good. Solano & Leon* were combined good. Lombo was ok. None of this was predicted from previous performance. But going into 2013, you had good reason to keep it the same. Lombo, Moore and Leon were all under 25 - they could still be learning. Maybe Solano just got it. Even if Bernadina didn't get it, he was still a decent player. Maybe Chad Tracy finally adapted to a full time bench role. In 2013 though - the expectations took over. 68, 65, 55, 42, 1, -100 those were the OPS+ of the same guys. The plan didn't fail - it failed spectacularly and really only the crashing of Bernadina, who had quietly been a blah 4th OF before, could be called a surprise. The bullpen plan in 2017 wasn't exactly the same. Blanton and Kelley had been good for two solid years, so there was more reason to believe in them. Glover had good minor league stats, there was more reason to believe in him. Treinen had never actually been bad, there was more reason to believe in him. But there was still as sense that they were relying on three guys to replicate years that they probably weren't going to and a rookie to perform at a high level when he probably wasn't. A straight mediocre pen was quite likely.But again - straight mediocre isn't what we are seeing is it?

Kelley is hurt. Glover is hurt. Blanton is I don't know. Treinen is that one guy in each pen that can't handle closing for some reason that spoils it for all middle relievers and is now messed up. Enny Romero is too wild and hittable to take on real important innings. Perez has pitched better than you think but can't be trusted to face righties in a big spot. Matt Albers is a pleasant surprise that you ride until he isn't that anymore which could be any moment.

If you bring one guy in I'm not sure it does any good. Because there isn't a sense of order or dependability to this bullpen. If that one guy succeeds it'll still need to be set up behind him and if that one guy fails (which is possible!) then it just adds to the chaos.

Here's what I do now - since it can't get any worse - DL Kelley. Let him and Glover sit not until they are healthy enough to pitch but until they are without a doubt ready. If you have to have a deadline then after the all-star game. In the meantime bring up what ever crappy arm you got (and trust me they are crappy) just let them pitch and blow it hoping to find one guy. When it's time to bring back Glover and Kelley (and honestly let Kelley sit and wait if Glover takes more time - as I keep reminding people the guy walked off the mound in the most important game of his career because he couldn't throw anymore just 8 months ago - how about an extra week or two rest, just in case?) then you make a deal. Transform the pen in one fell swoop. New guy, presumably a closer is in. Glover, healthy is your 8th inning guy. Kelley is back as an every other day 7th inning guy. The best of whoever was up is kept, the others are tossed without a second thought.

This pen doesn't need an injection, it needs a fresh start. You can't have that putting one guy in here and there and hoping something happens. Hold your best arms out on the DL and bring them all back at once. Make it feels like a huge change. Bring back confidence when you make that trade that we all know you are going to make. You'll have to suffer through 5 weeks or so of this crappy pen, but with a endpoint in sight it would make it a lot more palatable, instead of the infinity pool of tears the Nats have now. 


*Hitting .223 / .269 / .355  for the year. No, the Red Sox didn't find a star. Duh. Duh everyone who thought that.

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

I like it, you're hired...make it happen!!

Robot said...

I was mostly in the neutral camp with the exception that I have never liked Treinen-and-Failnin'. I really don't get what everyone else sees in him.

PotomacFan said...

How about Plan C? Get rid of the bullpen, or at least most of it. Add 3 starters as long relievers. Turner, Cole and Fedde. After the starter is taken out of the game, the relief "starter" pitches the rest of the game. Sure, you may limit your pinch hit opportunities, but that's better than losing every game in the 8th and 9th inning.

I'm not serious about this, but I'm trying to think outside the box.

elchupinazo said...

I don't hate PotomacFan's plan. I might even like it. It's unlikely that Turner or Cole have careers as Major League starters in their futures. Fedde is young enough where, if he's special, he'll thrive (or at least not collapse) under the pressure. Our crappy AAA relief arms aren't going to be any better than our crappy MLB relief arms -- what's there to lose?

Anonymous said...

It's definitely revisionist history to say that this bullpen was expected to be bad. Some expected it to be a weakness on a team full of strengths, but no one expected a bottom-5 bullpen.

The silver lining here is that it's June. Treinen will improve. Blanton can't be as bad as he was during the first part of the season. Glover really does look good if he can stay on the mound (I have no idea if he can). Shawn Kelley really does concern me - he was the Nats' best reliever last year (not Melancon!) and this year has not been good so far. His Ks are down a tick but well within his career ranges. His homers are WAY up - like 2.5x above his career HR/FB rate. If everything was the same except for the dingers, I'd think that maybe he was getting spectacularly unlucky with fly balls turning into home runs - you only need a few of those to make a good reliever look terrible. But his BB% is way up too - 3x higher than last year's. The same thing that's causing the dingers is causing this: he's control and command are off and he's missing spots. That suggests an injury. Having said all that, it's still just 16 innings (the equivalent of the first three starts for a starter), so it's possible this is just a (very) bad stretch. But I think he's injured, which is a huge problem.

It's time to bring up Fedde. The bullpen needs some new blood if for no other reason than to improve morale for the rest of the squad. It's not like it could get any worse...

Anonymous said...

Count me in for a vote for Plan C! It can't be worse than now, can it?

BxJaycobb said...

@Harper: my worry with this plan is this. I don't think you can assume the division is over. 8.5 games is different from 12.5 games (which happened in 4 days). It's still a huge lead. But when (a) the pen is this bad--where u can expect to blow every other lead you have; (b) the offense might be reverting to being merely "very good" instead of amazing; and (c) the Mets are getting healthier--and possibly better?---every day.....8.5 games in mid June is not close to being over. We're a bad week by the Nats and a hot week by the Mets away from "a big injury is super scary" territory.

elchupinazo said...

The other thing about Plan C is that it takes a lot of pressure off the starters. I know Harper explained in detail how they aren't really being pushed this year more than they were last season, but you can't tell me this bullpen doesn't put the idea in their heads that they have to go 7 innings minimum, and really 8 if they want a shot at a W in a close game. It wouldn't hurt for them to be able to say, after 85-95 pitches and 6 innings, "alright AJ, you got it from here" (has anyone ever said this?). It would improve their longevity considerably, and it's not like we're talking about asking Cole or Turner to finish games -- sit Glover and Kelley like Harper said, and presumably they're back to where they can close games in the 9th. Or at least one of them is.

Then again, there's probably a reason (or several) why other teams don't do this. Then again, other teams don't have our bullpen. And for the ones that do, it's not juxtaposed against our starting squad and offense.

Anonymous said...

I think you are right, Harp, Dusty needs to share the blame a bit, especially when almost anyone can see that Kelley has almost nothing left, you can't count on him, especially back-to-back games. But I do think an equal amount goes to Rizzo. He missed a great chance on several decent relievers during the offseason (not even counting Melancon and Jansen) that could have been available for less than any will be now. He's backed himself into a corner now, and I'll be interested to see what he can do, especially since every club will over-value their own in a trade where they know what he needs. I doubt he can pull the proverbial rabbit out of his hat, but I just hope he doesn't end up with something like the Papelbon...


How long do you wait for Blanton to get his mechanics right...All-Star break? Treinen can be good only as a "need a double play" guy...don't use him for anything else. But you have to use them as the situation comes up, what a mess!

1natsfan said...

We're stuck. There really isn't any really good solutions to the bull pen. You could rest Kelley and Glover as suggested but that seems to be a repeat of 2015 when a lot of the position players were hurt and the party line was just wait until they get back-it'll be like we just traded for top of the line guys but instead they never got into the groove. Resting players and then hoping they can return to form is chancy.

Trying to rebuild the pen is another solution but other teams GMs know the Nats are desperate and will exact a heavy price for any trades-do you deplete the farm system to get some relievers.

Lastly, you can throw a bunch of minor leaguers in there and pray that some work out.

Jay said...

I think they have to make a trade. When you're manager is saying "we need help big time." Harper is throwing stuff in the dugout. Things are quickly getting out of hand. Don't laugh but the Mets have won 4 in a row and are hosting the Nats for 4 games this weekend and are 8.5 back. It's not out of the realm of possibility that the Mets could be 5.5 or even 4.5 back come Monday. I think they should make a trade now. I would not wait until the trade deadline. The damage may already be done by then. Also, I'd trade for Melancon and Robertson. Robertson becomes my 8th inning guy and Melancon the closer. The Lerner family needs to pick up their entire salary as well in an effort to minimize the prospects given up.

Greg Holland is a Boras client and will be a free agent next year. Wouldn't that be ironic.

Ole PBN said...

I'm with Harper on the "fresh start" plan. Blow it up, DL these fools, and give youngsters who want to be here a shot. Sometimes pros need a fire lit under them: "if you don't perform, you're going to lose your job, plain and simple." The guys who respond to that pressure are the one's you want in October. The one's who don't (i.e. Storen), they can ride the pine in AAA or blunder another teams bullpen. This team is too damn good to be blowing games like they are. I don't care about an 8 game lead. I'm looking at October as everyone on here should and this looks UGLY. Plus, this type of losing is infectious to team chemistry.

And I don't blame Dusty entirely. Yes, last year he seemed to have a feel for puting guys in the right spot at the right time. IMO he still does, in terms of pinch-hitting. But honestly, who do you expect him to turn to with a pen like this. Albers blew last night's game - was anyone honestly yelling at the TV saying "he should have put Treinen in!!?" He's got absolutely nothing to work with. Some of that is on Rizzo, as I fell in the "neutral camp." But 90% of this is on the players. They are so far out of career norms that none of this could be planned for. Players need to play. Bring up the kids, what do we have to lose? Except more games with the current group.

blovy8 said...

Agree with PBN. Riding the hot hand doesn't work, because unless some Mike Marshall clone can be found, you can't use the same reliever every night. Also, can you really trust any of these guys to tell you BEFORE a game whether they can pitch at this point? Blanton lied earlier this year, and now Glover has lied about injuries at least twice in his short career. Could be that Dusty was just able to read Lopez' mind and know he was sore without having to be lied to about it like every other pitcher seems to do.

Nats Fan in Brazil said...

Harper, what do u think playoffwise of a bullpen composed of Ross, Fedde, Glover, Treinen, Solis, Romero, Robertson/Hand?

Froggy said...

Even though I agree with the idea of cutting away the likes of Blanton, Kelly, and Perez, and just taking a flyer on playing farm system prospects, Sam Miller over at ESPN.com makes the case for what happens when you actually do that in his article:

Single-A to The Show? Padres turn Petco Park into a science lab

http://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/19614498/single-show-padres-turn-petco-park-science-lab

Bottom line is although from a purely reactionary perspective it might make me feel good to shit can los tres arinky amigas it likely would be a case of be careful what you wish for.

Froggy said...

*los tres stinky amigos

Anonymous said...

I still like Colome a bit better than Herrera. What about Roberto Osuna from Toronto? I also agree with Jay, the Lerners want a championship...trade for "cash considerations" and don't sell the farm. How much is a championship worth to your Ted??

Fries said...

I agree with Harper here. The bullpen legitimately can't do much worse than it already is. Cut ties with Perez, he's useless. Put Kelley on the DL with Koda. Send Blanton to the minors to work on his mechanics. Then make a trade for Brad Hand as a 7th/8th inning guy and whoever is cheapest for closer of the typical targets. Bring in Gott, Fedde, Cole, etc to fill out the rest of the pen.

Rizzo should be calling anybody and everybody. Don't target a player, because then the price will inflate. Rizzo will need teams motivated to move a piece. If not, move on. Every single seller on the market should be praying Rizzo calls them. Hell, maybe the Nats will FINALLY make a trade with the O's (I kid).

Josh Higham said...

Harper tweeted about this earlier today, but after his first three appearances, which were trash, Perez has struck out guys, not allowed inherited runners to score, and has been iffy but not awful against righties.

Anonymous said...

Here are three names I'd want to see Rizzo make moves for:

Brad Hand(SD), Alex Colome(TB), and Pat Neshek (Phillies)

What do you think Harp?

Jay said...

Colome is a nonstarter because of the price. They'd have to give up Robles+ or everything but Robles. It would more likely have to be someone owed a ton of money that the Nats then take on the entire salary to offset lesser prospects in the deal. Another idea would be to take Ian Kennedy off of the Royals hands and pick up Herrera also. Kennedy's contract offsets some of the prospects the Nats would have to give up.

Anonymous said...

I'm not so sure that Colome is a nonstarter Jay, As CBS Sports just recommended him, saying: "Alex Colome is about to become something the Rays do not like: expensive. He will qualify for arbitration for the first time after this season, and given his career saves total (55 and counting) and the fact he was an All-Star last season, chances are he is looking at payday near $4 million in 2018. Tampa Bay can't afford to pay that much for a one-inning reliever, even one as good as Colome. He'd give the Nationals a power bat-missing bullpen arm who they could keep under control through 2020."

That said, I think Glover is given the chance to prove himself in that role, so I wouldn't see that as the Nats first move. They need to stabilize the 7th and 8th, and while I love what Albers has done, even he is going to give up something like he did last night once in a while (I gut-factor says he was due, not sure about the fancy-stats were saying). So my own recommendation is Neshek now (seriously, the Phillies are out of it and he's a free agent at the end of the year) for stabilization effect...then see where we are a weeks or so before the non-waiver trade deadline...

Ole PBN said...

Here are some bargains that I was hoping the Nats would pick up last offseason:

- Trevor Cahill: 2.74 ERA, 50 games with CHC in 2016 (signed 1yr/$1.75M with SD)
- Boone Logan: 3.69 ERA, 66 games with COL in 2016 (signed 1yr/$6.5M with CLE)
- Dustin McGowan: 2.82 ERA, 55 games with MIA in 2016 (signed 1yr/$1.75M with MIA)
- Brandon Morrow: 1.69 ERA, 18 games with SD in 2016 (signed minor league deal with LAD)
- Joba Chamberlain: 2.25 ERA, 20 games with CLE in 2016 (still unsigned)
- Luke Hochevar: 3.86 ERA, in 40 games with KC (still unsigned)
- Jordan Walden: (still unsigned, injuries. Minor League deal voided in Feb 2017 for this reason)

I think speaks volumes about the Lerners rather than Rizzo. I think some of Rizzo's trades and signings speak for themselves in terms of success. The Lerners don't want to pony-up the pennies.

Josh Higham said...

Svrluga's got a piece out this afternoon that is horribly reminiscent of the 3-part story he did toward the end of 2015. Resentful, anonymous position players angry that Dusty has to ask them for more runs when they've scored 6 in the 5th. Angry that they have to win the game in early, middle, and late innings. Svrluga reports that a deal with Holland was in place and management vetoed it.

Remember how well the very talented Washington Nationals played in the second half of 2015 when they were upset with the manager and front office? Remember how ostensibly you want to keep Bryce Harper on the team but can't seem to avoid alternate year toxic clubhouses? To Jay's comments yesterday, it is incredible that the Lerners seem so dramatically unaware of how their actions are not leading to satisfactory results.

Never mind the playoffs, which are a crapshoot. The owners seem to be intentionally keeping the clubhouse on a knife's edge, even as the Mets front office meddled the team out of contention in the first two months and the path should have been clear.

BxJaycobb said...

Everyone should stop hammering Rizzo. I have yet to see a single account that suggests he is the problem, as opposed to the Lerners. According to Boswell, Rizzo during offseason proposed they sign Holland. Lerner vetoed. He put together a deal for Robertson with White Sox that required Nats to give up like zero compelling prospects and was purely a cash dump. Vetoed. And he has proposed multiple trades during the season that already have been turned down. All he can do is bring the Lerners trades. He can't make them himself. I'm not saying Rizzo has never made a mistake or something. But it sounds like he is not the culprit here.

Ole PBN said...

Did we even look at Tommy Kahnle (sick strikeout numbers with CWS this season)? What about Rex Brothers? Jim Johnson? Jason Motte?

Josh Higham said...

@Bx I agree completely. Rizzo is not perfect but it sure looks like the owners consistently go over his head when he doesn't think the team should act, and undercut what he thinks they should do.

Anonymous said...

Bx, thanks for that, and thanks Svrluga for finally outing the people most responsible for this mess...yeeeesh!

Ole PBN said...

Sometimes I worry that the Lerners are attending Daniel Snyder's Pro Team Ownership Courses. They both seem to go about business the same way, which results in their pockets being lined with money but a poor product on the field and a deprived fan base. However, in the Lerners case, the Nats are a good team with a GM and a couple generational talents that keep getting in the way.

This type of bad business dealing is showcased in the managerial search last year with Bud Black. Dusty fell in our lap and I think it has worked out, much to the chagrin of ownership. I heard two local hosts on the radio show in opposition with one another over Dusty being extended now or later. The other hosts argument for extending our manager ASAP was to show that ownership understands what it takes to retain and reward good talent and not be so cheap. I tend to agree. It's not about Dusty DESERVING a contract extension. Its not about them ponying-up for Jensen or Melancon or Chapman. Its about not low-balling people giving respect where its due. Something Snyder has never done and something I fear the Lerners are showing signs of.

Mythra said...

If I was going to lay anything at the feet of Dusty last night, it was not bringing in Trienen for Albers once the 2nd walk was issued. His game is trying to get ground balls and double-play was a win in the books. Plus, the way the ball was flying out last night, a guy pitching low in the zone is needed.

Also, Maddox couldn't tell Albers was amped up when he visited the mound in the 9th? Hitting 96 on the gun when usually 92-3? Maddox might be a pitcher-whisperer, but last night everything was lost in translation. Been some ugly games of late with the BP. Time to chuck some bats into the showers when the BP guys are in there.

BxJaycobb said...

For the trade deadline, the entire white Sox pen looks good to me....there are like 4 compelling chips in there, including Jones, Robertson, Kahnle, and Swarzak...

Blogger said...

If you need your ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend to come crawling back to you on their knees (even if they're dating somebody else now) you need to watch this video
right away...

(VIDEO) Win your ex back with TEXT messages?