Nationals Baseball: Offseason Position Discussion - Relief Pitching

Tuesday, December 06, 2022

Offseason Position Discussion - Relief Pitching

 What's it mean to be a bright spot on a team that won 55 games? Sometimes you are the lone All-Star, a singular talent raging against the trash world you've been fated on.  On the other end of the spectrum, at times you are a position where a collection of cast-offs, second chances, and wannabes happen to click enough to be completely average. In 2022 the Nats pen was the latter. 

It didn't seem like it because there weren't many leads to hold and the number of sheer innings thrown by the pen meant a lot of bad innings were seen as well. But look at the stats and they don't lie. Tanner Rainey, around injury, was ok.  Erasmo Ramirez, completely usable. Kyle Finnegan, a good team would put him out there. Carl Edwards Jr. decent reliable veteran arm near the back of a pen.  Paolo Espino, solid work as a reliever. Andres Machado, you can find a place for him. Victor Arano, anyone's last pen arm. Mason Thompson, young guy with stuff who can also get the job mostly done. 

None of these guys were great. It's hard to say that any of these guys were even good. But none were terrible and being able to go to the pen, pull any arm and have it be a major league arm.  That has some value. In fact it has completely average value as the stats will tell you. 

That's not to say there wasn't a bright spot. No not Doolittle who was good until hurt but that was like 5 innings. My boy Hunter Harvey.  Former first round pick (love guys with "credentials"), son of a very good closer (love guys with "genes") who struck out a ton, didn't walk many and was hard to hit (above all love guys that actually pitch great).  

There were also dim spots Sam Clay, Patrick Murphy; but these guys are so fungible it didn't matter. All in all the pen was ok.  Take your small victories. 

Presumed Plan : The Nats add one or two veteran arms on minor league contracts just to see. Rainey remains closer with some combo of Thompson and Harvey being the back end. 

Reasons for Presumed Plan : They like Rainey and even injured he didn't pitch poorly enough to flat out lose the job although you could argue Harvey won it. They like Thompson as well and he flashed some decent signs while being ok so there's your three. 

As for the signings - the pen is devoid of top end talents so signing a guy that used to be good two years ago for nothing to see if you can catch lightning in a bottle makes sense. But I'll be shocked if it's anyone good for more than a year. 

My thoughts : Pens bounce around because of those small numbers of innings pitched. So normally I wouldn't be on the pen being ok again but nothing here was extraordinary.  It was a bunch of guys with 4.00-4.50 ERA arms who threw to that. So I think they can repeat being ok. Low bar I know. 

I think Harvey should get to close because while I think Rainey is a keeper, he's not good. Now of course this goes against optimal use of Harvey, but really who cares when the Nats are looking at a 6- win ceiling. Make the best arm your closer, and let the fans be happy to see him get called to the mound. Play some wacky song. Something! 

I don't think it matters if the Nats don't sign a good relief arm given what I expect them to do everywhere else. If any position is a "throw young guys at it and see what happens" it's this one so even though they only have garbage young guys - whatever. However given how bad the rotation expects to be and how Espino didn't handle the longer relief role, I thinking signing a "true" long reliever would be a good idea. A 5.00 ERA pitcher, or better yet a 4.50 ERA guy who can't stay healthy starting to throw 100 innings behind the lousy staff. Ryan Yarborough. There you go Rizzo, did your job for you. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Why down on Espino in long relief? He tossed 100 plus innings of high 4 ERA ball. Didn’t look horrible as a spot starter. Isn’t that acceptable for this team?