More than two months into the 2017 MLB regular season, the Washington Nationals are in great shape in the standings. The Nats lead the National League East Division by 8.5 games over their nearest rivals.
The Nationals would appear to be cruising towards a second consecutive postseason appearance. It would be the franchise’s fourth NL East crown, and thus their fourth trip to the playoffs in six years.
But after 36 years as the Montreal Expos and now a dozen full seasons in the U.S. capital city, the franchise has still never even played a single World Series game.
In fact, they have never played in the NLCS either. Washington has been eliminated in the NLDS in all three of the club’s appearances during this decade.
Though the current version of the Nationals appears to be running away with the division, there has been one area of the team that has been a cause of season long concern.
Due to a combination of inconsistency and injury, the Nats bullpen has been a mess. Dusty Baker has tried five different pitchers in the closer role at one time or another over the first 10 1/2 weeks.
NATIONALS BULLPEN AN ACHILLES HEEL
Here are the numbers on the 2017 Nationals primary relief pitchers through action on Wednesday.
Shawn Kelley: 3-2, four Saves, 6.88 ERA, 1.647 WHIP, 19/17 H:IP, 20/9 K:BB.
Blake Treinen: 0-1, three Saves, 6.51 ERA, 1.880 WHIP, 39/27.2 H:IP, 25/13 K:BB.
Koda Glover: 0-1, eight Saves, 5.12 ERA, 1.241 WHIP, 20/19.1 H:IP, 17/4 K:BB, currently on DL.
Joe Blanton: 0-2, 8.36 ERA, 1.786 WHIP, 20/14 H:IP, 15/5 K:BB
Enny Romero: 2-2, one Save, 3.82 ERA, 1.337 WHIP, 29/30.2 H:IP, 36/12 K:BB
Matt Albers: 2-1, two Saves, 2.10 ERA, 0.857 WHIP, 16/25.2 H/IP, 30/6 K:BB
Albers, whose pure stuff is probably the least among those pitchers, was getting the best results. On Monday night, he surrendered a three-run homer against the Braves, blowing a Save and taking the loss.
Albers, Romero, Kelley, Glover and Jacob Turner have each blown a pair of Save opportunities. Treinen has blown one as well.
DEALS HOLD BEST POSSIBLE SOLUTION
In an article at Fanrag Sports today, Jon Heyman quoted an unnamed Nationals official: “We don’t need just one big reliever, we need two.”
Heyman feels, and I concur, that the best possible trade target right now would be Chicago White Sox closer David Robertson. Heyman reports that the two teams were previously close on a deal that would send 2016 draftee Jesus Luzardo to the Chisox as part of a Robertson deal.
Chicago is in rebuilding mode, and has put together one of the top prospect groups in the game. Luzardo is a legitimate long-term pitcher for the White Sox to add to their mix.
If the Nationals can find a way to swing such a deal, they may find the perfect setup man out west. Maybe two men. The Oakland Athletics have a pair of 36-year old relievers in Santiago Casilla and Ryan Madson who could probably be had in the right deal.
Adding experienced, successful pitchers of that caliber to the bullpen would make a dramatic difference. That type of increase in the back-end of the bullpen would make Washington a legitimate World Series contender.
If general manager Mike Rizzo fails to make a couple of moves to shore up this lone Nationals weakness, he risks not only another October failure, but possibly his own job.