The Washington Nationals’ bullpen will be the death of this team’s season. Washington’s offense is first in the National League in batting average, on-base percentage, and third in slugging percentage. It’s starting pitching rotation, which is arguably the best in MLB, are holding opposing batters to a .221 batting average — lowest in the NL and has allowed the second-fewest earned runs in the Senior Circuit.
However, for as great as their offense and starting pitching has been, their bullpen has been quite the opposite. The Nationals struck out in their pursuit of market-name closers — Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon as well as numerous relievers, had to settle for options in-house. And the results have been atrocious.
Tuesday night, Blake Treinen, the closer, struggled once again on the mound and just recorded one out in the ninth. He allowed two walks and one earned run off two hits to raise his ERA to an eyesore of 7.11. Luckily for Washington neither Treinen nor the baffling umpiring of CB Bucknor prevented them from a 3-1 win over the Atlanta Braves.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Nationals’ bullpen has not been much better. Entering Wednesday’s game, Washington’s relievers have an ERA of 6.16 which ranks 28th out of 30 teams in MLB. Currently, six of their eight relievers have an ERA at 6.00 or higher. Something must give. Something must happen, because at this point its painfully obvious the bullpen is the club’s weakest link. A notion manager Dusty Baker acknowledged.
“We got to do something to shore up our closer situation, because this ain’t working,” Baker said via Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post.
General manager Mike Rizzo also weighed into the matter while appearing on The Sports Junkies on 106.7 The Fan on Wednesday.
“Well, it probably means that we’re going to reevaluate and see where we’re at,” Rizzo said as transcribed by Scott Allen of the Washington Post. “We still love the depth we have in the bullpen, we love the personnel in the bullpen. Maybe it’s kind of a reshuffling of roles, get some different experiences in there. I’m not sure, we haven’t discussed it in depth yet, but we’re all in concert that we love the personnel that we have, we love the stuff, we love the depth that we have and we see that it’s going to be an asset for us going forward and not a detriment.”
The underlining storyline is Baker’s blunt assessment of Treinen. Consider the fact that Treinen was not the preferred choice of Baker to assume the closer role. He preferred Koda Glover, who through 5 2/3 innings has an ERA of 3.18. In addition, he has walked just one batter. Whether the solution is switching to Glover remains to be seen.
Nevertheless, the Nationals must find a solution. Find something that will preserve their season. Currently they are 8-5 and currently in first place of the NL East. Again, that’s in large thanks to their clutch hitting and a starting rotation that has posted 11 quality starts in 13 games — and one of those two non-quality starts was Jeremy Guthrie, a spot starter, historically bad game against the Phillies.
Baker and Rizzo owe it to the rest of the clubhouse to fix the closer situation as well as the struggling bullpen. Because like Baker stated, thus far, it’s simply “ain’t working.”