2012 Washington Nationals Bullpen Grades
Tyler Clippard Gets Congratulated After A Save
After enjoying their most successful season in 2012, it is time to continue grading the Washington Nationals. General Manager Mike Rizzo, manager Davey Johnson, the starting lineup and the starting pitchers have already gotten their report cards. Now, it is time to finish up with the bullpen.
The Nationals have a young bullpen that is still a work in progress. Going into the 2012 season, it was not sure if they would be a strength or weakness. Things became a little more complicated when projected closer Drew Storen injured his elbow in spring training and did not start the season in Washington.
As the season went on, Johnson began to put the pieces in place to make the bullpen most useful. After trying Henry Rodriguez as his closer, Johnson gave Tyler Clippard the job. Clippard did well by saving 32 games in 37 attempts, but every time he took the mound, it was an adventure. When Storen returned, he split time as the closer with Clippard.
The rest of the bullpen was also shaky at times, but did enough to help the Nationals win a league best 98 games and make the post season for the first time.
During the course of the season, Washington used their fair share of pitchers out of the pen. However, we will only grade those who made 30 or more appearances. Starters like John Lannan and Chien Ming-Wong who saw time out of the pen will not be included as well.
Here are the final grades for the eight Nationals pitchers who did the bulk of the work out of the bullpen.
Burnett made more appearances out of the bullpen than any Nationals pitcher with the exception of Clippard. He was called on so often, because Burnett was the man that Washington counted on to win the lefty vs. lefty matchups. For the most part, he did the job.
In 70 appearances, Burnett pitched 56 2/3 innings gave up 58 hits and struck out 57 batters. His ERA was 2.38. Overall, Burnett had a good year and did the job whether it was helping the Nationals hold a lead or keeping them in the game when they were down.
Based on his 2012 performance, he was one of the Nationals biggest assets.
Like Burnett, Matthues was called on when Washington needed a tough out or to hold the fort. He appeared in 66 games and pitched 66 1/3 innings. Mattheus appeared in many games that were still in doubt and figured in eight decisions. His final record was 5-3 with a 2.85 ERA.
If there is one pitcher that Johnson has complete confidence in, it is Matthues. The 28 year old right hander has been one of the Nationals most consistent pitchers. Mattheus seems to understand what relief pitching is about and never tries to do more than he is capable of.
As Washington's long reliever, Stammen pitched more innings than anyone out of the bullpen with 88 1/3. In 59 appearances, he finished 6-1 with a 2.34 ERA, 87 strikeouts, and 36 walks. The 87 strikeouts were tops for Nationals relievers, but so were the 36 walks.
The 29 year old Stammen was not always sharp as he led the bullpen in hits with 70. However, he was able to successfully pitch out of jams more often than not. If Stammen, or any other Washington pitcher, got themselves in a bind, Johnson left them out there. This suited Stammen just fine.
Though he pitched often, Stammen had a quietly successful season. It is unlikely that many outside of Washington noticed.
At 34, Gonzalez was the old man of the staff. He was used more as a situational pitcher as his 0-0 record attests. Gonzalez appeared in 47 games for the Nationals and pitched 35 2/3 innings. He finished with an ERA of 3.03. Gonzalez struck out 39, gave up 31 hits and walked 16.
Every bullpen needs a pitcher with little or no ego and Gonzalez fits that bill. He knows that, most nights, he will be called on for only a batter or two. Most of the heavy lifting will be done by others. Still, Gonzalez never knows when that time will come and must always be ready.
He usually is.
Gorzelanny was third in innings pitched out of the pen with 72, just 2/3 less than closer Tyler Clippard. He appeared in 45 games. In six decisions, Gorzelanny finished with a 4-2 record, 2.88 ERA, 62 strikeouts and 30 walks. He tied with Stammen for second most runs allowed with 27. Gorzelanny was the only member of the bullpen on this list who started a game.
Like Stammen, Gorzelanny took the mound knowing that he would be there for a while. Whether the team needed him to hold a lead or keep them from falling further behind, he was up to the task.
When healthy, Gorzelanny is a good long reliever and Johnson knows exactly how to use him.
The 25 year old Rodriguez was given a chance to be the Nationals closer when Drew Storen could not start the season. He did not do very well in the role.
Rodriguez pitched only 29 1/3 innings before an injury to his elbow sidelined him. He was able to save nine games, but in four decisions finished 1-3. The biggest problem Rodriguez had was that he could not get his curve ball to reach home plate. This made him a one pitch closer as teams could lay off of the curve and wait for the fastball. Johnson believes in giving young pitchers every chance to succeed, but even he had to admit that Rodriguez was just not ready to be the closer.
If Rodriguez gets himself together, Johnson may give him another chance. He does not give up on young arms easily.
As for now, Rodriguez has work to do and, as a contending team, Washington can not wait for him to get it done.
Injuries limited Storen to only 37 appearances in 2012. He began the season on the disabled list with floating chips in his elbow. Storen did not return until July and had to work his way back into form. By season's end, he seemed to be on track and Johnson had him split time in the closers role with Tyler Clippard.
Storen put up good numbers in the short time that he pitched. He finished 3-1 with a 2.37 ERA and four saves. Storen struck out 24 and walked eight.
It is a tribute to him that he was able to come back and be productive down the stretch for the Nationals.
The closer who gave Washington fans gray hairs, Clippard did much to help the Nationals to their most successful season. In 37 save attempts he converted 32. Clippard appeared in 74 games and finished 2-6 with a 3.72 ERA. Not exactly great numbers for a closer.
When Clippard started strong, he usually got the job done. If he was not sharp from the beginning, then all Washington could do was hold on for the ride.
The role of closer is not easy and Clippard is still learning. However, if the Nationals are going to take the next step, Clippard has to become more consistent or someone else will take his place.