Quick. Tell me who Player A is and who Player B is:
Would you guess that Player A is Tyler Clippard, post-All-Star break, and Player B is Drew Storen, post-All-Star break? If you are a die-hard Nationals fan, dollars to doughnuts, yes. Perhaps to a more casual fan, the selective exclusion of stats like saves and innings pitched may have obscured the identities. Anyhoo, the point of this blind résumé review is not to suggest that Tyler Clippard’s days as the closer of the Nats are numbered, or that they should be. Just to highlight that the margin for error is not quite as spacious as it once was.
Tyler hit a bit of rough patch in July, sporting a 5.79 ERA (three consecutive appearances in mid-July accounted for most of the damage and both of his blown saves for the month), and while the August ERA has been better (3.60), a surging walk-rate and morbidly obese 6.13 xFIP (regressed, expected ERA independent of fielding) suggest that Clipp should consider himself fortunate to have blown only one of his save opportunities. And if you don’t like numbers, you only have to peer down a inch or two for visual evidence (praise Roger!).
It should be noted that peering under the hood at Storen’s numbers does reveal a little leaking oil coming from the recently repaired luxury sedan, though with the caveat that we are looking at things only after seven innings of work. Drew’s walk rate of 6.43 BB/9 equals his k/9 rate, and that is not good. And his xFIP sits at an ugly 5.27. Plus, just watching him, he has hung some pitches that deserved far worse fates then they received (thank you baseball gods!).
So, what to take away from all this number crunching? The pessimist would say that the Nationals have gotten lucky, that with their closer and former closer turned primary setup man struggling so much, they are fortunate to have only blown three saves. And while there is perhaps a kernel of truth in that thought, the optimist (that would be me!) would counter by saying that you can’t forecast a gloomy future on the basis that it should have been ugly yesterday but it wasn’t, so it must be tomorrow. That is, the historical performances of both Tyler and Drew, and their skill sets, are the controlling factors for how today, tomorrow, and the rest of the season will play out. On the basis of those factors, the Nats should actually get much better play from both pitchers. And if that is the case, it may not matter which résumé Davey Johnson pulls for his closer position. Both will be outstanding and more than fulfill the requirements of the position.
Okay. Maybe it was just four days. But the tried and true formula for the National’s first-half success emerged from its respite in all its glory in last night’s 5-1 victory over the Miami Marlins. Outstanding starting pitching. Check. Great bullpen work.* Check. An increasingly productive and deepening offense. Check. After six shutout innings, Jordan Zimmermann notched another win last night, leveling his record at 6-6 and the Nats are now 16 games (16!) over .500. After Jordan amazingly carried around a losing record for the first three months of the season, things have gotten so copacetic in the clubhouse that even Ryan Zimmerman is going nuts in support of Jordan. I told you Ryan that the missing n wasn’t worth it.
Game ball(s): The Zimmerman(n)s. Jordan has surrendered just three runs in his last four starts, and Ryan’s 3-4 night, with a home run and two RBIs, is just the start he needed to get off to after the All-Star break.
Goat(s): Henry Rodriguez. This was the * above. I was Henry’s Craig Buchanan in the early part of the season. But after a strong April, things have veered quite a ways off course for H-Rod. Stop me if you have heard this lament about a pitcher with an electric arm before, but if only he could learn to throw just a few more strikes.
Bryce Harper is still only 19: Lucas Giolito. Whew. It came down to the wire, but the Nats signed their first-round pick. Now back to the candle lighting for his elbow…
Current Record: 50-34