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About that bullpen…

Mar 24, 2010, 2:29 PM EDT


Photo by Rachel Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Closer Matt Capps looked much sharper last night than he did earlier this spring.

LAKELAND, Fla. — We've spent a lot of time this spring — and specifically, this week — talking about the Nationals' starting rotation. And for good reason. That remains this club's biggest area of concern entering the season, and with so much up for grabs this spring, almost every start for the last three weeks has been worth examining with a fine-tooth comb.

But let's take a break from that for just a moment and look at the other half of the Nats' pitching staff, because it merits examination as well. Remember how awful the bullpen was during the first week of March? Well, very quietly that group has gotten its act back together in the two weeks since.

Let's look at each of the contenders for bullpen spots, with their Grapefruit League stats split between their early outings and their most-recent ones…

MATT CAPPS
First three appearances: 3 ip, 6 h, 5 er.
Last four appearances: 4 ip, 4 h, 2 er.

BRIAN BRUNEY
First appearance: 1 ip, 2 h, 1 er.
Last four appearances: 4 ip, 0 h, 0 er.Read more ยป

  1. Nervous Nats Fan - Mar 24, 2010 at 2:35 PM

    "Remember how awful the bullpen was during the first week of March?"This sentence made me remember how terrible the Nats' bullpen was at the beginning of last season. I don't think I can take that again this year.

  2. Doc - Mar 24, 2010 at 2:43 PM

    Have to give Rizzo credit. He has doen what he could to improve the BP. It just shows you how pitching is such a capricious physical enterprise. Usually with position players, what you see is what you get–not so with pitching. Look at Jason Marquis, he's been pitching for 20+ years, and come ST he has start all over again to find his 'stuff'.

  3. peric - Mar 24, 2010 at 3:01 PM

    This time Rizzo has a lot more guys who pitch from both sides who could conceivably come up from AAA/AA if these guys falter. At least he has a plan B in place.

  4. Steve M. - Mar 24, 2010 at 3:21 PM

    peric, Plan B for arms maybe. His plan B at Catcher, Rightfield, and Shortstop are very suspect.

  5. TBC - Mar 24, 2010 at 3:26 PM

    Plan B at SS and C have already been implemented. Desmond and Pudge.RF I'll give you.

  6. David - Mar 24, 2010 at 3:30 PM

    What are the chances of seeing Stammen/Mock/Martin in the bullpen once SS/Wang/Detwiler get back?

  7. Steve M. - Mar 24, 2010 at 3:36 PM

    TBC, Yes, they are Plan B's but suspect in my opinion.Desmond was already here at the end of 2009 and is totally unproven. Pudge is a weak Plan B in my opinion.

  8. BinM - Mar 24, 2010 at 3:39 PM

    At least this bullpen doesn't look like it will need a complete rebuild in May.

  9. Farid in Idaho - Mar 24, 2010 at 3:42 PM

    I've never understood why starters are usually chosen for the opening day roster based on what they've done in the past while relievers tend to be more of a "what have you done for me lately" kind of decision.Even if Jason Marquis continued to have a horrible spring, for example, he'd be the team's #2 starter regardless. But guys who have proven themselves in the bullpen over their careers have a bad spring and suddenly it's questionable if he makes the team. Tyler Walker, as Mark showed, gave up 11 runs in his first 2.2 innings this spring and suddenly there was a concern as to whether he would make the team out of spring training.But in his last three seasons, Walker has a record of 9-9, 3.51, 7.9/2.8/7.5.Why would a lousy two innings in spring training take precedence over three seasons and 104 innings? Why would a veteran suddenly forget how to pitch?I think that has been a problem the Nationals have faced the past couple of years. They don't take their best relievers north, they take the relievers who are pitching the best at the time.Last year Saul Rivera pitched 6.2 innings in spring training and had a 0.00 ERA. Wil Ledezmma pitched 10.2 innings with a 1.69 ERA and both made the opening day roster. And we know what happened to them with the Nationals in 2009.Am I wrong here? What do you think? Great pitchers have horrible springs and horrible pitchers have great springs. I'm just not sure how much credence should be placed in spring numbers.

  10. Steve M. - Mar 24, 2010 at 3:52 PM

    MacDougal was released it looks like:http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2010/03/marlins-release-mike-macdougal.html

  11. peric - Mar 24, 2010 at 4:00 PM

    @SteveM, Agree. Especially at catcher. It may be why you keep seeing Jhonathan Solano coming in late in games as opposed to staying exclusively on the other side? He is known to be a good defensive catcher. But his offensive skill took a nose dive upon promotion to Syracuse.

  12. bdrube - Mar 24, 2010 at 4:33 PM

    "Last year Saul Rivera pitched 6.2 innings in spring training and had a 0.00 ERA."But Saul also has a track record of 2 and 1/2 seasons of pitching fairly well, so that undermines the argument. The problem last year was that Bowden figured that Hanrahan, who was unproven as a closer, Shell, who had only pitched half a year in the bigs and Hinckley, who only had a cup of coffee the previous September, were going to be big producers. And that decision was obviously made long before Spring Training.

  13. BinM - Mar 24, 2010 at 4:43 PM

    Wow, the team went through 22 relief pitchers, and 530 total relief appearances last year – That's not good.

  14. peric - Mar 24, 2010 at 4:43 PM

    Meanwhile, big news out of Syracuse:he offical start of the 2010 baseball season occured today when Lena Blackburne's Rubbing Mud arrived via federal express to the Syracuse Chiefs offices.Used to take the shine off a baseball, Lena's product has been serving professional baseball since 1939. This "baseballs magic mud" is located in Delran, New Jersey.Directions on the package: Apply small amount of mud to palm of hand. Message onto both palms. Place ball in hand and message throughly. KEEP MOIST is in bold print.Each night before a game umpire attendant Chris Laurenzo duplicates this process for roughly 6-8 dozen baseballs. He hands the bag of baseballs using Lena's magic mud to the umpires and baseball can be played for another day.Something big happended in Syracuse today….Lena Blackburne's mud arrived.

  15. Sam - Mar 24, 2010 at 5:03 PM

    I just want to provide a few examples of players (specifically star relievers) who underachieve during Spring Training:Jonathan Papelbon 2010 ST: 7.1 IP, 6.14 ERA, 3 BB, 4 SOFrancisco Rodriguez 2010 ST: 3.0 IP, 2 R, 5 HRyan Madson 2010 ST: 4.0 IP, 4 R, 2 BB, 5 SOJonathan Broxton 2010 ST: 4.2 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 3 SOThe reason I bring this up is because I am not concerned with the fact that Capps and others has pitched terribly this Spring for this reason. Spring stats measure nothing of a player's true talent. The reason why the Nationals have lost so many games is because our crap is worse than other teams' crap.Come April, Capps will begin pitching somewhere between his 2009 and pre-2009 form, which is what fans should expect.

  16. Steve M. - Mar 24, 2010 at 5:18 PM

    In other Bullpen news, (besides MacDougal)Beimel re-signs with the Rockies!http://colorado.rockies.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20100323&content_id=8877890&vkey=news_col&fext=.jsp&c_id=col

  17. K.D. - Mar 24, 2010 at 6:18 PM

    Just curious Steve M., what have you seen/heard from Pudge this spring that you would call him a weak Plan B at Catcher? Or is it just his age?

  18. natsfan1a - Mar 24, 2010 at 6:27 PM

    Yeah, I had a similar reaction, Nervous NF.Steve M., that's yesterday's news ;-) (but interesting, I agree).In other news, I just stumbled on a new P-Nats blog. It's written by the new voice of the P-Nats, Will Flemming. His most recent piece features a talk with Doug Harris regarding player development.http://pnatsradio.mlblogs.com/archives/2010/03/welcome-to-p-nats-insider.html

  19. Knoxville Nat - Mar 24, 2010 at 6:48 PM

    Mark,Your analysis of our relief corp is good as far as it goes but I think you left out one important component…base on balls. How many guys facing our bullpen are getting a free pass? Drives me crazy to see a pitcher come in from the pen and not be able to get many pitches in the strike zone or at least close enough that a batter will chase them.

  20. Steve M. - Mar 24, 2010 at 6:58 PM

    K.D. said… Just curious Steve M., what have you seen/heard from Pudge this spring that you would call him a weak Plan B at Catcher? Or is it just his age?Not trying to be negative just stating facts of what you can see in the boxscores. It is his diminishing returns. He sunk to a .280 OBP last year which was his lowest since his Rookie year. If he is batting in the 8 hole, pitchers are now going after him instead of pitching around him to get to the pitcher as was seen in Houston.Behind the plate, he is still good but not the guy he was 10 years ago. Last year in Houston he only threw out 32% of base stealers which unfortunately is much better than Wil Nieves, but Wil Nieves was almost 30 points higher in OBP last year which was his career high.

  21. Steve M. - Mar 24, 2010 at 7:11 PM

    Mark – Don't you think they need 2 lefties in the bullpen especially to be effective against teams like the Phillies?

  22. greg - Mar 24, 2010 at 7:45 PM

    what? you mean we shouldn't have been panicking about the performance of the guys in the bullpen the first week of march? dagnabbit! this spring training stuff is hard!

  23. Mark Zuckerman - Mar 24, 2010 at 8:09 PM

    Steve M.: Riggleman has said he's comfortable going with only Burnett as a lefty, because Clippard is particularly effective against left-handed hitters.

  24. natsfan1a - Mar 24, 2010 at 8:17 PM

    but…but…I have my panic button ready to go on the keyboard and everything. dang…—what? you mean we shouldn't have been panicking about the performance of the guys in the bullpen the first week of march?

  25. Hondo69 - Mar 24, 2010 at 10:34 PM

    natsfan1a, thanks for the P-Nats link. It looks like a pretty cool site!

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
WASHINGTON 58 47 --
ATLANTA 58 49 1.0
MIAMI 53 54 6.0
NEW YORK 52 56 7.5
PHILADELPHIA 47 61 12.5
Through Wednesday's early games

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
THU: Phillies at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
FRI: Phillies at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
SAT: Phillies at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
SUN: Phillies at Nats, 1:35 p.m.
MON: Orioles at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
TUE: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
WED: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
Full season schedule

Mark joins Rob Carlin and Joe Orsulak every Thursday at 4 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet for a half-hour show on the Nats, Orioles and rest of MLB. Re-airs Thursdays at 11:30 p.m., Saturdays at 9 a.m. and Sundays at 11:30 a.m.

ON THE RADIO

As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...

MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.

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