Coming off a terrific 2011 season in which Drew Storen recorded a whopping 43 saves in 73 game appearances with a commendable 2.75 ERA for the Nationals, manager Davey Johnson and his staff hoped the 25-year-old closer would have another successful year in 2012. In more than one ways, unfortunately, that wouldn’t be the case.
2012 Projections (ZiPS): 5-3, 3.14 ERA, 70 games (0 starts), 71.7 IP
2012 Actual: 3-1, 2.37 ERA, 37 games (0 starts), 30.1 IP
Thoughts of pitching a full season were quickly shattered for Storen, as he would face a sore elbow throughout Spring Training and be placed on the 15-day DL before Opening Day even arrived. After the pitcher met with the notable Dr. James Andrews, Storen underwent minor surgery to remove bone fragments in his throwing elbow. He was then moved to the 60-day DL, and management gave a post-All Star Break timetable. In the meantime, the Nationals used a myriad of closers including Henry Rodriguez, Tyler Clippard, and Michael Gonzalez, none of whom were particularly special (especially Rodriguez) compared to what Nats fans were accustomed in previous years.
To the delight of Nats fans, Storen would make his return July 19 against the Mets in a set-up role, but he’d soon return to his normal closing position when Clippard continued to struggle against opposing batters. Bar one outing against the Giants on August 14, in which Storen gave up four runs on three hits in just a third of an inning, Storen pitched absolutely sensationally to a 3-1 record with a 2.37 ERA in 30.1 innings of work during the regular season. No one thought a stat line like the Giants game would ever haunt Storen in a vitally important game down the stretch, gosh forbid.
Unfortunately, none of us true Nats fans will remember Storen’s regular season performance in the long run. Instead, we’ll just think of Game 5 of the NLDS against the Cardinals, in which Storen came into the 9th inning with a two run cushion and a trip to the NLCS on the line. After the Cards quickly loading the bases, Daniel Descalso would hit a shallow single to center, driving in two runs and tying the game. The madness wouldn’t end there, as the very next batter, Pete Kozma, would drive in two more runs, giving the Cards a 9-7 lead and an eventual series victory.
Storen will be eligible for arbitration for the first time this offseason, and as Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports, he’ll have “an interesting case.” We’ll have to simply wait and see what happens after management considers both his superb 2011 campaign as well as his disastrous finish to the 2012 season.
Season Highlight: Even with the bad ending, lots of good to choose from for Storen. A game on September 8 against Miami was particularly special, as the Nats would storm back from a 6-3 deficit to defeat the Marlins 7-6 in 10 innings through a 2 hour and 32 minute rain delay. Storen pitched a strong 10th, as he didn’t give up a hit whilst fanning the side on just 15 pitches.