As the whole baseball world saw in last year’s postseason, the Kansas City Royals were one hit away from winning a World Series because of their dominant trio at the end of games. For Ned Yost’s club, games were shortened to six innings because of the dominance of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland.
In spring training, it was talked about that the Washington Nationals rotation had the chance to be the best in recent memory, but that has been far from the case this season. However, because of the additions of Casey Janssen and Jonathan Papelbon, the Nats’ bullpen is starting to follow the Royals’ model and getting with the times. Plus, while everyone has talked about Storen being dominant since going to the eighth inning, Casey Janssen has had a productive season in his first year in D.C. Janssen even mentioned how the Nats could mirror the Royals after last night’s win over the D’Backs:
Back in February, the Nationals signed Janssen to a one-year deal for $5 million in guaranteed money along with a mutual option for next season at $7 million. The 33-year-old right-hander had some success with the Blue Jays and he was seen as closer insurance, or at least, an eighth inning option, should Storen falter in that role.
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With the addition of Papelbon as the closer, Janssen’s role has been reduced to the seventh inning, but his dominance has flown under the radar. Janssen has not given up a run in his last nine appearances and has only given up two hits over that time period.
When you look at Janssen’s performance this season, he has been able to be economical with the amount of pitches he has thrown in each relief outing. In the 26 games he has pitched in, Janssen has thrown more than 20 pitches in a game twice. You have to go back to July 4 to find the last time that happened in a ballgame.
While he did have a 2.89 ERA in ten appearances during the month of July, his opponents’ batting average against was a mere .152. That is 77 points lower than the .229 BAA in the month of June. This season, his BAA of .202 is only nine points higher than Storen.
Janssen is the opposite of a player like Herrera, who uses his overpowering fastball to get hitters out. This season, according to Fangraphs, Janssen’s fastball is averaging 87.9 miles per hour, which is the lowest in his career. However, the usage of his slider (8.4%) is the highest it has been since whwnhe was the Toronto Blue Jays in 2010.
The Nationals’ bullpen has improved with the addition of Papelbon because it allows the team to have three reliable bullpen options to help with a starting rotation that has struggled to go deep into games outside of Max Scherzer and Jordan Zimmermann.
Matt Williams has taken a lot of criticism for not going to certain players in key spots, such as not using Storen and Papelbon when the Nats were swept by the Mets. With 57 games left in the season, Williams has to use a flexible reliever like Janssen in any chance he can get, whether it be in the seventh or in the final two innings should Storen or Papelbon need a day off.