Washington Nationals Editorial: How does the Nats Bullpen Stack Up in the NL East?
Nats relievers appeared in a combined 468.1 innings in 2015, putting up an ERA of 3.46 while compiling 421 strikeouts, 142 walks, and 41 saves and holding opposing hitters to a .244 batting average against.
Now before you start wondering how in the world the Nats could possibly have the best bullpen in the NL East after last year’s nightmare of a season, consider these two important things to remember: there is no one dominant relieving corps in the division and the Nats’ bullpen looks almost nothing like it did a year ago.
Jonathan Papelbon will return as closer after General Manager Mike Rizzo was understandably unable to trade him this offseason. While many fans dislike his personality and would rather he be sporting a different jersey in 2016, his 349 career saves in addition to his stellar postseason repertoire bodes well for the Nats. If he can keep his emotions under check, Washington is going to be very tough to score on in the ninth inning.
While the Nats and Mets finished within 0.02 points in ERA last season, the Mets will be retaining a majority of their core relievers while Washington underwent a major overhaul this offseason. Free agents Shawn Kelley, Oliver Perez, and Yusmeiro Petit will all be bringing different skillsets to the table in 2016. Kelley, who will be the most experienced pitcher on the staff, save for Papelbon, could see himself taking over the set up role this season.
Standing in his way, however, is lefty Felipe Rivero, who impressed in his rookie season with the Nats and could be a fearsome tandem alongside the newly acquired Trevor Gott for years to come.
No bullpen stands out as a force to be reckoned with in 2016. While the Nats and Mets certainly have the potential to have very productive years, neither team will most likely see themselves competing with the likes of the Royals or Yankees for the best bullpen in baseball. Miami has a lot to like, while Atlanta and Philadelphia could see the tide turning over the next couple years. Regardless, the Nats will enter the season owners of the best projected bullpen in the NL East.