Washington Nationals News: Can Nats trust Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth?
By Pablo Roa
Today’s District Daily features stories on why the Washington Nationals can’t trust Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth inning and how opposing teams aren’t stealing many bases against the Nats.
Good evening DoD readers, and welcome to today’s District Daily. Get caught up on the latest Nats news and opinions with some great Washington Nationals articles from around the web below.
In today’s Daily, the Washington Post’s Neil Greenberg uses statistics to show why he believes the Nationals should not trust Jonathan Papelbon as their closer. As Greenberg writes, Papelbon has 15 saves in 17 attempts this season.
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But taking a closer look at Papelbon’s numbers over the last two seasons demonstrates that the veteran right-hander isn’t getting the job done at the level he has in the past or at the level that the Nationals need their closer to perform if they want to be championship contenders.
While Papelbon continues to record saves, he is struggling to get batters out. As Greenberg notes, Papelbon struggles to strikeout batters in high-leverage situations, which is usually what separates an elite or even good closer from a mediocre one.
According to Greenberg, Papelbon is, “at best, an average reliever who struggles with command of the strike zone and at worst a complete liability in pressure-packed situations.” The Nationals — whose bullpen has been otherwise stable this season — can’t afford to have a closer who makes things “interesting” every time he takes the mound.
Finding a replacement for Papelbon, however, won’t be easy.
Our own Ricky Keeler recently made the case for why the Nationals should pursue the Yankees’ Andrew Miller. Washington could also pursue Aroldis Chapman — another New York flamethrower whom the team tried to acquire before the deadline last year.
The Yankees would likely demand a substantial return for either player, and finding someone who would take Papelbon’s cost and baggage might be nearly impossible. One thing’s for certain, the Nationals need to do whatever it takes to ensure that the bullpen is at its best down the stretch and, hopefully, into October.
An elite closer alone won’t win you a championship. But a nightly liability in the ninth inning could certainly derail an otherwise promising team from success.
Also in today’s Daily, MLB.com’s Jamal Collier discusses how teams appear to be weary of stealing bases against the Nationals.
Be sure to check out both articles below, they’re definitely worth a read. And as always, stay tuned to DoD for all your Washington Nationals needs.
Jonathan Papelbon isn’t a closer the Nats can trust
(Neil Greenberg, Washington Post)
Washington’s bullpen has been solid — it ranks second in the league for wins above replacement (2.1) — but is shaky when Jonathan Papelbon is called upon to close out games. His latest outing, against the Cincinnati Reds, earned him his 15th save in 17 chances this season, but he gave up two hits, walked two and allowed a run before securing the win.
Among 165 qualified relievers which includes closers and setup men, Papelbon ranks 83rd in ERA (3.18), 130th in strikeouts per nine innings (7.15), and 98th in strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.57). In high-leverage situations since 2015, those at-bats in which the swing of the possible change in win expectancy is at its greatest, Papelbon strikes out just 17.7 percent of hitters (6.6 per nine) and has severe trouble finding the strike zone (2.4 K/BB). Read full article here.
Teams seem to be wary of stealing vs. Nats
CHICAGO — Nationals right-hander Joe Ross issued a leadoff walk to Phillies outfielder Odubel Herrera in the bottom of the first inning of Tuesday night’s game at Citizens Bank Park. Then, Herrera attempted to steal second base. It was unusual, not because he was thrown out, but because he even went at all.
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“That’s when I realized there hadn’t been many attempts off of us,” Ramos said. “We’ve had some fast runners get on base, but for whatever reason, they haven’t been going.” Read full article here.