Washington Nationals: Five 2016 First Half Surprises
By Ricky Keeler
Shawn Kelley (1-1, 2.76 ERA)
This offseason, Kelley was one of many new pieces that were added to the bullpen. In fact, it is a surprise in itself that the Washington Nationals have the second lowest ERA of any bullpen in the National League (3.11). One of the reasons behind that is Kelley, who was given a three-year deal. Currently, he has the most strikeouts of any Nats reliever (49).
When Jonathan Papelbon went on the disabled list in June because of the intercostal strain, Kelley was given the closer job by Baker and did a good job in that role as he converted four saves in five chances.
But, when you look at Kelley’s season, his main value to the Nats has been in the eighth inning, Kelley has a 0.73 ERA, which is the second lowest on the team (Sammy Solis – 0.71). He has 22 strikeouts to two walks in that inning and has held opponents to a .143 batting average.
Although Kelley’s season didn’t start well when he walked in a run in his Nats debut on Opening Day in Atlanta, he didn’t give up an earned run for the first month of the season. Lately, the only National League team that has had great success against Kelley is the New York Mets (four out of the ten earned runs).
While Felipe Rivero does have more strikeouts in the eighth (33), Kelley has provided a veteran presence and stability towards the end of games. I do think the Washington Nationals still need to add another bullpen arm, but for now, the Kelley signing looks like one of the best deals Mike Rizzo made over the winter.
Next: Wilson Ramos