Washington Nationals: Why They Should Bring Back Matt Belisle
After a surprising 2016 season, the Washington Nationals should bring Matt Belisle back for their 2017 bullpen
Each spring training, there is at least one player that usually surprises everyone and makes the big league roster. Last year, you could make the case one of the Washington Nationals that were a surprise was reliever Matt Belisle. Belisle, who signed a minor league deal last offseason, ended up making the Opening Day roster and was a success.
Despite pitching in only 40 games because of injuries, the 36-year-old right-hander had a 1.76 ERA, struck out 32 batters, and walked just seven in 46 innings. Last season, he held opponents to a .244 batting average, which was the lowest of his career.
When you look at the Washington Nationals bullpen, the biggest need is still closer. However, they could always use another arm in the bullpen. With all the quality relievers still available with three weeks to go till pitchers and catchers report, could the Nats still get Belisle on another minor league deal or a one-year deal?
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While Belisle was effective, he did deal with his fair share of injuries early in the 2016 season. On April 27, he went on the disabled list because of a strained right calf. Two months later, he went on the DL again because of inflammation in his right shoulder. Over his last two seasons, he has appeared in 74 games combined.
Belisle did end his season on a high note with a strong second half. Over his final 22 games, he had a 1.33 ERA and held opposing hitters to a .231 batting average (.264 in 18 first half appearances). Despite giving up only four runs, he was not named to the Washington Nationals postseason roster.
Now, Belisle doesn’t have a high strikeout rate (6.3 K’s per nine last season), but he doesn’t walk many hitters either. Last season, his 1.4 walks per nine was the lowest he has had in any season of his career.
By that stat alone brings some value because as a reliever, throwing strikes is extremely important. If you go by WAR, Belisle’s 1.1 WAR last season was tied for the third most of any Nats reliever with closer Mark Melancon (according to Baseball Reference).
The key for Belisle’s second half success in 2016 was his slider. Although teams hit .241 against that pitch, he gave up only one home run over that time frame (according to Brooks Baseball). In fact, since 2014, he has given up eight home runs in 140 appearances.
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With three weeks to go till spring training, the Washington Nationals still could use some bullpen help. After seeing Belisle succeed last year in D.C, it might be a good idea for the Nats to bring him back for the 2017 season.