Washington Nationals: overuse of Matt Albers cause for concern

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May 27, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals relief pitcher Matt Albers (43) pitches against San Diego Padres left fielder Allen Cordoba (17) in the eighth inning at Nationals Park. The Nationals won 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
May 27, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals relief pitcher Matt Albers (43) pitches against San Diego Padres left fielder Allen Cordoba (17) in the eighth inning at Nationals Park. The Nationals won 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /
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While Matt Albers has been excellent in the Washington Nationals bullpen, Dusty Baker went to him a lot last month

One of the surprises for the Washington Nationals bullpen this season has been the emergence of Matt Albers as a late-inning option. Albers has gone from a non-roster invitee in spring training to being one of the only options Dusty Baker depends on. But, can that cost the Nats later in the season?

Let’s look at the month of May for example. During this past month, the 34-year-old right-hander had a 2.31 ERA with two saves in three chances and 15 strikeouts. But, he did appear in 13 games. His 13 appearances were the most on the Nats and he was one of 24 pitchers in the National League to make 13+ appearances.

The 13 games pitched in by Albers was six more than he had the entire month. Yes, injuries are a good reason for that since Koda Glover and Shawn Kelley spent part of May on the disabled list and Joe Blanton is currently there now. But, he has thrown a lot of pitches lately.

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In four of his last five outings, Albers has had to throw 20 or more pitches. On Tuesday, he threw 34 pitches in 1.2 innings against the Giants, which was a season-high. His previous high was 31 pitches against the New York Mets back on April 30 when the Washington Nationals won 23-5.

For the entire month of May, Albers threw 215 pitches and six of his 15 outings required 15+ pitches. The 215 pitches led the Nats in that category and were 104 more than the month of April (111). You have to go back to August 2015 to find a time when Albers threw more pitches than he did last month (241).

Albers’ use has gone overlooked because of the amount of pitches the starting pitchers have had to throw this year due to the struggles of the bullpen. But, as Baker has shown in the past, he will usually ride the hot hand when it comes to how he uses his pitchers.

With a 11 game lead in the National League East, it might be time to see what Kelley can do in late game situations. Plus, Enny Romero, who also threw over 200 pitches in May, has thrown just three games since May 19.

Baker has done an excellent job with the Nats in the early stages of this season. That’s why they are 34-19. But, at the same time, there has to be a look at the long haul if Albers is going to be a key piece of this bullpen down the stretch. Of course, that could change if the team trades for a reliever or two at the deadline.

Next: top 5 Dusty Baker quotes from May

Right now, it is clear that Baker trusts Glover and Albers the most out of this bullpen. Both of them have done a great job, but the Washington Nationals have to be careful that their arms don’t wear out as the season goes along.

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