We’re getting towards the home stretch in our 2018 Report Card series, with Sammy Solis next up after a season of two halves with the Washington Nationals.
Our 2018 Report Cards continue on with Washington Nationals reliever Sammy Solis. The left-hander appeared to start well in 2018, before a disastrous end to the year that now leaves him on the roster bubble moving forward.
Solis finished the season with a 1-2 record, but a bloated 6.41 ERA and a high 1.55 WHIP in 56 games. He appeared to have the trust of manager Davey Martinez early on, before a surprise demotion on June 30th when the bullpen got too crowded.
He rejoined the bullpen on July 22nd but just wasn’t the same, as he recorded an 11.12 ERA in his final 16 appearances. We take a look at both the good and bad of the lefty’s season below, as we evaluate his season.
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The Positives for Solis
As we touched on above, Solis became a trusted option early on for Martinez as he led the team in holds with 13 while appearing in 40 of the team’s first 80 games before his demotion. In those 40 appearances, he recorded an unimpressive 4.50 but he only gave up earned runs in nine of those outings. He was able to have success by restricting hitters to just a .216 average against and struck out twice as many as he walked early on.
Another positive is that the drastic regression he suffered wasn’t due to his pure stuff regressing, which would’ve been a more worrying trend. He was able to record a career-high in swinging strike percentage at 12.9 percent and a career-low in contact percentage at 73.6 percent, meaning he was missing plenty of bats. That led to a promising 10.1 K/9 as well as a serviceable 4.1 BB/9 last season. If he can find a way to restrict the hard contact, then he may be able to right the ship next year.
Areas for Improvement
As alluded to earlier on the piece with the 11.12 ERA, Sammy Solis just wasn’t the same pitcher after he was recalled from Triple-A. After giving up just three home runs in his the 40 appearances before his demotion, he then proceeded to give up four long balls in just 16 games after his recall. In that spell, he had an astronomical 35.9 hard contact percentage, as his Fangraphs heatmap shows he was missing over the heart of the plate as well as up in the zone, allowing hitters to elevate. That’s rarely a recipe for success in the major leagues.
Solis appeared to struggle badly at getting left-handed hitters out throughout the season. Solis was the pitcher with the highest wOBA against in lefty-on-lefty matchups, with a minimum of 10 innings. While some of this is on the manager Martinez for consistently using him in these spots despite continued failure against lefties, if you’re a left-handed reliever in the majors, you simply have to do a better job with the platoon advantage.
The Final Grade
It’s fair to wonder whether Sammy Solis suffered from fatigue, as there were other relievers who also seemed to regress sharply. But even if that played a factor, he needs to be better in the long run, as a 6.41 ERA just won’t cut it at the highest level for any reliever.
If we graded just the first part of his season, it would likely be a C+ given the positive signs he had sown to that point. However, the ghastly second part of his season means that we can only really give him the lowest grade for the year as a whole. F
Remember to keep an eye out for more Washington Nationals 2018 Report Cards during the upcoming weeks here at District on Deck.