Washington Nationals: The bullpen is still far from ready

SAN DIEGO, CA - AUGUST 20: Sean Doolittle #62 of the Washington Nationals pitches during the ninth inning against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park on August 20, 2017 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Kent Horner/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - AUGUST 20: Sean Doolittle #62 of the Washington Nationals pitches during the ninth inning against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park on August 20, 2017 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Kent Horner/Getty Images) /

The Washington Nationals bullpen has always had its problems, and the acquisitions of Trevor Rosenthal and Kyle Barraclough doesn’t fix them, unfortunately.

Let’s face it, the Washington Nationals bullpen has had some really positive additions this offseason. However, it is still far from ready to be an asset for the team when the new season rolls around.

General Manager Mike Rizzo acted fast this offseason by trading for Kyle Barraclough from the Miami Marlins, as well as signing former St. Louis Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal. But that is definitely enough to make a bullpen that seems to struggle every single year good again.

There is only one year in recent memory where the Nats bullpen was a true asset, and that was 2016. Adding an unproven arm like Barraclough and someone like Rosenthal who is coming off Tommy John surgery is unlikely back to the days where they had a top-tier bullpen.

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The Good

The best part about the Nationals bullpen is one person, and his name is Sean Doolittle. Not only is he a hilarious Twitter user who just recently made his return to social media, but he is one of the most dominant closers in the MLB.

Doolittle finished 2018 with a 1.60 ERA, which was second in the National League among all relievers who pitched at least 40 innings. That’s an astounding number for someone who was considered a seventh or eighth inning guy just a few years ago.

The second good thing about the bullpen is the recent acquisitions of Kyle Barraclough and Trevor Rosenthal. While less than ideal in the grand scheme of things, those two names could bring some much-needed change to the back-end of the bullpen.

The Bad

Two things have been haunting the Washington Nationals over the past few years in terms of their bullpen struggles. First, it’s injuries. Every team has them, but for some reason, it just feels like the Nationals get slammed with them mid-year, every year.

The second is depth. The fact of the matter is, the Nats don’t have the depth of arms to go deep in the postseason like we so badly want them to. If no other players are picked up for the bullpen the offseason, the pen could look like an infirmary of young guys who have a long history of being out for extended periods of time.

You could start with Sean Doolittle, where everyone knows he missed a good amount of time for his foot injury, also he missed time in the past for his shoulder. Another important arm this year will be Koda Glover. But there’s one question about him, has he ever been healthy for more than 20 appearances? He hasn’t.

So the closer and a prominent middle innings reliever are injury-riddled, but there’s more. To make the Nats’ injury concerns even worse, they signed Rosenthal, who was released after having TJ surgery. This is far from ideal.

The Ugly

To top off our deep dive into the Nats bullpen, let’s consider some actual cold hard facts. Let’s find out if the Nats bullpen is actually as much of a problem as it seems to be. After all, Site Expert Blake Finney recently ranked the bullpen as the second highest priority remaining need this offseason.

In 2018, with the “Law Firm” of Doolittle, Ryan Madson and Brandon Kintzler in full effect, they ranked 8th in the NL in reliever ERA. Sure that’s fine until you realize that there are only 15 teams and that the Pirates and Padres were better, as they ranked 15th in MLB.

In 2017, the Nats were ranked 11th in the NL in the same category. They had a 4.41 ERA, much higher than the average in the league, and they were just an overall embarrassment to watch while ranking 23rd in all of baseball. That’s pretty ugly.

Next. Six Nats who could breakout in 2019. dark

It’s fair to say that over the past two seasons, the bullpen has been far from good or bad, they have just been ugly. The two signings they have made both have significant question marks and will probably not change this, unfortunately.