Washington Nationals: Bullpen Becoming Increasingly Effective

rshinberg
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 05: Sean Doolittle #63 of the Washington Nationals waits to pitch against the Chicago White Sox in the ninth inning at Nationals Park on June 05, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 05: Sean Doolittle #63 of the Washington Nationals waits to pitch against the Chicago White Sox in the ninth inning at Nationals Park on June 05, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /
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The Washington Nationals bullpen has been lights out over their last week of games, and fans should give credit where it is due.

The Washington Nationals bullpen has been the subject of mass criticism from fans and the media for the entire season.  However, over their last six games, they’ve been nearly perfect.

Since May 31, the Nats bullpen has a collective earned run average of 1.64.  It has allowed four earned runs over 22 innings, surrendering just 17 hits and six walks.

Sure, a six game sample is not indicative of anything.  But at this point in the season, a 1.64 ERA from the Nats bullpen in any statistical split is a welcome sight.

There are two critical pieces of the bullpen driving their current in-form performances: Sean Doolittle and Tanner Rainey.

While seeing Doolittle’s name in this regard may not come of a surprise, he did go through a rough stretch toward the end of May.

On May 16, he faced eight batters and gave up four runs (two earned) in a loss to the Mets.  He followed that up two appearances later by allowing four more runs, all earned, in another loss to the Mets.

There were some concerns around Doolittle and the mechanics funk giving him issues.  However, he proved that he is still one of the best relief pitchers in the game by rebounding magnificantly.

Doolittle has a spotless 0.00 ERA in his last five appearances along with a 15.43 K/9.

The other name to highlight is Rainey, who was acquired by the Nats for Tanner Roark this winter.

Eight innings pitched is a minimal sample size from which to examine, but a 2.25 ERA, a 3.16 FIP, and a 15.75 K/9 is nothing to scoff at.

In Rainey’s eight appearances, he’s allowed zero runs in seven of them.  He’s become an incredibly reliable option for manager Davey Martinez.

Rainey boasts an overpowering fastball, topping out at 98 MPH, but control will continue to be what defines his starts.  So far, his walk rate of 4.50 BB/9 is better than what the projection systems on Fangraphs.com say.

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If Rainey continues to produce well, he can become what the Nationals envisioned in Trevor Rosenthal: An eighth-inning set-up man to get the ball to Doolittle.

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