We wrap up our Washington Nationals mid-term report card series by examining the weakest part of the 2019 Nationals team, the bullpen.
We finishing up our mid-season examination of the 2019 Nationals as we look at their bullpen. So far this season the Washington bullpen has been the thing that had held them back from being one of the best teams in all of baseball.
Over the past two months, the Washington bullpen has improved greatly from their performance at the beginning of the season, but they still have lots of work to do.
Matt Grace came into the season as the Nationals’ long man out of the bullpen but has been used in a much bigger role. In 33.1 innings he has given up 40 hits, 23 runs, and posted a 5.94 ERA. Having to appear in 37 games already this season has clearly taken a toll on Grace. After getting lots of rest over the past two weeks, he has performed much better. Grade: 70% C-
The Nationals took a chance on veteran reliever Javy Guerra towards the end of May and it actually has paid off fairly well. Guerra has not been great, but he does have a 3.43 ERA in 21 innings and has appeared in 17 games. He has only given up one home run and does have a 1.143 WHIP. Grade: 75% C
Washington took another chance on 42-year-old reliever Fernando Rodney just a few weeks ago. In his first six appearances in a Nationals’ uniform, Rodney has looked good. His fastball has topped out at 99mph and he has struck out six batters in his 5.1 innings. He even has recorded two saves in games that Sean Doolittle was unavailable. Grade: 85% B
Tanner Rainey was not someone many people believed would play an important role in the Nationals bullpen in 2019, but with their early struggles, he got the call to the big leagues in late May. Rainey has struggled with his command at times, walking 14 batters in 19 innings, but also has shown his strikeout stuff, recording 27 punchouts on the season. Although Rainey has gone through some typical rookie growing pains, he has been a pleasant surprise in the Washington bullpen. Grade: 75% C
Coming into the season Wander Suero was looked at as more of a sixth or seventh inning option in the Washington bullpen. With the struggles of Trevor Rosenthal, from the beginning of the season, Suero assumed the role of the setup man. At times he has looked dominant, shown by his 47 strikeouts in 37 innings, but lack of rest has made him noneffective far too many times. If you look deeper into his stats, Suero pitches much better with two or more days of rest. Grade: 78% C+
Sean Doolittle has been about the only thing that has gone consistently right for the Nationals bullpen this season. The former All-Star closer has had an outstanding season, recording 19 saves in 37.1 innings to go with 44 strikeouts. Despite being used in an alarming 39 games to this point of the season, Doolittle has somehow been able to keep performing. Over the past two weeks, he has started to struggle a bit, and you have to imagine this is from just being so overused. Hopefully, the five-day layoff of the All-Star break gave Doolittle a chance to recover. Grade: 90% A-