Washington Nationals: Comparing Pitchers in the National League East
By Tim James
The Nationals’ relief crew has performed at historically bad levels for most of the 2019 season, and while there have been improvements made, the bullpen is a serious area of need for Washington. The Nationals do have the division’s best closer in left-hander Sean Doolittle, but his 42 hits allowed in 41 innings pitched so far is a career-worst mark. The team’s off-season acquisitions of the since waived Trevor Rosenthal, current minor leaguer Kyle Barraclough and to date inconsistent Tony Sipp have been disasters.
Young Tanner Rainey has shown flashes of brilliance (13.7 SO/9) but has been wildly inconsistent, as has the seemingly overworked Wander Suero. Veteran Fernando Rodney still throws hard and has a solid mound presence, but can he be relied on to bridge the gap to Doolittle?
While not bringing back memories of the Cincinnati Reds’ nasty boys from the late ’80s, Atlanta’s bullpen has been the best of the three teams so far. Closer Luke Jackson has had his hiccups (like Friday’s blown save courtesy of Victor Robles’s two-out home run) but has been most effective at the back end of the Braves bullpen.
After struggling mightily while playing for the Mets in 2018, Anthony Swarzak has been tremendous so far in Atlanta (0.44 ERA, 10.2 SO/9), as has unheralded Jacob Webb (4-0, 1.39 ERA). Southpaws Sean Newcomb and well-traveled reliever Jerry Blevins have given manager Brian Snitker decent options to take on dangerous left-handed hitters, and hard-throwing Chad Sobotka (11.0 SO/9) has battled inconsistency but can dominate at times
Phillies’ closer Hector Neris throws extremely hard and has a splitter that can be virtually impossible to hit, but he’s home run prone (eight home runs allowed so far in 2019) and has melted down in the clutch on several occasions so this year. Lefties Jose Alvarez (0-2. 3.32 ERA) and Adam Morgan (3-3, 3.51 ERA) have been relatively effective out of manager Gabe Kapler’s bullpen so far. Hard-throwing right-hander Juan Nicasio has been a major disappointment (1.651 WHIP) and injuries to Seranthony Dominguez and free-agent acquisition David Robertson have hurt the Phils’ in terms of right-handed bullpen depth.
Grading the bullpens:
Atlanta: B Best in the division by default.
Philadelphia: C- There’ll be plenty of late-inning drama in Philly.
Washington: D Help wanted, and urgently needed.