We could go into the reasons the Nationals are still seeking a closer after the departure of Mark Melancon, and the inability to sign Kenley Jansen, but that has played out ad nauseum in the past few weeks so we will look ahead at who might fit in as the next Washington Nationals closer.
Everything was so calm four months ago when Mark Melancon was closing out games. Many fans haven’t felt too sure of a 9th inning save since Chad Cordero “The Chief” was healthy and closing games. Now it seems like a cruel Abbott and Costello remake of “Who’s on First” and “Who’s the closer”?
The closer pool seems to be a pick ’em from Blake Treinen and Shawn Kelley with Koda Glover as a distant, yet intriguing, possibility. Glover is coming off a hip injury and has appeared to be the closer of the future since he showed off his electric fastball during his debut on July 20th of this year. Shawn Kelley had a few issues during the past season pitching in back-to-back appearances (ERA 3.14 vs. 0.54 with 1 day of rest) which almost seems to point to Blake Treinen as the presumptive pick at this moment for the spot if you believe the scuttlebutt we got from a scout we often turn to. Kelley is a high K pitcher, but has two ulnar collateral ligament TJ surgeries on his resumé, and it might not be wise to push his limits required as a closer and that seems to assent with what we have heard from a source within the Nationals. All of that could change in Spring Training as Dusty Baker should have the final decision on who he feels most comfortable ringing the bullpen phone for in the 9th.
Of course Mike Rizzo could still make a trade or sign a free agent or convert someone else to the closer role, and really make this whole “Who’s the closer”? even more confusing.
The free agents remaining that are notable in the closer pool are Sergio Romo who struggled last year for the San Francisco Giants and Greg Holland who was out all of 2016 recovering from ulnar collateral ligament TJ surgery. Would you trust either one of them to close meaningful games for the Nationals?
The four-seam fastball resulted in a .177 BA, the sinker in a .298 BA, the change-up in a .333 BA, and the slider in a .125 BA in 2016. The slider also had a swing & miss percentage of 22.15% each time it was thrown and was Treinen’s most effective pitch in 2016. The issue with Treinen is that the sinker was put in play and resulted in hits almost 3 out of 10 times. Groundballs can find holes.
The Treinen results were good and if you remove his unfortunate meltdown on August 24th where he gave up five runs, his results were excellent. He was at a 1.87 ERA prior to that game.
Treinen appeared in 73 games this past season and was a workhorse. He made 13 appearances where he pitched more than one inning. On June 7th, Treinen pitched 3 innings and threw 66 pitches, and we still wonder why he was asked to do that.
Mike Maddux and Dusty Baker have work ahead of them in preparation and work sequences for their relief pitchers. Could analytics help Blake Treinen where he relies more on his slider and less on his sinker to be less pitch to contact and is the slider more effective as the batter ‘sees’ fastball?
“Most of the great closers I know are a little on the crazy side, or at least they’re different,” Baker said. “I played with some good ones, and they’re all different, because to try to get the last three outs of a team is very difficult.”
Treinen has the stuff to be a closer, and he had 61 appearances of no-run baseball in 2016. Does he have the steady heartbeat and the killer instinct to close out 9th innings for the Washington Nationals?