Yesterday’s pre-game article spoke to the 7-game losing streak against the Philadelphia Phillies, and the Washington Nationals would run that to 8-games with great ineptitude after the loss on Thursday. Of those 8-games, the Nats led in six of them and blew leads in a variety of ways.
As was written in the pre-game, if the Phillies make the postseason, the Phillies skipper, Joe Girardi, owes the Nats manager, Dave Martinez, a gift. Girardi was a manager who was rumored a month ago as being on the hot seat and could have been fired after the season. Martinez might have saved Girardi’s job — indirectly.
The Nats were supposed to play the role of spoiler which they have played well in past seasons. This year though, they have rolled over and seemed to find new ways to lose on a daily basis. Most involve leaving starters in the game too long, and the bullpen pouring gas on the fire. Yesterday was exactly that.
Five shutout innings were not enough for starter Paolo Espino, he was asked to pitch in the 6th inning and face the opposing batters for a third time. Warning, warning. Alarms should have sounded. Just like on Tuesday night when Patrick Corbin wrapped up the 5th inning with a 5-3 lead — he was brought out for the following inning. Corbin gave up three runs without recording an out. Espino gave up two runs while recording one out.
So you ask yourself, is it a chicken or the egg scenario here or is this more about ignoring the eye test and the analytics? The skeptics will say it doesn’t matter because inevitably the bullpen will blow these games, regardless. Well, you never know. After Corbin exited on Tuesday, Mason Thompson, Sam Clay, Kyle McGowin and Ryne Harper had all put up zeroes. Yesterday, Clay, Alberto Baldonado, and Austin Voth all put up zeroes.
But the key seems to be creating CLEAN innings for your relievers whenever you can. It really shows the value in having a true fireman in your bullpen like Tyler Clippard in the early years, Daniel Hudson in 2019, and Kyle Finnegan in 2020. The Nats no longer have that type of pitcher. Not to pick on Thompson, but last week against the Mets, he failed in the same exact situation after he inherited two runners. There is something about Thompson and a runner on second base.
In the end, what was gained by bringing in Corbin back out for the 6th inning on Tuesday? He didn’t record an out, yet he put three runners on-base and gave up a homer and lost the game. The relievers not only had to pitch the same amount of innings — they had to pitch in higher stress circumstances. The same goes for yesterday with Espino who recorded just one out in the 6th inning. So instead of the bullpen getting 12 outs they only had to get 11 in theory but with all the errors and blunders they really had to pitch harder then they had to.
The analytics on both Corbin and Espino facing the opposing lineups for a third time is like a flashing beacon on top of a hi-rise building signaling to pilots to avoid the danger, but the Nats too often ignore the warning signs.
|1st PA in G, as SP||26||203||27||51||6||1||9||25||46||1.84||.251||.336||.424||.760|
|2nd PA in G, as SP||26||217||36||57||9||2||11||9||51||5.67||.263||.294||.475||.769|
|3rd PA in G, as SP||25||128||34||47||9||0||13||13||16||1.23||.367||.423||.742||1.165|
Why are these stats ignored? We have had this issue with the Nats for years. This is nothing new. The analytics give the flashing beacon and gets ignored over and over. Other teams embrace these analytics and follow them like the gospel.
|1st PA in G, as SP||14||114||9||29||7||1||5||4||25||6.25||.254||.286||.465||.751|
|2nd PA in G, as SP||13||106||13||27||6||0||4||7||22||3.14||.255||.296||.425||.720|
|3rd PA in G, as SP||9||21||4||9||0||0||3||1||3||3.00||.429||.455||.857||1.312|
Yes, the little things apply to management and the front office too. When the team signed free agent Jon Lester in the off-season and tried to sell him as an innings eater in the year 2021 is like the waiter telling you that burnt steak is medium rare. It was at one point. So do you accept what some say that pitchers must stay on the grill for a minimum of 6.0 innings or do you accept them for what they are?
This is the question at hand. You know your bullpen is not good but you also know that you are exacerbating the issue. There is no easy answer. Fail now or fail later some would say, but starting with a clean inning has to be a better alternative than the latter. That is the point here. Max Scherzer no longer wears a Nats’ jersey so this team no longer has that workhorse who will give you 6.0 to 7.0 innings on a regular basis. Isn’t this why you have nine relievers in the bullpen?
We will never know the outcomes if Corbin and Espino were pulled at the completion of their fifth innings. The Nats blew a 6-run lead yesterday after holding that margin through the 5th inning. That is pathetic.
The Nats win probability was 98% to start the top of the 6th inning. There is just no way you lose that game — but the Nats found a way.
On top of that, the Washington Nationals set a new record for the ultimate ineptitude in losing to the Phillies this year. History was made and not in a good way for the Nats.
From my friends at @StatsBySTATS
How many other teams in the modern era have ever won 7+ games like that vs. any team?
Yep. None. The old record was 6.
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) September 2, 2021
So who answers for this? Well yesterday, manager Dave Martinez, got a mulligan as he was not in the dugout for the game after having some foot surgery on a day that the team was supposed to be “off” and had to play due to the Wednesday postponed game. Bench coach Tim Bogar was the man who decided to put Thompson in with inherited runners even after the reliever has shown in the last week that he doesn’t handle and inherited runner on second base well.
“The challenge of putting the bullpen together is just putting the guys in the best position possible to succeed,” said Bogar. “That’s what we thought we did today, and it just didn’t work out.”
Great words Tim. But it falls empty in regards to Espino who came out for the 6th inning and given the analytics, it never should have happened. A coaches job is to put their players in their best situation to succeed for themselves and their team. Was that done here?