Thursday, July 12, 2012

2nd half storylines: Closer controversy?

US Presswire photo
Tyler Clippard has 14 saves and a 0.49 ERA since taking over closer duties.
The Nationals open tomorrow what promises to be the most compelling second half to a season since the franchise arrived in town in 2005, owners of the NL's best record but saddled with several major questions that need to be answered.

Today we're counting down the five most significant storylines to the remainder of the Nationals' season. Next up is storyline No. 4: Who winds up as the Nats' closer, Tyler Clippard or Drew Storen...


Drew Storen's pending return to the Nationals' bullpen was supposed to be neat and tidy. After missing three months following surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow, Storen would re-assume his job as the Nats' closer, with Tyler Clippard returning to the setup/fireman role that made him so valuable over the last three seasons.

Then something funny happened. Clippard started pitching better in the ninth inning than he ever did in the seventh or eighth inning. How dominant has the bespectacled right-hander been? Well, in 19 appearances since assuming closer duties in late May, he's 14-for-14 in save situations with a 0.49 ERA and .088 opponents' batting average.

Considering all that, manager Davey Johnson admitted it would be all but impossible to demote Clippard back to a setup job when Storen comes off the disabled list.

So the plan, for now, is to have Storen get his feet wet pitching in a setup role, something that could happen as soon as tomorrow if he's activated as expected following a four-appearance, minor-league rehab assignment.

What, though, happens if Storen rediscovers the form that allowed him to convert 43 saves one year ago and seemingly establish himself as the organization's long-term closer?

It may not matter. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? At the moment, Clippard is humming along and showing no signs of breaking down.

If, however, there is a slip up at some point, don't be surprised if Storen finds himself taking the mound for the ninth inning once again.

51 comments:

Faraz Shaikh said...

Makes sense. Clippard has earned it.

joemktg said...

No controversy here. Davey will work Storen into the bullpen, and mix things up with Clip over the next few months. When crunch time starts in mid-September, we'll start to see Davey rely upon the guy that performed the best.

You want to be the closer during the stretch and potentially into the playoffs. Perform better than the other guy. That's what ballplayers do.

Nothing here. Move along...

Theophilus T. S. said...

"The guy that performed the best" is the quandary, isn't it? What has to happen to make that an issue? Clippard blows a couple of saves? But also saves a half dozen between now and the end of August? Storen can do the 7th or 8th setup just as well as Clippard. So my expectation is that Clippard will close the rest of the year -- unless he turns into Lidge in the playoffs and I think he's a better pitcher than that. He's control and he's got nerves of steel.

Between the end of the season and Opening Day '13, something will happen and/or they'll figure out who closes.

Faraz Shaikh said...

I wonder what they can do next season though if Clippard is the closer all season long this year and does great, so does Storen in whatever job is assigned to him.

Theophilus T. S. said...

"got control"

Doc said...

Clip is doing better in the closer's role than he did in the set-up, probably because he's facing less potent parts of the lineup, and less challenging situations in the 9th, than he did in the 7th & 8th---just a guess??

Either one can do it. Both have the great psychological profile to close. Probably more of an issue next season.

Hope this doesn't interfere with who does the dishes at home!

Faraz Shaikh said...

before becoming closer, how was Clip against inherited runners? anyone has numbers for those games?

estoppel said...

Who would be out when Storen is back? H-Rod DFAd?

joemktg said...

Doc: IF they do dishes at home. I can see piles and red Solo cups and a cleaning service.

MikeinDC said...

Considering the Lidge and H-Rod experiments earlier this year, this particular "problem" is pretty easy. The only way the Nats can lose is if Davey isn't open and honest with both guys. I don't see that happening. Hopefully, Storen makes the decision tough, that means good things for the pen and the Nats.

rarumberger said...

No chance HRod is DFAed right now. Just none. Either someone else begins a DL stint, or Mattheus goes down.

HRod gets DFAed, he's wearing another uniform by this time next week, mowing us down. It's nowhere near time to give up on him.

Kevin Rusch said...

Honestly, what's the practical difference between the 8th and 9th innings? Not very much. A blown lead in the 8th is just about as bad as one in the 9th. And in my book, the "save" goes to whoever gets the heart of the opposing lineup out for the last time. Sometimes that happens in the 7th. So if they honestly don't care who gets the save (which they say they don't, but that doesn't mean a lot) then it doesn't matter to me either. I just want them to win games.

As for who gets DFA'd, I agree with rarumberger -- if MPHRod ever "figures it out" he's going to be a real sensation. He may never have the head for a closer, but he could make one of the greatest firemen the game has seen with that fastball of his. I bet some guy gets a hangnail and gets a 2-week drop to the DL.

Kevin Rusch said...

typo - a 2-week *trip* to the DL.

bigfitzva said...

Nothing wrong with an A and B shift in the pen. Different shut down groups on alternate nights.

NatsLady said...

bigfitza, A and B pens were Davey's original plan, and he never got to implement it the way he wanted due to Henry and Lidge not being what they should have been. Be interesting to see if he tries it again.

JaneB said...

We will need them both to do well, and you can only pitch the closer so many times a week. We need them both, to cancel the bottom of the ninth whenever possible. I think I read somewhere that Drew wanted a teeshirt that said that, and I think it's a spectacular goal: "Ladies and Gentlemen, the bottom of the 9th has been cancelled." As long as, you know, we're playing at home. Otherwise, I want the bottom of the ninth played and a vast disappointment to the home team.
GYFNG!

JD said...

Kevin and rarumberger,

Mattheus is better than HRod right now by several country miles and if we are in the process of winning a pennant or trying to I don't know if sending Mattheus to AAA and keeping HRod is the right decision.

If I'm the opposition I pray for HRod to come into a tight game because he will self destruct as often as not; just like Marmol.

Firm Possession, My Gorsehacken Sofa said...

The practical consideration here is that closers get paid a lot more, generally. Sooner or later, they both close.

Theophilus T. S. said...

The time to give up on Rodriguez is as soon as someone offers something of value -- almost anything -- in exchange. The big mistake would be to limp through the offseason and go through another roster squeeze because of his squandered "potential."

sjm308 said...

Couple of thoughts.
1. HRod will be with us. No way is he dfa'd. It's all about options this late in the year and sadly that means we will see Mattheus again when they make call ups. We could have an injury but if not you use the system that is provided and we can send him down without losing anyone.

2. I realize Clip has been terrific but has everyone forgotten just how valuable he was to us last year in his "setup"role. That role has been discussed here and is probably more valuable to the team then the actual closer. Clip would often come in with men in scoring position and shut the door. If Storen can't do that and needs to start an inning fresh and shows he has regained his command then I say move Clip back to his dominant role. Now, the one thing we don't know is how Clip will react to that move. That is why they pay Davey the big bucks and idiots like me can just pontificate away.

I agree with others that are not discussing anything more then the next series. I honestly don't want to look ahead BUT, can anyone tell me how it works when the roster grows to 40+. If we happen to be playing later than usual this season, is it still a 25 man roster?, and how is that roster determined? Thanks in advance.

Go Nats!!!

bigfitzva said...

Seems to be enough quality arms to try at least.

JD said...

Firm,

That's what I said before. In arbitration and free agency saves count for dollars. You would hope that the Nats being a progressive organization will just pay both of them closers money but is that really the best use of a team's resources?

Will we win more games in the 2nd half because we now have bot Clip and Storen? how many more? in the future when we create a budget for next year will the extra money spent in the pen bring more wins being used elsewhere? is the budget irrelevant and we can spend lots of money on every position ALA the Yankees?

That's why they pay Rizzo the big bucks,

alexva said...

If you're a relief pitcher you want to be the closer. The 9th inning is much different than the 8th and many pitchers have said as much.

I think Clippard will stay there as the #1 closer as long as he continues to excel. Storen will set up and be closer #2, a plan which was intended for Lidge whgen the season started.

Theophilus T. S. said...

Anybody concerned about multiple top performers in the bullpen should remember the Reds w/ Randy Myers, Norm Charlton and Rob Dibble (the pitcher, not the announcer). They had a pretty good run for a couple of years, until injuries and egos took their toll.

JD said...

alexva,

This worked with Lidge because he had no other options at this of his career and it worked for Clip and Storen last year because they were both in the process of establishing their careers. Now they are both stars and going forward it will only work if you pay them both as star closers.

JD said...

Theo,

I don't know if closers were making the big bucks then as they are now and as you said ultimately Myers wanted to be a closer and had to go elsewhere to close.

NatsLady said...

Here is a fun website...

Umpire Ejection Fantasy League (UEFL

http://www.closecallsports.com/

alexva said...

JD, I am only referrng to this year.

rabbit34 said...

This is a team. Go with the plan. If either player complains then he isn't a team player. Simple.

Theophilus T. S. said...

The Nats will win a half dozen more games in the second half with both Clippard and a restored Storen. His success notwithstanding, Burnett is out of place as the setup guy; Stammen won't have to pitch 2+ innings every time out; there won't be any temptation to use Rodriguez in tense situations; Mike Gonzalez, if they hang on to him, can take a shower and go home if not called on by the seventh inning. Would prefer that they trade him, however; they got Shairon Martis from the Giants for Mike Stanton and for a time that seemed like a good deal.

4571c960-cc1f-11e1-909b-000bcdcb471e said...

Davey seems to like to have more than one closer, or at least that was his MO with the Mets, with Orosco and the Spitter Roger McDowell. I don't see this as an issue, they both close. If either falters, the other one picks up the job permanently.

Theophilus T. S. said...

Even better example of trading junk for something worthwhile, Joe Beimel for Ryan Mattheus.

Firm Possession, My Gorsehacken Sofa said...

SJM, you asked about rosters--
I agree with others that are not discussing anything more then the next series. I honestly don't want to look ahead BUT, can anyone tell me how it works when the roster grows to 40+. If we happen to be playing later than usual this season, is it still a 25 man roster?, and how is that roster determined?

The entire 40-man roster is eligible to play as of 01 Sept. Teams don't always load up the dugout, for various reasons, but Davey is known for liking to have his options sitting next to him.

To be eligible for the playoff roster, a player must be on either the 25-man active roster or the disabled list as of midnight, August 31.

If an eligible player is injured and unable to play in the playoffs, before a given series starts (specifically, when the lineup card is delivered to the home plate umpire in game 1), the team can replace them with any player in the organization, regardless of their roster status (they do not have to have been on the 40-man), IF the replacement player was in the organization as of the August 31 deadline and they finished the season in the organization, and the commissioner approves the transaction. The team would have to add the player to the 40-man roster if he wasn't already on it.

During a series, injured pitchers may only be replaced with pitchers, and position players with position players. The injured player being replaced cannot return during that series, OR the next one.

Swift Eagle said...

This is a tough one.

As great as he has been, I have never understood how Clippard is so effective, b/c his stuff often appears to be very hittable, no breaking ball to speak of. Deception is obviously the key

Assuming he's healthy, Storen has more of a power arm and a breaking ball, which is usually what's needed in late inning situations in the playoffs

"Change-up Closers" like Clipp and T. Hoffman often get lit up in October. Playoff baseball is a different ballgame..

Firm Possession, My Gorsehacken Sofa said...

I assume they count the one-game wild card playoff as a "series" for roster purposes. I hadn't thought of that until just now.

NatsLady said...

Here is the last non-signing rumor, Marlins may not offer "slot" to their pick.

marlins-will-not-sign-first-round-pick-andrew-heaney

http://www.mlbdailydish.com/2012/7/12/3154736/marlins-will-not-sign-first-round-pick-andrew-heaney

NatsLady said...

Sorry, latest ... rumor.

NatsLady said...

As great as he has been, I have never understood how Clippard is so effective, b/c his stuff often appears to be very hittable, no breaking ball to speak of. Deception is obviously the key

Yup. Just like Mo.

Steady Eddie said...

FWIW, my prediction is that Clip will be the principal closer, Druuuu will close where there's a save situation on consecutive nights or other needful situations (Clip threw a lot of pitches or was beat up and needs a mental health break), otherwise Druuuu will be high leverage/setup man, with Burnett and Stammen spelling him in that as needed, and adjust marginally as performance indicates.

Davey doesn't want a sole closer because he's managing for the long term, to not burn out great talent.

Theophilus T. S. said...

Clippard has (1) a decent (93 mph, plus or minus) fastball that seems anemic only in comparison to the Nats' starters; (2) an excellent changeup (think of Trevor Hoffman, how he threw a change nearly 100 percent of the time); (3) a 78-79 mph curve that he throws about once a week, often enough to show up on scouting reports; (4) a very deceptive delivery. There's a slider in the repertoire as well but it's mostly for show. This is not a guy lacking in "stuff."

He gets criticized for "pitching backwards," e.g., starting hitters out w/ the changeup, but doing so enables him to punch hitters out by throwing fastballs up in the strike zone -- or often above the strike zone -- late in the count. He's one of the few pitchers I've seen who dares to go up there.

Firm Possession, My Gorsehacken Sofa said...

This is a longer, and far more complete, version of the roster stuff. FWIW.

Baseball roster rules, from FOX Sports

NatsLady said...

Also, I noticed Clip against the AL relied on his change and high heat and deception, and same with the NL West. Against opponents that he has often faced, who have seen his act enough not to be "deceived" by it, he employs the cutter. So, I wouldn't worry too much about the playoffs because, again, he will be facing hitters outside the division.

Firm Possession, My Gorsehacken Sofa said...

Although, in the playoffs, you are facing good teams exclusively, who generally are in their "NOW it's a sprint, not a marathon" mode, so it isn't quite the same.

NatsLady said...

True, Sofa, but I believe Clip has demonstrated he can deal with good hitters. :)

Firm Possession, My Gorsehacken Sofa said...

I'm not worried about him.

Feel Wood said...

NatsLady said...
True, Sofa, but I believe Clip has demonstrated he can deal with good hitters. :)


Except for when he can't. Like last Sunday.

natsfan1a said...

So, no bon-bons in the playoffs? Dang.

Firm Possession, My Gorsehacken Sofa said...

Although, in the playoffs, you are facing good teams exclusively, who generally are in their "NOW it's a sprint, not a marathon" mode, so it isn't quite the same.
July 12, 2012 1:18 PM

Firm Possession, My Gorsehacken Sofa said...

Except for when he can't. Like last Sunday.

Ahhhh, those bums weren't any good.


and 1a, the Playoffs have their own bon-bon-mots.
; )

JaneB said...

What I am also realizing is that, gulp, we are closer (no pun intended) tp the day when they trade Clipp or Store because they both can do the same thing brilliantly. Ugh. It better not be this year, or my heart will crack. They are two we need to keep through the rest of this year for sure.

NatsLady said...

Yes, FeelWood, Clip gave up one run in 20 innings of work because the baby catcher let a changeup get through... I forgive him. Actually, I forgive both of them.

Section 222 said...

Even though I am still across the pond, I think I will take my victory lap now. If you still exist pRAA or whatever your name is, do let us know how the crow tastes.

There are few things more fun than following a first place team while in a foreign vacation. Having Mark's posts and your comments to keep the flame alive during the All Star break has been key. Thanks folks.

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