Monday, June 14, 2010

That other 1st round pick

Photo by Rachel Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Drew Storen entered a tight spot in the sixth inning and bailed out Stephen Strasburg.
CLEVELAND -- The Nationals couldn't really have asked for Stephen Strasburg to pitch any better in his first two big-league starts. I mean, 2-0 with a 2.19 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings ... you'll that, right?

Well, I've got news for you. As good as Strasburg has been so far, Drew Storen has been even better.

Check out the fellow first-round pick's numbers through 12 relief appearances: 2-0, 1.54 ERA, three holds. And, his most impressive stat: 12 baserunners inherited, 12 baserunners stranded.

In only three weeks in the majors, Storen has already been thrust into some tight spots. Perhaps none, though, was as tight as yesterday's appearance, when he was summoned to replace Strasburg with the bases loaded and one out in the sixth inning of what was then a 6-1 ballgame. Storen proceeded to get Russell Branyan to pop out, then struck out Jhonny Peralta to kill the rally and preserve the lead.

Strasburg, who has teamed up with Storen every step of the way since signing late last summer, was hardly surprised with the performance.

"I've seen it this whole time," Strasburg said. "When he's put in a pressure situation, he's going to come in there guns blazing, and he gets the job done. Nothing really bothers him out there. Any sort of pressure doesn't bother him."

Kind of sounds like another rookie right-hander under a world of pressure, doesn't it?

"It's been a rapid development," said Storen, who was called up from Syracuse on May 17 and struck out the Cardinals' Matt Holliday that night in a tense situation. "I think I grew a lot from that."

Because Matt Capps and Tyler Clippard have been so successful at the back of the bullpen, Storen probably won't see much late-inning action for a while, if at all this season. But it's comforting for the Nationals to see how the rookie has handled tough spots in the sixth and seventh innings, and gives the club reason to believe he'll be ready to take on added responsibility when the time does come.


Doc said...

Like a true closer, Kid Storen really thrives on the challenge. He's like Kid Desmond, who called Storen 'the closer' in yesterday's game, who also comes through in the clutch (This Kid's got a few 2-out RBIs).

As time goes by, we're also going to find out that Kid Storen, for a pitcher, is a darn good hitter.

Thanks for the article Mark. Now if Riggleman would only give Older Kid Morse a chance to show his stuff!

A DC Wonk said...

As I wrote in another msg, Strasburg, Storen, and Clippard all have extremely good numbers (including BA against, WHIP, etc etc.) -- in fact, they are the top three on the team in a number of categories.

Capps, in the meantime, is mediocre (.295 Batting Average against, WHIP close to 1.5).

So, Mark, if this keeps up, how soon might we see Clipp and Store (or Store and Clipp) take over the main closer duties from Capps?

TimDz said...

Can't help but laugh when I remember all the griping about Storen being a "signability pick," as management didn't what that supplemental pick going for naught...

Storen, thus far, has proven himself worthy of his draft placement.

Meanwhile, how's Aaron Crow doing?

Anonymous said...

Crow is in AA Arkansas of the Texas League. In 13 starts he is 3-5 with an era of 5.40. He has given up 82 hits in 70 innings and only has 44 k's. Very average stats for "Bowden's Boy"

Big Cat said...

I see Marero is heating up a little bit in Harrisburg. The kid has a good approach to the game and can hit. Always started slow in Potomac and would then come on late in the year.

Slidell said...

Is ANYONE still bemoaning the loss of Crow? Not giving in at the last minute of his negotiations has turned out to be a very fortunate decision, even IF cheapness was the primary motivation at the time.

Doc said...

Storen has given us something to Crow about!

markfd said...

Love Storen's attitude, I think he has all the makings of our long-term solution at closer!

Doc said...

Interesting about all the so-called draft ratings at the time, and later, most rated Crow ahead of our boy Storen. So much for draft ratings! Goooooooooo Drew--we've made the scouts eat Crow already!

Anonymous said...

Why does Storen warm up before an inning from the wind-up with only a couple of throws from the set position, kinda unusual for a closer, eh?

Doc said...

Just a guess Anonymous, but Storen maybe uses the full windup to get all his body parts ready for pitching. With a background in engineering, Drew seems to have an appreciation of the physics of throwing a baseball. It'd be interesting to have him discourse on the subject(s).

Tim Lincecum's windup is largely the result of his aeronautical engineer father's take on the phycics of throwing a baseball.

court said...

Storen uses the windup when no one's on base, so he probably keeps the same warm up routine regardless of the situation.

As for Crow, it's not fair to judge him until he has two years of service under his belt, since that's where he'd be if he signed with the Nats. He could figure something out and then be a lights out starter moving forward, so it's too soon to say that Storen is the better pick (since a starter is more valuable than a reliever). That said, considering that Crow didn't sign, Storen has been a great pick and has the stuff to get even better.

Anonymous said...

The way things are looking right now they will likely get a pick in the top 4 or 5 in 2011 so perhaps another "lights-out" pitcher will be available.

Mark Zuckerman said...

DC Wonk: I don't see a change of closers coming anytime soon. Capps may not have the peripheral numbers that Clippard and Storen do, but aside from that little hiccup a week ago, he's gotten the job done. Managers don't go demoting closers who are 20-for-24 in save opportunities. As long as Capps is getting the job done on a regular basis, he'll be pitching the ninth.

Big Oil said...

@a dc wonk--

I doubt Mark would know the answer to that question. Why would Riggs prospectively date Capps' time in the closer spot?

You reference his whip and BA Against. His career BABIP (a better number for this purpose) is .306. This year? .361 (.302 league avg). Granted, his walks are greater than his career rate (2.15 '10 to 1.7 career), but his strand rate is below avg (69% to a league avg of 72%). The case can be made to expect both numbers to move toward the average. Even if not, while opponents are hitting slightly more line drives off him (possibility explaining the rise in BABIP/strand rate, although I doubt .060ish points/3% worth), his GB/FB is at a career high (1.17). This further supports an argument that his BABIP is at least somewhat inflated and is leading to an increased WHIP (along with the aforementioned uptick in BBs).

The upswing is that his increased FB velocity and horizontal movement (both career highs currently) have also allowed him to generate, it seems, the better GB/FB ratio. My hope is that he realizes this and adjusts to better his control to prevent walks without sacrificing the type of movement that enables him to get grounders, and, along with strikeouts, out of jams.

Finally, from a non-numbers perspective, he was hosed twice in one week on dubious check swing calls. If he converts those, noone is really clamoring for a role change. Besides, I like the bullpen how it is -- bring Storen and Clippard in when the game is really on the line in the 6th, 7th or 8th. Whether Riggs knows it or not (I'm supposing the latter), THAT is the time to use your ace reliever, which I concede that Capps is not. The whole closer idea is terribly overrated.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Yeah, Right. That Rivera guy in New York is highly overated.

Big Oil said...


I'll be patient, because maybe the idea was lost in the density of the comment.

Relief aces are most certainly not overrated. However, the idea of a closer as your best pitcher having to pitch in the 9th all the time is not always in line with deploying your most reliable bullpen asset at a juncture where the game hangs in the balance. Was it really all that difficult to understand that my comment is directed at the closer idea rather than the pitchers themselves? If so, I am happy to point in the direction of studies that support my point.

Noone argues that Rivera is a stud. And, yes, he locks down 9th innings. But with the bases loaded in the 7th inning and up one run, would you rather trot Damaso Marte/Chad Gaudin out there or Mo? This is why I think the Nats have a good thing going -- because our two stud relievers ARE working high leverage situations. Capps can manage the 9th, but I feel many more times comfortable with Storen/Clippard working the situation described above. Hence, the idea that we have to have some lights-out closer is misplaced; yes, it's good, but games are also won and lost in the 6th, 7th, and 8th and that given our current resources the useage is fine.

The commentariat here is generally knowledgeable, so I'm not trying to belittle. But lack of a thought out response to my point (or understanding it) is sort of surprising, if not unexpected (being as this is the interwebs).

NatsJack in Florida said...

And I've always tried to explain to the less baseball educated that a great closer is only as good as the "bridge" (i.e. Clippard/Storen)that gets him in the game.

That's why its either a solid bullpen or a shaky bullpen (last year). It takes several quality arms with a good mental make up to be a formidable pen and it appears we have it.

Just didn't want to dimiinish a great closer like Mariano.

Big Oil said...

Certainly in agreement there. And we need look no further than the number of save opportunities that Capps has had to tell us in plain English that the top arms in the pen have been delivering/perserving leads. With the run differential the Nats are sporting (278 scored to 298 against, or -19) your point is all the more important.

Just as a sidenote, every other team in the NL East is at least +19 -- the Braves are +61, best in the NL.

bobn said...

update on tix: did call me on behalf of the Nats...two reserved outfield for $26 and a nine dollar service charge. For nine I can take a cab to the stadium and but my tix and have change leftover.

nats rising said...

With the success of storen, clippard and capps in the bullpen, let's not forget Slaten who has been quietly effective.

Post a Comment