Examining the Nationals Continuing Bullpen Woes

The Nationals are currently 16-24 and already 6.5 games back of the division lead. The offense has not been great and it’s looking like they might not be one of the better teams in the NL this year. Through it all, one glaring problem has remained constant: the bullpen. As most Nats’ fans know, this has been a sore spot pretty much throughout the team’s entire history, except for the brief stretch in 2017-2018 where the Nats’ possessed a backend rotation consisting of Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Madson, and everyone’s favorite bearded closer, Sean Doolittle. While Doolittle is the only one of these three remaining, it’s not as though the front office hasn’t tried to make improvements.

Washington signed Trevor Rosenthal, the former Cardinal who, while he can throw close to 100 MPH, did just recently come off a season where he missed the entire year due to Tommy John Surgery. In addition, they also traded a pittance for Kyle Barraclough – A grade name, B grade arm. In all seriousness, Barraclough can be dominant when he’s accurate, but has issues with location. Finally, Mike Rizzo went after former Houston Astros pitcher Tony Sipp, who had a very strong bounce back year in 2018, posting a 1.86 ERA. Unfortunately, most of these deals haven’t worked out.

Trevor Rosenthal didn’t record an out in four appearances. That’s right, not a single out. He literally had an infinite ERA. Rosenthal eventually did recorded one against the Phillies, but not before loading the bases and giving up a run, miraculously sending his ERA down to a healthy 72.00. Unfortunately for science, we will never be able to see what happens when you send up a hitless Chris Davis against an out-less Trevor Rosenthal, an experiment similar to what happens when a movable object is struck by a stoppable force.

While expectations were not super high for Tony Sipp, he has still disappointed, too. In 9.0 innings, Sipp has posted an ERA of 6.00. This isn’t necessarily a terrible number, but there is a lot of room for improvement and Sipp is capable of performing better.

The season is still early and while there is still time for Rosenthal, Sipp, and many of our other currently subpar relievers to improve, something needs to be done. If the Nats are serious about contending this year, they need to go after Craig Kimbrel. I’m not saying that he should get the multi-year deal that he’s asking for, but it would not be a bad idea to try and get him on a decently high AAV two-year deal. If this doesn’t work, the Nats need to be serious buyers at the deadline.

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