Friday, June 24, 2011
Nationals bullpen stoking hot streak
By Tom McKean
Jim Riggleman’s departure from the Washington Nationals this week was a huge story, especially considering how well Washington has been playing lately, bullpen included. The relief corps has a 2.89 ERA this season, third-best in baseball.
The franchise hasn't had a season with a bullpen ERA below 3.00 since 1984 when they were the Montreal Expos. Who’s behind the success this season? Namely Tyler Clippard, Todd Coffey and Drew Storen.
Storen’s .541 opponents' OPS leads the team and his 0.97 WHIP is third-lowest in the majors among first-and second-year pitchers (minimum 30 IP according to Baseball Reference). The Nationals closer has used a fastball and slider to great effect this season.
Storen throws his fastball more than 63 percent of the time, but with two strikes he goes a different route -- his slider becomes his putaway pitch.
With two strikes, he has a 52 percent strikeout rate with his slider, compared to just 30 percent with his heater.
Coffey has also been successful with offspeed pitches, throwing 67 percent strikes (league average is 61 percent). Clippard, meanwhile, has been making batters miss all year -- his miss rate of 37 percent is fifth-best among all relievers this season.
Huston Street, baseball’s saves leader this season, has looked very comfortable in Colorado. Since joining the Rockies in 2009 Street’s 77 saves are fifth-most in the National League, and he’s on pace to record over 45 this season.
That would easily set a career-high, surpassing his 37 saves from 2006.
Street has been especially clutch in big spots. Opposing hitters are batting .263 against him this season, but just .214 with RISP. In those situations he’s thrown 37 sliders and allowed just a .167 on-base percentage.
On a Roll
Sergio Santos of the Chicago White Sox was dominant this past week. In three appearances he collected two saves, struck out seven, walked none and allowed no hits. In that stretch he never even reached a three-ball count. It’s quite the turnaround from his previous three games, where he allowed eight earned runs in 2 ⅔ innings.