The latest trade rumor is not the shipping out of Dunn or Willingham. This time, they’re talking about moving the closer, Matt Capps. Capps is having a good season, with a 2.86 ERA and 24 saves, enough to rank him 4th in the NL. He’s been a solid bullpen member, something important considering where this team was a year ago. Some may worry that losing Capps puts the Nats right where they were before, losing close games late in heartbreaking fashion. While that’s possible, there are some important things to remember.
First of all, Capps has pitched well, but he hasn’t been spectacular. His WHIP of 1.364 is a little heart attack inducing. In his 44 IP, he’s struck out 36, which is good (not closer great, but good), and has only walked 9. But he’s given up 51 hits and opponents are hitting him surprisingly well – .283/.317/.428. His WXRL is only 0.171 ranks him only 8th on the team. It is somewhat smoke and mirrors, although the strikeouts are real. Couple a decent number of Ks, let’s say he finishes the season with 65, and a bunch of saves, he’ll get some real money in arbitration. So the Nats would be on the hook for some loot with him. And he may not be that much better than what they’ve got.
Teams have notoriously overpaid for closers in the past. It’s slowed down recently, but there’s a dearth of relief arms available in the trade market this year. And everyone needs a closer, even if he’s used as a setup man. Teams like the Yankees may be perfectly fine with going to Rivera, but wary about handing the ball over to Joba in the 8th. Or to a slew of youngsters they may have for the 7th. Capps would fill that role nicely. If the Nats can get some value out of Capps, they should do it, and not because they don’t “need” a good bullpen. It’s because even without Capps, they’re bullpen is probably still going to be in good shape. Look what they’ve got without him.
Tyler Clippard – You’ve remembered all his poor outings, but don’t forget the good ones. His WXRL of 0.778 ranks 40th in the NL – good enough certainly to be considered a reliable reliever. He’s the best on the team for that stat, and his ERA of 3.34 is pretty darn good as well.
Doug Slaten – As mentioned above, his WXRL is better than Storen’s, ranking him 2nd on the team at 0.599. You may remember a few poor performances by him, but blame that on the manager. When he faces righties, he’s not good, they have bat .340/.421/.420 against him this year. But against lefties, he’s unhittable. They’ve only managed to hit .147/.237/.147 against him. 30 left handed hitters, 5 hits, none for more than a single. He’s got value, when used correctly.
Drew Storen -The anointed closer of the future would probably get the role alot sooner, if not immediately. This season, his rookie year, he’s managed to have 2.83 ERA in 27 appearances. His WXRL of 0.495 ranks him third on the team, behind only Clippard and Slaten.
Josh Wilkie – He’s now pitched 47 1/3 innings at Syracuse. In that time the 25 year old who has slowly but steadily moved up the organization from rookie league to AAA has struck out 38, walked 16, amassed a GO/FO ratio of 2.57 and a 1.76 ERA. There’s not reason to think he won’t be good in the majors.
Joel Peralta – Yeah, remember him? As a closer in Syracuse this year, he had a 1.08 ERA and struck out 38 while only walking 9 in 33 1/3 IP. He’s had some spotty seasons and some good ones, but that’s the big secret about relievers. The majority of them fluctuate drastically in ability from year to year. Right now, Peralta’s dealing in the majors, with a 2.16 ERA and 14 Ks in 16 2/3 IP. Yeah, it might only last a season, but for now, he’s reliable.
Jason Bergmann – That’s right, I said it. He was on the team early this year and did not fare well. In fact, his 15.43 ERA in 2 1/3 IP ranks 2nd worse behind only Marquis. But since going down to AAA, the converted starter has really shined as a reliever. He’s made 31 appearances, pitching 36 innings, striking out 38 and walking 12 while compiling a 2.00 ERA. He has shown he can dominate in AAA, something he never really did for such a long period of time, and may finally ready to be effective in the majors. I’m not sitting here saying Bergmann is a definite, but he definitely deserves another shot.
Atahualpa Severino – Atawhoosiewhatsie may not be big on your radar screen, but the 26 year old has looked good in AAA this year. 39 appearances, 48 2/3 IP, 34 K, 18 BB and a 3.33 ERA. Nothing spectacular, but it’s been downright good so far. In his last 10 appearances, he’s got a 5.40 ERA, but that is from 2 poor outings with a total of 7 ERs. The other 8 times, he’s pitched 10 total innings, struck out 6, walked 4, and given up 0 ERs.
Collin Balester – Mr Mustache came up this past weekend and pitched pretty well, considering the circumstances. He’s done alright as a reliever in the minors, not perfect, and in his last three outings he’s given up a run each time. But he’s striking people out (albeit with too many walks) and may find his way up to the majors soon.