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The Ongoing Bullpen Saga

When Team Riggleman on Monday night begins its final homestand of the season, its manager will have 10 relievers at his disposal, and unfortunately this toolkit is best used for self-inflicted pain. By now, of course, NatsTown residents are so inured to bullpen struggles that they hardly get noticed, but at least a few things here are worth pointing out.

* Over the last 30 days, the Nats' bullpen has a 6.10 ERA. In that span, relievers have walked 55 and struck out 47. They've also hit three batters and thrown eight wild pitches. (But no balks!)

* Over the last 30 days, among NL teams, Washington's bullpen has the poorest K:BB ratio in the NL, the highest HR/9 IP rate and the highest WHIP.

* Within that 10-man bullpen (last names only... Bergmann, Burnett, Clippard, Estrada, Garate, Kensing, MacDougal, Rivera, Segovia, Villone), six during the last month have ERAs higher than 6.00. Even worse: MacDougal, Rivera and Villone have all appeared in 10 or more games and have ERAs higher than 8.00.

This year's bullpen has been so up and down, with so many phases of turnover and so many separate spasms of failure, I've lost count of the Roman numerals. Is this Bullpen Meltdown Take III? Or Take IV? Whatever. All I know is, from the start of the second half until late August, the bullpen was reliably solid -- reborn, even. From July 16 until August 25, the 'pen had a 3.70 ERA, and opponents were hitting just .237 against it.

But now, Riggleman is in a tough spot. Burnett has a sore thumb, and is essentially out of commission for the rest of the year. Bergmann's numbers in the last month have been fine, as have Clippard's. But the Nats can't use Clippard for three-plus innings every night.

Fact is, Washington still must give its bullpen a massive facelift before the 2010 season begins. Clippard and Burnett will be counted on, and Bergmann perhaps. Beyond that? Whew. We're seeing now why Mike MacDougal is so well-traveled. Can you really go into a fresh season counting on him in the ninth? Perhaps by midseason Drew Storen can emerge in the big leagues. Maybe somebody from the lot of fifth starter candidates can switch to the 'pen, and maybe Josh Wilkie or Clint Everts also gets a chance. Either way, expect yet another roster overhaul... Take IV... or maybe Take V.

By Chico Harlan  |  September 28, 2009; 11:27 AM ET
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If this doesn't sufficiently depress you, just head over to the Redskins Insider. Its almost as cheerful on a Monday morning.

Posted by: nattydread1 | September 28, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse

"Fact is, Washington still must give its bullpen a massive facelift before the 2010 season begins."

One year overdue.

Posted by: joemktg1 | September 28, 2009 11:37 AM | Report abuse

see where nelson "softball girls" figueroa is pitching for the mess tonight. make him feel at home by serenading him with "here we go nationals, here we go." he'll understand.

Posted by: surly_w | September 28, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse

hehe. Nice, surly.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | September 28, 2009 11:48 AM | Report abuse

as for the arson squad rizzo should keep burnett and clippard and waive hasta la vista to everyone else. give storen a shot at closer and find four other guys who aren't named macdougal, villone, rivera, bergmann, kensing or the principality of segovia.

Posted by: surly_w | September 28, 2009 11:49 AM | Report abuse

I thought Segovia was a guitarist?

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | September 28, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Wistful for Cordero, Beimel, Ayala, Majewski? Everyone of them is available as a Free Agent. Rauch is likely available too. Come on Elwood, its time to get the band back together...

Posted by: natbiscuits | September 28, 2009 12:14 PM | Report abuse

I think we should consider an all Japaneese solution this summer starting with Bobby Valentine as Manager and then Masahide Kobayashi, Takashi Saito, and Yasuhiko Yabuta in relief and Akinori Iwamura at secondbase. We could trade for Kenji Johjima at catcher as well.

Posted by: natbiscuits | September 28, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Funny how the only commodity we had when the Nats started is now the biggest thing we're missing. We actually were 1st in the NL East for a while and we went 81-81. Just goes to show how a good bullpen can really make a difference.

Posted by: futbolclif | September 28, 2009 12:45 PM | Report abuse

I'd start with Billy Wagner and work backwards from there. He's from VA, and Heyman reported a few weeks ago that he'd consider the Nats. Do it; there's no one better that is going to come here. Clippard and Burnett, ok. Storen maybe as a set up man until he's ready to close? There's four. Sign three or four free agents. I'd bring Rauch and Beimel back, assuming they'd be willing to come (and I doubt Beimel would actually).

McDougal is better than Hanrahan but that's about the only nice thing you can say about his performance. Ron Villone has always pitched like Ron Villone. Jason Bergmann has had more lives than a cat and still frustrates. Love the guy but he's big on talk and short on performance. bye bye. Logan Kensing, Segovia and Gerarte (sp?) are unusable. McDougal hasn't been doing his job in the past month at all. Saul Rivera is still Saul Rivera.

Posted by: raymitten | September 28, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Take a look at The Wookie's numbers since he left the Nats. Yikes. We could do without a repeat.

I'd be okay with Beimel back and Wagner would be a great reclamation project, but let's not stress too hard about relievers until after we figure out rotation and middle infield.

As to comparisons with that other Washington team, I can say the Nats future looks much much better. At least its ownership realizes there's a problem that can't be fixed in one off season. And the Nats 2009, as bad as it's been, have more upside than Nats 2008.

Posted by: Section506 | September 28, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, Chico, but this kind of post does me no good anymore.

I'm exhausted with trying to figure out what's wrong with this team and I'm exhausted reading other people's ideas.

It's everything and it's nothing.

Posted by: NatsNut | September 28, 2009 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Please Mr. Rizzo, clean up the bull-poop in the bull-pen. No more retreads, has beens and maybe so's if they just learn how to.....,!

Make 2010 at a minimum more tolerable for us paying customers. If your still trotting out Vilone, MacDougal, Kensing, Segovia, Rivera and Bergmann then why not just send out Manny, Mo and Jack!.

Factoids only I think I care about.

Boz lays some heavy wood on the Dead-Skins, gotta love his ability to put the blame where it exists, something about players who insist they are something that they are not!

Great article in the WATIMES Sports Section, something about its time for folks to become less obsessed with only one sports team in town and start paying attention to the teams that are doing it right i.e. Your Washington Capitals and hopefully the Nationals!

Posted by: TippyCanoe | September 28, 2009 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Blow up the pen for next year!
The only excuse is that our starters are doing so poorly that they are over worked.

Posted by: Tom8 | September 28, 2009 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Clippard seems to have done well as has Burnett on the left handed side as surly_w mentioned.

There do appear to be guys that haven't seen the parent club yet who could end up in the bullpen?

Lefties Yunior Novoa and Jack Spradlin
righties Clint Everts and Josh Wilkie
in Syracuse.

In Harrisburg Dan Leatherman and Drew Storen.

There are lots of other propsects particularly in Harrisburg who might make sudden rapid progress?

And of course there are the plethora of prospect starters some of who (like Clippard) could end up filling out the bullpen.

Things may be better than they seem on the surface? Guess we'll just have to see. Its not like there is no hope. But I think they do need managers and multiple coaches who are good at rounding out prospects and preparing them for the majors. That may be almost as big a need as the talent (prospects) themselves?

Patience Nationals fans. Else we become like the ravenous hordes on RI?

Posted by: periculum | September 28, 2009 2:37 PM | Report abuse

There is no justice in the world. How can a man named Leatherman not be a vacuum of a shortstop?

Posted by: Section506 | September 28, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

I thought Segovia was a guitarist?

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | September 28, 2009 12:01 PM


You've seen him pitch, then.

Posted by: greggwiggins | September 28, 2009 3:51 PM | Report abuse

506, I always wished that Leatherman was a position player as well. Then he could be referred to as a multi-tool guy.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | September 28, 2009 4:38 PM | Report abuse

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