Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Ask Collier Inbox; just ahead of the start of the season


Glover is on everyone's mind. Photo via

Glover is on everyone’s mind. Photo via

A last gasp mailbox from beat reporter Jamal Collier, starting off with the question on everyone’s mind….

Q: Dusty says the Nats have basically chosen their closer, but they have not told the guy.  Who do you think it is?

A: I still think its the veteran Shawn Kelley to start.  Koda Glover waits in the wings though.  I don’t like Blake Treinen‘s historic splits against lefties (career .834 OPS) enough to trust him as the closer yet.  I say this less thinking about Kelley’s twice-cut elbow, or as any indictment of Glover’s stuff.  I say this primarily because Dusty Baker seems like the kind of manager to stick with the “established veteran” until proven otherwise.

Collier thinks its Glover from day one.  He mentions the organization’s repeated discussion of Kelley’s durability and Treinen’s ground ball rate.  We’ll see!

Q: I know innings totals are big deal for rookie starters. Not an issue for relievers? I believe Koda has never pitched more than 45 innings. Would a 60-inning season (w/ playoffs) be a concern for a reliever?

A: IP workload for relievers?  No way; nearly 100% of these guys were starters in HS and College, only converting to relief in the minors due to lack of a complete repertoire or injury.  The bigger concern for reliever arms in my view is the ability to go multiple days in a row.  Two on, one off, another two to three on, then one to two off.  That’s a different kind of wear and tear on arms … but (not to be cynical) that’s why you ride reliever arms like a work-horse; they’re replaceable.

Collier says not a concern for now .. but perhaps a concern for Glover later this year since he will be throwing a career high as a professional.

Q: Is Trea Turner playing good shortstop this spring? He looks good to me. —

A: Well, based on my extensive time watching Nats spring training games (which’d be practically zero), I’m going to recuse myself like a politician who secretly met with the Russians recently.

Collier says Turner looks inexperienced and needs patience.  Not to call the man out, but that sounds like cliche’d sportswriter BS to me.  Turner’s likely been playing shortstop since he was 6 or 7.  Yeah everything is faster in the majors, blah blah, but the scouting report on him coming out of college hasn’t changed.  He’s got a good but not great arm, good range, good fielding and 70 speed.

Q: What impact if any will Fedde have this year and for years to come?

A: I think Fedde’s presence at MLB camp easily jumped him to the top of “best SP prospects in the system” line (if he wasn’t already there thanks to the Eaton trade).  But it also may have jumped him to the top of the “who do we call up to cover for 6-weeks of injury” list.  In reality: I think he gets a couple months in AA, and then either goes to AAA or gets called-up if there’s a rotation spot opening.  If someone goes down with injury early then its probably still A.J. Cole, but at this point, I think we may know what we know about Cole.  Where this leaves Austin Voth i’m not sure; perhaps Voth is the guy who will cover a spot start in May.  Either way, Fedde gets called up at some point in 2017.

Collier says he was impressed by Fedde this spring … and that he may have trade value this summer?!?  If the Nats trade Fedde, their last remaining “anywhere close to the majors halfway decent” starting pitching prospect, after shedding their other three best starting pitching prospects, I’ll be rather irritated.

16 Responses to 'Ask Collier Inbox; just ahead of the start of the season'

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  1. KW

    30 Mar 17 at 12:40 pm

  2. Treinen named the closer. When asked whether Glover would still be in the bullpen, Dusty replied “Oh helllll yeah,” according to Chelsea Janes.

    To me, that means Ollie Perez has a blister. He just may not know it yet . . .


    30 Mar 17 at 12:42 pm

  3. With two filthy lefties in Solis and Romero, I do wonder whether Treinen will get to face big LH boppers with the game on the line. We’ll see.

    As for Kelley he didn’t pitch in games much this spring at all (6.1 IP). Neither did Treinen (4.2 IP). Very interesting way to hold a competition!


    30 Mar 17 at 12:59 pm

  4. There’s another argument in those answer for Glover beginning the year at AAA if he isn’t going to be the closer in DC. Dusty does indeed like to ride the middle relief arms he trusts like a workhorse. Keeping Glover in a strictly 9th inning role up at Syracuse would likely keep his arm fresher when he is inevitably needed later this season.

    But what do I know? Treinen in the closer’s spot is a bit of a surprise since he doesn’t seem to have classic closer stuff like Kelley does.

    Karl Kolchak

    30 Mar 17 at 1:37 pm

  5. I’ve been an advocate of not naming a closer. F.P. rarely agrees with me (or I rarely agree with him, to be more precise), but during the game on Tuesday, he said essentially the same thing. Let the match-ups and the workload dictate. They’ve got a long list of guys who could pitch the last inning in Treinen, Kelley, Glover, Romero, Solis, and even Blanton. That’s everybody in the ‘pen except Perez/Guthrie. I generally have a lot of confidence in all six of the closer types. I have less confidence in anointing any one of them and expecting that person to pitch four or five times a week. Let’s share the workload and get all of them to Sept. and Oct. with something left. Or get four-run leads every night so it doesn’t really matter . . .


    30 Mar 17 at 2:34 pm

  6. Totally shocked on the Treinen as closer announcement. I had him ranked 3rd out of 3 of the candidates.

    Todd Boss

    30 Mar 17 at 4:27 pm

  7. KW–I’m with you on the matchups thing. Unfortunately, no contending team is willing to experiment with not having a designated closer.

    Here’s another interesting mental exercise–ranking the Nats’ previous designated closers. I’ve got them as follows:

    1. Chad Cordero
    2. Mark Melancon
    3. Drew Storen
    4. Matt Capps
    5. Tyler Clippard
    6. Rafael Soriano
    7. Jon Rauch
    8. Mike MacDougal
    9. Jonathan Papelbon
    10. Henry Rodriguez
    11. Joel Hanrahan
    12. Brad Lidge

    Yep–that’s 12 designated closers in just 12 seasons. Lest we forget, they actually had four different guys in the role when they first won the division in 2012 (Lidge, Rodriguez, Clippard, Storen), so Treinen shouldn’t get too comfortable.

    Karl Kolchak

    30 Mar 17 at 5:57 pm

  8. I really like Treinen but not as a closer. I think a closer needs more pinpoint control to avoid the walks. In 9th inning as opposed to earlier, some guys are really walk hunting. Especially down by more than a run.

    I’m not saying I think Trenien doesn’t have good control. I think he does have very good control relative to his stuff. It’s just that his stuff has such crazy great movement that it’s very difficult to keep it in the zone when he really needs to. So it makes it much easier for a hitter to go up there in walk mode in the 9th.

    So I’d rather see him in the middle inning firman role he had last year with men on base, and hitters anxious to swing and drive them in.

    I think he’ll get a lot of guys out, but he’ll walk a lot of guys who are patient and looking walk first, like the Werth types.

    Marty C

    30 Mar 17 at 6:23 pm

  9. Chelsea Janes has a new article up in which she speculates that the Nats may list Joe Ross as optioned to Syracuse until they need him to pitch as the 5th starter. He likely wouldn’t be off the MLB roster for 15 days and therefore wouldn’t burn an option year.

    Technically, all of that is legal. It just seems like a lot of finagling to avoid making a final cut. It certainly would make sense to try to have a long man (Guthrie) available for the first couple of weeks, though, when your starters aren’t completely stretched out.

    Speaking of long men, good for Craig Stammen for making the Padres. Considering how terrible their starters are, he may get a lot of work.


    31 Mar 17 at 7:21 am

  10. Fangraphs comparing Treinen to Britton (and pointing out that Wieters could help Treinen become more like Britton):


    31 Mar 17 at 8:19 am

  11. It Wieters turns Treinen into Britton, then he’s worth every penny!

    That is an interesting comparison, though.


    31 Mar 17 at 8:29 am

  12. Seems to me the naming of Treinen indicates the Nats have two concerns that they’re trying to mitigate:
    1. Kelley and his twice-fixed elbow and durability. I don’t think they trust him going back to backs, and want keep him in a position where he’s not asked to over throw in the “closer” role.
    2. Glover and his inexperience. I think its a sportswriter cliche that you have to have some degree of “mental toughness” to close. All these guys have the ego and confidence that goes with climbing to the top of the heap. Why would we think that Glover is any different? Imagine the chip on his shoulder from being drafted 8th round … and then the chutzpa from going from High-A to the majors in a year?

    Joe Ross option: brilliant idea; why not “option” ross, keep Cole up to serve his suspension, then call him back after you decide which of your relievers is going to have a phantom D/L trip? 🙂

    Todd Boss

    31 Mar 17 at 9:49 am

  13. Todd, I don’t get the sense that Cole is even in the equation right now. The Ross maneuver would be to keep Guthrie on the roster for long-man duty during the first couple of weeks of the season, when the starters don’t tend to go long.

    Honestly, I think Cole will be well down the list of options when they need the 6th and 7th starters, and his suspension will make a potential call-up more problematic. I would think the spot starter list is 1) Guthrie, 2) Jacob Turner, and 3) Voth. By midseason, Fedde might be in consideration, depending on how he is doing. The promotion of two starters from AA last year didn’t go so well, though.

    I think your thoughts on how they analyzed the closer situation is pretty on the mark. They just didn’t trust Kelley, particularly to go back-to-back. I think they’re convinced that Glover has the “closer mentality,” to the point that Dusty has made some comments that Glover is too aggressive at times. It’s probably good that they don’t hang the closer mantel on the kid to start the season, though.

    We’ll have to see with Treinen. He’s got all the tools necessary. He just has to avoid walks and take the bulldog mentality.

    If you look beyond the lack of “closer experience,” the core group in the bullpen is impressive, particularly if they’ve truly straightened out Romero. The additions of Blanton and Romero and full arrival of Glover make for what looks like a strong group.


    31 Mar 17 at 10:54 am

  14. I meant to add that I wouldn’t be surprised if Cole doesn’t get to serve his suspension until the Sept. roster expansions. He got clobbered in all but one outing in the spring, and he wasn’t good during his time with the big club last summer. I’m not giving up on him, but he’s got some work to do to regain the organization’s trust.


    31 Mar 17 at 10:57 am

  15. If the team goes through the motions to keep Guthrie, then yes absolutely Cole’s knocked down a significant peg. But if he remains anywhere in the future plans, they should get him to serve that suspension now so he’s free and clear later on.

    Todd Boss

    31 Mar 17 at 11:29 am

  16. Difo is saying that he’s been told he made the team. I would guess that the decision may be related to Rendon’s injury.


    1 Apr 17 at 12:46 pm

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