Nationals Arm Race

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

Storen to the minors… did he deserve it?

6 comments

Storen will look to re-group in AAA..  Photo Andrew Harnik/washingtontimes.com

Storen will look to re-group in AAA.. Photo Andrew Harnik/washingtontimes.com

Talk about a fall from grace.  Drew Storen went from being the closer for a 98 win team in Oct, 2012 to being optioned to the minors after Friday 7/26/13′s doubleheader.

On the face of it, it makes sense.  This team is struggling, Ryan Mattheus is off the D/L, and there were 8 relievers for 7 spots.  Storen’s numbers in 2013 have been abhorrent: a 5.95 ERA and a 1.512 whip in 42 1/3 innings.  The team isn’t scoring any runs, so the last thing they need is a reliever who can’t hold a close lead right now.

A look deeper into Storen’s numbers though reveals a very tough-luck case.  Looking at his advanced stats from Fangraphs, he’s got a .346 BABIP right now, 45-50 points above the league average and a good 60 points above his career average.  He’s been very unlucky on balls in play.  This contributes to the huge gap between his ERA (5.95) and his FIP (4.16), and especially his xFIP (3.59).  This expected FIP by they way is significantly better than Rafael Soriano‘s current xFIP (4.26).  The point?  Storen has been unlucky so far this season and, were he given the chance to allow his appearances to regress to the expected mean, he likely would have pitched a ton better going forward.

Side Note:  Luigi De Guzman (aka ”Ouij”) from Natstradamus did a fantastic bit of data mining, looking at Storen’s detailed pitch f/x data to delve into the reasons for Storen’s downfall.  Definitely go over there and read that piece.

Steve McCatty was quoted during Saturday’s broadcast as saying that he wanted Storen to work on his mechanics.  Specifically, Storen used to vary his left leg motion between the straight legged approach and a conventional knee bend.  This is confirmed by beat reporter James Wagner‘s story to the same.  Makes sense to me: the straight leg kick causes him to be slower to the plate, making it harder for him to hold runners.  The Nats as a team are already struggling to hold runners in general.  Plus, I’ve privately wondered if the varying leg kick causes him to struggle to hold his mechanics.  McCatty alluded to this, wondering if Storen’s control is affected.

On a different note; I’ve said this before, but I cannot help but think that Storen’s mental state has been in question ever since the acquisition of Soriano.  Buying Soriano on the FA market was essentially management telling Storen either a) we don’t trust you anymore after your game 5 meltdown, or b) we don’t think you’re good enough to be our closer any more.  It was an public and embarrassing demotion, and not every guy will take it in stride.  Tyler Clippard may have had an easier time with it since he was already an established 8th inning guy, and he was never really in line this season to be the closer.  These are the kind of man-management issues I think us casual fans forget about; just like you have problems in your office, so do players have problems in the clubhouse.

So, tough break for Storen.  Two straight awful appearances plus the blown save in 7/20′s Los Angeles game conspired to get him sent to the minors.  Lets hope he regroups, clears his head and is ready to come backup when the next spot in the bullpen opens up.

 

Written by Todd Boss

July 29th, 2013 at 7:02 am

6 Responses to 'Storen to the minors… did he deserve it?'

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  1. Though they are hardly the only ones to blame for this disasterous season, Storen and Danny Espinosa are certianly the poster children for it. As for Storen, we have all had professional setbacks–the only thing to do is suck it up and prove that management was wrong about you. Instead, his crappy season has so far seemed to confirm that management was right now to trust him with the closer’s role.

    Nevertheless, Storen is a smart guy and he should getthe message that if he ever wants to return to that role either here or elsewhere he simply needs to pitch better. At least with him, unlike Espinosa, it doesn’t appear to be a physical ailment that he refuses to have corrected.

    Speaking of which, after a couple of hot weeks at Syracuse, Espinosa is cratering yet again (starting, coincidentally enough, right around the time he had Boras go whine to Rizzo about him losing service time). I just don’t know what they are going to do with that guy.

    bdrube

    29 Jul 13 at 7:58 am

  2. Relievers are always going to be stuck with short-sample-size judgements. One crummy outing takes 2 months to correct on your stat line.

    But you’re right; the mental aspect is different. Both Storen and Espinosa are still young; both born in 87, so they’re 25-26. Not yet experienced enough to be “veterans,” but enough service time to be used to the grind.

    I just don’t know what to think about Espinosa. Tell him to give up switch hitting? Trade him to another organization to get a fresh start?

    Todd Boss

    29 Jul 13 at 9:08 am

  3. I think we equate “sent to AAA” with a form of punishment. e.g. “You suck, so we’re gonna send you to AAA to think about it.” I really don’t think that’s the case. In both guys’ situations, they’re young players who’ve had success, but something’s really wrong right now, and they’re a) hurting the team and b) not fixing themselves while in MLB. So if you put yourself in charge of the team, you have to think “we just have to get him out of the spotlight so he can fix what’s wrong.” For both guys, they have the talent to succeed – there’s little doubt of that. But something’s wrong, and they need to fix it. (Same with Lannan in ’10.)

    kevin r

    29 Jul 13 at 2:01 pm

  4. Yeah, I think that he deserved it, although not for Friday’s game, obviously. Even though his FIP/xFIP are better than his ERA, they aren’t good.

    Something has been off with him all year, and even though the team isn’t playing like a playoff team, that is what they are shooting for, and to let him keep blowing up just isn’t in anyone’s interest. I guess that they could have manufactured an injury excuse and used the rehab time for a AAA stint, but I think that he needs to go back to finding a way for his slider to be his out pitch again.

    Wally

    29 Jul 13 at 2:36 pm

  5. Yes, he deserved it. Here’s hoping that he gets his mojo back and storms back into Nats Town.

    Picking up Soriano simply wasn’t about Storen. If they were down on Storen as closer, if it was all about Game 5, then they would have gotten a replacement. They didn’t – they picked up Haren, traded for Span, dealt Morse, focused on many other things. It wasn’t until January 17, shortly before pitchers and catchers reported, that Soriano’s price came down to a reasonable level (don’t be fooled by the $28 million for two years; heaping boatloads of that are deferred). In that price drop Rizzo saw a chance to improve the team – so he did.

    Apparently Clippard didn’t take it as an insult, because he has been great this season. Although it pains me to say it, if Storen’s psyche isn’t strong enough to rise above this then it wasn’t strong enough to be a long term closer at this level.

    John C.

    29 Jul 13 at 4:16 pm

  6. Baseball history is filled with closers who had a very large & public failure in the postseason and were never the same again.
    Donnie Moore committed suicide because he couldn’t cope with the pain any longer.
    Calvin Schiraldi was the best closer in baseball until the ’86 World Series and he never recovered.
    Mariano Rivera had two huge blown saves in 2001 & 2004 and was just as great afterwards.

    What I’m saying is we just don’t know if Drew Storen will get his game back. I don’t think anyone really knows at this time.

    Mark L

    29 Jul 13 at 6:00 pm

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