Zimm’s Corner: Nationals Out Of The Gate In Style

By | April 19, 2016
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Should Nats fans begin to worry about the Jonathan Papelbon experience?

Editor’s Note: “Zimm’s Corner” will be an ongoing monthly report from HTTD contributor Patrick Rice, discussing the Washington Nationals. 

Also note that this column was submitted yesterday, prior to the Nationals’ loss against Miami.

At 9-2, the Washington Nationals are out of the gate at a record pace. A lot of pundits (not all) have discredited the Nats start because of the teams they have played; however, you still have to go out and win. The good news is Washington has been able to take care of business to this point.

As the season progresses there will be more detailed blog posts, but this is the first of a monthly report on baseball in the district. Feel free to chime in and recommend ideas for blog posts!!!

To kick this ongoing feature off, I am going to focus on one area of concern (for me at least): Jonathan Papelbon.

Papelbon converted his five saves of the season, but blew his chance for a sixth on Sunday in Philadelphia. In his previous five outings, Pap’s had been anything but dominant, and the light-hitting Phillies finally were able to tag him for two runs and a victory in extra innings.

Why does this trouble me? Multiple reasons. To the naked eye, if Papelbon can close five of six save chances than most Nats fans will live with it. It’s not spectacular, but it’s better than previous regime’s closer, Drew Storen.

But the problem is that for a premier closer, that is not a great save percentage. Pap’s has never had more than 8 blown saves in a season and his early returns with the Nationals leads me to believe he will break that mark.

In his 15 save chances with Washington (dating back to last season), Papelbon now has converted 12 and blown 3 saves. If he were to keep that rate up, he would blow at least 8 saves in just 40 chances. To put those numbers in perspective, in 2015 the top five closers all had 45 save opportunities or more. None of them blew more than 6 games. In fact, 7 of the top 10 closers only failed to convert 4 games or less.

To the casual fan, these numbers mean little, and hopefully that’s actually true. However, Papelbon’s brief tenure with the Nationals has been rocky in a myriad of ways… including his on-field results.

Six, seven, or eight blown saves add up over the course of a season. In a division with great pitching, Papelbon cannot afford to falter. If he does, then Washington will be watching reruns of past seasons.

Stay tuned for monthly content on the Nationals and the National League East. If you have ideas or questions – shoot me a tweet: @price433.

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