Bullpen Woes Continue This Year for Washington Nationals

rosenthalIt’s not something you strive for, but it’s not terribly uncommon for a relief pitcher to come in and give up a run or two without getting an out. Especially early in the season, that can have a devastating impact on their ERA, but it’ll usually rebound over time as a pitcher will also eventually have a streak where they absolutely dominate. That better happen quickly for Trevor Rosenthal as he has an ERA of infinity after giving up seven runs on four hits during three appearances so far this season.

Rosenthal is coming off of Tommy John surgery and missed all of the 2018 season, so most people assumed he would be a little rusty at the start of the 2019 campaign. But nobody thought it’d be this bad. His performance has been so horrible, for instance, that he actually tied a MLB record for most consecutive appearances without recording an out at the beginning of a season. When you add in that he gave up a homer to Boston’s Xander Bogaerts during his last appearance of 2017 but didn’t retire a single batter, he also now owns the title of most consecutive appearances giving up runs without recording an out.

If he doesn’t retire a batter during his next outing, he’ll also tie a record for most consecutive outings without retiring a batter (ironically, former National Joey Eischen set that mark when he went five games without recording an out in the Nats first year in DC — 2005). This obviously is something the righty would like to avoid as he’s trying to make a comeback and prove all the hype surrounding his early Spring Training performances were justified.

While Rosenthal’s performance has drawn the most attention, it’s indicative of a larger problem. Washington’s bullpen has struggled mightily this year, especially when it comes to the eighth inning. Throughout the first week of the season, 14 of the 34 runs the Nats have allowed were surrendered during the eighth. That not only puts pressure on the starters to have a lights out performance, but makes folks wonder if even pulling drastic measures like bringing in Craig Kimbrel would actually produce any results.

This isn’t the first year the Nationals have had bullpen woes and Davey Martinez in particular has been criticized for his ability to manage the pitching staff. Last season, for instance, Martinez was routinely criticized for not giving relievers the rest they needed and constantly having pitchers warm up and end up going with a completely different option. Those concerns could have been dismissed as the failings of a rookie manager, but the bullpen hasn’t been producing better results so far this year.

If you listen to sports talk radio or read through some online fan forums, you can’t avoid Nationals fans who are already calling for Davey Martinez to be fired. Some folks are even claiming Mike Rizzo should be gone even though he’s one of the most respect GM’s in Major League Baseball.

Most of the frustration is because after losing Bryce Harper to the Phillies through free agency, the organization promoting a message that they were working on the fundamentals this offseason and would be executing a small ball game that’d lead to more victories. That isn’t happening as the bullpen has failed to produce the much needed results and we’ve seen blunders on the base paths that have prevented the team from capitalizing on some strong performances from starters like Max Scherzer.

With all that being said, it’s still way too early in the season to be talking about blowing up the whole organization. Unlike in the NFL where a few games can change the course of a season, baseball is a long grind and there’s still plenty of time to work out all the kinks. Yesterday’s victory, after all, put the team at .500 and seems to have given at least some fans a more positive vibe that could prove beneficial. Hopefully the on-the-field product will see some positive changes too as time goes on.

About Bryan J. Scrafford

Bryan Scrafford is based in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC and primarily follows baseball and hockey. That being said, stories about other sports and a variety of additional topics will occasionally manage to catch his attention.
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