Tuesday, May 15, 2012

How to Fix the Ninth Inning

A topic of discussion in DC his how to fix the Nationals ninth inning meltdowns. It's a really simple fix: eliminate Henry Rodriguez.

Rodriguez, nicknamed "Hot Rod" (should be "Hurricane Henry"), has been the source for a number of ninth inning meltdowns. In the month of May, Rodriguez has an 8.10 ERA with three blown saves, six earned runs, two home runs, and six walks. Rodriguez is hardly someone that makes batters shake in their stance when he stares them down from the mound.

He has a fastball that can reach 101 MPH on the radar gun, but, he has no control of it. His breaking ball pitches break either straight into the ground four feet in front of the mound or sail off four feet wide of the strike zone. Bottom line, Rodriguez needs to be ousted as the Nationals closer.

I was listening to a radio show this morning and someone called in saying that the Nationals had no one else to go to outside of Rodriguez. Are you out of your mind?

How about the All-Star reliever that is Tyler Clippard? I hear he's pretty good. What about the guy that came in with the bases loaded and recorded the final two outs of last nights game to get credited with his first save? I think his name was Sean Burnett and he's pretty good, too. Craig Stammen isn't that bad, either.

The nice thing is, the Nationals starting pitchers have a solid seven innings in them night after night. I understand that the starter won't get through 6-7 innings every night, but, most nights they usually do. So, you bring in Clippard, who pitched a scoreless-hitless eighth last night, and let him go two innings. He gets the save, the Nationals get the win, and everyone is happy.

I know what you're saying: "Brian!! Clippard can't pitch every night!" Oh my goodness me you're right! That's why Sean Burnett exists. Bring him in the next night and let him throw two solid innings.

Oh, Sean Burnett gets tired, too? Craig Stammen isn't that bad. He threw two scoreless-hitless innings last night, as well.

The point is, there's at least three better pitchers than Hurricane Henry Rodriguez that can come out of the bullpen. Put them in a rotation like the starting pitchers. Use Rodriguez every once in a while to give those three a break, but, focus on Stammen, Clippard, and Burnett as the teams closers/relievers.

We really only have to ride out this storm (you see what I did there?!) for a little while longer. According to Davey Johnson, Brad Lidge is expected to return sometime in mid June. Drew Storen, the Nationals best closer, is expected to return near the All-Star break. Until then, the Nationals can actually hold their own with the bullpen they have.

Henry Rodriguez cannot be the Nationals closer of the future. Sure, he has eight saves, but he is certainly not who he was in April. It's time to let Clippard, Burnett, and Stammen save the day for the Washington Nationals.