A fun little quirk of the first few days of a new baseball season is the wild swings of relievers’ statistics. A seventh inning guy who gets roughed up in the wrong spot can spend a week with gruesome numbers; a specialist who serves up a dinger to his lone assignment can spend a night or two with an infinite earned run average. It’s all just a product of small sample sizes, and for most pitchers things will regress back to the normal range soon enough. And then there’s Nationals reliever Trevor Rosenthal.
Rosenthal made his first appearance for the Nationals in the eighth inning of their Saturday loss to the Mets. He allowed consecutive singles to Wilson Ramos and Jeff McNeil, loaded the bases by walking Amed Rosario, and was yanked after J.D. Davis hit a two-run go-ahead single. Rosenthal did not record an out. He appeared again on Sunday, again in the eighth inning, this time with runners on the corners and one out. Rosario smacked his very first pitch into centerfield for an RBI single, and Nationals manager Davey Martinez yanked Rosenthal in favor of closer Sean Doolittle. Again, Rosenthal exited without recording an out.
After not taking the mound during Tuesday’s ugly home loss to the Phillies, Rosenthal appeared again Wednesday afternoon, in the second game of the series, again in the eighth inning, again with one down and an inherited runner. He promptly walked Maikel Franco on seven pitches, and then walked Scott Kingery on five pitches, to load the bases. Martinez once again chose to yank him before he’d recorded an out. After three appearances, Rosenthal is still stuck on an infinite earned run average, because he has not yet been credited for pitching even a portion of an inning.
It’s worse than that! Incredibly, every single batter Rosenthal has faced on the season—Ramos, McNeil, Rosario, Davis, Rosario again, Franco, and Kingery—has come around to score a run. But wait, there’s more! Unbelievably, it manages to be worse than even that: According to Elias Sports by way of ESPN Stats and Information, Rosenthal’s active streak of batters faced without recording an out, and with each batter scoring a run, stretches back beyond the beginning of this season, and into unprecedented territory:
You will note that a chunk of 2017 and all of 2018 appear to be missing from that timeline. That’s because Rosenthal missed all of last season due to Tommy John surgery, and his first appearance for the Nationals this season was also his first appearance for anyone in about 19 months. Martinez, for one, says Rosenthal’s stuff looks good, but maybe he’s a little too amped. Per MASN Sports:
“We gotta sit down and just kind of ... I mean, the ball’s coming out good,” Martinez said. “He’s a high-energy guy. We gotta figure out a way to calm him down a little bit. Every time I go get the ball, he doesn’t want to come out. He wants to keep going and keep going. But I’m not going to give up on him, that’s for sure. We need him. If we’re going to do this, we need Rosenthal.”
This streak won’t last forever, as evidenced by the fact that it is a first in baseball’s long, long history. Rosenthal throws a blazing fastball, and very soon, whether he improves anything on his end or not, someone is going to pound one into the turf for a ground-ball out. In the meantime, Rosenthal chalked up his struggles to trying to be “too perfect.” To which I say, buddy, perfection can take many forms, and is truly in the eye of the beholder.